Workshop 2013

Youth, Peace and Sports: Resolve Conflicts and Create Peace through Sports and Cooperative Games


The first sports and peace workshop took place on May 24th-26th, in cooperation with the Basel Peace Office, Ban All Nukes generation and the Youth Future Project. The idea was born at the Visionaries in Action Conference 2012, where Alyn Ware, winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, inspired the conference participants with his cooperative games.

Our workshop weekend started on Friday evening with a public opening event at the University of Basel with inspiring examples of how sports can be used to create peace in schools, communities, as well as in civil and armed conflicts:

IMG_8424-JonasRohloffAlyn Ware, consultant of the Basel Peace Office, gave an impressive report of his peace work in schools and at political level. He uses cooperative games to resolve conflicts according to the win-win principle, builds confidence and promotes cooperative behaviour. During a workshop on the Kashmir-Jammu Conflict, he juggled together with Indian and Pakistani politicians to create a work atmosphere of trust, to give an example.

IMG_8466-JonasRohloffAt the New York Marathon 2011, he ran together with Wilson Kipketer, long-time 800 meters world record holder, for the organisation Peace and Sport. Wilson shared very personal information about his life. In his opinion, sport has always been the unifying element that brings people together, builds understanding of other cultures and teaches how to deal with challenges. After a severe malaria infection, which the multiple world champion suffered at the peak of his career, he had to start from scratch and to learn again how to move, before he could celebrate his comeback. As a former top athlete, he now wants to encourage especially young people by telling his story. His main message is: ”Get up, don’t give up because you can make a change“.

IMG_8431-JonasRohloffMaren Kröger reported on the work of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) in Geneva. One of the main projects is the “Youth Leadership Camp”, a multi-day meeting for socially disadvantaged young people who work on sport-based grassroot projects in their communities and thereby contribute to a social change.

IMG_8435-JonasRohloffRoland Pavloski, former basketball coach of the Starwings Basket Regio Basel, presented the project “Midnight basketball”, which enables disadvantaged teenagers to play a free and peaceful basketball game.



Bert Ballegeer, project manager of the Belgian Homeless Cup, impressively explained how regular sports can give more structure in life and how it helps to develop the character. Besides his work for the Homeless Cup, Bert also works for the organisation “Flanders Peace Fields” which organises and executes national and international peace projects which are arranged in remembrance of the Christmas Truce. On Christmas Eve in 1914, there was a fraternisation between British, French, Belgian and German soldiers. Together they sang Christmas songs and played football between the trenches.


At the end of the opening event, Carola Szemerey presented the work of the Youth Future Project and the youth network Ban All Nukes generation and inspired the audience with a first group dynamics exercise.

Full of inspiration, the evening was capped off with a barbecue party with tasty vegan burgers in the Institute of Sociology.


On Saturday morning, the programme included team building games and the topic of conflict resolution. After an exhausting climbing on top of mount Kilimanjaro with Alessa and her axe, Carola with her clown, Elisa with her energy drink and Jonas with his joke, we solved the Gordian knot and got to know the positive experiences of the participants from the past week.


Already grown together as a team, we turned to the topic of conflict resolution. By playing the game “hands on hips”, we learned in a fun way that most of us are very influenced by the wish to win and to beat others (win-lose principle). It was interesting that those who reached the highest score, acted according to the win-win principle, a constellation which only results from the cooperation and working towards a common goal. Based on this finding, we learned the practical method of conflict resolution of Edward de Bono “Explore both sides”.

IMG_8694-JonasRohloffAfter the lunch break, we went to the gym and played trust exercises and cooperative games, special highlights were the cooperation games with the parachute and earth ball. Again, we climbed the Kilimanjaro, hid in his caves, made blind motor races, played chest without speaking and transformed ourselves into crazy machines.


IMG_8890-JonasRohloffAfter all these adventures, a great reward was awaiting us in the evening: Daniela Schlettwein-Gsell, a supporter of the Basel Peace Office, invited us into her beautiful house. There, we watched the movie Joyeux Noel (the 1914 soccer truce) and talked with Bert Ballegeer about our impressions. In a comfortable atmosphere with pizza, delicious chocolate mousse and nice conversations, we let the very eventful day come to an end.


Full of energy, on Sunday we started with the simulation game “red or blue”, an adaptation of the famous prisoner’s dilemma from the game theory.

We built two groups with the objective to achieve the maximum result. We quickly realised that the maximum result can only be achieved together and, therefore, we merged to the “crazy purple people carrot eaters”. This even surprised our game master Alyn Ware. How do cooperation and solidarity in favour of the common good develop? In our case, the most important reasons have been trust, communication, common decision finding, as well as similar interests.

Finally, we tried out the creative thinking and learned different exercises from the area of lateral thinking, a method which helps to change rigid patterns of thinking and to explore new and unusual ways.

In the final reflection, we all agreed that we had a lot of fun in the workshop. We learned how sports and cooperative games can form community and peace. This is possible, if non-violence, trust, the win-win idea and cooperation are in the centre of interest. It was wonderful to see so many smiling faces and to discover again the child in us. We want to share this experience with others, therefore, we want to organise further workshops and activities, for example at conferences, in educational institutions or games afternoons with friends.


Thanks to all for this wonderful weekend!

More photos on Flickr

SportsPeaceWorkshop2013 – Descriptions of the games

(Text: Elisa Schmidt, Photos: Jonas Rohloff)