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Sport’s Connective Power. Meet the Problem Solver – Pierre Chastroux

Though social entrepreneurship never entered his career frame, Pierre’s fascination with the connective power of sport ultimately led him to pair it with his passion for economic development. His work with the YSH team today stems directly from that uncanny ability sports have to connect the seemingly disconnected, bridging private sector, public sector, and grass-roots innovations to solve problems.

Gliding up on an old-school road bike, a spry and kind-faced young man stops in front of the small bar where we’ll banter the next few hours about sport & social business. You can see it the minute you start exchanging with him: Pierre Chastroux is authentic, considerate and when he says he cares about solving problems through sports, you know he means it whole-heartedly.

What’s more compelling still is the effort he makes to walk the talk and the solutions he achieves in the process. It’s this quality, the quiet humility, and diligence that make Pierre a natural fit at the YSH table as a fellow problem-solver; “meeting and working with people who share this passion for sports was what attracted me in the first place,” he shares later as we exchange about what led him to our sport and social business team.

If you know our team at all, we’re quite a varied bunch, bringing together expertise and backgrounds as diverse as corporate branding, procurement, mega-events, charity direction, entrepreneurship, economics, education and the arts (and the list goes on!). So, though Pierre’s commitment to socio-economic development through institutional frameworks may not seem to have an immediate fit, trust us, it does — and plays a vital role in problem-solving. You’ll see it reflected in our team’s story and his own that sport has unparalleled magic for connecting the seemingly disconnected.

Indeed, this magic is exactly what captivated Pierre’s attention — enough to ignite his drive to work in the sector. It’s not in every field, after all, that your colleagues all share a common passion for a pastime and livelihood, “I discovered how extremely complex the sports sector is, with many actors: sports governing bodies, events organizers, right holders, brands and sponsors, politicians and of course clubs and players, “ shares Pierre, “it’s an intriguing and complex environment”.

Being enamored with sport and intrigued by the interconnectedness of the industry (with social, economic and political institutions) sparked the problem-solving flame that characterizes the members of our community. Pierre shares that, for him, “it goes beyond just working with passionate people on complex political and economic issues. It means working on something broader. Sports is indeed the greatest tool to engage people towards much more important matters, such as education, gender equality, health, etc.” He learned that first-hand following his master’s studies in France, where he proceeded to work with a first-of-its-kind cross-sector sports initiative with Win-Win Afrique in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. It was there that our teams collaborated and we were fortunate enough to develop a relationship with Pierre.

As our first conversation ebbs and flows naturally between English and French, you can see why he is able to contribute so meaningfully to develop solutions through sports. Like a quality baguet, Pierre can pair well — requiring minimal adaptations — with any setting. There’s a bit of irony in that, as it is the same quality that keeps drawing him further into sports and economic development. He remarks, having worked on the development of sports and cultural facilities in Côte d’Ivoire, “I can testify that sports are a great catalyst to launch initiatives that do not seem directly related.” The Agora Koumassi, a sports center in the heart of a poor community in Abidjan and the project for which Win-Win Afrique and YSH collaborate, is a testament to this as “the sports facilities gather a range of services for young people from entrepreneurship programs, health services, financial inclusion, training, etc,” Pierre reflects. “People enter the sports center to practice sports and they leave with a much richer experience.” One thing we can say for Pierre is that we feel the same for having him on our team: our before and after, too, is much richer for having him on board.

Now, as we work together even amidst a world that, in some ways, can seem more separated than ever, our team adheres to the very thread that Pierre continues to use as a guide: sport has a magic potency for connecting our hearts, minds and even our missions. It’s a magic he admires especially in the way that Professor Yunus yields it:

“As a man of vision, Prof Yunus managed to convince sports bodies that they have the power to change the world, not only because of their financial means but mainly because, as they inspire fans all over the world, they can engage people to go in the right direction, which for him is social entrepreneurship.”

The movement that Professor Yunus has set in motion and that the YSH team dedicates itself to advancing is the impetus for problem-solving, no matter where you find yourself — as a recent graduate, retired athlete, corporate, governmental institution, or within an NGO. The encouragement of Professor Yunus is, according to Pierre, “inspiring because it comforts my intuition that sports have the power to energize people to matters much more important than sports itself.”

Pierre’s ambition to drive sustainable development for those in need is one that does not lay dormant as a dream of “what could be”. Rather, he puts it into action, marrying divergent fields of interest into one motivation: leverage the economic magic of sport to solve problems. True, you may not detect it immediately, but take a moment and you’ll see the connection. Now, the question we want to pose to you: where is your connection?

If you believe, like Pierre, in the power of sport to drive solutions to the challenges facing our world and are looking for support in building those solutions, we recommend getting in touch with our community. To learn more, click here!