For each individual, sport is a possible source for inner improvement.
Pierre de Coubertin

Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people.
Nelson Mandela

Background: This is the beginning I hope of an ongoing dialogue about my research on sports and peacebuilding. I have the great honor of being selected as the H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Generations for Peace Graduate Scholar, and as such during the Conflict Resolution Master’s Program at Georgetown University, I will be exploring sports as a peacebuilding tool. As a life-long athlete, I look forward to combining my love of sports with my passion for international peace efforts.

Research: My studies begin in the library, in literature, in online research of organizations, theories and precedent, which I will continue to explore. However, I believe first-hand observation is paramount to this research. Therefore, I have started my exploration of DC-based groups that use sports to provide conflict resolution skills to youth. To begin with, I am taking a look at a comparative group that focuses on dance and conflict mediation. The argument of whether or not dance is a sport is ongoing and possibly irrelevant, but it is often overlooked as a method of peacebuilding and a viable alternative to more combative sports.

Current Project: Dance 4 Peace is a quickly expanding organization that was first implemented in war-ravaged Colombia and is now starting its pilot year in Washington, DC and New York City. With no dance background of my own, I will be attempting to observe, without bias, how the curriculum based on self-expression through movement will be implemented in inter-city schools. After sitting in on the first facilitators training session, I was surprised at a) my complete lack of dance skills, and b) the strength of the curriculum in addressing the root causes of interpersonal conflict. Next step will be observing how the youth dancers interact with the curriculum over the course of the semester.

Brainstorming questions: Even though it lacks the “star power” factor of sports like football (soccer) or basketball, can dance be more effective at delivering a peacebuilding curriculum? Is the curriculum of a program more important than the sport/dance that it is attached to? Is aggression in sports actually a necessary evil (thinking of Freud’s channeling of emotion) that dance will fail to provide?

More soon…

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Comment by Carolina Laserna on October 10, 2010 at 1:19am
hello Meeghan,

I am gritting to you, concerning I really good opportunity if you want to have a case study about sports as a peacebuilding tool.
In Colombia, Bogotá, there`s going to be an event called "expopaz" United Nations is sponsored it. Experiences about peace and culture from all around Colombia are coming to the event October 27-28-29.

I am in charge of the soccer experiences, there`s going to be 10 different experiences of the NGO`s that implement soccer for peace. During this days, there is a plan to interact not only playing but in meetings and exchanging concepts and metrologies. ( I don’t know, how good is your Spanish???, If you have time, it will be a great opportunity for you if you could come!!
Think about it!!
carolina l
Comment by Gal Peleg on September 16, 2010 at 2:40pm
Dear Meeghan,

Maybe you will be interested in our organization- Mifalot


Comment by Nicola Lazzari on September 15, 2010 at 3:28pm
I stumbled across this just now, seems a useful source for your project.
Comment by Ana Patel on September 15, 2010 at 3:58am
Dear Meeghan - Congratulations on your scholarship. I urge you to take a look at the work of Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding. We develop programs for leadership training based on experiential outdoor learning that include collaborative activities such as kayaking, hiking, rafting and climbing. Check us out at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Good luck! Ana
Comment by Louise Romain on September 14, 2010 at 11:02pm
You might decide to look at the following page with information about a book soon to be released about peaceful football co-sponsored by Union European Football Association
"Education 4 Peace (E4P) is a Swiss non-profit foundation dedicated to advocating and supporting Emotional Health (EH) programmes in schools and sports."
I'd be delighted to receive some feedback on whether or not you find this interesting...
Comment by George Brose on September 14, 2010 at 6:51pm
You may find that in your research there will always be a challenge to filter out competitiveness from any human activity. Only as an aging adult have I been able to set aside my interest in who wins at sport and learn to appreciate human performance as an emotional, physical, and physiological achievement. Even dance I'm sure can be very competitive within certain constructs. ie. who will be the lead dancer within a dance company? It is human nature to want to be recognized for one's abilities and achievement. Sport often brings out the worst in human nature, less frequently it brings out the best. As soon as a team or athlete puts on a club color or a national color the potential for violence and ill feeling begins. Mandela saw sport as a unifier, but in order to do so, someone had to be vanquished. Few athletes can celebrate the success of their fellow athletes who are in the same sport. People have been paying for a long time to see someone defeat someone else in the arena.
Comment by Nicola Lazzari on September 14, 2010 at 6:38pm
Hello Meeghan,

Firstly congratulations on being selected for such an esteemed prize. I would like to forward you some links to projects that may be of interest for your research:
+The Team (Search for Common Ground):

+ Also from Search for Common Ground is this toolkit document, which discusses how to engage children and youth in conflict transformation efforts - there is a section on the use of theater, possibly something about dance is related to that.

+ LIBERI NANTES F.C. - this is a football club in Italy, composed exclusively of asylum seekers and refugees. The majority of material on them is in Italian - the 'take home' message is that although the players came from different backgrounds and sometimes from different 'sides' of conflicts, they still played together and formed friendships. some links to this:

In response to your brainstorming questions: I do believe dance, particularly the more contemporary and expressive forms of this art, can be an effective tool in peacebuilding. At a fundamental level it can act as a cathartic activity to express, through the use of the body, what words cannot. Also, a message about peacebuilding (or simply about moving on after conflict) can be presented almost universally through the use of body language and actors; with possibly small culturally-dependent changes depending on the target audience. In addition, there is a process group formation and consolidation that happens naturally if the program involves group performances, bringing people within the dance group (or a whole community) together. Furthermore, dance is not a competitive sport (apart from style involving 'battles' such as hiphop, house, lockin, poppin, etc) which means no winner or loser. How to incorporate these factors into a peacebuilding program I do not know, but it sounds plausible in my mind. A final comment, aggression can be simulated (or even stimulated) through dance, in football (and other 'active sports') it is a byproduct of competing for victory. I do not think such aggression is necessary to have a working peacebuilding program; other methods of relieving stress and expressing aggression should be used as part of the program. A theater professor I had made the whole company go through guided meditation before rehearsals, he said it "would free us of our worldly worries so that we could immerse into character."

A word of caution: Dance is present in the majority of societies around the world, although for some this may be a traditional and context-dependent activity. Delivery of a dance program should take into account what place dance occupies within a target group. Also what forms of dance, particularly gender mixing during dance and physical contact, should be considered.

Regards and best of luck with the project!
Comment by GABRIEL PEDRO ZINZONI on September 14, 2010 at 4:47pm
Hi Meegan: What satisfaction to know that you have been chosen for the scholarship. I am also interested in sport and violence. More precisely in soccer and violence. I hope to soon start a business and would like, if you consider it to be in contact.
A hug, and go.
Comment by Safiya on September 14, 2010 at 3:41pm
Hello Meeghan,
Congratulations on being chosen. I was hoping id meet one of the beneficiaries here. Hopefully we might get to meet soon. Being a Generations for Peace Pioneer and Facilitator, we can share a lot of experiences. Talk soon.
Comment by Ann Frisch on September 14, 2010 at 2:34pm
Thanks for your work. I would urge you to read Alfie Kohn's work No Contest as you consider sports and dance. He shows that sports as we know them require some to "best" others, someone has to win, someone has to lose...rules of the game. That does not enhance interpersonal relationships. "Cooperative games" can resolve this, though I have seen games that are essentially a competition where there is declared a winner. In my view, competitive sports do not enhance peace. Best wishes for your work.

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