For five and a half years, Marc Probst was the face of SA4D. With tireless commitment, vigour and passion, he led the organisation with its sport and play approach and embedded it even more firmly in the sport for development sector. Now Marc is moving on. Where to? He reveals that to us in this farewell interview.
YOU ARE CLEARING OUT YOUR OFFICE AT THE MOMENT: HAVE YOU COME ACROSS ANY CURIOSITIES FROM YOUR TIME IN BIEL/BIENNE?
There have been a few curiosities. There is a historical booklet about the Lindenhof – the ancient villa owned by the city council, where we have our office. A first curiosity is just the history of the house. The Lindenhof was used as a “sick house” in the 16th century. There are rumours that ghosts from that time still watch over the house. If you are alone in the Lindenhof late at night, you may hear “interesting” noises. We also have antique paintings and furniture in our office. One of these paintings, a portrait of a gentleman, hangs in my office. His stern gaze has watched over me for the last few years. I have also had visitors whose relatives had lived in Lindenhof. There are stories about former residents being buried in our garden after their passing. These are just a few titbits of curiosities.
FOR MORE THAN FIVE YEARS, YOU HELD THE REINS AT SA4D, INITIATING NEW PROJECTS AND SECURING FUNDING. WHICH PROJECT WILL YOU REMEMBER? WHY?
There are many examples. We have redesigned SA4D’s visual identity. This is a visible project that I still enjoy. Then I myself managed our project in refugee camps in northern Uganda. This project has its origins in earlier work in South Sudan. I have been there myself several times. Not only did I see the extremely sad conditions there, but I also built up a very close relationship with our partner organisation. I was able to learn not only how professionally they carry out their work with quite modest means, but also how constructively they try to deal with their situation. Many of the staff at the partner organisation and the refugees have had to flee two or three times and have lost everything. This touched me on a very human level, and in this respect I am also emotionally connected to those people. I would also like to mention the online course “Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes.” The International Platform for Sport and Development (sportanddev), which is operated by SA4D, has developed it with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Australian government. The course is accessible free of charge and is the first of its kind. It offers an introduction to the subject to those interested. It has also helped to further increase the visibility of sportanddev. I strongly believe in the potential of sport and play. This online course helps to make the approach more accessible and also to ensure a certain level of professionalisation in the sector.
WERE THERE HURDLES THAT YOU HAD TO OVERCOME?
There were many hurdles, but I see them essentially as opportunities for professional and partly also personal growth. SA4D is a very small organisation. Thanks to sportanddev, it is not only known in Switzerland but also internationally. Increasing visibility is still a challenge. This is also linked to costs. In this context, it is also important to mention fundraising, which in my view – especially now in the era of COVID-19 – has tended to become more difficult.
SA4D has positioned itself very well in international networks – for example, in relevant UNESCO networks – but it is also challenging to be heard as a small organisation in such multilateral bodies. I would argue that we have professionalised ourselves through these challenges. We have developed and adapted our approach to international development, and we have restructured internally. These processes were sometimes hurdles in themselves, but on the whole we have managed very well.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY FROM YOUR TIME AT THE SA4D?
That’s difficult to answer, and I’ve already mentioned some of them. For me, it is the overarching developments that will remain in my memory more than individual events. I am immensely pleased that SA4D, despite all the challenges, is perceived and heard as an expert organisation internationally. I have often felt this as a moderator or participant in meetings, in panel discussions and the like. I will also have very positive memories of how we have developed as an organisation and as a team. I am leaving an extremely committed team that is motivated, open and curious – and in the end, such a team determines the success or failure of an organisation.
LET’S LOOK AHEAD: WHERE IS YOUR PATH TAKING YOU NOW?
On the one hand, I want to take it easy for the next six months, but on the other hand, I want to try out new things. What has always appealed to me is teaching and lecturing. I will actually teach at a school for children with disabilities two days a week. I also have some smaller mandates and lecturing assignments. The remaining 50% is still free at the moment. I would like to remain anchored to the field of sport and development or international development cooperation. Whether I will be able to do this – either through mandates or part-time employment – is still an open question.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the SA4D team, the SA4D Foundation Board, the sportanddev Steering Board as well as all the partners and people I have had the pleasure of meeting through my work over the past almost six years. I am leaving with a mixture of happiness and sadness, which is a good sign. Thank you very much and all the best!