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Saturday, December 2, 2023

“The economic model was almost a taboo subject”

Offices and meeting rooms. A vast kitchen with cups of all colors lying around. A Velleda board announcing the program for the days to come and, in particular, the holding of a karaoke called “Let’s sing our utopias”.

Nestled in the heart of Friche-Belle-de-mai, Intermade resembles an incubator like many others now have in the city. Except that it supports a very specific type of project leader. His specialty: the social and solidarity economy, in which he has led a thousand projects since its creation in 2001 within a home for young workers.

Enriched by the Marseille coworking space La Ruche which he took under his wing under the banner of the group Concrétisons l’utopia, it is today the first incubator of the ESS in France and has sprouted into others places in the region; either directly in the Alpes-Maritimes through its little brother Az’up, or by transferring its tools to other local operators, such as Initiatives Terres de Vaucluse near Avignon.

Intermade offers several support programs to project leaders, from initiation to incubator (12 months), including Starter (3 months) whose purpose is to test the feasibility of a project. Within the walls of Intermade, very diverse projects intersect. “ We have two main themes which are actually quite broadexplains Violette Kelberine-Pérès, regional animation manager responsible for support within the incubator. The first is housing: living and living together. The second is to feed: THE body and L’spirit “.

The desire to be useful

Themes on which project leaders, or rather solutions, flock. Because if there is a characteristic trait of the creators who set foot on Intermade soil, it is their desire to provide concrete solutions to problems that are just as concrete. This is the case of Julie Nicol, who joined Intermade as part of the creation in Marseille of its branch of Toit à moi, a Nantes association which buys, thanks to crowdfunding, housing which is then made available to homeless people. . They also benefit from complete support in all aspects of their lives, with the creation of a warm network of people to surround them. “ Here, testifies the young woman, I came to learn about association structuring, statutes, creating a budget, a financial matrix, impact measurement, etc. “.

Practical skills that are often lacking in carriers driven primarily by a quest for social utility. This is what Clément Reynaud noticed when he visited Intermade, while he was preparing, with his partner, to set up the ESS company Projet Celsius which works in training and support around climate and carbon footprint. “ Unlike a classic incubator where people often first want to start a business and then find an idea, at Intermade it was more the opposite. Many of us had an idea without really knowing what to do with it. “. A desire to change the world which requires an adapted posture on the part of the guide, explains Violette Kelberine-Pérès: “ These entrepreneurs, perhaps more than others, put their guts into these projects. They want to participate in creating a new economy that breaks the trend. We must coach them without doing for them »

Another difference that Clément Reynaud notices: a sort of discomfort with money. “ The economic model was almost a taboo subject. In the ESS, we tend to be satisfied with moral retribution and to sit on monetary remuneration. It made me think. I ended up assuming being a commercial company, which makes a profit and then creates jobs “.

Many people observe this complex within the ESS. And it sometimes goes hand in hand with what Violette Kelberine-Pérès describes as “ lack of investment culture. While banks are capable of financing up to one billion euros, the need for ESS projects in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is around 1.2 million. There are blockages. Is it a question of opportunity? Return on investment indicators? »

Asymmetrical competition with the traditional economy

For researcher Nadine Richez-Battesti, the development of solidarity finance born take advantageEU marginally to ESS companies (approximately 10%). VSbowthey are locatedeare now faced with companies from the traditional economy qwho know often better than them to highlight a form of social utility, as is the case with mission-driven companies. “ The ESS remains little known while some of its principles are taken up by classical economics, sometimes twisted, in greenwashing strategies for example. “. However, ESS and traditional economy companies do notwest not on equal terms. “ The environment is very sensitive to communication strategies, to the narration of successes. However, the ESS does little to recount its successes, due to lack of time and lack of resources. And then, the ESS has long had the idea that to live happily, you had to live hidden “. The arrival of certain types of companies in the field of ESS following the Hamon law of 2014 has nevertheless changed things somewhat, she thinks.

This Asymmetric competition is also found in calls for projects from local authorities and the State. Calls for projects which are increasingly taking precedence over traditional grants. A problematic trend for the researcher: “ With calls for projects, it is the community that decides what is good. It abandons the capacity of ESS structures to reveal the needs of the territory, and obliges them to respond to needs declared by public authorities. “. According to fashions and political strategies.

To adapt to this environment, Claire Marenco, who supports ESS structures in Grasse – and in particular on behalf of Intermade -, advocates hybrid formats, in which an association can set up a commercial company under of the ESS to diversify its economic model, for example. “ The great diversity of ESS statuses is a strength” she thinks. But of course it requires support.

Furthermore, to find their place and access funding – whether public or private – ESS structures have important work to do in terms of evaluating their impact. A work in which Intermade is very interested, which also wants to accentuate its efforts on the promotion of the initiatives it carries – via its incubates but also on its own – and on the ESS in general.

Une ESS still little known

Project Celsius is one of those lovely stories born from Intermade. The company, which concluded in 2020 its first contract with the École Centrale de Marseille for training missions, currently has five employees distributed mainly between Paris and Marseille. It has made a place for itself in its market, particularly in the health field. “ We created a version of our carbon footprint game Carboniq for AP-HM. We have also won appeals to projects of the Pasteur and Curie Institutes, despite the presence of major competitors opposite “. The company will support these big names in health in achieving “ ambitious climate plans “. Et Clément Reynaud assures that the ESS status is not a barrier, even if it only opened a moderate number of doors for it, its strength residing rather in the academic career of its founders.

Our choice to register in the field of ESS was a bit like a profession of faith. We haveiwe want to make a decent living from our activity and offer a comfortable working environment to the people who join us. And we realized that what the Hamon law imposes, such as the reinjection of half of the profits or the limits on income gaps, is far from insurmountable “. So why are so few companies taking the plunge? tandis that those to assignment are more and more numerous ?

Fcommunication area classic economy and ESS

In Nice, Scic Immaterra, which supports companies – whether or not covered by the ESS – in their ecological transition, puts forward some explanations. “ There is a lack of knowledge. For example, due to the decision-making principle that one person equals one vote, many believe that one cannot decide anything », analyzes Sophie Radisse, director of the Scic. “ Some also have the impression that they will have to endure ten years without pay. All this is false. Many models are possible. And ESS companies are often more resilient than others “. They demonstrated this in particular during the subprime crisis in 2007, as Nadine Richez-Battesti recalls.

To break these prejudices, bridges between the traditional economy and the ESS may need to be built. Immaterra is working on it. Founded by the Club des entrepreneurs du Pays de Grasse, it chose the status of Scic to serve its territory through governance that includes the various stakeholders. But the choice of Scic is also a way of being “ aligned with what we advocate to the companies we support: democratic management, employee participation, strict profit management, etc. » Enough to inspire the classic economy and moreover, certain structures have taken the plunge, like the Estandon wine cooperative, based in the Var, which has recently transformed into Scic. HAS Conversely, the structures of the ESS certainly have a lot to learn, too, from classical economics.

Creating bridges: a work which certain local public policies are also tackling, keen to see the ESS take a greater place within the economy, while encouraging traditional companies to opt for models more in line with the social and environmental issues of our time. With the hope that perhaps one day, the margin could become standard.