HOW CAN A MICRO-ENTREPRENEUR BECOME A SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR?

The Story of a Social Entrepreneur

Ahmed Aiyoun is a young man from Minia, Egypt, who benefited from PPI- People Power Inclusion‘s expertise in supporting entrepreneurship. SAGE – Sustainable Accelerated Growth in Egypt is a European Union funded program managed and operated by a joint venture between CEOSS – Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services and PPI.

Ahmed Aiyoun decided to become self-employed through an innovative idea. He built a micro-coffee shop on an old bicycle that offers almost all kinds of coffee in addition to other drinks manually. The bicycle had a tank for water that is filled every day before moving to Taha Hussein, the commercial, strategic street where he reaches potential customers.

He branded also the idea with his name Aiyoun, which means (Eyes) and the logo is an eye, with a coffee bean iris. The coffee and other drinks are unique as Aiyoun customizes each coffee cup to include the name of the customer. He started to sell to most of the shops in the area and pedestrians who became frequent customers marketed by Ahmed’s smile and his natural welcoming.

 

And the story did not end here.

The micro-business has grown not only in terms of revenues but also Ayioun’s happiness and pride. Ahmed is now running his new project, a tricycle with modernized equipment to enhance the quantity and quality of hot and cold drinks.

Ahmed’s idea created new job opportunities as he rented his old bicycle and still thinking of replicating several bicycles-coffee-on-the-move ready to produce a wide range of drinks through sharing the business model with a social contract to run an innovative micro-franchising, promoting social entrepreneurship in Minia and other governorates.

Moreover, Ahmed is working on franchising his micro-business to other potential entrepreneurs, promoting social entrepreneurship. This is where PPI’s support has a multiplier effect: from supporting one micro-entrepreneur to enabling large-scale job creation.

 


« To succeed, the objectives are more important than the ideas », additionally exchange of experiences and best practices » – Ahmed Aiyoun


 

Ahmed Aiyoun is not the only entrepreneur to know such a success thanks to SAGE project since it supports a wider range of innovative social entrepreneurs and businesses.

The program aims at improving the quality of life through various Business Development Services, including micro franchise models, an e-learning platform/mobile app and vouchers system to support 60 micro-social enterprises, through training, workshops, field visits and capacity building of 12 NGOs operating in the targeted governorates of Beni-Suef, Minia and Sohag. The program also enhances the employability of 1000 unemployed youth, with a focus on women through administrative and vocational training.

« This is not all, we have visible beneficiaries, like Ahmed, but we also have two types of invisible beneficiaries to maximize our social impact: the 12 NGOs that we train in the field, and the future entrepreneurs that will benefit from the micro-franchises we contribute to set up.” – Haidi Tariq

ACTA VISTA: combining professional inclusion to the restoration of endangered historical heritage

ACTA VISTA: combining professional inclusion to the restoration of endangered historical heritage

Founded in 2002 in the French city of Marseille, ACTA VISTA is a non-profit organisation specialised in professional inclusion through the preservation of endangered historical heritage sites. ACTA VISTA supports people who have difficulty entering the labour market, by training them in the preservation and restoration of historical monuments.

HERO – Heritage Ecological Renovation for inclusion Opportunities – is a three-year Erasmus+ project led by ACTA VISTA in partnership with five organizations from four EU Member States: Pour la Solidarité (Belgium), Dragodid (Croatia), Boulouki (Greece), BAO Formation (France).

 

Ensuring the future by taking care of the past: environmental preservation at the heart of the HERO project

The Erasmus+ HERO project combines heritage preservation and the safeguarding of the environment by training unemployed people to perform renovation in a responsible manner (energy saving renovation, waste management, reuse of rubble, etc.). By doing so, HERO contributes to the emergence of a generation of construction workers who have embedded the safeguard of the environment within their renovation practices. 

 

Project’s deliverables

This cooperation has led to the creation of a number of deliverables:

  • a booklet analysing existing training practices in Europe, combining training and heritage renovation;
  • a pedagogical toolbox on the adaptation of trainers’ pedagogy to vulnerable unemployed people; based on learning by doing, considering the restoration of endangered historical heritage as a lever for professional inclusion;
  • a pedagogical toolkit on environmentally friendly renovation practices,  emphasizing the link between culture and nature;
  • a white paper shared with policy makers at local, regional and European level to raise awareness on the topic of professional inclusion through the renovation of historical heritage.

Zoom on : Nthakoana Maema, program manager at ORIBI in cape town

Today we have the chance to chat with Nthakoana, Program manager at ORIBI, to get to know more about her job and ORIBI’s #FoodSystemProgram.  

ORIBI is an impact incubator founded in 2018 and based in Cape Town. It is part of the PULSE network (Groupe SOS) supporting impact entrepreneurship in Europe and Africa. It provides programs for skills development, training and support of entrepreneurs. Marginalized under-resourced communities residing in townships including youth and women, are particularly targeted by the incubation programs. 

Discover how the #FoodSystemProgram acts towards an ecological and solidarity transition by addressing both food security and social issues ! 

 

  • Can you describe your work and your position at ORIBI ?  

I have been working in the development sector for 17 years, I’ve focused on the youth developing and raising quality of life through social innovation and entrepreneurship as a positive lever for change. My goal is to enable the creation of sustainable enterprises that address social and ecological issues as interconnected issues in the African context, while actively fighting against high inequalities and increasing poverty. 

I joined ORIBI in 2020 as the Programs Manager and I am also currently studying sustainable development. At ORIBI we recently launched the #GirlsInBusiness program for women in entrepreneurship and I am also in charge of the #FoodSystem program.  

 

  • What are your personal motivations for doing this work ? 

I am dedicated to the work of justice and the work of equity. I am in a position where I have had a good education compared to other girls we accompanied and thus, I have always seen it as my vocation to transfer this knowledge to people who don’t necessarily have access to quality education, resources, a good network, and social capital. I am inspired each day that I get the privilege to participate in other people’s transformation journeys.  

With justice, I strongly believe in a better quality of life for all and for all life meaning people as much as our environment, and all other forms of life. It’s something that urges me to wake up every day to solve and find opportunities, explore innovative ways of being able to create that, and rewire the world in a different way.  

I don’t know if it’s conditioning because my dad was an environmental scientist, my mom was an economist and my grandmother was a huge gender activist: through their experiences, I have learnt a lot, and been exposed to a different way of seeing the world, and not being part of the solution to our complex crises would not make sense.  

 

  • Can you describe more precisely your Food System program in South Africa, and how ORIBI is fighting food insecurity ? 

The #FoodSystem program was initiated because we realized that although South Africa is food secure at a national level, there are millions of people who still port being hungry on a regular basis, so even though there’s enough food produced to feed the country, there are individuals and households who are still food insecure. This signals that the issue is the problem of access.

We started to figure out and explore what is creating this problem of access. We know that while corporate and industrialisation have done a lot to provide physical access to food, at the same time, the way that the business model is designed excludes people and food has become a commodity. This makes it difficult for small-scale actors, such as farmers, to enter these complex value chains. And if you can’t really afford food, especially in low-income communities where people are faced with high rates of unemployment, and loss of livelihoods, a whole population can go hungry. In South Africa there is a high unemployment rate: 35.3% for general population, and 66.5% for the youth.  Almost 57% of the country is living under 992 rand per month (less than 60 €) and it is a real obstacle to food security. 

 

There are lots of inequalities. For example, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Report on Food Systems of South Africa, highlighted that 20% of farms hold 80% of the formal market. It results in hundreds of thousands of subsistent farmers who struggle to access the market and it is difficult for them to enter this very complex corporate value chain that delivers food fast and at a low cost. Moreover, there is a high rate of highly processed foods in low-income communities that are creating a lot of issues: high obesity numbers, and increasing non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and at the same time there are high malnutrition rates and stunting for children. 

Thus, we realized that there was an opportunity to engage social innovation and impact entrepreneurship to address the complex issue of food insecurity. We know that the food system contributes to almost 34% to climate change, the current system while highly productive, has done so at the cost of environmental and social equity. So, when we talk about climate change, we have to centre the food system and have tough conversation and courageous actions for transformative change… The food system is a great entry point to address social, economic and environmental aspects of society. Also, we chose the frame of impact entrepreneurship because it is a business model that is trying to address social and environmental issues through a financially thriving model.  

Our food security program at ORIBI gathers 30 entrepreneurs trying to tackle any problem that belongs to the whole food value chain, from farm-to-plate, here are a few examples of the innovative projects developed by our entrepreneurs:

  • Order Kasi, a logistics startup to tackle the issue of forwarding food to hard-to-reach communities 
  • Foodprint, a blockchain-enabled platform to improve small-scale farmers or sustainable producers efficiency, as well create access to markets 
  • Fresh Life Produce, developed an energy-efficient vegetable grower system, the African Grower, suitable for dense township communities, where people have limited space or lack of ownership of land, to start their own urban gardens 
  • Living Soil, an academy training women from poorly resourced communities on agroecological farming, and how to run the farms 
  • Food Flow, a food rescue project that started during the Covid19 lockdown,to redivert small-scale farmer produce to low-income communities, as they lost their usual markets such as restaurants. 

 

ORIBI’s impact is to create an inclusive economy that is driven by impact entrepreneurs who are willing to disrupt systems for positive social and environmental impact. We believe that building sustainable food value chains is where the next turn for social change will come from. Our ultimate goal is to strengthen entrepreneurial mindset, economic inclusion, and self-confidence of food system innovators, especially youth and women entrepreneurs from rural and urban townships. 

 

Food security and responsible agriculture are part of the main issues addressed by Groupe SOS facing the current environmental and social emergencies. It is very enlightening to see how social entrepreneurs manage to deal with these issues in the specific context of the living conditions in Cape Town’s townships. This news from the other side of the world is very promising and makes us want to strengthen our efforts, get into action with us ! 

Discover how Groupe SOS combines ecology and solidarity!

Off to Romania, in Ciocănari village, Dâmbovița county, where Ateliere Fără Frontiere, a Groupe SOS association, cultivates care for the environment and people in promoting urban agriculture and local production of healthy, responsibly grown food.  

“The happiest vegetables grow on our farm” – says the horticultural engineer of the farm. 

 

Bio&co, one of the three socio-professional insertion workshops of the Romanian NGO Ateliere Fără Frontiere, is a successful circular economy project launched in 2015. It is a certified organic farm that has its 1000m2 composting platform for food and organic waste collected from the farm, but also restaurants, hotels and supermarkets. The farm sells certified organic vegetables, harvests responsibly and distributes its products in a short, direct circuit to subscribers, in weekly baskets, as the first step towards a healthier lifestyle for the people of the nearby community.  

 2021 accomplishments at bio&co:

  • 4,507 baskets of vegetables sold 
  • 100 varieties of vegetables 
  • An average of 90 weekly subscribers 
  • 4000 sqm solarium
  • 3.23 ha of certified organic land 
  • 17 beehives 

With this workshop, Ateliere Fără Frontiere is promoting social integration and employment of vulnerable people, responsible waste management and environmental protection, solidarity and responsibility for sustainable development:  

“We respect the Earth and nature. We respect people in vulnerable communities and we are here to help them. […] Together with 10 people from the community we work hard every day, and we are very careful that the vegetables we plant grow harmoniously and healthy.

Back in France now with Amadou Traoré, one of Fermes d’Avenir’s agroecological market gardening programme fellow on Nathalie Cerclé’s farm in Auvergne.   

→ What is agroecology?  

“At Fermes d’Avenir, we understand « agroecological » as any model of farm or territorial food system that makes possible to respond to social, economic and environmental challenges related to food and agriculture.”  

Groupe SOS association Fermes d’Avenir supports the development of agroecology throughout France. Fermes d’Avenir acts in favour of the ecological and social transition of French agriculture made of more sustainable and environment-friendly practices. When Amadou, flee from Ivory Coast and arrived in France in 2018, he followed a fellowship programme provided by Fermes d’Avenir, which enabled him to leave Paris with the aim to pursue his passion for organic market gardening and make it his profession within Nathalie Cerclé’s farm. 

> But what is the Fermes d’Avenir fellowship programme?  

It is an 8-month training programme at the end of which participants are ready to start their own farm, to be recruited as qualified farm workers or even as crop managers on a farm. In addition to training a workforce in agroecological practices that are essential to the transition towards more sustainable practices, the fellowship programme has a special course dedicated to refugees arriving in France just like Amadou.  This is a unique programme in France which creates pairs with a refugee and a non-refugee who will work together throughout the training.  

Did you know that in France, one in ten asylum seekers detains agricultural skills?  The French agriculture sector is cruelly lacking a qualified labour force while those people often wish to develop their skills such as the life story of Amadou shows us. The fellowship programme is therefore providing labour force to an economic sector in demand, a real way of integrating refugees into the labour market and into a society that we want more respectful of the people and the planet. 

« I like everything: the environment, the land, how the land works, that’s what I like about organic market gardening, not working with chemicals. I want to produce health to give to people » – Amadou Traoré 

MigrantVoicesHeard: Enhancing the participation of migrants through the creation of “migrant councils“

A dynamic and intercultural society implies the participation of all individuals in the decision-making process that affects their communities and their future.

Migrants and refugees are directly affected by integration decisions and policies implemented at local, regional and national level.

Yet they are under-represented in political life.

The project « MigrantVoicesHeard”  aims at setting up migrant councils to foster the participation of foreign citizens in the development and implementation of integration policies at local, regional and national level in seven EU countries. (Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Austria, France, Romania, Hungary).

Groupe SOS  is involved in this project and promotes a better understanding of migrants needs and conditions. 

Migrant Voices Heard project is co-financed by the European Commission with the support of the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (FAMI).

The project has the following objectives:

  • The creation of 5 migrant councils and the reactivation of one in Italy allowing direct public action on integration policies.(working closely with local authorities)
  • Promoting the exchange of experience between local and regional public authorities regarding the involvement of migrants in the design of integration policies and their implementation
  • Strengthen the capacity of local and regional authorities to effectively consult migrants on policies that directly affect them.

We are in a mobilisation phase so if you are:

  • An association working in the field of integration and political rights
  • A foreigner who wants to change political rights

The MVH project is there to propose a new way to make your voice heard and to allow you to be real actors of change. By bringing together associations and migrants, our objectives are to discuss needs, create dialogue and a safe space for improving migrants rights.

Don’t hesitate to join us!

Together for a better integration and a better Europe.

For more information please visit this website: https://morethanprojects.actionaid.it/en/projects/migrantvoicesheard/

 

Planète Urgence’s commitment to forests preservation

Did you know that tropical forests are home to 90% of all living plant and animal species ? 

Planète Urgence, is an international NGO part of Groupe SOS working to preserve the environment mostly through reforestation, volunteering and awareness-raising programs. It has launched a 2 months awareness-raising campaign “Nos forêts vivantes” (our living forests) from April 21st to June 6th 2022.  

 

 

 

The “Nos forêts vivantes” campaign : raising awareness on the crucial role played by forests  

Through articles, quizzes, podcasts and records of experts, each week, Planète Urgence has proposed a theme associated with a particular link between forests and an element of life: fauna, flora, oceans, soils, climate and finally Human-being. Visit their news blog to read the articles and know more about it ! 

The last key moment of the campaign will be held on 25th and 26th June : you will be able to meet the association at the Good Planet Foundation (Paris) for an immersion in the heart of a forest in Madagascar, where children and adults alike will be able to play, marvel and understand the current forest issues. Come and join us! 

Through this campaign, Planète Urgence gives you the opportunity to better understand what defines the beautiful forests of our world, and in particular the tropical forests, where the association is active in Indonesia, Madagascar and Cameroon. They are indeed at the crossroads of all issues: social, health, biodiversity and climate. These forests « breathe » and have many benefits: preserving these living ecosystems is therefore preserving our future. 

 
Three examples of reforestation projects in Indonesia, Madagascar and Cameroon 

Planète Urgence currently supports projects in those 3 countries which are among the most deforested in the world, are part of the world’s largest basins of tropical forests (rainforests and savannahs), face strong sustainable development challenges, and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

 

⇒ INDONESIA

Our first stop is in Indonesia, home to 1/4 of the world’s mangroves making it a key forest for global climate regulation. The MAHAKAM project aims to contribute to the restoration of the degraded mangrove forest in the Mahakam Delta (Borneo), where 70% of the mangrove ecosystem is degraded due to the installation of unsustainable aquaculture ponds while 90% of the local population in the region depends on these fishing activities. For Trinityas working at Planète Urgence Indonesia, the goal is set :  

“With a target of 140,000 trees planted in 2022, we will also support the training of women’s groups in the processing of fish products and the setting up of awareness-raising workshops for over 300 students.” 

 

⇒ MADAGASCAR

Heading to Madagascar now, where the Itasy region is currently covered by less than 3% of forests. The Tapia forest (an endemic tree, see in the picture below), plays a key ecological role in the preservation of water sources or the protection of soils against erosion and maintenance of their fertility. However, the excessive collection of silkworms and the modes of production and consumption of wood energy by local communities result in increasing exploitation of natural resources, thus affecting the climate, biological diversity, natural balances and the daily life of the populations.

Planète Urgence has long been working on this issue through the TAPIA project, initiated in 2013. It aims to restore the Tapia forest ecosystem, support local development, particularly through economic sectors (wild silk,beekeeping, market gardening) and finally raise environmental awareness of the preservation of these ecosystems and climate change : 3 000 000 trees have been planted since 2013 !

 

 

⇒ CAMEROON

Our last destination is the Benue National Park in the North of Cameroon. The region is under significant direct pressure (human activities and habitats threatening biodiversity for instance) and indirect pressure (climate change) on its protected areas. The reforestation of multi-purpose trees, such as cashew plantations, has been identified locally as a way of preserving and even restoring the environment in this area.

In 2019, Planète Urgence has thus launched the FARE project to reforest cashew trees, restore wildlife migration corridors and support the production and maintenance of cashew orchards with a view to developing the sector, for the benefit of local populations in the Benue National Park. As a result, since 2019: 

  • 778 cashew producers were supported 
  • 1,105 hectares of orchards were reforested 
  • 110,509 viable plants were planted

 

Forests are essential ecosystems for all of us and are teeming with life: help us spread the world! 

5 initiatives that rhyme Europe and SSE

The European Union is a wonderful opportunity to share skills and pool positive initiatives. For more than 15 years, Groupe SOS has been working with many European partners to place the social and solidarity economy at the heart of the old continent, in many fields. Agroecology, food, integration through employment… Discover 5 of our projects carried out beyond European borders!

 

A project to put cooking at the service of the well-being of the elderly

Our association Silver Fourchette leads a European project: Tous en Cuisine, cooking of generations and horizons, is co-financed by INTERREG Rhine – Superior and in partnership with a Swiss association. It fights against the isolation of the elderly through cooking workshops that bring together seniors and young people from different countries.

Technology for a better world

The GIFT project is funded by Erasmus+ and led by H7 in partnership with BeCentral (Belgium). It brings together high-tech entrepreneurs from several European countries for co-construction workshops and the exchange of best practices so that everyone can increase their societal impact.

Restoring heritage, a path to the professional world

The HERO project, is funded by Erasmus+ and led by Acta Vista in partnership with Grada Dragodid (Croatia), Boulouki (Greece), BAO formation (France), and Pour La Solidarité (Belgium). Its objective is to promote the socio-professional integration of people who are far from employment by increasing the skills of professional trainers on the inclusive and ecological aspects of the sector of renovation of threatened historical heritage.

Digital education for all! 

The WISE (Work Integration Social Enterprises) for Digital Upskilling project, funded by Erasmus+, led by Ateliere Fara Frontiere in partnership with Formació i Treball (Spain), Brigades Nature (France), ENSIE (Belgium, EU) and RISE România. The mission is to train vulnerable people in digital tools to facilitate their professional integration. It improves the mentoring skills of those who work in social enterprises and train vulnerable people.

A more feminine entrepreneurial world

The FoWoSe project is funded by Erasmus+ and led by PULSE to make the entrepreneurial ecosystem more diverse and inclusive towards women by mainstreaming gender equality issues in a transversal way in all areas of business. It also allows the development of the structures’ staff skills to better train and accompany women social entrepreneurs. 

Europe is a vast stage with diversified actors, thus the opportunities are numerous. Our conviction: to act with its different actors, whatever the nationalities, to fight, act and innovate together to meet the needs of society.

 
 

PULSE and Mouvement Impact France committed for a more social and inclusive entrepreneurship

 
GROUPE SOS, through its impact entrepreneurship support organization PULSE, and Mouvement Impact France launched a national action plan for a more social and inclusive entrepreneurship 

This action plan, financed by Google.org, the philanthropic subdivision of Google, aims at making entrepreneurship support programs more accessible, at promoting entrepreneurship as a lever for professional integration and at increasing the impact of social enterprises that help reduce inequalities. It will be deployed for two years throughout France by PULSE and Mouvement Impact France a network of social and ecological impact enterprises.  

Entrepreneurship to reduce inequalities: a two-part action plan by PULSE (Groupe SOS) and the Impact France Movement. While Mouvement Impact France’s project focuses on scaling-up inclusive social enterprises, PULSE’s mission is to mobilise the actors of this ecosystem in favour of greater access to entrepreneurship.

 
Mobilising ecosystem actors in favour of accessibility to entrepreneurship, a project carried out by PULSE 

With several years of experience in making entrepreneurial support accessible to as many people as possible, PULSE is deploying a project that intends to increase the representation of three specific audiences in the French social entrepreneurship ecosystem: 

  • Women, especially those from low-income backgrounds
  • refugees
  • job seekers, especially those interested in professional retraining

The project will help incubators and support structures in their inclusion policy and will equip socio-professional integration actors so that they can better guide their beneficiaries towards relevant support programs. This project is starting in February 2022 and will be divided into three phases :  

  • Mobilisation and study: PULSE will set up and coordinate multi-stakeholder working groups (incubators, integration professionals, beneficiaries, institutional partners, experts) in order to produce recommendations and methodological kits for support and socio-professional integration structures.
  • Pilot: PULSE, together with other partners who took part in the working groups, will test the recommendations resulting from the study phase within their activities (support programs, awareness-raising workshops, training for professionals, etc.). This pilot phase will take place in the Seine-Saint-Denis region (93).
  • Dissemination: During this last phase, and following the feedback from the pilot phase, the recommendations and methodological kits will be adjusted and deployed on a large scale within the national ecosystem, in an open-source logic, through work feedback sessions and reinforced training for territorial actors. 

 

pictures copyrights : #ellesensemble & #tempo PULSE Montreuil

Ateliere Fara Frontiere : a key actor of social economy through work integration in Romania

 

Ateliere Fără Frontiere (Workshops without Borders) is a non-profit association for the social, professional and civic integration of vulnerable, excluded and marginalised people. It is a key actor of social economy in Romania since its activities are based on the principle of solidarity and social utility. It particularly implements work integration programs linked to the circular economy such as the following Alstom Foundation-funded project described below. 

 

Mentoring and professional accompaniment in partnership with the business sector – a successful socio-professional insertion project 

Eight vulnerable people now have a job and a future in the conventional labour market, and 29 have a CV with work experience and interaction with employers. This was made possible by the RE-insert program run by Ateliere Fără Frontiere with the support of several companies and foundations, including the Alstom Foundation. 

 

The collaboration between companies and social insertion enterprises is vital for the Romanian market to activate people who do not have a job. The reasons are a combination of multiple difficulties : long-term unemployment, addictions, disabilities, dropping out of school, domestic violence, human trafficking, probation, custodial sentences, homelessness.   

 

 


« The process of integration into the conventional labour market of a person with multiple vulnerabilities is a difficult one and it requires time and sustained effort from the person in the insertion, but also from the teams that deal with it – social worker, lawyer, psychologist, team leader, job coach – which requires human resources and ultimately financial. At Ateliere Fără Frontiere we believe that everyone has the right to a second chance and that is why every effort is worth making. Alstom Romania colleagues offered something very important – contact with real life – in the process of self-assessment, creating expectations for our colleagues in the insertion « , says Damien Thiery, general manager of Ateliere Făra Frontiere.


 

During the project, there were six visits to Alstom Romania (sustainable railway transports company) and six online mentoring sessions, during which employees, supervisors and representatives of the company’s board showed vulnerable people what a day’s work means, what are the activities within the workplaces, what employment involves within the company. 

”As a child of a mechanic, I was impressed by my visit to the Alstom depot and found out that I would like a qualification course in this field. After admission, I want to work for a company like Alstom” – says DP, 19, an insertion employee at Ateliere Fără Frontiere. 

 

Collaborating with the Alstom Foundation

Established in 2007, the Alstom Foundation supports and funds projects proposed by Alstom employees who team up with local NGO partners and not-for-profit organizations to carry out initiatives aimed at improving living conditions in communities located near the Group’s facilities and project sites around the world. The Foundation’s projects focus on four axes: Mobility, Environmental Protection, Energy & Water, and Socio-Economic Development.  

“Alstom Foundation has successfully completed more than 180 projects to date worldwide. Such projects, like the one we supported in Romania, truly make a difference in the life of disadvantaged categories. Developed by Ateliere fara Frontiere, a long-standing Romanian Non-Profit association, the project REinsert  fights exclusion, marginalization or discrimination, by fostering employability through a mentorship and job shadow program to reduce the risk of severe poverty which threatens 31% of the total Romanian population. Alstom Foundation as well as the colleagues at Alstom in the country supporting the project have been very proud to be a part of it” – says Anne-Cecile Barbier, Secretary General of the Alstom Foundation.

The impact of these actions reflects new opportunities and ways of working to increase the integration of vulnerable people into the labour market. Currently, the inactivity rate in Romania remains high, 31.6% (2019) of the total population and social insertion enterprises are one of the few real solutions to reduce it. 
 

Green Report, a Romanian environmental magazine, rewarded their social activities earlier in January by granting them two prizes of excellence in circular economy and in Agri-food for their educlick platform and bio-co social farm. 

Zoom on : Rachid Abidi Director of Tunis’ incubator for entrepreneurs « Lab’ess »

Lab’ess – which means « Everything is going well » in Tunisian – was created in 2012 just after the Tunisian revolution. It is an association under Tunisian law associated with PULSE, an international organization part of GROUPE SOS supporting impact entrepreneurship. The area of intervention focuses on the Maghreb and the Middle East with 75% of the actions in Tunisia. 

To highlight the activities of the Lab’ess and know more about its commitment to foster social entrepreneurship in Tunisia, we got a special time to interview its director Rachid Abidi :


  • Can you describe your position and your work at Lab’ess? 

 

Our mission is to support the associative movement of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and to support social entrepreneurship as a lever for inclusive and sustainable solidarity development. Our core business is to raise awareness, accompany and finance the actors of change while advocating to facilitate and improve the structuring of the SSE sector in Tunisia. 

 

I have been the legal representative of PULSE in Tunisia and therefore the Director of Lab’ess in Tunis for the past 5 years, an organisation that brings together a team of 20 very committed people. My work can be broken down into five main tasks: I lead a team of operational managers with the deputy director, I monitor the financial and HR aspects with the administrative and financial manager, I ensure the sustainability of the structure by seeking funds to support our strategic plan, I develop the Lab’ess brand by promoting its activities and I represent Lab’ess with major partners. 

 

 

  • What are your personal motivations for doing this work? 

 

I am lucky to be in a profession where we can invent solutions every day to alleviate social and economic problems. What we are proposing today has a real impact on Tunisian men and women who wish to start businesses, as well as an environmental impact, and being able to combine the two is very interesting and stimulating. What we do as a team on a daily basis is meaningful and useful for the local communities. It is also personally satisfying to see Lab’ess grow and flourish. 

Since 2012 we have worked with more than 80 social entrepreneurs and supported more than 2000 associations. Our incubation programme for entrepreneurs lasts about 6 months and provides networking, coaching and loan financing. One of our support programmes concerns Tunisian associations in neighbourhoods being renovated and rehabilitated: we help them to set up innovative and sustainable urban projects in collaboration with municipalities and citizens in order to respond to real local needs. One of our main objectives is to be at the service of the actors in the long term and not in a one-off way. 

 

  • According to you, how important is social entrepreneurship in the necessary transition towards a more just and inclusive economy? 

 

In my opinion, social entrepreneurship is a solution that brings together different worlds. It is an action model that combines both the general interest and good economic practices by involving many stakeholders. It is a solution that creates intelligent cooperation, makes a positive contribution to society (particularly employment for the most vulnerable) and responds to major environmental issues where the state or the private sector have no answer. Collaborative work with the people concerned, who are aware of the local problems, is necessary to find truly adapted solutions. 

The fact that money is not the driving force can sometimes make it difficult to understand the social entrepreneurship approach, but the commitment remains very strong among social entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately, this is not the dominant model yet, so we have to fight even harder to defend our ideas. Even if we are seeing a progressive development of impact investors worldwide, it is not really the case in Tunisia. We have to teach our tunisian entrepreneurs how to adapt their discourse in order to be able to take on their project and convince classic financing organisations, which is an additional obstacle. This is why we have been developing an honour loan scheme for entrepreneurs since 2021. 

 

  • What do you expect from the national and international trend in favour of the development of social entrepreneurship?  

 

At the end of the first lockdown in 2020, we contributed to the formation of an informal solidarity collective « Tounessolidaire » which gathered more than 150 signatories for a tribune that was sent to the tunisian President of the Republic, President of the Government and President of the Assembly of People’s Representatives. The aim was to notify them that the SSE actors who contributed to allievating the difficulties of the pandemic were not recognised enough and to relaunch the study of the SSE draft law. After that, everything went a bit faster, the deputies in the Assembly voted the text of the law in plenary in June 2020 and then the law was promulgated by the President of the Republic in July 2020. But nothing has really moved since then, we are waiting for the introduction of the decrees and orders, without which we have few means to establish the framework for structuring the SSE sector. We need the process of adopting the decrees to be accelerated, as there is talk of a label that would grant aid, benefits and incentives.

There are still a lot of things to be put in place to structure the SSE sector: a SSE agency and a Higher Council of SSE. And we as actors need to regroup and organise ourselves as a representative body in order to be credible and bring united claims to the state. We need to create a taskforce that would allow better coordination of the different stakeholders to reflect on the vision and strategy of the SSE in the medium and long term in Tunisia. We, the support structures, also need more support because our economic models are fragile. We get our funding directly from international cooperation and private donors, no funds come from the state or Tunisian authorities. We want to diversify the origin of our resources for greater sustainability and reliability. 

Today, belonging to PULSE is an opportunity because we benefit from the GROUPE’s experience, tools, methods, financial support if necessary, consistent communication and support for our development. This is an important support that complements the know-how and dynamics of the local team.