Category Archives: Research

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:

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):

Space is limited, so please RSVP:

We look forward to seeing you there!


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


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 b 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:

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.

“So What’s Your Hypothesis?”: A Word on Research Methods

About a week and half ago, during one of my site visits in Berlin, a practitioner (with a B.A. in political science) said to me, “Your project sounds fascinating. What’s the hypothesis behind your work?”

I was taken off guard. Surprisingly, no one had asked me that question yet. I felt a little silly, coming from Georgetown and all, notebook in hand, doing site observations and suddenly thinking to myself, “I don’t know. Do I have a hypothesis?” I was whisked back to every science class of my primary schooling – in 2nd grade, in 5th grade, in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grade – in my quad class in Environmental Science as a senior in college for goodness sakes – what is the first step in the scientific method? Formulating a hypothesis! I could imagine every one of my science teachers casting a reproving glance at me over their gold-rimmed glasses (they all had gold-rimmed glasses) saying: “Now Amanda, you were always one of our brightest…really, no hypothesis?”

But I’ve done a little reflecting this week, and I’d like to say it loud and clear:


The reason? Michel Foucault.

Lest you be mistaken, Michel Foucault is not the name of some 5th grade sweetheart that distracted me from elementary instruction in the scientific method, causing me to miss the whole section on constructing hypotheses. In fact, he is someone I’ve never met: a cigarette-rolling, espresso-drinking French philosopher, who, in the wake of the Second World War and on the shoulders of philosophical greats like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, dismantled the European Enlightenment and introduced a new way of thinking called Post-Modernism, which did a little thing called questioning the notion of truth.

And it is thanks to this big jump in philosophical history, rejecting objectivity for subjectivity that a number of changes have been made in the academy, from the way people write to – you got it – the way we research.

This past week, I’ve had the incredible fortune to attend an intensive summer school in “Qualitative Research Methods in Social Justice Education”, a combined effort of the University of Trento and the Paulo Freire Institute at UCLA. Just in time to answer my question about a hypothesis, I spent the week with social justice educators from Italy, England, Denmark, Spain, Mexico and the USA talking about research methodology in social justice. It’s helped me to theoretically support the research we’re undertaking this summer, and I’d like to share a bit with you. Before I begin, let me make clear that this basis is my (Amanda’s) research approach. I do not speak for Sarah, Sarah, or Meeghan, at least in this entry:

On Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research: While quantitative research relies on numbers and statistical measures, qualitative research relies more on narrative, interviews or focus groups or field observation and records. It can lend itself more readily to research in the social sciences, because it helps investigate processes rather than necessarily proving or disproving outcomes. It’s an especially helpful tool for researching and evaluating ideas like “justice” and “peace”, which are difficult to numerically quantify.

A Post-Modern Approach to Qualitative Research: A “constructivist” research philosophy (also called post-structuralist or post-modern) is one that understands people, cultures, and the world not as fixed subjects within a determined reality but rather as co-creators of reality that is flexible and changing. Like Foucault, it doesn’t trust the notion of objectivity, arguing that all aspects of life are socially and philosophically situated. Every action and interaction we have is a negation of power, gender, and politics. Easier said, every person sees the world through a certain lens or pair of glasses.

The participants in our course were acknowledging the “glasses” we wear. As researchers in social justice education, we see the world with a certain bias – there is an injustice we sense (as those posing the question) that our research in some way hopes to reveal, or a solution to an injustice that our research hopes to empirically prove or publicize.

Instead of straining for objectivity, considered a false pretense, as everyone is politically situated (even when they try not to be!) qualitative researchers with a constructivist theoretical grounding are openly transparent about their political positions and personal interests in their approach to research.

And about that “Hypothesis”?: Out of a number of relevant methods I now understand thanks to this course, I have chosen a methodology called “Grounded Theory”, which is the most frequently used qualitative method in social science research.

Grounded Theory is a theory, grounded. That is to say, it’s the inverse of a hypothesis – instead of setting out with an idea I am trying to prove or disprove, the researcher sets out to construct a brand new theory. Grounded in interaction with research participants (as opposed to “subjects”), interviewees are treated not as objects of observation, but sources of knowledge informing the creation of a new idea.

So concretely, what does this philosophical talk have to do with Sport & Peace?

As a researcher, I am attempting to create something new by recording what is already going on and looking for the links that they have with one another. This happens practically through a mix of site observations and interviews with academics, program designers, and program practitioners.

By asking questions in conversational interviews, observing pedagogical practices, reflecting on my conclusions, discussing with others and being conversant in already-existent literature, I’m analyzing my data through multiple readings and under multiple lenses.  Building on our team’s endeavor to “map” organizations in the world doing sport and peacebuilding work, I am focusing on program design. I do this by being transparent about my intentions, pulling together actors, visiting them where they are, “coding” and “categorizing” ideas and synthesizing them to theorize common aspects of pedagogy and design.

Reflexivity and Autoethnography: While quantitative research tries to leave the researcher out of the process as much as possible, qualitative research seeks to acknowledge the researcher’s role. Moreover, it asks the researcher to reflect on the research process frequently, and in communication with the research participants, since what is being constructed might – in fact should – change during the process in light of new ideas.

Our team is doing this through autoethnography, which is a research method that asks the researcher to record her or his own reflections on the research process, recognizing their objective and subjective biases, and also asking “what is this research doing to/in/with me?”  At the end of this summer, we hope to have something to share with the world – a useful tool that explains our methods, challenges, findings, and hopes.

On You: Finally, we practice reflexivity through discussion – and this is where you the reader come into play. Because you’re not just a reader – you’re a participant in the discussion! Our team “checks in” once a week, and once every few weeks we Skype-chat about what is emerging from our challenges, our findings, our interviews. But we also blog! About those very same things! And sometimes, we even get to talk on the radio
about them. So please, share your ideas with us, join in the discussion, and help us to create a grounded theory: new ideas about sport and peace.