Category Archives: Philanthropy

Celebrating World Environment Day at Planet Fitness

On, June 5, the international community will celebrate 2018 World Environment Day to encourage businesses, governments and individuals to safeguard the planet with the “Beat Plastic Pollution” campaign. Regardless of where one happens to live in the world, the impact of climate change is real and the need for humans to protect themselves and adapt to climate change is important. In the spirit of Arthur Ashe, who was once quoted as saying “start where you are. use what you have. do what you can,” or in other terms, acting locally while thinking globally. As part of my weekly activities, I enjoy regularly working out at the local Planet Fitness gym in the Town of Andover, Massachusetts. Though there are no squash courts at the facility or group exercise classes, it provides a “judgement-free zone” for general strength and conditioning.

At entrance to Planet Fitness in Andover, Massachusetts, 2018. Photo credit: Planet Fitness staff.

When I don’t have access to a car or the weather is reasonably good, I like to walk to the gym. Striving to being smart and green on an individual level can feel like a drop in the ocean, however if there were a critical mass of individuals doing this then the impact on the environment would be less damaging. As a multinational business, Planet Fitness positions itself as an American franchisee of fitness centers however it could do more by partnering with other environmental groups, such as the Green Sports Alliance, and promote better nutrition by serving healthy snacks, like fruit cups during its community membership activities.

Meanwhile, the Boston squash community has stepped up its game in the arena of sport and environmental sustainability. In September, 2014 Sydney Soloway, a Dana Hall School alumnae founded a wonderful environmentally friendly initiative called Squash Cares, a nonprofit, squash ball recycling program to benefit people with disabilities specifically, autism and ADHD.  The concept of keeping old squash balls out of landfills is a very practical environmental solution for a sport played in more than 145 countries. Any high school or college squash program in the world should take note of Squash Cares, as an innovative squash ball recycling program benefiting people with disabilities.

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

Making Next Steps Towards Sustainable Development

While there is no better substitute for in-person mentoring for both the young and old, the Internet and social media enables online or digital mentoring. This blog post is aimed towards younger readers and experienced educators. Twenty years ago (during my junior year), I was invited to a Bowdoin alumni event where I had the good fortune of being seated at a table with President Emeritus Robert Edwards of Bowdoin College and other distinguished alumni. The purpose of the “Beneath the Pines” event was for students, staff, professors and alumni to share ideas on what Bowdoin as an institution was becoming and how campus constituents could shape the future direction of the College. I learned from fellow students about President Edwards’ prior work experience with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and was curious to learn more from him.

At the dinner table, we discussed a number of issues concerning the future of Bowdoin College ranging from student life to academics. Following a lively discussion, the elders at the table turned to the youngest person at the table and asked me, “what are your plans for the summer?” With nothing to lose, I expressed my interest in securing an internship with the Aga Khan Foundation USA based in Washington, DC. President Edwards immediately noticed my interest in the work of the Aga Khan Development Network and graciously invited me to his office to discuss his work with the organization. A few days after our meeting I prepared my personal statement and was interviewed by a committee of AKF USA staff and volunteers for a paid summer internship position.

At my internship desk at the Aga Khan Foundation USA office, Washington, DC. Photo credit: N. Karim, 1998.

From the moment I learned of my acceptance to the AKF USA internship program, I was absolutely thrilled to take steps towards a career in international development. The content of the undergraduate internship varied from assisting in several aspects ranging from  the Foundation’s communications, outreach and public education to assisting in maintaining and organizing the Foundation’s library, documentation and communication materials. Patricia Scheid, our internship supervisor at AKF USA was an excellent guide, facilitator and mentor who made our internship experience more than “just filing” to assisting in grant writing, event planning and community outreach. Also as interns, we were introduced to other members of the AKDN, U.S. Federal agencies and civil society organizations based both in Washington DC and around the world.

AKF USA Interns: Nadya (left), Tariq (center) and Shalini (right), Washington, DC. Photo credit: Z. Hemani, 1998.

While career trajectories are not always linear, my AKF USA internship was a fantastic foray into the role and effectiveness of foreign aid in improving the quality of life of individuals and communities around the world. A lot has happened over the last twenty years in my career development, as well as in the field of sustainable international development, but I am hopeful that the next twenty years will also be just as exciting, if not more both personally and professionally. Thank you to President Emeritus Robert Edwards of Bowdoin College and the Aga Khan Foundation USA for my transformative internship experience. I hope younger readers and experienced educators will be encouraged by the power of networking, mentoring and leadership development to transform lives.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Planning, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, 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

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

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

Health and Wellness at Global, Local (Glocal) and Personal Levels

On a global level, I would like to share the work of the Aga Khan Development Network which for the next year, starting from today (July 11, 2017) will be celebrating His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. The AKDN videos below (shared on the organization’s website) are part of the press releases for this year- long celebration.

I am a firm believer in experiential education such as internships, study abroad and exchange programs. My paid internship (almost 20 years ago) with the Aga Khan Foundation USA in Washington DC was a highly rewarding and fulfilling professional experience which led to many exciting professional experiences and conversations in the realm of international development management. The Aga Khan Development Network’s pluralistic approach to international relations and local community development make its  programs compelling for both Sunnis and Shias as well as non-Muslims. Below is the positive impact of His Highnesses’ and AKDN’s work over the last 100 years.

At the local level, being a certified squash coach with ups and downs of mental illness, I am a strong believer in the health benefits of exercise and physical activity to aid in recovery. Through my ongoing professional and personal explorations in sport for development and peace at global and local levels, I would like to share a research study being conducted at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation on “Exercise and Cognitive Training, If there is anyone reading this blog, who knows of individuals who fit the parameters for the study, please contact the principal investigators.

The reason I am sharing this study is that this important research may advance the knowledge and capacity to effectively treat others with severe mental illness and support them with their recovery, whether it be in the United States or overseas, particularly in developing countries. Without going into details, I know how tough it can be for others struggling with mental illness and therefore can relate with what experts call “lived experience.”

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Volunteering