Category Archives: Education

What Role Can ICTs Play to Improve Sport Governance?

In 2001, the International Year of Volunteers, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, stated that “volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about.” Fifteen years ago, in 2003, I set forth from Boston, Massachusetts on my United Nations Volunteer assignment in Kampala, Uganda under the auspices of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) – an initiative envisioned by the Secretary General – to support efforts to bridge the global digital divide. Since returning from my UNV assignment, I continued to be engaged with various volunteer projects in the United States and across the world, with an emphasis on sport for development and peace.

Upon re-reading my 2002 personal statement to the Cisco Least Developed Countries (LDC) Initiative of which UNITeS was a key partner, I am glad to have been asked by the hiring managers to undertake such a writing exercise. Any hiring manager who wants to narrow down their selection of strong candidates, would do well to request a personal statement. Not only does this tool allow for benchmarking but it can also help individuals (and organizations) set future goals. I am making my personal statement public for the purpose of knowledge management to improve education and learning while addressing the challenges of sustainable development, of which ICTs play an important role.

My Pin Collection from United Nations Volunteers (UNV), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2018.

In 2018, major news headlines posed big questions about democratic freedoms and the role of the Internet and social media. Through the Kofi Annan Foundation, Kofi Annan founded the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security and recently published an op-ed which addressed the challenges to the integrity of the electoral process for high-income and low-income countries. The findings of the Commission will be released in the coming months. While I have no direct contact with inner workings of the Foundation, the outcomes from the Global Commission can have a significant influence on the political, economic and social systems of international sport governance.

Sport for development and peace is very much at the heart of democratic institutions, such as the International Olympic Committee which strives to promote universal values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The role of the Internet and social media are often described as tools to provide access to information on programs and projects that uphold Olympic values. I do believe that greater access to information and transparency preserve the integrity of the sport for development and peace sector. However, I also believe in the need for a system of checks and balances in the areas of corruption, terrorism and crime, which the International Center for Sport Security (ICSS) aims to fulfill. ICSS and its partners are identifying weaknesses in systems of sport governance and leveraging ICTs to protect and serve the cause of peace, development and human rights. The Internet and social media will continue to evolve and so citizens will learn to adapt to new ways of living, working and playing.

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Filed under Conferences, Conflict Resolution, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development

American Global Leadership: The State of the US State Department

The Boston Public Library and WorldBoston, both forward thinking organizations hosted and organized an important event to raise awareness of the role of diplomacy in enhancing American global leadership. Since the end of the second World War, the United States has led the world in military, economic and cultural power, yet the change in today’s global trends – the rise of China, geo-political challenges in Europe and shifting economic tides, gave the speakers an impetus to call on the American public to improve the state of the U.S. State Department.

Building on Ambassador Barbara Stephenson’s compelling column and Ambassador Nicholas Burns’ alarming op-ed piece in the New York Times, their remarks at the Boston Public Library made a strong case in opposition of the 30 percent budget reduction to the U.S. Department of State by the Trump Administration. Ambassador Stephenson outlined the role of American diplomats, their strengths and what happens when diplomacy is done well – in terms of “invisibility and light touches,” while cultivating relationships to better negotiate international agreements and treaties. For example, the Northern Ireland Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement where community-based policing transformed relations between Catholics and Protestants.

Ambassador Stephenson and Ambassador (Retd.) Burns on the “The State of the State Department,” moderated by Mary Yntema, CEO of World Boston at Boston Public Library, February, 2018. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

Ambassador Stephenson closed her remarks by asking what happens when American diplomats are not stationed overseas? Her unequivocal response, was that without the presence of American diplomats, there is a void in the relationship between the United States and the host countries, there is a lack of intelligence or “eyes and ears” on the ground and it is difficult to deal with threats to U.S. interests. In short, Ambassador Stephenson emphasized that the budget cuts were not plausible and not sustainable for American global leadership in the world.

Ambassador Burns, a Massachusetts native began with how Boston, has always been an outward looking city with its seaport and trade relations with many countries. He went on to describe the extent to which the State Department budget cuts and the increase in federal spending on the Department of Defense was not prudent, nor wise. Ambassador Burns shared how the diplomatic corps and military personnel often share serving on the frontlines, therefore requiring better integration of State and Defense Departments. He provided examples such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Korea – where there are currently no US Ambassadors serving to protect and advance U.S. interests – all of which face important, complex political, economic and security issues. Ambassador Burns closed his remarks with an apt quote by Winston Churchill during his 1943 speech at Harvard University, just as the British Empire was on the decline and America’s influence was improving, by stating “the price of greatness is responsibility.” For students, educators and practitioners I highly recommend learning more about the Boston Network for International Development, which is why I attended this educational event.

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Filed under Community Development, Conferences, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Professional Development, Stakeholder Engagement

Appreciation Can Go A Long Way In Improving the State of the World

To help prepare the next generation of students, researchers, educators and practitioners, I chose to volunteer my time with Boston University’s Campaign: Choose to Be Great! While my contribution was, albeit very small, in comparison to the over $1 Billion that was raised by generous alumni, parents and well-wishers, it was nonetheless good to be able to give back to the University. The faculty and students thanked donors, like me, by inviting us to a donor appreciation event.

2018 Boston University Donor Appreciation Event. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

I’ve always wanted to watch a NBA game, but with the high cost of tickets and my lack of understanding for the game of basketball, I was pleased to be able to watch a Division 1 Men’s Collegiate Basketball game between Boston University and the U.S. Naval Academy. What made attending this event special was knowing that former advisors, classmates and colleagues who were collegiate basketball players would have also enjoyed being at the game. There were many benefits for Boston University as a means of showcasing itself and saying thank you to donors thereby engaging in positive educational stewardship.

Boston University’s Men’s Basketball versus U.S. Naval Academy, The Roof at the Case Athletic Center. February, 2018. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

Through my volunteer work both in micro and macro settings, I have found that appreciation of those who do good work can improve the state of the world. Donors have different motivations for getting involved in supporting a cause therefore from a fundraiser’s perspective it is helpful to uncover the “why give?” After returning home from the event, I watched a TED Talk by Darryl Byrd  about being an “aimless volunteer” who spread himself too thin with time and energy. He then decided to focus his volunteer work to get a better Return on Investment (ROI) for his volunteering. Whether volunteering time, advocating for a cause or writing checks, they all help advance a nonprofit’s mission. As we get older, the question becomes, which nonprofit matters to you the most?

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Philanthropy, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Monetizing Sport for Development and Peace: Is a Photo worth more than $1000?

In North America and Western Europe, media outlets, independent journalists and bloggers often display photos of children, adolescents and young adults in the developing world who are engaged in sport for development and peace activities. The motives behind such photos often vary from portraying a positive image of the media outlet to indirect fundraising for donor organizations. How do the subjects, or more specifically persons in the photographs benefit? This question prompted me to self-reflect about how to apply learnings from participating in international competitions, sport tournaments and conferences.

During the mid 1990s, as a high school student in the United Arab Emirates, a group of classmates from the International School of Choueifat Sharjah in the science stream asked me (an arts student) if I wanted to participate in an advertising competition with a chance to win a free trip to Paris, France. Without much thought, I literally jumped at the idea. We were a group of expatriate children from India, Korea, Iran and Lebanon with aspirations of international travel who responded to an international competition, prior to the days of the fast-moving Internet world of today. The award-winning photos below, enabled 3 team members in the advertising competition to visit Paris, France.

Tariq Mohammed and Sanaz Dadfar participating in International Advertising Competition, Dubai, UAE. Photo credit: K. Blasetti, 1995.

More than 20 years later, one of the biggest challenges in the sport for development and peace movement has been to monetize or generate significant revenue from program activities to ensure financial sustainability. Different international development actors are motivated by either profits, donations or funding from government agencies which are affected by macro and microeconomic conditions. In my humble opinion, when there are competitions, tournaments and conferences to benefit the sport for development and peace sector, perhaps donor organizations enable the travel of the subjects or deserving person(s) in the photo(s) so that there is more direct interaction between donor and recipients to further the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Tariq Mohammed and Sanaz Dadfar participating in International Advertising Competition, Dubai, UAE. Photo credit: K. Blasetti, 1995.

In the spirit of suggestions and solutions, a variety of settings come to mind for donors and recipients to interact directly. For example, a meet and greet with staff at the headquarters of a multinational sporting goods company, a lecture series at local university or a town hall meeting with the general public are just a sample of how the subjects of photos in the sport for development and peace sector can directly improve their social and economic prospects. This can be done once a year or once every four years depending on budgets of donor organizations. Given the tweeting and clicking of today’s world of short attention spans, photography is becoming a means to advertise, advocate and generate revenues.

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Filed under Conferences, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Keep It Simple Student (KISS) Through a Healthy Lifestyle

Since approaching middle-age, I am learning more about the importance of both physical health and mental health through conversations with educators, artists, entrepreneurs, caregivers and medical professionals. It is really about balancing both and checking in with yourself, a friend, colleague or medical professional, if needed. The advice of a former Jeddah Prep and Grammar School swim coach was to “Keep it Simple Student,” or (KISS) in short which is a coaching philosophy based on avoiding complexity and focusing on doing a few things really well both in and out of the pool. Upon living in Massachusetts, I was impressed by the quality of the track and field at Danehy Park (seen below) which prompted me to remember Mr. Sither, a former Physical Education Teacher.

Danehy Park, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2017.

While enrolled at Kodaikanal International School (KIS) in India during the 1990s, our Physical Education class consisted of partaking in what was then called the United States’ Presidential Physical Fitness Award program. This program entailed passing various physical tests in strength, agility and conditioning for maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Seen below are my awards from the Presidential Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. From a a coaching and policy standpoint, the Squash+Education Alliance and other sport-based programs would do well to integrate themselves with the Presidential Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Presidential Physical Fitness Awards earned by Tariq Mohammed. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

For individuals seeking to maintain or improve mental health, the physical fitness awards can be instructive when having anxiety, paranoia or thought disorders by counting out aloud the numbers, 1, 2 and 3.  As I get older I have found that the simpler the activity or exercise the better I feel. This might not work for everyone, but if an individual finds a routine or activity that helps them maintain both physical and mental health then this will stand them in good stead. Not to sound too prescriptive, but from a policy perspective the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) would also do well to mainstream their programs with coaches, teachers and educators at the Squash + Education Alliance. I am writing based on personal and professional experience and perhaps this will be of help to future student-athletes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Psycho-Social Support, Public Policy, Rehabilitation, Squash, Volunteering

A Sign for New Beginnings

Thanks to my uncle, Tawheed Hazarika, one of my local volunteering stints was with the Andover Village Improvement Society (AVIS). This enabled me to discover the conservation efforts in the Town of Andover, Massachusetts while improving upon my prior knowledge of conversation when gorilla tracking in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Park. The gorillas are amazing creatures, but given the distance, I could not replicate my African safari so my AVIS volunteer opportunity was the next best thing. I learned about the various trails, vegetation and waterways closer to home. Goldsmith Woodlands, one of the trails led to the sign post below. Since discovering this trail, I have taken many refreshing walks along  AVIS trails in the vicinity.

Goldsmith Woodlands, Andover Village Improvement Society. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2017.

When reading this sign I questioned my wanderings across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. As mentioned, I realize I am very fortunate to have studied, lived and worked in many countries, which I believe, are now part of my DNA. It is sort of fitting that I found this sign in Andover, MA which has been a wonderful base to explore the world after my undergraduate graduation. My understanding and reading of this sign is that it is an indication for me to make a new beginning. Every ending means a new beginning.

The United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace has aligned itself with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to be met by 2030. Therefore, it is time for me to take stock of all my blogging and lessons learned to apply myself in a real, self-motivated and practical position. I have a keen sense of the what I’d like to do, but the where and when remains to be seen. I’ve been writing this blog for 8 years which is the equivalent of 2 Presidential terms in the United States with a blog posting, approximately once a month. My hope is that it can be a basis for publishing a book or memoir in the future. Gracias, Merci, Weebale, Efcharisto and Thank you for watching and reading! Bon voyage!

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Filed under Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Philanthropy, Planning, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

Classical Tour of Ancient Greece: Will Squash Ever Make it to the Modern Olympics?

I recently traveled to Greece to expand upon my educational horizon and to deepen my understanding of the field of sport for development and peace. Before flying to Athens I conducted basic desk research with guidebooks and on the internet while consulting a few friends who had prior travel experience in the country. Ancient Greek civilization was not something that was taught in international schools back in the 1980s and 1990s in the Middle East but upon completing my undergraduate government major at Bowdoin College, I had briefly studied the work of Aristotle, Plato and Thucididyes. Of course, traveling to Greece more than 15 years later after graduation meant taking my appreciation for the people, place and culture to another level.

For 3-days, I was a tour group member of Classical Greece that made stops in Athens, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia, and Delphi. The sites that were of most interest to me were Athens and Ancient Olympia. At every stop and corner there was evidence of historical significance. Learning about the details of all the players and events in the Classical Greece period could make for pursuing another educational degree altogether. This is not something that I am interested in doing at the moment, but believe that traveling is one of the greatest educational gifts one can make for oneself. Visiting the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens was moving because in a way it was a pilgrimage for paying homage to my playing and coaching days while helping to find my place in the world.

Tariq Mohammed’s visit to Panathenaic Stadium, Greece 2017. Photo credit: Unknown.

Visiting Ancient Olympia was of even more significance at it is where the Olympic flame for the Olympic Games are lit. I missed watching the ceremony in Ancient Olympia but was able to tour the grounds and see up close the ruins of this UNESCO Heritage Site. The Greeks had incredible foresight to have built such facilities thousands of years ago, but perhaps could do more to restore or renovate them to preserve such attractions today. Like other members of the tour group, I questioned myself. Why did I travel so far to see ruins and rubbles of dirt? As mentioned my approach was from the standpoint of (a) deepening my own understanding of sport for development and peace (b) being a symbolic advocate for squash in the Olympic movement and (c) being a part of something greater than myself and sharing with interesting travelers along the way.

Tariq Mohammed’s visit to Ancient Olympia, Greece, 2017 (Photo Credit: Andy Berbeck).

Through my travels and formal education, I have been influenced by several mentors and teachers which led to taking such a journey. I would like to acknowledge their influence as for doing so would provide greater context for my trip. Thomas Hodgson, former Philosophy instructor at Phillips Academy Andover, Denis Corish, former Philosophy professor at Bowdoin College, Alexis Lyras, Founder and Director of Olympus for Humanity Alliance, and Popy Dimoulas-Graham of Charity Republic, Inc. I am grateful to have been able to take the time to make such a trip and explore a new region of the world for myself and advocate for squash’s inclusion in the Modern Olympic Games.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Professional Development, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement

Having Fun and Keeping the Attention of Student-Athletes

It amazes me how my primary and secondary family members have influenced my explorations in sport for development and peace. When I was 11 years old, my cousin Rosanna Tharakan gave me a copy of the 1987 Pocket Edition of “Trivial Pursuit: Sport – The Authorized Game Book” by Guinness Books (as seen below). I still have the book in my possession today which has traveled with me from various places of residence. I rediscovered the book after cleaning out my basement. What is interesting about this book is that it can help teachers (which Rosanna and her husband happened to be) and coaches (of which I was trained to do) to be better at holding the attention of young student-athletes during practices and matches.

Quizzes: A coaching tool for young student-athletes.

One of the most challenging aspects of coaching for me was keeping my practices focused on skills development while motivating students to be a better version of themselves. I found that there were many in-between moments such as bus rides, sharing team meals and warm-ups, where I felt at a loss on how to maximize my time and energy for teachable moments. In other words, practices and matches can get boring fast for both student-athletes and coaches. Master teachers are always good at knowing what to say to a particular student at the right time. I have still have a long way to go before I reach the master coach level but in the spirit of coach education I thought this blog post would help coaches prepare for the upcoming squash season in New England, so here goes.

Many coaches have developed their own repertoires and are always looking to find new ways of delivering them. Quizzing student-athletes on sport or more broadly about current events at school, in the community or national and international news – during warm-ups or long bus rides may help create a dynamic team to go beyond the acts of practicing and playing to one of social action. For example, in recent months the NFL has given us a lot to consider about the safety of athletes, the roles of players and coaches with respect to national anthems and societal issues such as sexual harassment or gender-based violence. The above book and many others like it are great tools for coaches and teachers to foster team dialogues that may lead to improved performances during practices and matches, enhance team unity as well as create positive social development. Good luck coaches and student-athletes!

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Gender, Leadership, Literature Review, Planning, Psycho-Social Support, Squash, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Managing Expectations and Over-specialization in Youth Sport

This post is not meant to relive my past or prolong my future. Much has been written in academic journals about the negative effects of specialization in youth sports and unrealistic expectations of players, coaches and parents. For example – increased injuries, parental abuse and corruption – all of which can vary, depending on a variety of factors ranging from location of events, league organizers to player participation. I am a firm believer in playing multiple youth sports and then choosing one to focus on in adult years. In my case, I played a variety of sports, one of which was swimming – which I enjoyed throughly thanks to competent coaches, good infrastructure and well-organized leagues.

Saudi Arabian Western Region Expatriate Swim League (WRESL) medals won by Tariq Mohammed 1988-89.

After winning a few swim meets for my age group and going on to break national swimming records, I went through a process of readjusting my expectations and hopes. My parents and coaches provided positive encouragement during my swimming years. I was guided by them to take an alternative route in my sport journey because I did not have the height or reach to compete as an elite swimmer. This was tough to hear for a 12 year old especially when my swimming times were good enough to compete at an international level. Nonetheless, I chose to listen to my coaches and parents who suggested I try a different sport. By turning my attention and focus to squash I was able to continue to enjoy the benefits of playing a sport while balancing my academics. I had the opportunity to play squash in college and the rest is history.

Swimming ribbons and awards won by Tariq Mohammed 1986-92.

I know 30 years later of switching from swimming to squash was a good decision. Both of these individual sports are also lifetime sports. If I were a parent of a young child or a practicing coach today, I would encourage student-athletes to make the right choice for the long run to avoid over-specialization. It can be a tedious and difficult process but if players, coaches and parents can arrive at an understanding where the best interest of the player is put first then they will be able to succeed in the long run. The “professionalization” of youth sports today, in terms of sponsorships, travel teams and increasing adult participation, make it more challenging for parents and their children to arrive at decisions that will benefit them for the long run. If you are a player, coach or parent in a similar predicament – I recommend start having the conversation – to help you arrive at the right decision.

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Literature Review, Planning, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Turning a Weakness into a Strength

Since this blog has the word “explorations” in its title, I find it compelling to share my experiences from the vantage point of the 2017 United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. I’ve been fortunate to travel to several countries both as a child and adult which prompted me to self-reflect upon my tour of Spain in the spring of 2017. This does not make me a special person, but a traveler in life on this planet we call earth.

The slideshow above shows the magnificent architecture and beautiful countryside of Madrid, the capital city as well as Southern Spain. It is a country rich with culture and history, whose people are warm and friendly. Despite being a non-Spanish speaker and largely thanks to fellow travelers on my tour, I was able to navigate around Madrid and various Southern cities. My trip was a vacation, but I turned it into a project through my work in psychotherapy and volunteerism. I am not a trained therapist nor am I a certified peer specialist, but over the course of my adult years, I have gained increasing exposure to the world of mental health services.

I’ve enjoyed travel through my work and have learned that in many ways it is similar to coaching. It is worthwhile, to focus on the “process” so that the results will show for themselves. Perhaps, one of the reasons why I made the slideshow was to acknowledge and give importance to the challenges of travelers with mental health considerations. Particularly solo-travelers as the issues of navigation, housing, meals and medication adherence may be difficult without a relative or friend to assist.

Explorations are not only for explorers to visit or live in distance lands, but they can also be in one’s own backyard, town, city, state or country. As long as I am able to travel, there will always be something to write and reflect on which leads me to believe that perhaps my dream job would be as a travel writer or blogger.

 

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