Jack Pringle, outgoing chair of built-environment emergency relief charity Article 25, on his legacy, and his advice to his successor Sunand Prasad
Why did you become chairman?
We started Architects for Aid – which became Article 25 – in my office. When the first chairman, Maxwell Hutchinson, stepped down in 2008, I made a convenient ‘hands on’ chairman, being on the spot. It meant I could help the staff make quick decisions as we grew the charity from a woman and a dog. They then put up with me for seven years – that’s a little longer than recommended.
What has the role involved?
Initially I was involved day to day. When Article 25 moved out of my office, I could adopt a more strategic role, meeting the MD on a weekly basis to go through all the decisions, getting involved in significant fund raising events – like the 10x10 auction – or significant projects.
I bathe in reflected glory from the achievements of others – notably our brilliant staff.
What have been Article 25’s key achievements?
It was ridiculously ambitious to start a global charity from scratch, so to be recognised as the UK’s leading built environment humanitarian charity is very satisfying.
What more is there to do?
There is a huge amount more to do. I would like A25 to be the go to charity for all major agencies that need built solutions in the field. The big agencies shy away from buildings as they find them too difficult to do and there have been problems in the past. Well, we know how to do it and you can’t heal people without hospitals, you can’t educate kids without schools and you can’t bring up families without homes.
Does the profession give Article 25 the support it needs?
Yes and no.
The RIBA is yet to be really supportive
Yes, individual architects give time and expertise; yes, the profession attends our events; no because the RIBA is yet to be really supportive; no because the profession is not rich and can only give modestly.
What have been your best and worst moments?
The worst was seeing the team create a superb programme to drive forward the school reconstruction programme in Afghanistan, only for the government of Afghanistan to illegally withhold the donor’s funds for the work, meaning Article 25 couldn’t deliver an important programme. The Article 25 team were gutted but we live to fight another battle against poor infrastructure and global poverty.
The best was when it became clear that [Burmese opposition politician] Aung San Suu Kyi wanted to engage our help to rebuild one of Burma’s main hospitals. That’s real recognition.
What’s needed next?
We need really professional fundraising, the profession behind us (including the RIBA), and we need to penetrate the citadels of the big international aid agencies.
What advice would you give to your successor Sunand Prasad?
Gather good people around you and aim high. The time is right for expansion.
Jack Pringle on Article 25: 'There is a huge amount more to do'