Because they place social utility at the heart of their activities, social enterprises are an essential driving force for the ecological transition. More directly, as shown by the many examples featured in this Barometer, social enterprises are involved in all aspects of the ecological transition: food transition, energy transition, circular economy, transport, etc.
Many programmes are already structuring themselves to support social entrepreneurship projects. Yet, gathering all the stakeholders of a given territory is also necessary to give projects solid foundations for the long term.
Dedicated support programmes
From the first steps of project creation to scale-up, support programmes exist. Depending on the phase, these programmes allow social entrepreneurs to define their strategy, to build a network, to receive a training or to raise funds.
In the creation phase, more and more programmes are designed to support social projects, as illustrated by the Panorama of Support Actors produced by Avise1. These programmes are designed to bring together a network of actors who are committed to the transition and who are well aware of challenges specific to social entrepreneurship. For example, Robins des mers, a project for the collection and recycling of floating waste, was supported by the Première Brique incubator (Toulouse, France).
Mainstream entrepreneurship actors such as the “Réseau entreprendre” or the BGE network are also joining forces with thematic incubators such as BGE Parif‘s “Couveuse-lab Economie verte” or the Sustainable city incubator by Paris&Co.
In the consolidation phase, the French Local Support Systems (DLA) also supports the ecological transition, either through the 6,000 social enterprises that benefit from it every year or through collective support programmes. For example, Enercoop Languedoc-Roussillon was supported by the DLA to shape the ECLR association “Energies Citoyennes Locales et Renouvelables” (Local and Renewable Citizen Energies), which brings together 50 project leaders committed to the development of citizen-based renewable energies.
Finally, some support programmes are designed to help social enterprises in the scaling up phase2. For example, the P’INS programme, created by Macif Fondation and Avise, has supported API’UP, an upcycling insertion organisation, in its spin-off strategy. The Fondation “La France s’engage” is also committed to supporting numerous projects on environmental issues, such as the 3PA association which develops ecological transition schools.
The necessary crossing of expertise and energies
Thanks to their network of partners and the events they organise, these support programmes create a link between funders, experts and citizens, and participate in the overall dynamic of ecosystem creation. However, the impact of social enterprises often remains limited if they are not part of the strategy of the territory in which they are established. Spaces for co-construction and dialogue are therefore necessary to create a virtuous circle that allows projects to emerge and be consolidated.
Several forms of cooperation exist. First of all, the “Pôles Territoriaux de Coopération Economique” (Territorial Hubs for Economic Cooperation, known as PTCE) bring together social and solidarity economy enterprises, classic private companies, research players and local authorities to support innovative projects that contribute to sustainable local development. Examples include EcoNautes, one of these hubs located in Britany, that works on circular economy issues, or InnoVales in the Geneva region, which works on energy renovation.
More recently, the territories labelled “French Impact” by the Office of the French High Commissioner for Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Innovation have also made a strong commitment to promote social economy. This is the case for the Est Ensemble territory (Seine-Saint-Denis, France) and its territorial platform for social innovation whose goal is to “accelerate the ecological transition of the territory”, in particular by promoting the development of projects based on products’ functions and on repairing.
Halfway between a support programme and a permanent collective dynamic, the Fabrique à initiatives3 (Initiative Factory) is run at national level by Avise. Based on the needs and ideas detected by local actors, it supports territories in the creation of projects. For example, in New Aquitaine (France), the ATIS incubator is part of the Fabrique à Initiative programme. As such, it has impelled the creation of Elise Atlantique, a recycling company for office waste, R³, a company which collects and reuses bulky waste from large urban areas, and Elixir, a canning factory whose products are made from unsold goods.
Everywhere in France, promising dynamics are developing to support social enterprises and the ecological transition. Yet, overcoming the divisions between sectors and different types of actors remains a major challenge! In order to foster innovation and new forms of entrepreneurship, there is a lot to gain from better cooperation between experts in energy, food, or other transition-related issues and experts in social entrepreneurship.