October Jubilee Post: Senior Expert Corps – the way it all began

The Senior Expert Corps turns 40. But how was it created? A look at Swisscontact’s old annual reports provides some information.

H.E. Stettbacher as an expert in the field at the NEC, NTTF Electronics Center in Bangalore, India.

The Senior Expert Corps was initiated by H.E. Stettbacher. Management consulting was his trade, as he was co-founder of the first management consulting firm in Switzerland. Business and management consulting was a matter close to his heart.

“The lasting success of technical cooperation often depends on trivialities. Many projects, which are tackled with the greatest effort of all those involved, come to a standstill because of minor breakdowns”, which Stettbacher writes in the Swisscontact annual report of 1979. Stettbacher saw the reason for the lack of know-how in the lack of industrial tradition in many developing countries.

Making fallow capabilities usable
Swisscontact has recognised this need, Stettbacher continues, and is providing practical training for young people in training workshops. The graduates, however, often lack the experience to solve concrete problems. Stettbacher located the necessary know-how among the retired Swiss experts. This is why in 1979 he approached Swisscontact with the idea of making the skills of retired experts and managers usable through short consultancy assignments in a developing country. The Swiss Expert Corps – as it was called at the beginning – was founded.

The first assignments took place back in 1980 – two in Lesotho and one in Indonesia. In one of these missions, Peter Kasper, the former spa director of St. Moritz, advised the Lesotho National Development Corporation on a marketing concept for tourism.

Erika Heusser, the first woman as head of operations, has extended the SEC.

The trial phase lasted three years, during which around 25 assignments were carried out. The feedback was positive, both from experts and customers. The experts, who talk about their work in the Swisscontact annual reports, praise above all the eagerness to learn of their counterparts in the companies. In 1982 it was decided to continue the SEC – until today, as we know. Since then, the retired experts (and since the end of the 1980s also female experts) have already carried out 3,372 assignments.