Europe Day – 9th of May 2023

Groupe SOS, one of EU’s key frontrunners of social entrepreneurship, is actively involved in local initiatives and European projects aimed at boosting social economy. On this 9th of May, symbolically commemorating Robert Schuman’s Declaration which laid the groundwork for the European Union’s construction, Groupe SOS wishes to reaffirm its engagement for a more ambitious EU social policy. 

Social economy, an essential component of the European project 

Groupe SOS is convinced that social economy must be placed at the heart of the European project. At a time when many citizens’ movements are claiming for a fairer, greener and more social society, we believe that social entrepreneurship will be key in meeting the social and ecological challenges the EU is facing.

In fact, the difficulties we face in France are similar to the ones of our European neighbors, be it regarding the fight against inequalities, the adaptation to climate change, the education and training of the youth and unemployed people or, more recently, the growing necessity to bridge the digital divide. With almost 40 years of experience, Groupe SOS confidently assures that by cooperating with their European counterparts and engaging in a common effort to bring their strengths and expertise together, actors of the social economy can successfully tackle the EU’s current major challenges.

Let’s make the EU the world’s epicenter of social economy!

Beyond its daily work on the field, operated by its 700 associations and organisations, Groupe SOS has been vocal on the political scene to defend its vision of a stronger European social economy. In October 2022, Groupe SOS wrote an article calling for an ambitious European policy aiming at making Europe the world epicenter of the social and solidarity economy (article in French or in German). This article was supported and co-signed by 33 European organisations from 16 European Member States, and puts forward three levers to accelerate and amplify the development of social economy in Europe:

Groupe SOS [urges to] make Europe the global epicenter of social economy. This goal can only be achieved by conducting a number of improvements: firstly, the status of the social economy must officially be recognised by European and international institutions; secondly, ambitious financing tools which consider the specificities of social economy enterprises must be developed; finally, integration schemes must be generalised in the 27 EU Member States”. Jean-Marc Borello – Chairman of Groupe SOS Executive Board.

Groupe SOS will continue to defend its vision of a European Union that works for the most vulnerable populations, for future generations as well as for the sustainability and liveliness of our common territories! Such a EU social policy would meet Groupe SOS’ main purpose, which is to combat all forms of exclusion, whether it is about decently welcoming refugees, taking better care of people with disabilities or implementing cultural activities for and by all.


Directly stemming from its successful initiatives, like educational projects countering social and gender inequalities or solutions supporting the socio-professional integration of the youth through social entrepreneurship, Groupe SOS will make concrete proposals to the European Commission in the upcoming years.

A promising European and international context for the development of social economy

On 18 April 2023, during its plenary meeting, the UN adopted a resolution “Promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development”. Groupe SOS warmly welcomes this resolution, for which it actively participated by chairing the permanent Secretariat of the Pact for Impact Alliance. This text comes two years after the publishing by the European Commission of its Social Economy Action Plan, issued at the end of 2021, which aims to stimulate the social economy and generate jobs in this sector.

Last week, between the 1st and the 6th of May 2023, the sixth edition of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) was held in Dakar. This event came as the appropriate time for Groupe SOS to communicate on its latest undertaking: to make the social economy a pillar of the partnership between the African and European continents.

In this renewed European and international context, and on Europe Day, Groupe SOS reasserts its willingness to further contribute to developing social economy in the world. Determined to make social economy the future of our continent, it will continue to act on the field to offer innovative solutions taking up the EU’s social and environmental challenges.


Focus: Groupe SOS, a European-minded actor


Since 2015, Groupe SOS has positioned itself as a proactive European actor and has participated in more than forty different innovative European projects, with over  85 organisations from 19 EU Member States.

In addition to its on-field activities within Member States, Groupe SOS is conducting advocacy towards EU institutions. On 31 May 2022, it organised an event, which gathered around a hundred of participants among which important stakeholders of the European social economy such as the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE), the OECD’s Social Economy and Innovation Unit, the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ) and France’s former Minister of European Affairs, Mr. Clément Beaune. During this high-quality event, Groupe SOS publicly supported the EU’s Social Economy Action Plan and put forward a series of concrete recommendations for its efficient implementation, like the creation of a funding program dedicated to financing impactful social entrepreneurial projects, especially during their launching phase.

Groupe SOS has also greatly seized the momentum of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union between January 2022 and the 30th of June 2022 to promote five of its initiatives aimed at developing social entrepreneurship:


Gender equality, everywhere!

Women are most affected by territorial disparities. As a result, they face obstacles in finding employment, and in accessing healthcare, rights and transportation. On March 8, the International Women’s Rights Day, Groupe SOS reaffirms its commitment to fighting all kinds of exclusion, and takes a step forward gender equality across all regions.

1 in 3 French women lives in rural areas, which means 11 million French women. There, gender inequalities are more prevalent than elsewhere in the country. As women are more likely to be vulnerable to insecurity, violence, and social inequality in healthcare and employment, Groupe SOS, the leading social and solidarity economy NGO, is committed to launching a wide range of measures, to provide appropriate solutions and programmes in priority neighbourhoods and rural areas.

Groupe SOS’ actions include:

YSOS : the non-profit organisation provides support in rural areas to women who are victims of violence and excluded, helping them rebuild themselves in a safe environment while developing their future projects. It runs Van Plurielles, a touring organisation which raises awareness and educates vulnerable groups on gender equality and fighting gender-based violence.

Pulse : many women are still kept out of the entrepreneurial world, as they are often excluded from financing and restricted by many obstacles – both imposed on them and self-imposed. Therefore, PULSE is working to integrate a stronger gender focus into its programmes. Now, 66% of those supported by the non-profit organisation are women. Thanks to #EllesEnsemble programme, PULSE is supporting female entrepreneurs in carrying out their projects in Seine-Saint-Denis and in Marseille.

Creatis : the non-profit organisation provides support to all those involved in media and cultural transition throughout the various stages of  their projects. Through the Source programme, it supports female entrepreneurs excluded from media and culture ecosystems to develop new ways to express themselves and end inequality in this sector.

Groupe SOS Santé : the growing doctor exodus from rural areas is particularly affecting gynaecological care. To address this challenge, Groupe SOS Santé has set up private non-profit hospitals and works every day to improve women’s healthcare. In its non-profit hospitals in Saône-et-Loire and Meurthe-et-Moselle, Groupe SOS has set up centres offering expertise in endometriosis to end the patient’s medical errancy by ensuring them a proper diagnosis and support.


Wimoov : mobility plays a key role in tackling all the problems related to isolation in rural areas. Working to promote women’s mobility means providing every woman with greater access to employment, healthcare and leisure opportunities, helping to prevent women’s exclusion. Thanks to training, financial and material assistance, the non-profit organisation seeks to find personalised and adapted solutions for every woman’s situation.

AGreenLab, an entrepreneurship program for young people on renewable energies


Launched by People Power Inclusion (PPI) from GROUPE SOS, the AGreenlab program intends to encourage youth to become entrepreneurs in Africa, through incubation and accelerating programs. AGreenlab seeks to build partnerships and develop investments between European and African countries, by establishing strong cooperation with experts in the fields of entrepreneurship, agribusiness and renewable energies.

Let’s meet Assane Seck, Renewable energy Expert in charge of training and coaching for the AGreenLab program.


What is your area of expertise?

The renewable energies are energies that renew themselves fairly quickly. We can take solar energy which produces electricity through photovoltaic panels, wind energy generated by wind turbines, or even geothermal energy, which comes from the subsoil.

Valorizing biomass is important as it provides us, through a process of methanization, biogas – essentially composed of methane gas and carbon dioxide. After the methanization phase, we obtain green fertilizer, which we can use in agricultural production.


What are the stakes of renawable energies in target countries?

In terms of socio-economic stakes, what is striking is the crucial need of universal access to electricity. Without electrical power, development is not something we can consider. In our countries, most cities and rural areas have no access to electricity. Thanks to renewable energies, we can generate electricity to enable people to engage in income generating activities and to improve their kids’ school conditions.

Environmental issues are also adressed with renawable energies, as they contribute to the protection of ecosystems and to the reduction of pollution.

On the other hand, geopolitical stakes are high: each country has to be independent when it comes to energy. There is a significant solar energy potential and biomass resource that can be converted into other types of energies to achieve energy independence.


What is PPI’s approach to address these challenges?

PPI, through the AGreenLab program, supports 99 young people who carry out renewable energy and agribusiness projects. These young entrepreneurs are coached and after nine months, they are provided with customized and innovative funding, according to the development stage of their project. Personally, I provide them with training on renewable energies.

Madagascar : Planète Urgence’s project for the preservation of Tapia forests and support local communities

3 questions with TAPIA project manager

Herizala ANDRIANALISON, TAPIA project manager, works in Madagascar, in the Itasy region. 

Q : What are the challenges in the region?

A: Many people are exploiting forests illegally, to make charcoal, firewood or to increase the size of their fields. As a result, people living nearby the Tapia forests tend to use the forests’ natural resources, and so they destroy them.

Q: Why is it important to preserve Tapia trees?

A: Tapia trees are unique natural resources endemic to Madagascar. So we have decided to protect this natural resource, which is very valuable for the local population of the Itasy region, but also for people across Madagascar.

Q : How do you take impactful actions?

A: Because the Tapia forests’ preservation is such a big challenge, we have implemented a community-based conservation area. In other words, an area which is being protected by the local communities.

We are also working on reforesting, by planting about 1,700,000 trees in damaged areas.

In addition, we are leading awareness-raising actions, which are necessary to promote awareness. Too many people are unaware of climate change, although we are currently facing it.



In Madagascar, we adress environmental challenges


In Madagascar, environmental challenges are already noticeable, as up to 20% of the beaches have been lost as a result of the climate crisis. Besides, local ecosystems are endangered: for instance, endemic species such as the Tapia may cause massive erosion and food insecurity in the future.

The Tapia tree is massively harvested for firewood and charcoal production, which has been the main fuel for households in the capital. On top of this, clearing for food crops along with the progressive removal of Tapia to ease the registering of parcels is still going on.

To adress the issue, Planète Urgence launched the TAPIA project in 2013, which main goal is to restore, protect and reduce sustainably the human pressure on the tapia forest by increasing natural forest cover through reforestation. Another goal of the TAPIA project is to ensure additional incomes for communities through reforestation of wood-energy and honey. The support for income-generating activities through the local and sustainable production and enhancement of non-timber forest products, natural resources from restored and preserved ecosystems. In 2022, Planète Urgence is supported by AFD, which provides them with funding for three years. 


Preserve forests through training and support


To achieve this goal, Planète Urgence carries out capacity building actions to make the community-based organizations even more successful and resilient, so they can operate to preserve the tapia forest in several communes of the ITASY region. Thanks to the project, 500 beneficiaries have been supported and trained by Planète Urgence to implement income-generating activities. Trained to restore the forests’ ecosystem, provide education actions to raise ecological awareness of kids, increase their income from silk production and provide alternative wood energy to stop injuring the Tapia trees, that need to be protected (for example with Acacia wood for energy).

Last but not least, the TAPIA project contribute everyday to give pride and self-confidence to communities creating skills and jobs on their territory while preserving their natural heritage.


GROUPE SOS in Madagascar


In January 2023, GROUPE SOS’ international team set off for Madagascar to meet with the teams of Planète Urgence, PPI and Santé Sud. Madagascar is the second country of intervention for GROUPE SOS, with over a hundred colleagues making the world a better place through impact-driven projects. Therefore, the 2023 Staff Day was naturally held in the region, in Antananarivo. On the agenda: collective intelligence workshops, climate collage and an intervention by Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, advocating for Madagascar’s unique marine and terrestrial biodiversity.

In Antananarivo, our international team also had the privilege to engage in-depths discussions with the EU’s Ambassador Isabelle Delattre Burger, Head of cooperation Arnaud Borchard, and their teams. Jean-Marc Borello, Alexandre Lourié, Anna Lanfranchi and Niry Ramaromandray also discussed about the power of green and social entrepreneurs with the French Ambassador Arnaud Guillois, the Health officer Christophe Vanhecke, Head of cooperation Alexandre Magat, as well as the AFD’s director Yves Guicquéro, along with other leaders.


Social and Solidarity Economy is an excellent catalyzer for sustainable development in Madagascar. With social entrepreneurs, let’s build a fairer and better future through meaningful projects and systemic change!


COP 27: we must act now!

The situation is urgent. We see it every day at Groupe SOS through our actions to accelerate the ecological transition and with the most vulnerable people. In a worrying inflationary context, we need to respond to needs we concretely see every day, in France, and in the 40 countries in which we operate. The scientific, associative, and militant voices, as well as the youth, are alerting us to adopt effective decisions so that we collectively build the solutions of tomorrow. They exist, they work and we need to deploy them.

At Groupe SOS we believe in a systemic logic, with the conviction that the ecological, social, and economic impact becomes the compass of any organization (profit-making or not) to preserve the planet and its inhabitants. We consider socio-economic realities to the extent of the climate emergency because this fight cannot be done at the expense of the population. In Europe, associations and companies are committed to achieving neutrality while helping to build an exemplary and exportable regenerative economy. The path to a more virtuous model, economically viable, socially just, and ecologically respectful, certainly requires a strong commitment from everyone, but for the benefit of a desirable horizon.

We expect COP27 to serve the fight against climate change, not to be a climate compromise. Nothing can be settled at the local level without a structuring international solidarity, capable of financing concrete actions for the climate.


Groupe SOS advocates for 3 LEVERS of action

  1. Ecology as a lever for inclusion
  2. A globally shared green taxonomy
  3. Localization of global solutions

Groupe SOS at COP27

  • Agriculture and food will have a prominent place at COP27. With its experience in the field, Groupe SOS supports several convictions and priority actions for agriculture and food.
  • Groupe SOS is present on the African continent with teams from 5 NGOs and 2 consulting and research firms in 15 countries. 
  • Marie-Christina Kolo, Regional Director for the Indian Ocean of People Power Inclusion (PPI), an association of Groupe SOS, will be the ambassador of Groupe SOS at COP 27.

Discover all the actions and proposals of Groupe SOS related to COP27: Groupe SOS at COP27—ENG

Ateliere Fara Frontiere: supporting the work integration of people fleeing Ukraine to Romania

Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, the need for aid is now greater than ever. If the initial needs of the refugees from Ukraine arriving in Romania were related to housing and food, they now need a job to ensure their daily living. At the end of August, more than 55,000 refugees were registered in Romania trying to resume their lives in the country.

Ateliere Fără Frontiere (AFF), an association of Groupe SOS, has been among the first organizations that have opened its doors for the employment of refugees from Ukraine since March. At first, AFF provided a  dozen refugees with employment services through its workshops, counseling sessions, and vocational guidance, but also information and mediation services on the labor market. 

Since August 2022, in order to continue this mission and to bring help to even more refugees, AFF has started the project “Support to the self-reliance of vulnerable refugees from Ukraine” supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), that aims to enable the self-support and integration of people from Ukraine alongside vulnerable host population in Romania.  

The project consists in helping the Ukrainian refugees to find stability by guiding them in their process of entering the Romanian job market through counseling and integration. AFF also took it upon to help them in finding other needed tools and services such as: 

  • free Romanian language courses,  
  • legal assistance, 
  • knowing how to obtain healthcare,
  • housing,  
  • childcare,  
  • where to find out about community events  
  • etc.  

Therefore, in its first 6-month pilot phase, the project aims to support 75 Ukrainian refugees in finding the right job opportunities for them, while supporting their families. 

Every aspect of the project will be documented and based on statistical evidence in order to test and scale up the successes for a follow-up phase after the 6-month pilot. A good practice guide for social enterprises working in the job integration sector is to be developed for advocacy purposes, both targeting political will and legislative actions for easing the career pathways of marginalized and excluded people in Romania. 

 UNHCR, is the United Nations organization for refugees that leads various international actions to protect those who are forced to flee their home countries, mostly affected by conflicts and wars. Therefore, the UNHCR’s mission is to offer the main basic necessities to people such as clean and warm shelters, food, and water as well as to ensure refugees’ fundamental human rights and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future.  

AFF is a non-profit, Romanian organization, affiliated with Groupe SOS. Founded in 2008, AFF’s mission is to support the most marginalized and excluded groups of people. AFF creates workshops and programs to integrate these people into the job market, and offers social and professional support, guidance, and hope to all.   

The UNHCR / AFF partnership is complementary in ensuring a medium to long-term integration of vulnerable populations in Romania, starting with current refugees fleeing Ukraine. Whether Ukrainian will want to stay in Romania or will be able to go back to their home country; the project’s mission is to support them in their journey by listening to their needs and trusting their skills and projects.  

Making Europe the world epicenter of the SSE.

We, actors of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) in Europe, call for an ambitious European policy aiming at making Europe the world epicenter of the SSE. 

The challenges facing Europe today – be they political, geopolitical, economic, ecological or social – oblige us to rethink our economy in favor of a system that is more respectful of people and nature.

The European Union cannot tolerate 72 million people living below the poverty line and 15% of young people aged 15 to 29 without job nor training. These are alarming numbers, aggravated by the cumulative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. These figures also contrast with record-breaking economic growth.

Economic performance and common good can no longer be opposed. They meet in the social and solidarity economy, which is composed of social enterprises, cooperatives, associations (including charities) and foundations. They all maximize their social and environmental impact rather than their financial profit.

The social economy, the future of Europe

The SSE is the future of Europe; it’s also its roots. As early as 1957, the Treaty of Rome mentions « economic and social progress » as an objective. In 2007, the Treaty of Lisbon made the « social market economy » a reference combining economic prosperity, social justice and environmental protection. This triptych is also at the heart of the Green Pact for Europe of 2020, as well as the Action Plan for the Social Economy of 2021. We salute the acceleration of this movement.

The social economy already represents more than 13 million employees across Europe, spread over nearly 3 million structures. It accounts for 25% of the continent’s new business creations. This is just the beginning, and the world is watching. Our European SSE genius inspires major international organizations. The SSE is on the agenda of the 110th session of the International Labour Conference, as well as on the agenda of the UN, which is already preparing a resolution for worldwide recognition of the SSE.

Based on our experience in the field and the expertise we have acquired over the years, we are proposing three levers of action to amplify this dynamic.

  1. Recognizing the social and solidarity economy in national, European and international law

The development of the social economy is currently slowed down by the absence of a clearly defined European legal framework. National legislations are heterogeneous, and sometimes non-existent. It is urgent to recognize the specificity of SSE organizations at the European level in order to encourage their financing and their internationalization. The leadership of the EU must also be strengthened at the global level. This is why EU Member-States must stand together behind the project of the UN resolution of recognition of SSE.

We also need to define common tools and standards for measuring social and environmental impact – the same way that we share accounting and financial standards which, for the moment, are only oriented towards financial performance.

  1. Strengthening financing tools dedicated to SSE organizations

Existing financing tools do not always match the specificities of SSE organizations. It is harder for them to get access to equity and loans. As for projects financed by European funds, they require significant administrative resources, with long delays.

We advocate for a strong development of capital and debt funding tools dedicated to social innovation, for example by allocating a part of employee savings funds. Access to these funds should be open to early-stage startups, and to all types of organizations, including associations and cooperatives. It is also necessary to simplify the application processes for European funds, so that small structures can apply.

  1. Generalizing work-integration programs in the 27 countries of the EU

Work Integration Social Enterprises give both a salary and a training to people who are far from the labour market. They rely on public funding covering a part of the employment costs, with significant leverage effects: they unlock self-confidence in finding a job, they fight unemployment, they help reduce informal economy, territorial fractures and inequalities. Yet this type of public support is absent from many European countries.

We ask for a strong political will at the European level, to encourage all Member-States to adopt ambitious policies of inclusion through employment, in particular through the local financing of work-integration programs dedicated to the most vulnerable people.

The social economy, the economy of peace

SSE is an economy of peace, redistribution of wealth and inclusion of all social and environmental impacts. It has the potential to make Europe the greatest social and ecological economic power. This is why we, European actors of the SSE, call on our European leaders to seize our proposals to make Europe the world epicenter of the social and solidarity economy.

Signed by 33 Social and Solidarity Economy players from 16 European countries:

Belgium: EVPA, Bantani Education, Pour la Solidarité

Croatia: Uni. of Zagreb’s Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology

Denmark: Sociale Entreprenører i Danmark

Estonia: Sotsiaalsete Ettevõtete Võrgustik (Social Enterprise Estonia)

France: Groupe SOS, FAIR, Impact Tank, Pulse, Impact Business Angels

Germany: Pleistocene&Permafrost Foundation, Uni. Heidelberg Germany and Cancer research center, Higher Order Strategy, Cabinet Collective, Media Foundation

Ireland: The Wheel

Italy: Venezia Autentica and Overtourism Solution

Latvia: Latvijas Sociālās uzņēmējdarbības asociācija

Netherlands: Catalyst2030, Designathon Works, Circular investment

Northern Ireland: Alison

Portugal: i3L – Social Impact Investments, Girl Move Academy, Action for Systemic Impact

Romania: Ateliere Fără Frontiere

Slovenia: Foundation BiT Planota

Spain: Grupo5, Efecto Colibri, Uni. Pontificia Comillas, ICI Network

Sweden: Forum for Social Innovation Sweden

For more information please consult the Euractiv website.