Category Archives: Corporate Social Responsibility

Sport and Employment: Do Family Businesses Succeed in the Long Run?

One of the main reasons I chose to work for Reebok’s Human Rights and Business Practices program was to gain practical business skills with the intention of gaining an MBA. After failing in my role to follow instructions, not grasping how human rights principles were applied in business settings and frankly being overwhelmed by the scale to which decisions were being made on factory workers, I realized I was not able to do what was being asked of me, for a variety of reasons. I voluntarily resigned, although at the time, I thought I was being forced to quit. Also, having an undisclosed mental health condition made things difficult.

Though short-lived and with the benefit of hindsight, the challenge and rigor of my Reebok experience was tremendous for a twenty-something former United Nations Volunteer. My first day on the job at Reebok was flying to China for a team meeting to discuss team strategy for our program for business-wide ramifications. It was exciting, confusing and complicated all at the same time. My Reebok colleagues both in headquarters and in the field were decisive and held each other accountable. They were patient with me while I attempted to understand the workings of the Human Rights and Business Practices program and my role. Overall it was an amazing exposure to the intersection of business and ethics. Fast forward to 2017, Reebok is an Adidas owned brand, which Reebok alumni may argue is weaker than before.

Recently, it was fascinating for me, to watch the Youtube video above about Joe Foster, Founder of Reebok and how his family business evolved. This has opened a whole new and meaningful perspective for me on what it takes to run a family business. My own extended family members have their own business and social enterprises (for example, the Dominic family with tourism in Kerala) so it is interesting to observe how other well established families have created wealth over many generations. The Reebok story in the athletics industry, in my humble opinion, highlights what can be highly contentious issues when mixing family members, personalities and profits while striving “to do well, by doing good.”

The Human Rights and Business Practices program which was upholding Reebok’s commitment to corporate social responsibility was also a marketing and communications tool for the brand. Through my past experiences working closely with the Satinder Bajwa, Founder and CEO of Khelshala, I have come to learn about both the challenges and rewards of starting and running a social enterprise. Sometimes, the path or purpose one sets out for oneself is clear, but to walk it is another thing altogether. This blog strives to be linear, but in effect it does not account for all the turns and curves in the road where one has had to learn to adjust expectations of oneself. Many (social) entrepreneurs face challenges in their professional and personal journeys, while attempting to stay the course.


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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Leadership, Philanthropy, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support

Harnessing Star Power for Sport and Philanthropy

Sport and philanthropy is a decades old practice for many professional athletes, both active and retired.  As ambassadors of their sport, the athletes establish family foundations or have supported the work of existing philanthropic organizations through their charitable work.

An international development project which allowed me to gain first-hand exposure to sport and philanthropy was while helping to organize a fundraiser in 2002 for the Harvard Dominican Initiative. The premise was to leverage diaspora for philanthropic efforts, to reap rewards for community members both in the homeland and adopted countries.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox is one example – of many professional athletes – who has given back to his native country – the Dominican Republic – by raising funds and awareness for a variety of social and economic issues. Pedro’s generosity and appreciation towards baseball fans was demonstrated when he donated hundreds of Red Sox tickets and personally autographed baseballs to help raise money for progressive causes. All attendees of the event co-sponsored by Harvard, received a baseball autographed by Pedro Martinez.

Pedro Martinez, Hall of Fame pitcher of the Boston Red Sox autographed baseball. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2017.

Professional athletes and celebrities bring star power to philanthropy. They can help fuel donations to important causes and help bring about positive social change to communities at the local, national and international levels. This is considered a best practice and a win-win for stakeholders. Essentially professional athletes and professional ambassadors remind us of the importance of good stewardship to help balance people, planet and profits.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

My Evolution as a Developmental Coach

Today happens to be my Mom’s birthday and the month in which Mothers are celebrated, among other national and international awareness activities (such as Mental Health Awareness Month). To readers of my blog, I hope you have a few minutes to read this post.

I’ve made a couple of references to my parents on this blog largely because I know it is thanks to them and many others, that I am able to stay healthy, volunteer my time with causes I care about and explore new places and things.

The video above is a culmination of my journey in squash. I have enjoyed every moment of playing, coaching and volunteering in squash at various levels, as well as being a team member on winning and losing teams.

I plan to stay physically active with and without squash, as it definitely keeps me well and balanced. Thanks, Mom and Happy Birthday!


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Sports Memorabilia: Is at an excessive love of sport?

If you happen to live in the Greater Boston and are looking for a way to inspire your son or daughter with a dose of Boston sports history, then request a museum pass from your local library. Thanks to the Memorial Hall Library Membership program (my local library) a free entry pass to The Sports Museum in Boston made it possible for a summer visit.

Museum Pass made available through Library Membership Program at Memorial Hall Library.

Museum Pass made available through Library Membership Program at Memorial Hall Library, Andover, Massachusetts.

The Sports Museum was a new discovery for me given that one has been traveling from country to country observing sport for development and peace practices. What I found unique about The Sports Museum was that it provided a greater awareness of the four major American sports – football, baseball, basketball and hockey – which were all highlighted in some way during the tour. Our young tour guide was very knowledgable and had lots of great stories about Boston sports personalities.

Highly values sports memorabilia in The Sports Museum, Boston, Massachusetts.

Sports memorabilia in The Sports Museum, Boston, Massachusetts from July, 2016 visit Photo credit: T. Mohammed.

Furthermore, since the professionalization and specialization of sports in the United States, there are dedicated “Hall of Fame” for sports such as tennis and squash (both in the New England area too). Such devotion and allocation of resources to sport does not typically happen in low-income countries since there are more pressing needs like water, sanitation, electricity, agricultural development and housing, for example. Is this excessive love of sport in high-income countries or should low-income countries also strive for such development?

This is an ongoing debate within international development circles on whether sport is a “cost-effective” social and economic development tool in low-income countries. The 2016 Olympics in Rio, has an opportunity to leave a positive legacy for Latin America and the rest of the world. The 2012 London Olympics’s International Inspiration certainly did for 12 million children in 20 low-income countries.

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Filed under Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Olympic, Paralympic, Planning, Poverty, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

Marking a Milestone for Khelshala

On 9th August, 2014, Khelshala celebrated its 5th anniversary in Chandigarh, India. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the event, but was celebrating in spirit with colleagues. Since I was not in Chandigarh to report on what took place, the India-based team are putting together a post-event synopsis.

Once again credit goes to Coach Bajwa and the Khelshala team for reaching this milestone. While there is still a long way to go, there continues to be significant achievements made by the Khelshala children as well as the program itself. For those interested in the details, these can be found in the Khelshala newsletter(s).

While I am thrilled to be part of Khelshala, this is a good time for self-reflection for one’s own journey. I have used this summer to review, assess and plan for further career development. After speaking with various career counselors about the field of social enterprise, I am reminded by a friend’s comment that “it would be good to do something that pays.”

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Gender, Leadership, Networking, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Psycho-Social Support, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Appreciating SquashBusters and the Future of Urban Squash

Thanks to Tom Hodgson, a veteran teacher of philosophy and coach at Phillips Academy Andover (also a friend and squash colleague), he invited me to the SquashBusters Lawrence end-of-year celebration at Brooks School. SquashBusters Lawrence students, parents, staff, coaches and volunteers had fun with free-play, eating a pot-luck dinner and recognizing outstanding performers for the 2013-14 year.

SquashBusters Lawrence Staff recognizing students for 2013-14 achievements.

SquashBusters Lawrence Staff recognizing students for 2013-14 achievements.

As an admirer and follower of SquashBusters, it was great to be in the company of Greg Zaff, CEO and Founder and his team to share developments about Khelshala in India as well as Kidsquash in Cambridge, MA. Given the National Urban Squash and Education Association’s international outreach to countries such as Colombia, South Africa and India (including Khelshala) – there is a lot of potential in terms of grant making, student-exchanges and North-South as well as South-South collaboration.

Though squash is not yet an Olympic sport, programs such as SquashBusters and the like  – when done right with capable staff and adequate resources – produce balanced, active and socially responsible citizens. Surely this is a win-win for all stakeholders!

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Networking, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Squash, Uncategorized, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Khelshala Celebrated International Sport for Development and Peace Day

On April 6, 2014 – Khelshala celebrated their first initiative towards the United Nations International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. For an overview, we encourage you to visit the Khel-Mel event with the theme, “Play Life-Sports for a Healthy Life”.

All age groups were welcomed to the event to participate whole heartedly and take part in lifetime sports, such as dance, aerobics, yoga, athletics, squash, tennis, badminton and table-tennis, which were made available for the day. The Khelshala and Majra children joined hands to commence a day of great importance not only for the Khelshala community, but also for the sports society as a whole. The sound of the Dhols, kicked off the Khelshala march in which a group of very enthusiastic local community members arrived to participate in the walk towards the Khel-Mel venue.

Preceding the march, the dance activity conducted by Mr. Sameer Mahajan, Director of Rockstar Academy, lifted the spirits of the children and energized them for a day packed with fun activities. Along with explaining the importance of dance and aerobics in maintaining health and wellbeing of oneself, he began with a warm up before teaching the children chorography he had planned for the session. The dance session was followed by yoga and meditation conducted by Pinki Jha explaining how yoga and meditation can make their minds sharp, peaceful and also how it can enhance their day to day well being, if practiced regularly. In addition, various athletic activities including hurdles and cone drills for agility over a 50m track were conducted by coaches from Panjab University, Chandigarh. Also, many other individual games like squash, tennis, badminton, and table-tennis were a part of the overall day and were managed by friends and volunteers. Our very own Khelshala coach, Mr. Anil Rathee, also directed a tennis tournament. Khelshala children also performed a street play. This was greatly enjoyed by everybody, especially by the group of St. John’s School children in attendance. Khel-Mel activities ended with a grand finale of tug of war competition.

To conclude the proceedings a small prize giving ceremony was hosted by Mr. Bajwa, Founder and Trustee of Khelshala. He also shared with everyone on how sport can help them to stay fit and healthy. The event coverage was carried out by the esteemed Doordarshan channel, and Langar (community lunch) was served to all attending, courtesy of Village Majra Panchayat.

We were truly delighted to have celebrated this United Nations initiative and hope it served the vision and mission of spreading awareness among the community promoting development and peace. We look forward to a bigger and better event next year. We hope to see you in 2015.

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