Research Project Synopsis

To keep everyone updated on where are research is now and moving forward, we’ve put together a brief synopsis. Please feel free to send us feedback at sportandpeace at gmail.com.

Georgetown University Conflict Resolution Program & Generations For Peace
Sport & Peacebuilding Research Project
Sarah J. Hillyer, PhD
Meeghan Zahorsky

Objective: The research aims at mapping the field of sport and peacebuilding and identifying best practices in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs that explicitly use sport to teach conflict resolution skills and to promote more peaceful communities.

Research Synopsis: Following a thorough review of the literature, desk research, networking, and outreach, three Georgetown University master’s students and one post-doctoral fellow carried out extensive field research in Cyprus, France, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Palestine, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The research took place between May and August 2011 and included more than 20 site visits, 73 interviews, and 40 organizations. Using semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations, the research team examined the design, implementation, and evaluation of sport and peacebuilding programs.

The mapping and data collected has framed the “promising practices” portion of our research, while an extensive literature review and upcoming analysis will allow us to situate the field of sport and peacebuilding within the related theories of conflict resolution, social psychology, international relations, economics, peace education, and sport sociology.

Phase I: Student reports
Several short reports will be submitted prior to the release of the book. The students’ reports will include context specific findings (e.g. Integration through Sport – Germany; Sport for Development & Peace – South Africa; Comparing PeacePlayers International and Generations For Peace Models of Peacebuilding – Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Palestine).
Anticipated release date: November 30, 2011.

Phase II: Post-Doctoral Fellow report
Dr. Hillyer will submit a more thorough and extensive report that synthesizes the summer findings and introduces concepts that will be elaborated on in the book:
Review of the literature devoted to sport and peacebuilding
Methodology
Mapping and Typology of organizations identified
Findings – trends and promising practices identified
Recommendations
Anticipated release date: March 1, 2012.

Phase III: Book Release
Sport and Peace: More than a tool, less than a panacea
We will situate the field of sport and peacebuilding within the related theories of conflict resolution, social psychology, international relations, economics, peace education, and sport sociology. This book will be the first text supported by a wide data set and multidisciplinary theory that holistically looks at sport  programming as a viable and dynamic method for peacebuilding.
Anticipated release date: TBD

Special thanks to Generations For Peace (http://generationsforpeace.com/) for their generous financial support and to the Master of Arts Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University (http://conflictresolution.georgetown.edu/).

Advertisements

Sport and Peace: What Does Sport Mean to Us?

UPDATE: This event will be broadcast live. Check it out from 12:00pm-1:3opm EST at the Sport and Peace Upstream Channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sport-and-peace

Feel free to participate via Twitter: @sportandpeace

We look forward to seeing you, online or in person!

Event Details:

Georgetown University’s Generations For Peace (GFP) Research Fellows will be hosting a brown bag luncheon on Wednesday, October 19th from 12pm-1:30pm.

We have spent the last year investigating and evaluating promising practices in sport, development and peacebuilding throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This panel will be an opportunity for us to present our research and engage in a dialogue about the implications of our findings.

An engaging discussion with current practitioners and experts in the field will directly follow the panel. Come prepared to contribute your thoughts!

Our team will provide light snacks and refreshments. There will be ample time for attendees to network and mingle following the discussion. Dress is business casual with your favorite pair of sneakers.

The session will take place on Georgetown University’s main campus, on the 7th floor of the Bunn Intercultural Center (ICC): http://maps.georgetown.edu/interculturalcenter/.

Space is limited, so please RSVP: http://sportandpeace.eventbrite.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

Sincerely,

Meeghan, Sarah M., Amanda, and Sarah H.

A Piece of Our Journey in Sports & Peacebuilding

The Georgetown University and Generations For Peace Summer Research Fellows have all returned to DC after three months in the field. As we begin to digest our research and experiences, we wanted to share a piece of our journey with you.

What was the most surprising thing you found?

From Amanda Munroe: 

Connection! I was surprised (and encouraged!) to find out how well the organizations and the academics I was interviewing were connected to one another. Whether it is because the field of sport and peacebuilding is relatively small or because the community is so supportive and open to sharing information, a real, effective, and supportive network for information and practice sharing exists – at least within Germany and to the extent that I experienced it, also within the EU.

From Sarah Moran:

Sport and development is a huge field in South Africa – everybody has a friend that is involved in the field of, either directly or indirectly. Whether in casual conversation or in official interviews, I would leave with more people to contact or organizations to “check out” than I ever imagined. In the Western Cape of South Africa alone, I counted over 50 organizations that were directly or indirectly using sport for development ends – and that was not including government initiatives. (This is not necessarily a good indicator – it is, insofar as it is exciting that people have begun to recognize the power of sport as a facilitator of positive social change; it is worrying because I fear that sport and development is a fad that will fatigue or be diluted by overexposure.)

 From Meeghan Zahorsky:

DIVERSITY – The diversity of programs even within the same umbrella organization was unexpected. PeacePlayers International (PPI) in Belfast was distinctly different from PPI in Israel or Cyprus. Generations For Peace pioneers, delegates and trainees from Lebanon and Palestine had a broad diversity of interests, backgrounds and outcomes with the programs they implemented. This was a powerful reminder of the importance of being context-sensitive and showed the ultimate range of sports as a peacebuilding tool.

 The most important thing? 

Amanda:

Consciousness. To think long and hard about your program’s aim, its location, and theory of change. To realize that investment in peace is a long-term process that requires participation on macro, meso, and micro levels. To know that dealing with conflict requires talking about things others may wish to ignore. And that your job as a coach is to encourage that consciousness – by modeling it yourself and asking it of your players. 

Sarah:

The most important lesson I learned is to retain the integrity of “sport” in “sport and peacebuilding” lest it lose its relevance or efficacy. Sport doesn’t have to be the most important thing in a program, but nor can it be the least. Compromising sport – or believing that sport is all you need to run a successful program – is dangerous. A lot of organizations seem to believe that by including “sport” in their titles (or “soccer”, more commonly) they will attract participants, coaches and donors more easily. In actuality, including sport superficially in your program is not a sustainable solution, nor is it goo for the field.

Meeghan:

PEOPLE – At every research site I visited, it was individuals who inspired, motivated and determined the success of the sports and peace program. The successful leaders and/or coaches had the right blend of local respect, passion for the game, compassion for the community, energy, and determination. They had some sort of intangible quality that made them the fuel for the program’s mission, and without them, there is no such thing as sports and peacebuilding.

The most inspiring moment?

Amanda:

Hearing stories. It was fun to watch kids enjoy sport and play, but inspiring to hear their stories — about how they grew up within the organization (s), or the personal account of one kid becoming more self-confident, self-aware, and aware of others. It was inspiring to converse with practitioners, to learn what led them to the work that they do and to hear them share humbly of their investment in and knowledge of the local community.

Sarah:

Generally, I was inspired to see how much can be done with so little. I visited an organization that was running soccer camps for girls and boys ages 6-16 in Khayelitsha, one of the most populated and impoverished townships outside of Cape Town. For the entire duration of my visit, the kids used a soccer ball only once – their resources were limited and there were not enough balls to go around. Instead, the coaches came up with teambuilding games and lessons that did not require equipment.

Meeghan:

LOVE OF THE GAME – I had the opportunity to watch and join in a PPI leadership development session and basketball practice for a group of Palestinian girls. They were the first generation of female athletes in their communities, and they were exceptional. Their heart, their hustle, their teamwork, was what I had always aspired to as a young athlete. Having the chance to play with them (and believe me, they made me sweat), made me realize how familiar the game was, even thousands of miles from my home gym, even speaking a different language.

What would you recommend for someone interested in sports and peacebuilding?

Amanda:

Focus. If you are interested in using sport as a tool for peace, think about what you want to do and where you want to do it. It’s important to decide how important sport is for you – is your goal to raise interest for a sport, to encourage peace through sport, to increase health through physical fitness or to increase skill in a certain sport? How connected are you within the community where you are practicing, and what is your vision for your program’s role within that community? Keep focus on your goal. A precise understanding of what you are doing will help you decide how to do it, where to do it, with whom you’ll do it and how you’ll fund it.

Sarah:

To think long and hard about what inspires you about sport and how that can be translated effectively into either a development or peacebuilding goal. It’s not automatic, nor is it always appropriate – I saw many examples of sport used badly to promote reconciliation, peacebuilding, and/or development.

Meeghan:

INTENTION AND CONTEXT – During Dr. Sarah Hillyer’s course on Sports & Peacebuilding at Georgetown, she repeatedly reminded us of the importance of intentionality in using sport. Sport, after all is not a solution in itself, but a tool. It can be a powerful tool at that, but when we set out to use it, we should have clear intentions and an understanding that it needs to fit organically into the context. Also, connect with others who know the field and know the context. The more we can collaborate in this field, the greater the impact we will have.

As the summer draws to a close, we want to thank everyone who has supported this research, read and commented on our blog, participated in our discussion, challenged us to think differently, and participated in our field research. We want to extend a special thanks to Generations For Peace for their support, Professors Craig Zelizer and Sarah Hillyer for their guidance and encouragement throughout this journey.

For more information on Generations For Peace visit http://www.generationsforpeace.com/

For Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program visit http://conflictresolution.georgetown.edu/

Positive Peace, Local & Global: Sport to Prevent Terrorism

A Norwegian Terrorist Surprises Europe

I’m assuming you heard about what happened in Norway last week?

A man named Anders Behring Breivik, under dramatic political and religious conviction, set a car bomb off near a building in downtown Oslo, killing 7 and wounding more, after which he took a ferry directly to a nearby island where, dressed as a police officer, he proceeded to shoot and kill 70 teenagers and young adults. Methodically.

The day it happened, here in Germany, terrorism experts were called in to news studios to report on the potential of an Islamic terrorist attack – but there was nothing conclusive to guess with. On the next morning, Europe discovered that the attacker was a Norwegian man. A right-wing, Christian extremist. “The Norwegian equivalent of Timothy McVeigh”, said the experts.

I tried to imagine the grief of Norwegian families and friends. The daughter of youth workers, I spent many childhood summers at “camp”. These summers are among the best in my memory — when I think of safety, security, or fun, I think of camp. Have you ever been to summer camp? Ever sent your kids? The whole point is that they are away from the rest of the world, right? Distanced from everything that is supposed to be terrible and unfriendly. Well.

Isn’t Europe Boring Compared to Africa or the Middle East?

If I needed a reminder that conflict resolution is needed in Europe as much as it is in the rest of the world, last week sufficed. I have had various responses to my work this summer – a number of people have asked me why in the world I wanted to spend the summer in Europe, while Meeghan and Sarah and Sarah were in Africa, the Middle East, and other “hot” conflict zones. Europe feels less exciting. If not boring, it feels at least comfortable and secure in comparison to these countries. I have a recurring nightmare where I return to campus in the fall and someone accuses me of using ‘research’ as an excuse for a European sightseeing tour.

I generally respond that there is a lot to learn about critical pedagogy and democratic decision making here, and I am lucky enough to speak two languages this research is published in. This has proven very true. But moreover, As Sarah alluded to in an earlier post, “peace” is not only the absence of war, it must also be defined as the presence of something positive; the presence of justice – or to paraphrase J.P. Lederach (who paraphrases the Bible), where “Truth, Justice, Mercy, and Peace” meet. And while it is absolutely clear that we must struggle to obtain peace in locations of prolonged, violent conflict, I am convinced we must also struggle to maintain and deepen peace in countries with high security. Norway is one of the most secure countries in the world, for goodness sakes! We students of peace and conflict resolution envy their Institutes and Masters/PhD programs. But they are not isolated from the rest of the world. In fact I would argue that it is precisely because of increased connectivity caused by globalization (see Fathali Moghaddam’s book, The New Global Insecurity for a more detailed examination of this concept) that research on peace and conflict resolution is as necessary in Europe today as it is in Israel and Palestine. Peace research, like action for peace, must “think globally” and “act locally.”

Battling Terrorism – Building Critical Consciousness through Sport

A second point that the tragedy in Norway convinced me of is the fundamental importance of local programs building global consciousness, self-awareness, and conflict resolution/democratic skills. An example: Three days after the attack, my research led me to visit a mini World Cup  (my second this summer!) near Stuttgart – running parallel to the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup, it was the finale of a month-long tournament featuring kids’ teams from all over Southern Germany.

The tournament was played based on “Street Football” rules. Street Football is an alternative approach to soccer that was first developed in (literally on the streets of) South America, in one of the most violent regions in the world. In Street Football, kids play on smaller-as-regulation fields, with teams of 4-6 players. Each team must have at least one girl, and a girl must score a goal during the game in order for the goals from the boys to be counted. Games last 7 minutes each. Before game begin, the opposing teams agree together on 3 “fair play” rules. (Examples include handshakes before and after the game, not insulting the other team, or high-fives on both sides following each goal). The kids referee the games themselves, according to the 3 rules they dreamed up.

At the end of the game, the teams re-group. “Teamers”, young adults who are trained in the Street Football approach, have watched the game and counted the points. They ask the opposing teams, “How did you feel during the game? Was it fair?” In this, the “3rd Halftime”, the opposing teams discuss fairness and decide together how many fair play points (1-3, depending on the rules they decided on before the game), to award one another. These points are counted together with the total goals scored, after which the winner will be decided.

With Privilege Comes Responsibility

Playing in the KickFair World Cup is a lot of fun. But “3rd Halftimes” can also be unpleasant. Even though they rarely last longer than 5-10 minutes, they require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Emotions are high after the game, and since each individual saw the game from his or her own perspective, it’s easy to disagree. But everyone must agree in order for points to be awarded. Teamers, even though they had an overview from the sidelines, have to do more listening to the participants than talking. Parents, by the way, are not allowed in the dialogue zone of the 3rd Halftime.

I was explaining “Street Football” rules to a good friend recently who replied, “But isn’t that challenging? I mean, I imagine it’s very hard for 10 year olds to come up with their own rules, referee their own games, and decide on the how to award points. That’s a lot of responsibility!”

I thought for a bit. She was right – it is a lot responsibility. But kids respond very well to this approach. They manage the responsibility without violence – in fact, with teamwork — and keep playing. It’s often the grown-ups looking on that make a big deal or become very upset. We’re the ones that are scared!

So I responded to my friend, “But isn’t that the point? Democracy is hard! Democratic societies require critical participation from responsible citizens. Aren’t we underestimating our kids by saying ‘here are the rules – go play by them’?”

Successful democracies are processes. They require people who are conscious about themselves and their relationships with others, who think critically about their positions and search for compromises with those who are different than them. We’re witnessing that right now through the budget crisis in Washington, the establishment of a new government in Egypt, and the discussions over the Euro in the EU.

The greatest threat, I believe, is raising children that see the world in black and white – who accept authority without questioning it, and play by rules because they are ordered to and not because they believe they are the best or most creative way to play. Encouraging responsibility, self-awareness, and democratic processes – my belief is that this quality leads toward security and away from fear, destruction, and terror.

This project is supported bhttps://sportandpeace.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpy a cooperation between Georgetown University’s Masters Program in Conflict Resolution and Generations for Peace.

To learn more about Street Football World in Germany or near you, check out StreetFootballWorld, KICKFAIR, and Integration Durch Sport

For more info on the recent terrorist attack in Norway, check out the following articles from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/world/europe/24oslo.html?emc=eta1

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/world/europe/29norway.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=global-home

Reflections – Why Sport?

When I tell people I am researching sport and peacebuilding, it never fails that I get one of two responses – the confused look that usually signifies a predisposition to thinking of those two concepts as mutually exclusive or the sudden dawning of “oh that sounds cool!”

Throughout my summer research, the most important question I was asked, and asked frequently, was “why sports?”  Despite its simplicity, this is really the question at the core of our research, the question driving us to find and define the uniqueness of sport.

Sports draw people together even in places where “peace” has become taboo. It can provide an escape, a safe haven, even when surrounded by chaos. There are obvious and scientifically proven physiological benefits. Perhaps, most importantly, it gives children of all ages the chance to play. Sounds silly, sounds cliché, but I saw it again and again in the field. A soccer field can provide a bubble in time and space, a release from the world around. I saw this, I know this, but I am still struggling with how you share this, how you measure this, how you tell that story of impact so it reaches more people AND stays true to its origins.

When I was meeting with Generation For Peace delegates in the Middle East, this challenge of capturing these stories in the form of program evaluation nagged at me constantly. Their stories were so powerful, so unique, I almost felt like I was cheapening them by trying to fit them in my little box of measurement and evaluation. It bothered me that the story couldn’t just stand alone. As I return to my notes now, it is more and more apparent that this M&E element is what empowers these stories, these individuals and these programs to move forward, to adapt to the ever changing world, and to be sustainable. Beyond just the sharing of the stories, it allows for critical self-reflection for practitioners, stakeholders and participants. The M&E continues the story, rather than rewriting it.

At the same time that I was being asked “why sports?”, I had to ask myself the equally important question “why not sports?” There are several debates in the field revolving around the use of sport, particularly competitive sport, for peacebuilding. The skepticism is logical. If anything, sport is a neutral tool. Any value or harm that comes from it is the result of the method of implementation. We cannot use sport without a plan, and we cannot use sport in every context. And, importantly, we should not only perceive sport as soccer or basketball – movement-based peacebuilding can be achieved through dance, as in the case with Dance 4 Peace, or through yoga, or through the arts. As outsiders, we cannot know what is the best tool, but in each community there is a space for movement to foster peace, whether that be individual peace, communal peace, or international peace. The worst thing to do is to stop asking questions; why? why not? how? As we set out to document our summer research, we will not be providing conclusions, but rather the questions that we uncovered. Questions that we will keep asking, over and over again.

Albert Einstein once said, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” A statement, after months of research, with which I can agree.

– Meeghan

 

GFP Training Camp

In the field - GFP Training Camp, Bethlehem

Oh the places we will go!

WHAT SPORT MEANS TO ME!

I had the most remarkable encounter last week at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Their Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence for Sport Science and Development (a mouthful, but worth every syllable!) was hosting a two-day leadership conference for young women who were leaders and sportswomen. I was graciously invited to attend as an observer by Dr. Marion Keim, director of the Centre. Dr. Keim is an important partner in the Western Cape Sport for Development Network which includes leaders of 41 NGOs and community initiatives from around the greater Cape Town area and beyond. Young women from these organizations were invited to UWC to take part in two days of lectures, trainings, workshops and a soccer tournament during their school holidays. I couldn’t say for sure, but it seemed that nearly 300 young girls participated in the days’ events.

A bit of background, before I continue. When I first moved to Cape Town in 2007, I coached soccer and basketball at the American International School where I taught. Through my involvement with the sports programs there, I began to meet coaches from throughout the city, one of whom also coached a women’s club team in the Landsdowne community quite close to my house. When he found out that I played soccer, he invited me to try out for his development team.

The club was FC Santos, known as “the people’s team”, member of the Premier Soccer League and a middleweight contender for major national tournaments. On the men’s side, at least, FC Santos had a well integrated and hierarchical development program that drew from boys and young men from the age of 6+ to play club soccer. Every age group had at least one if not two teams, and multiple coaches devoted to the players’ technical development. Their under-18 and under-20 teams would often travel overseas or to different parts of the country for clinics. Again, it was only the men’s side that had that structure.

The women’s side was very different. Though Santos was consistently at the top of the log in terms of national play, they really only had two teams: a development team, or second-tier team, on which young women with potential and older women too old to play professionally were mashed together and competed in local leagues; and the elite side, sponsored by SASOL, which was a feeder team for Banyana Banyana. Because of limited space and resources, the two teams played and practiced together, and through the time that I played with Santos I got to know several women that were “called up” to train and try out for Banyana.

Now, mind you, there is a huge skill gap between what I was used to seeing in elite soccer in the States versus what I did see in this “elite” side in South Africa. Women’s sport here is massively underdeveloped, and the girls that do succeed often do so because they grew up playing with boys. There is next to no grassroot, consecutive, age-specific training for young girls. On this particular team, the young players were the target; we older players were there as mules; good enough to practice against, and strong enough to put up a fight. Among the older generation the girls smoked, drank; many of them had kids and played just for fun. Some had seen their day in the limelight and were either too old or too unfit to be considered serious contenders for a national team spot.

It was a bit unusual for a white, blonde, (relatively) tall foreigner to play for FC Santos. In fact, had I not brought my Canadian colleague and co-coach along with me to try-outs, I would have been the only one. It was trial by fire for me to even get acknowledgment at practice. I was viewed – understandably, I see now – with suspicion and a bit of disdain. The girls mocked my accent, my height, my build; they made jokes I didn’t understand in Afrikaans; they tried to teach me choice phrases which I was to employ on the field when there was a foul or a bad call. For the first two practices I was the outsider – the girls had played together before, having come from the same “Cape Coloured” community – and I just did the fitness drills we were instructed to do without complaint. Finally the day arrived when we had access to a pitch and had our first scrimmage. The coach put me in midfield, and by halftime I had two assists and a goal. All of a sudden, I was no longer an outsider. The girls jeered me all the same, but not in the derisive way they had before – I was legit, they could see; I built street cred and was now part of a team.

So, back to the original story. I arrived at UWC on the first morning of the conference and walked upstairs to where the girls and their coaches were having breakfast. I took one look at the group and immediately spotted three young women that I spent two years playing with nearly two years before. I immediately walked over to them and said hello. I could see they didn’t recognize me at first, but eventually they came around and I sat down to catch up on what was happening with the club. They’d changed coaches since I was there, and a few of the former elite players had moved back down to the development team. One of the girl there was coaching full time at a local primary school, as well as playing on the elite squad. The other two were young – technically maybe too young to even be considered for the elite team – but excellent players and up-and-coming stars for Santos. They explained that our former captain and manager had fallen pregnant again and would probably not be coming back next season. They’d once again captured the title at the biggest national tournament the previous year and were heavy favorites going into the next bout.

Perhaps the best part of our conversation was when the youngest girl, whom I played midfield with, said, “Hey, you know? I just got back from America.”

“Really?” I asked, wondering how on earth she would have made or afforded that type of trip. “What for?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, chewing gum and smiling wryly, “I was there for two weeks. New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC! We even had a tour of the White House!”

Clink. Things falling into place. “The White House? How did you organize that?”

“Yeah, we were there with the State Department… um, you know, Sports United or something like that. Yeah, I even got to meet Hillary Clinton! I mean, I didn’t know who she was at first, but then when we were walking through the White House I saw a huge painting of her on the wall and figured out she must be important.”

Um, yeah, just a bit. As it happens, my former teammate was sitting in the room when Hillary Clinton announced the Women’s World Cup initiative in early June. I was astounded, but excited beyond belief, that she had that opportunity, and that it was soccer that brought her there.

I wanted to retell this story because I think it demonstrates everything I have come to appreciate about sport in a real way. Through sport I have gained confidence, become fitter, faster, stronger, mentally and physically. I have crossed cultural divides. I have learned to stand up to men, to break gender barriers, changing perceptions about what women can do, what women’s soccer is all about. I have made friends and built networks, something that’s nearly as important in South Africa as it is in DC. Sport is a language that transcends other social structures. I am only grateful for having been exposed to it at an early age, and I am thankful that the women I met at UWC have had that exposure as well. I only hope that they are able to hold on to this opportunity and make the most of it; they won’t all be Banyana stars, but I’m sure they will be stronger women and better leaders for it.

[As an aside, as part of our membership in the Santos club we were expected to attend biweekly life skill sessions at the clubhouse. We constantly bunked and would come up with any excuse imaginable to get out of it. Ironic, I think, considering the nature of my research this summer.]

As always, many thanks to Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution program and Generations For Peace for their continued support.

And I can’t end this post without saying a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the US Women for their remarkable consecutive defeats over Brazil and France. They are an inspiration to women and soccer players around the world!

Alternative Tourism: Trading International Renown for Local Respect

It has been a challenge for my own parents to follow me this summer, so a quick update on my whereabouts:

I was in Stuttgart, Freiburg and Berlin (May-1st half of June)

Then in Italy (2nd half of June)

Then in Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France (1st half of July)

…and now I have returned to Germany. I am in Cologne today, then back in Freiburg and Stuttgart before heading to Berlin and flying home to the United States.

If you are one of the many persons I have encountered “live” so far on this journey, let me please say: thank you! It has been a pleasure to make so many encouraging acquaintances.

But speaking of challenges, by far the most challenging bit of my work this summer has been finding my way, by plane, train, and automobile my own two feet, to my research interviews and site visits. I am not sure how often you make your way around European metropoles, but I have discovered that finding sport associations in discreet office buildings or off-the-beaten-track gymnasiums is decidedly more difficult than finding directions to, for example, La Tour Eiffel.

The upside of this challenge (besides sharpening my map-reading skills in multiple languages) has been experiencing “alternative tourism”. By taking the chance to interview these organizations on their “turf”, I’ve been led away from the more well-known (and generally well-kept) sections of Berlin, Brussels, and Paris. I’ve learned to see it coming, actually: the train ride usually takes a little bit longer than you’re used to, and the faces change from tourists and business people to service workers and families – the skin tone of the majority of my co-commuters gradually darkens, and when I leave the metro/tram/bus/train and am blinded by summer sun, the streets are crowded, loud, colorful, and busy.

While I was underground watching faces change, 99cent stores replaced organic produces shops. In one of the neighborhoods I visited in Berlin, the storefronts repeated themselves each block, so I had memorized the order by the time I arrived on site: Barber shop, Döner/Kebap Restaurant, Internet Café, 99-cent Shop, Asian Restaurant, Corner Grocery Store – and then again, and again, and again! Every single block!

I guess what I am getting at here is something that Sarah M mentioned a few weeks back in her blog post, “Internationally Known and Locally Respected”. According to her experiences in SA, Sarah said, “What seems to be a crucial ingredient for programmatic success is local ownership and local buy-in”. As our team works on the project, we’ve heard this idea reinforced in site visits, literature, and off-the-record conversations. Social change requires energetic impulses from outside and sustained support from inside – in other words, you need trainers who know this Barber Shop from the next.

Maybe I’m not saying anything new. What I can say, though, is hats off to you! Thanks for inviting me into your space and letting me see the work you do – in cities that are internationally renowned, but where local respect is what matters.

And P.S. – Especially to those of you who who have commented on research methods and hypotheses – thanks for being the “outside impulse” bringing energy to long-term practitioners. Communication and collaboration are key!  Please stay connected to Generations for Peace and the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University for more.