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Reflecting on 20 years of collaboration: sportanddev and the Swiss Academy for Development
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A Swiss Academy for Development project in Uganda (photo by ACSET)
As sportanddev transitions away from SA4D, we pay tribute to the invaluable role the organisation has played in the platform’s development.

We have announced that the International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev) is moving its legal and organisational arrangements, registering with the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) in Denmark.

While we are looking forward to this new strategic alliance, sportanddev would like to pay tribute to the Swiss Academy for Development (SA4D). The organisation has hosted sportanddev for 20 years and been crucial in supporting our development.

sportanddev is one of the outcomes of the 2003 Magglingen Conference. This event took place at a time when international development organisations were increasingly recognising sport’s potential as a tool for social, environmental and economic change. The conference was one of the first high-level events on the topic, bringing together United Nations agencies, governments, civil society and others in Magglingen, Switzerland.

Founded in 1991, SA4D’s work originally prioritised research, which in the 1990s notably focused on identifying the early warning signs of conflicts and how to prevent violent escalation following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Around the turn of the century, the organisation became increasingly interested in sport for development as an approach, starting to look at it from a research perspective and apply it in projects.

SA4D and the birth of sportanddev

SA4D helped organise the Magglingen Conference, which was led by the United Nations, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Swiss Federal Office of Sport. At the event, a call was made for an online platform to connect the emerging sport for development community. As an impartial non-profit organisation with relevant expertise and an interest in hosting sportanddev, SA4D was chosen as the platform’s home in 2003.

International organisations had used sport in individual programmes for decades, and NGOs focusing specifically on sport for development had begun to emerge. However, SA4D’s involvement at this stage in history made it one of the sport for development movement’s early pioneers.

The organisation soon began implementing sport and play-based projects on health, education and employment around the world, including in some challenging and important contexts. SA4D ran projects in the Iranian city of Bam after the 2003 earthquake, Beirut following the 2006 Lebanon War and post-independence South Sudan, with SA4D’s work in the country beginning in 2012.

The organisation’s track record now includes projects in many countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as consultancy support for international and Swiss actors. SA4D uses different forms of movement-based activities ranging from more playful and interactive to physically more intense activities, acknowledging that appropriate project design depends on the target group and context.

An invaluable partnership

SA4D’s work emphasises collaboration with organisations based in the project countries, encouraging mutual learning between partners, adjusting the approach based on findings and adapting the methodology to different contexts. The organisation emphasises knowledge sharing and engagement in various forums. This approach aligned well with sportanddev’s objective to build the capacity of the sector.

sportanddev has benefitted from the expertise of SA4D staff, which has helped to build the knowledge and skills of the sportanddev team. The organisation’s staff also provided direct technical advice on many aspects of our work ranging from sportanddev’s monitoring and evaluation processes to the massive open online course we designed with the Australian government and the Commonwealth, which has attracted over 6,000 learners to date.

SA4D staff also represented sportanddev publicly, contributing to the platform’s fundraising and financial sustainability. The organisation generally created a positive and flexible working environment that enabled sportanddev to grow, while also providing extensive support on matters such as contracting, administration and handling finances. 

The sportanddev team and Steering Board would like to thank the Swiss Academy for Development for 20 years of collaboration. We have appreciated the partnership and support, and we look forward to further cooperation in future.

Image by ACSET, depicting activities from a project run by ACSET and SA4D in Uganda.

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