Not for the soft of heart or weak of form, the Peacebuilding Olympics are a challenging competition that draws on only the best development practitioners and their body of knowledge to compete for global change, social justice and sustainable development, both as a team and individually, one community or region at a time.
Judges follow the Program, Management and Evaluation (PME) system, comparing results to the objectives and indicators established in each work plan, or the “semi-defined soon to be obsolete due to community changes” list of activities in the following events:
The Visionary Leadership event is a high profile competition that draws on the highest thinkers and academics in the peacebuilding world, such as John Paul Lederach. Although the event seems calm on the surface, the seated participants are busy pondering the greatest questions of life, community development and theory. The most metaphors scribbled on notebooks and napkins in the determined amount of time wins. A resulting book deal often follows these events.
Grant Writing is an individual event that calls on all of the athlete’s abilities to juggle words, objectives, vision, mission and numbers. Careful coaching is required beforehand and often a support team is alongside to brew coffee, sharpen pencils and provide Excel technical support.
Team Meeting is a team event, because no one can win this one alone. The objective: a clear focused implantable agenda, team harmony and the consumption of a really good snack, all well before noon. Other elements include learning about local context, hearing from everyone in the room and subverting any possible reading of large documents using the video projector. While a guitar circle or opening songs may seem like a good idea at the time, they do not generally add to the efficiency of the play and instead serve to distract or infuriate other team members.
Just like hockey, Community Empowerment is the heavy weight championship of the Peacebuilding Olympics. Here, opposing teams try to accompany different communities as they develop and grow. A significant amount of brain power is spent at the very beginning of this challenge working with and building trust with community leaders while trying to establish what development even means. Medal winners demonstrate a focus on sustainability and cultural empowerment with a special emphasis on women and children and the creation of a communications piece highlighting their achievements.
Workshop Leading is a complex interplay of academic ability and on the ground technique. Talented competitors are able to get the attendance sheet signed, a group photo taken and some icebreaker games played in the first round. The second round is much more sweat-forming as some sort of knowledge must to transferred to the participants in a limited amount of time, using only a whiteboard and some photocopies. More points are of course awarded to those who use a Freiren approach and convince the attendees that they are already experts in the theme.
The Field Worker Story challenge is known for its tight competition, especially among those who have spent significant time training in rural areas. Competitors are timed against each other to tell their best story. Technical elements include: an experience with different food, a humorous cross-cultural misunderstanding, an accident or harrowing health incident and/or a travel-gone-horribly-wrong narrative. Artistic elements include overall delivery, narrative development and an avoidance of repetition, arguably the most difficult challenge of the event.
Each country or worker from that country brings their own unique strength and cultural capacity to the Games. As a Canadian athlete, I am well-practiced in the art of apologizing, using my talent of politeness to draw people in to my way of thinking. Passive aggressiveness is a training strategy that is highly used for its effectiveness, as was international diplomacy in the past. Handicaps do include an intensive fervour to be better than Team USA, leading to a failure to recognise internal fissures and other competitors.
While often controversial, sponsors include large international government bodies, corporations and non-government organizations, each with their own message and special interest in participating. Uniforms vary region to region but a standard outfit includes Chaco Sandals, a vest or t-shirt with the team logo, a clipboard, and pants with enough pocket space to hold the requisite hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Let the Games begin!