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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

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
Mapping and Typology of organizations identified
Findings – trends and promising practices identified
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 ( for their generous financial support and to the Master of Arts Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University (


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.

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.

Defining peacebuilding… part 1

One of the questions that appears in our weekly reports is, “How is your definition of peacebuilding changing?” It’s hard to answer, because I didn’t have a definition of peacebuilding to start — how would I know if it was changing or not? I began asking people during the course of my research in South Africa and have had various responses from practitioners in the field of peacebuilding and development; I’d be interested to know what my colleagues and other practitioners have found similar or different.

Peacebuilding v. Conflict Resolution

When I explain to people the research that we are conducting this summer, I find myself using the term “conflict resolution” when I get quizzical looks about sport and “peacebuilding”. But conflict resolution and peacebuilding aren’t the same, and though I’m not sure I could define peacebuilding in definitive terms, I have a few suspicions:

1.    Peacebuilding is long-term.
2.    Peacebuilding is broad-based, holistic.
3.    Peacebuilding is sustainable.
4.    Peacebuilding is grassroots.
5.    Peacebuilding is collaborative.
6.    Violence, instability and insecurity are the enemies of peace.

In a context

There are different impediments to peace in different contexts, but I imagine peaceful communities have many things in common. In other words, successful peacebuilding might look similar in different places. In the South African context, as I have mentioned briefly before, there are many factors that lead to violence and instability. However, even these differ from community to community. Drug abuse, socioeconomic disparity, poverty, segregation – these lead to crime, violence and psychologically destructive outcomes. I recently met with a life-long practitioner of peacebuilding at the University of Cape Town Centre for Conflict Resolution, and she confirmed what I already suspected – the real drivers of conflict in much of South Africa are material, socio-economic, and psychological. To paraphrase her thought – when people are hungry, have no access to water, or proper sanitation, when kids grow up on streets where fighting is the norm and gunshots and gang fights break the silence of the night, what hope is there to break the cycle of violence?

What unites the organizations that I have visited in South Africa is a common vision of what a more peaceful society would look like. Kids would finish school because they felt invested and saw more opportunity with an education than without. Men and women would interact on terms of mutual respect and equality. Having knowledge of safe-sex practices would actually have an influence on people’s behavior. The psychological damage of growing up in unsafe conditions would not push kids to do or sell drugs. And economic opportunities after primary school would exist such that kids could escape the poverty and insecurity that defined their childhoods. As my friend at the Centre for Conflict Resolution bluntly said, we are not there yet. But South Africa is a society in transformation, and “its time will come”.

At what level?

Peacebuilding can occur at different levels of society: between individuals, within families, communities or neighborhoods, cities, provinces, nations and even between nations. Practitioners of peacebuilding of course cannot be expected to tackle all of these levels at all times, but certainly we must be aware that peace at one level cannot be sustained without peace at another. Karl Voysey at Soccer4Hope reminded me of this fact when he explained that you must target the micro, meso or macro levels of society. Mediation between individuals and negotiations between heads of state are manifestations along the spectrum of peacebuilding. Should one take primacy over another? Is there a level that is most important as a target of peacebuilding initiatives?

Is integration necessary?

After reading this article in the New York Times over the weekend, I was reminded of how important integration is for the psychological health of a community. This harkens back to Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s doll test, which was recently revisited by a young woman in the US. South Africa remains highly segregated, and not only along racial lines – religion, language and of course economics play important roles in determining the patchwork pattern of South African society. This is largely the byproduct of the apartheid pass laws, but even now communities remain insular. There are very integrated and cosmopolitan communities, but they are few and far between. (District 6 was a famous example of one of these communities in Cape Town, but it was destroyed and its residents removed forcibly in the 1970s as part of apartheid restructuring.)

Yet despite a relatively cosmopolitan history and new-found equality under the law, when I ask South Africans about integration I get mixed reactions. Some say community peace should come first – in the metaphor of the family, communities must get their own affairs in order before they can be expected to deal with outsiders. Some say that race in and of itself is not a bad thing, and that “colorblindness” will not lead to lasting peace. Racism – and the process of defining people by stereotypes and excluding them on basis of color – is what drives wedges between social groups.

Some organizations see the inherent value in integration. One young man I met with has started a rugby outreach program to a few schools in the townships outside of Cape Town. He envisions exchanges between talented white suburban kids and talented black township kids who speak the common language of sport. Another organization, Hoops4Hope in Gugulethu, also sees integration as an invaluable part of their work. In fact it was in their original mandate to bring white, black, coloured, Muslim, Christian, and foreign kids together once a year for a huge tournament.

Peace is multidimensional

In conclusion – poverty by itself will not inevitably lead to violence. Segregation, unemployment, lack of opportunities and poor service delivery –these things are factors, but not determinants. Taken together, however, they make lasting peace difficult to achieve. Breaking the cycle of insecurity is vital to building sustainable, peaceful communities and peaceful nations. I am continually inspired by those working towards this challenging but worthy goal!

As always, comments are much appreciated. Many thanks to Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution program and Generations For Peace for their continued support.

Lessons from the field of sport and peace

I started to write this blog about advice for practitioners, the importance of learning from failure and of conducting monitoring and evaluation for that purpose. It remains a good topic, but after spending the last few days with Generations For Peace “pioneers” and “delegates,”after hearing their stories and their wisdom, what i had written seemed less important, even silly.

The representative of Generations For Peace I spoke with were from Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Though their geographic proximity is very close, their experiences and approaches to sports and peacebuilding were nothing short of unique. In each unique story, however, threads of similarity in the smallest details began to weave a tapestry of the wider sports and peacebuilding world, demonstrating not just the universality of sport, but perhaps more importantly, a common humanity. 

Their stories filled my notebook, my recorder, my mind, and my heart. From the academic side, we discuss these programs in terms of theory and extensive categorization of each interaction. I found, though, more resounding wisdom not in the notions of contact theory or physio-therapy, but rather, in the simplest and often off-handed advice of the youth leaders. For both the Lebanese and Palestinian representatives, politics and constrained and defined their lives, even “peace” is highly politicized. They recognized the politics, they demonstrated resentment or despise or hope for the political situation, and they returned to the point over and over that when they play sports, they have the opportunity to escape these politics for a moment. They can be free of the constraints that political divisions impose. They can play. And, when even peacebuilding is political, the simplicity of playing a game with others is accessible and alluring.

Pushing aside all my notions of theory and categorization, the most important observation/advice/pearl of wisdom came from each group of representatives, from every site I’ve visited, and from the people existing in the darkest of places. Smile. That is it. That peace starts with a smile. A smile expresses inner peace, it is infectious and, even if just for a moment, it is a light in a dark place. I am grateful to the GFP representatives that reminded me of the power of the smile, and to reiterate the GFP motto, I hope to “pass it on.”

For more information on Generations For Peace visit

For Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program visit

“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.

Multiculturalism in Europe – Integration through Sport

This week in Germany, I am visiting sites and interviewing practitioners with the Germany-wise program, “Integration through Sport” (in German, “Integration durch Sport”). IdS, which is financed by the German government, administered via the German Olympic committee and implemented locally through youth programs and sport clubs, is a wonderful example of the intersection between sport and conflict resolution.

Today I was privileged to visit the state headquarters of IdS in the German province of Baden-Württemberg, which is conveniently located next to the bus stop “Mercedes World”.
Mercedes World

If you could re-create Disney World for adrenaline-loving, sport-watching, autobahn-driving car nuts, this would be it. IdS is located on the 4th floor of a giant building that houses (as far as I can tell) everything that has to do with sport in Baden-Württemberg.
Stt Sport

It is conveniently nestled behind the Mercedes-Benz Arena /sport center,
MB Arena
practice fields for BW’s famous soccer team (the “VFB”),
MB Museum
kitty-corner from the Mercedes-Benz Museum (highly recommended – I test drove a voice-automated “E Klasse” sedan there once) and a stone’s thow away from the Porsche Museum, and, lest they be undone by Mercedes,
the Porsche Arena. Wow! That’s quite a world!

The point of this entry is integration, however, not why sports lovers are at home in Germany. (Though that has something to do with it!). Kids in the Federal Republic of Germany practice sport in three way, generally:

1) In school – Meaning PE – gym class. German schools do not have the same kind of school-team sport culture we do in the USA
2) In clubs – This is the location for team and competitive sports. These are local and one usually pays a fee to join, (though this can be publicly covered). Called “Sport Vereins”, these clubs act as a cultural marker in a unique way.
3) In outreach work – Play-centered sport, sport as a way to relax and pass time, instead of training or working for a team. After school drop-in centers or church groups often offer sport opportunities.

My research in Germany connects with all of these areas, and it is interesting to consider how each individual defines the word “integration” in their context. Indeed, this is not only a program-specific question, it’s a question that Europe in general asks itself, as its population grows older and shrinks, and as it is faced with lots of immigrants.

As my psychology professor Dr. Moghaddam would phrase it, Europe is determining how to “manage cultural diversity”.

This past October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism in Germany had “utterly failed”, that the attempt to coexist was clearly not working for them. While the statement was considered purposefully polemical by a number of critics, it struck a chord. Many Germans – many Europeans, fell that despite the rapidly increasing ethnic and cultural diversity of their nations, these culturally different groups continue to live separate lives, even though they are in the same place. And this can lead to a lot of political and social problems. Sometimes, even hate crimes.

A friend of mine here, a German married to a Yugoslavian, recently showed me a comedic video where a German citizen (dark skinned, accent – obvious immigrant) was given an “integration test”. Among other questions, he was asked,

“How would you say you can tell you are integrated?”

“How?” the man answered, “That’s easy. I used to only drink vodka. Now I drink beer!”

…Which is a funny way of answering a perplexing question that people all over the world right now are trying to answer: “What IS “integration”, really? It’s not complete assimilation (drink only beer, never drink vodka again) but it’s also not isolation (drink vodka only, refuse to touch beer even though you live in a land flowing with it)…there must be some middle where you can speak the cultural language of your hosts (maybe drink vodka at home and beer in public?), but it’s got to go a step further, too, when the host culture starts changing itself, taking on the cultural traits of its immigrants, or even coming up with some mixture of both (selling both beer and vodka? Germany has already achieved this status).

This phenomenon shows up easily in the culture of food, but it is more difficult to negotiate in things like politics, education, or cultural mores. In sport, culture, education, and politics are all present at once, which can make it a good place to start the work.

So let me ask you, then:

What is integration?

Where is it successful?

Multiculturalism in Europe, has it failed?