Category Archives: Public Policy

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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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Education, Leisure, Networking, Psycho-Social Support, Public Policy, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

Keeping it Real in Spain?

My paternal grandfather and father, were both good amateur soccer players in their youth. While on a recent vacation in Spain, I was staying close to Real Madrid’s stadium. I must admit I did not intend to blog about the La Liga, Spain’s premier football division largely because I did not know much about the teams. When I found out that my hotel was near the stadium, I decided to take a walk around the Madrid neighborhood to see for myself.

Visit to Madrid, Spain, 2017. Photo credit: Unknown.

Like many Americans, sports coverage in the United States is mainly focused on the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Major League Soccer in the United States has grown significantly and U.S.Soccer team has had some strong performances in previous World Cup Championships. In Europe, soccer is the sport that captures the public interest with international soccer starts like Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Messi. The best of the best players in developing countries sometimes make it into the soccer leagues of Europe and North America.

Economics drives the investment in sport stadiums like Read Madrid’s and other stadiums around the world. From Wimbledon to Fenway the infrastructure to compete and maintain in such stadiums costs millions. Many parts of Asia and Africa are prohibitively expensive for the public to bear such an investment (considering other competing demands) which is why only the best of the best players from developing countries make it to play in the West.

Squash is a minor sport relative the world’s love of football so my walk through this Madrid neighborhood, helped me to keep it real with more perspective on the urban squash movement.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Public Policy, Recreation, Squash, Youth Development

What are Indicators of Youth Development?

Thanks to big data and increasingly shared datasets, the concept of youth development is being qualitatively measured across countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat recently released its third “Global Youth Development Index and Report” to measure how young people in 183 countries are positioned for the future.

Artistic Interpretation of Youth Development.

Source: Artistic interpretation of Youth Development in Key West, Florida. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2015.

The report uses 5 domains which the authors see as critical to youth development: education, health, employment civic participation and political participation. My previous post gave examples of social entrepreneurs and policy makers working to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This report acts as an impressive data-advocacy tool to focus attention and investment where needed the most.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Global Youth Development Index (GYDI) allows the public to compare and contrast countries where youth development is going well and not so well. Based on the GYDI, what attention and investment can you or your organization make in youth development?


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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Education, Foreign Policy, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Philanthropy, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

India, Uganda and USA: What Can We Learn by Comparing and Contrasting in Youth Development?

As mentioned, in earlier blog posts thanks to my formative United Nations Volunteer experience in Uganda, I’ve spent considerable time and energy as a founding team member of Khelshala in India. In the last couple of weeks, I was fortunate to attend fundraisers at Khelshala in Boston and the The Child Is Innocent in Boston. For both of these non-governmental organizations, this was my second time attending their fundraisers.

Listening to Satinder Bajwa (an engineer by training, turned coach and teacher) and Kevin Schwartz (a pediatric oncologist), as co-founders of their respective non-governmental organizations, I was reminded by other inspirational leaders I’ve heard speak at the Harvard Kennedy School in the social enterprise movement such as Mohammed Yunus of Grameen Bank or Bill Drayton of Ashoka, who have used their talents to improve the lives of the next generation of leaders. The objectives and challenges facing both Khelshala and The Child is Innocent are simultaneously similar and different.

Today, perhaps more than ever, it is possible for young people to make a difference through grassroots activism, social justice campaigning and demonstrating solidarity with those who are disenfranchised. Small steps taken over a long horizon can and do make a difference for organizations like Khelshala and The Child Is Innocent. How and when will you make your next step?

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Poverty, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

What does Peace Look Like?

The 2016 Positive Peace Report by the Institute of Economics and Peace, helps non-experts understand what peace looks like from a macro perspective. I found the diagram below from the report to be a very noteworthy depiction of what the positive elements of peace look like for a nation. I shall not repeat the content of the report, but would like to elaborate on a couple of contemporary issues.


Source: 2016 Positive Peace Report by Institute of Economics and Peace.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria according to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations is “appauling,” with the thousands of deaths, especially young children. The Secretary General and the international community are taking steps for a peaceful solution to the conflict using diplomatic tools and maneuvers for a constructive dialogue that intends to put an end to the violence. However, many innocent Syrians and peacekeepers are being caught in the middle of the violence.

Approximately 5 years ago, I had the honor and privilege of attending a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has authored many self-help books on health and wellness. Perhaps the Syrian government and its people would benefit from listening, reading and learning from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. When a cease-fire is reached by the Syrians themselves, they may wish to look at themselves in the mirror and make peace with themselves. In my humble opinion, by rejecting violence, it is easier to accept peace.



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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, Leadership, Literature Review, Peace Building, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Archiving Sport: How Do Libraries Connect Sport for Development and Peace?

It is really amazing how much there is to learn from being in a library. There are numerous types of libraries across the country on college campuses, in almost every neighborhood as public libraries and then the elite Presidential libraries to identify a few. The Boston Public Library in Copley Square, a newly renovated library in the heart of Boston reaches out to its community in numerous ways.


Squash Photos of Bostonions at the Boston Public Library’s Electronic Information Kiosk. Photo Credit: T.Mohammed.

On a recent visit to the newly renovated Boston Public Library in Copley Square, I came across a fascinating electronic information kiosks in the main entrance hall. At a touch screen information kiosk, there was an archive of photos of various subjects (including squash photos of Bostonians as seen above) from the City of Boston. If you click on the photo you can see the details.

This impressive kiosk with information retrieval and storage (at a cost to the taxpayers of Massachusetts) is a tremendous leap forward in understanding and connecting the sport for development and peace field to the general public. My suggestion for the many aspiring young professionals in the emerging field of sport for development and peace would be to examine the evolution of sport at your local library. You may be surprised what you find.


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Filed under Community Development, Education, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Public Policy, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Reflect, Renergize and Restart: Where to Next?

         As you are probably aware this blog is outdated and no longer being updated. I didn’t want to stop without being able to reflect with you upon three lessons gained from life experiences, which I believe can be one of our greatest teachers. My hope is that it will help you think about your own life.

         The first lesson was learned while I was a high school student in the United Arab Emirates. This was among the several countries my siblings and I grew up.

         After a long day at school, I decided to go for a run to take my mind off homework. At the time, Laylah, my youngest sister was the only person home. I asked her to let my parents know that I had gone for a run and that I would be back home in time for dinner. Little did I know I would not make it home for dinner that evening.

         I set forth on my usual route with Walkman in hand. (For those of you too young to remember what a Walkman is, it is one of the early precursors to the iPod). My memory of what happened next is unclear. All I remember is waking up in a hospital emergency room and my entire upper body soaked in blood with my mother at my bedside. I have no recollection of how I ended up there.

         From police reports it appeared that while running, I was knocked down and unconscious by a car. Except for the shattered glass that had scared my face and back, there were, fortunately, no serious injuries. No broken bones. No lost limbs. Nonetheless, doctors told me that I had experienced a severe shock to the body and mind (deemed a concussion) and that I would need to miss the remainder of my 11th grade.

         On one hand I was relieved, that I wouldn’t have to take final exams, but on the other hand disappointed that I had to stay home and could not spend time with fellow classmates. During the recovery, I had time to reflect upon the seriousness of what had happened and came to the conclusion I had a near death experience.

         At first this troubled me, but as I thought more deeply I came to understand that I had been given a second chance to live. I felt fortunate to be blessed with a miracle. While not everyone believes in God, I do believe there is a force greater than humanity.

         Some call this force God. Some call it Jesus. Some call it Allah. I’m not a very religious person, but I could not help think about this force. It kept me alive and is why I am here today.  Thus the first lesson, I would like to share with you is that, I believe, we are each here to serve a purpose.

         My second lesson stems from an international childhood and brief career in international affairs. I am an American citizen of Indian heritage but was born in the United Arab Emirates and educated in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, India and the United States. My multicultural upbringing might appear unique, but there are a growing number of Americans and international students, who also hail from diverse backgrounds and venture to and from foreign lands.

         During 2003-2004 I served as a United Nations Volunteer under Kofi Annan, former Secretary General’s initiative called United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) in Kampala, Uganda to promote volunteerism as well as foster peace and sustainable development. Based at Makerere University, a leading institution of higher education in East Africa, I was living in a country with a history of Indophobia.

         In the early 1970s, Idi Amin, a former President of Uganda expelled thousands of Indian immigrants due to fear of economic insecurity for ethnic Ugandans. Fast-forward to present day Uganda, Indians are gradually returning to Uganda – mostly in small numbers – to reclaim their properties.

         Given the historical plight of Indians in Uganda I was anxious as to how I would be received by my Ugandan counterparts. Would they see me as another Indian threatening their livelihood? Would I be considered a naïve, twenty something Indian-American aid worker imposing Western values? Would they just accept me for my ideas, thoughts and actions while being a guest in their country?

         My mission in Uganda was to strengthen and expand the Cisco Networking Academy Program, a global online curriculum for schools and universities across the country. The Cisco program prepares students and working professionals to design, build and maintain computer networks.

         I am not an expert in networking computers, but did have prior work experience publishing research on the intersection of business, technology and policy under the direction of Jeffrey Sachs, a highly acclaimed economist, at the Center for International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

         Fortunately with hard work, openness and a willingness to learn about Ugandan culture I was able to build trust among Ugandan colleagues. Living in a foreign country, far away from family and close friends, I learned how to make new friends and appreciate how human bonds tie us together. This is what truly enriches our lives.

          At Concord Academy everyone is valued for their individuality and at the same time their is a respect of common beliefs. Hence, the second lesson I would like to share with you is that while everyone is unique in their own way, we must not forget to celebrate our common values in this increasingly complex world.

         My third lesson is a culmination from my lifelong passion for squash – the sport, not the vegetable (Although after living in New England, I have also grown to like squash soup!). I became acquainted with the sport when my mother would go for her squash lessons.

         Curious to know how this racquet sport was played, I eventually made my way on to a squash court by the age of 12. Living in Saudi Arabia it was also a way to beat the heat and exercise in an air-conditioned room.

         Looking back, squash has opened many doors for me. During my college admissions process Dan Hammond, an All-American squash player at West Point and Head Squash Coach at Bowdoin College, a highly selective liberal arts college in Maine, actively recruited me as a student-athlete. I would not have gained admission based solely on my academics. Squash opened the door.

         Also, my first paycheck in the United States was thanks to squash. During the summer of my freshmen year in college, I worked as a counselor at the Harvard Junior Squash Camp under the direction Bill Doyle, a former Head Squash Coach at Harvard. Squash opened the door.

         During my junior year of college I was invited to attend an alumni function with key donors and was seated, by the organizers, at a table with Robert Edwards, a former President of Bowdoin College and his wife, along with several accomplished alumni.

         Puzzled at first, I came to understand that I was selected to be seated at that particular table, not because of my academic prowess, but because I happened to be co-captain of the varsity squash team under the direction of Satinder Bajwa, a world renowned squash coach who was subsequently the Head Squash Coach at Bowdoin College during my senior year. Looking back, meeting Baj (as he is known in the squash world), was a tremendous, positive life-changing experience.

         Squash has continued to provide many opportunities even after college. For instance I got my first desk job at Harvard, because Geoffrey Kirkman, Managing Director of the Information Technologies Group at the Center for International Development liked the fact that I was a squash player and coach who showed promise beyond academics.

         Again, if it were not for my interest in squash, I would not have been able to coach at various New England colleges, universities and prep schools. Neither would I have had the opportunity to help implement the 2006 Super Series Squash Finals, featuring the world’s top 8 players in London, England.

         Neither would I have received a travel grant to visit a poor village in India to conduct coaching clinics for underprivileged children. I could go on.

         I am very grateful and honored for being involved with Khelshala, a non-governmental organization, that allows me to play a part in helping other students can gain education and career opportunities through sport. Thus the third, lesson I would like to share with you is that don’t underestimate the value of your extra-curricular activities.

         In short, my three lessons for you are: (i) live a purposeful life because you never know when it may end (ii) embrace all the diversity the world has to offer and remain inclusive and (iii) last, but not least, don’t forget to nurture your talents. It sounds simple to say, but, at times, it can be difficult to put into practice.

My name is Tariq Mohammed, which among other things, in Arabic means “he who knocks at the door.”

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Peace Building, Private Public Partnerships, Psycho-Social Support, Public Policy, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport