Josoor Institute aims to provide a long-term educational legacy from Qatar’s World Cup

The Josoor Institute was established in 2013 as the educational arm of Qatar’s World Cup 2022 organising committee, with a goal of securing a long-term dividend from that event by significantly boosting the country’s capacity to host major events. SportBusiness spoke with major stakeholders to discuss how it is working to secure that legacy, and their ambitions for Josoor’s future.

“The benefits of securing hosting rights for the World Cup,” H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), tells SportBusiness, “don’t stop with the lifting of the cup in December 2022.” One of the main legacy projects of the SC, he says, “has to do with human capital: with strengthening the skillset of the population here so that they can perpetuate the impact of the tournament itself. That’s why Josoor Institute started.”

Since its inception, Josoor Institute has been educating the executives who work in the SC and are responsible for organising the World Cup itself, giving them the skills to not only make that event a success but to continue to make a major impact in the sports industry in Qatar and the wider Arab region for years to come.

Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (Photo by SC)

The institute’s flagship programmes are two diplomas in sports and major events management, offered in collaboration with Milan’s SDA Bocconi School of Management, which has been a partner of Josoor Institute since 2018, while the first three editions of the programme ran alongside Georgetown University in Qatar, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Liverpool. An average diploma cohort is made up of roughly 35 per cent Qatari nationals, 35 per cent other nationalities who grew up in Qatar or are long-term residents, and 30 per cent from elsewhere. By spring 2022, the diploma will have been awarded to nearly 500 sports and events professionals.

“In the eight years of Josoor Institute’s existence, more than 5,400 delegates will have passed through our diploma or other courses and events, with 100 different nationalities represented as of 2021,” says Afraa Al Noaimi, executive director of the Josoor Institute. “The delegates’ engagement and satisfaction rates have been overwhelmingly positive so far, and a significant number of delegates have been women, which for a traditionally male-driven sector is remarkable.”

Hands-on teaching style

Professor Dino Ruta, professor of practice at SDA Bocconi and academic director of Josoor’s diploma, is one of the key figures involved in devising the nature of the curriculum and teaching methods at the institute. He tells SportBusiness that Bocconi was originally engaged by Josoor Institute because of its specialist Sport Knowledge Center, also associated with the FIFA Master, and deep background in the sport and events sectors. “Josoor’s delegates have specific expectations and ways of learning and engaging with the instructors and their peers. With that in mind we tailor-made the programme to their needs, interests, and designed the learning experience with international evidence, always linked to the local context. This is an audience to whom a unique, personalized, premium experience is important.

Dino Ruto, professor of practice at SDA Bocconi and academic director of Josoor’s diploma (Photo by Josoor)

“With that in mind we designed the programme stressing certain components and de-emphasizing others we might focus on elsewhere. The theoretical part is presented as the background, and priority is given to hands-on experiences from the MENA Region and other relevant international organisations. The delegates want to be engaged, they want to do exercises and be practical. The model is no longer a one-way lecture where the professor shows the international best practices in sports and events industries and the audience just listens. As a matter of fact, each year we’re creating a tailor-made programme – it’s never off-the-shelf. But it’s my philosophy that if we are able to deliver something that is tailored for the target audience, then the impact will be higher, and the relationship will be longer.”

The collaboration should be an exchange between Josoor Institute and SDA Bocconi, he says, rather than a one-way transference of knowledge, and this requires a modern set of educational skills. “We want to give light to the investments that Qatar is making, and to be a facilitator of an understanding of the ecosystem around Qatar, not just show up for a week every few months, teach and leave. We want to learn about the culture of our delegates and be part of the legacy the project will leave behind.”

That willingness to embed itself into the culture is another reason Ruta feels SDA Bocconi was a good fit for Josoor Institute. He adds that there are already strong connections between Italy – particularly Milan, where Bocconi’s main campus is located – and Doha. “In Milan, we are preparing to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, we are one of the main football cities in Europe, it is a very sport-oriented, event-oriented city, with a focus on design, luxury, and wealth-creation,” he says. “These are all basically the same fields where Qatar wants to invest, so we like to say we are building a bridge between Milan and Doha.”

Legacy a key driver

While Josoor Institute was established to provide Qatari nationals and residents with the skills necessary for organising and delivering the World Cup, Al Noaimi says that legacy has always been a primary motivator for the development of the curriculum, with an eye on establishing Qatar as a strong candidate to host future major events beyond 2022. This, Al Noaimi believes, can be a central pillar of the legacy left by the World Cup.

“We are trying to equip our people with knowledge and skills that are relevant in this domain and are widely applicable beyond 2022,” she says. “When you think of these skills, we’re building a base that just didn’t exist here before. Now it exists. And we know that a lot of future events are going to happen here – it could be the Asian Games, maybe one day the Olympics – so it’s about continuing to form a population that can sustain the industry that is emerging here. We want to make sure that people are employable for future events, on other projects for other organisations, not just with the World Cup in mind.”

Afraa Al Noaimi, executive director of the Josoor Institute (Photo by Josoor)

Ruta echoes Al Noaimi’s belief that the education and training provided by Josoor Institute is one of the crucial components in ensuring a lasting, and positive, legacy from 2022.

“Organising an event as incredible as the World Cup, in the Middle East for the first time, I think that is by definition going to leave a legacy,” he says. “What we can help to control is how positive that legacy is, and I strongly believe that the more you invest in human capital, the more you increase the likelihood of a positive legacy.

“It’s not 100 per cent sure, but the more people you ensure will be able to keep working in this area, ensuring the facilities keep being used and building on the reputation and image of the World Cup, the stronger that legacy is. Without the human capital, the risk is that these facilities, technologies and resources that have been invested in will easily become obsolete and not leveraged. So, I think it is very ingenious of Qatar and the SC to establish something like this in order to ensure those skills and competencies endure.”

The institution of Josoor itself, as well as the learning it has imparted, can also be a part of that legacy, Al Noaimi hopes. “If you think about legacy, it’s not just that you’ve taught 500 people about sport management, given training to 1,000 volunteers,” she says. “You want to establish something which is going to last for the long-term, and what is going to last? Hopefully that can be Josoor Institute as a body that will continue to deliver and facilitate programmes, not just here in Qatar but across the Middle East and North Africa region; and on the longer term even beyond that.”

While the initial focus is on the legacy Josoor Institute can help Qatar achieve off the back of hosting the World Cup, there is a long-term goal to use the event to boost the sports and major events industries across the region. Al Noaimi notes that a common language and culture across the Arab world – a region of over half a billion people – gives it an advantage when it comes to trans-national collaboration. “If you go from Oman to Morocco, there are several thousand professionals who are already active in the sport industry or are keen to get active or to study in it,” she says. “That’s an incredibly powerful human and professional network we have where we have barely scratched the surface.”

The online capabilities, further enhanced due to necessity over the past 18 months when the pandemic forced much of its teaching to go remote, will help Josoor Institute expand its offering around the region and to people who otherwise may not be able to afford to study on the programme.

“We cannot expect to sell a $10,000 programme to a Tunisian student, but we can certainly develop content, which could be primarily online, or maybe a hybrid model, for an audience of people that may not get the chance to work for PSG, Zenit or Concacaf, but who may end up successfully managing teams from their local league, for example, or facilitate sport and event activities at city or regional level,” Al Noaimi says. “That’s very intriguing to us because it’s a mix of productive job creation and also capacity building in the industry at a local level, with a good economic impact and a good social impact. So long-term, the wider region is a very important chapter for us.”

A Josoor delegate participating in the online component of the course (Photo by Josoor)

Al Noaimi also sees the potential for Josoor Institute to evolve beyond its current role as the education and training arm of the SC and says she is excited by the idea of releasing the moorings and being subjected “to the toughness of the market, but also the discipline and opportunities of the market, especially as Qatar and the MENA region are increasingly on the radar as a major sports and events cluster.”

“We’re a government initiative at the moment, but like everything, we’ve got to be sustainable. We could decide to consider our task completed as the cup gets lifted, but we actually aim to continue to step up the ability of Qatar as an events host, treasuring this unprecedented and truly amazing journey of 2022 and its people and content into an education and training platform that would stay relevant and sustainable. Then, rather than our focus on the World Cup, where we already have an in-built base of alumni in the SC, we have to start coming up with products and experiences that are relevant and interesting to the market at large. That’s where I think the really interesting future starts.”

This article is part of the 2021 SportBusiness Postgraduate Rankings. To browse the entire report and view the overall tables, click here

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