Leveraging the Power of Sports for Improving Peace at the Workplace: Lessons from Cyprus

August 19, 2021by Anupriya Kukreja

Summary of:

Driessen, T. (2021). Sport for peace: Exploring the contribution of sport to cohabitation in a divided society (Dissertation). http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-445386

Background & Theory

Intergroup contact can occur in many shapes and forms, one form being sports. Sport-for-peace programs rely on sport and contact in order to contribute to intergroup reconciliation efforts and peaceful society. This research is based on a theoretical framework that relies on contact theory and is grounded in a relational peace framework. This has been done in the context of PeacePlayers Cyprus, a sport-for-peace organization that targets Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot youth in Cyprus.

Research Question(s)

The researcher had the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: More years (quantity) of intergroup contact in a sport-for-peace program will lead to more willingness to live together in a deeply divided society.

Hypothesis 2: A better quality of intergroup contact in a sport-for-peace program will lead to more willingness to live together in a deeply divided society.


The Peace Players Cyprus uses the game of basketball to bring together youth from the Greek Cypriot (GC) and Turkish Cypriot (TC) communities on the island. A mixed-method design was used in this study, drawing on unique survey data for logistic regression and the analysis of semi-structured interviews.

The quantitative analysis of survey data investigates the causal relationship between (1) the independent variable ‘quantity of contact’ and the dependent variable ‘willingness to live together and (2) the independent variable ‘quality of contact’ and willingness to live together. The qualitative analysis supports the quantitative analysis with information gathered from a set of semi-structured interviews with PPCY staff, coaches, and alumni.


The author found that results give little support for hypothesis 1, but support hypothesis 2. The quality of contact in a sport-for-peace program is a predictor for willingness to live together and this relationship is driven by the extent to which the intergroup contact is considered pleasant by participants.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. Plan a company game night routinely: The quality of contact between employees during a game can be completely different from that of their daily office interaction. It can lead to more bonding, spirit building, and getting to know their colleague’s playful, casual side that is often not revealed in a formal environment setting such as at work. In such a case, the management or HR department can plan such evenings or a day in the weekend to ensure that there is consistent team building and non-formal interaction happening with employees. They can start with finding out which is the majority sport of liking and subsequently have 2-3 of those sports at these events. This can improve inter-departmental contact which can lead to better unity amongst the company as a whole, as it also breaks hierarchical barriers.
  2. Inculcate a culture of fitness, health, and play: Physical exercise leads to endorphin release and keeps people energetic, engaged and their moods regulated. Activities that are not technical work-related must also be a normalized part of the organizational culture in order to have a holistic and balanced work environment in the long run. Including nutrition support in insurance plans or partnered gym membership can also be a vital part of this. The inculcation of games and sports at the workplace can lead to improved levels of emotional regulation which can be a good preventative measure for future employee conflicts.

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.

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