La France s’engage au Sud “France commits to the South ” is the first offshoot of La France s’engage, launched in June 2014 by the French president and led by Patrick Kanner, the Minister of Urban Planning, Youth and Sports. The latter addresses projects On French soil.
La France s’engage au Sud is supported by Patrick Kanner and Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophony.
This initiative is designed to support innovative projects at the social and environmental level in Southern countries, including: Africa, the Middle East, South America or Asia.
The initiative has been remarkably successful with over a thousand projects having been sent to the organization. From these applications, the Secretary of State made a first selection of projects and then called on HEC Paris to analyze the remaining projects.
A significant commitment from HEC Paris students
Behind this partnership is Professor Bénédicte Faivre Tavignot, co-director of the Social Business/Enterprise and Poverty Chair and jury member of La France s’engage au Sud.
For this project, students from the MSc Sustainability and Social Innovation and the MBA Net Impact Club thoroughly examined the projects, their feasibility (viability of the organization, quality of governance), their sustainability and their growth (state of progress, partnerships involved). Last of all, they measured the projects’ impact on the environment and local populations, their innovative nature and overall cohesiveness.
In the second phase, students arranged phone calls with the project sponsors to gather additional information. Afterwards, they presented their observations for each of the files to the Secretary of State for the jury’s final verdict.
The diversity in the winning projects
Following this analysis, on November 18th of last year, a ceremony which students participated in was held at the Quai d’Orsay. It was organized to reward the ten prizewinners and hand out a special award.
The winning projects were related to various fields – agriculture, recycling, digital, health, biodiversity – and originated from all over the world (South-East Asia, the Caribbean and Africa).
For instance, the project ‘Zamke au Togo’ advocates the production of fashion bags and accessories using recycled plastic bags and uses the profits to fund local initiatives in the collection of plastic waste.
As for Samatoa in Cambodia, he manufactures environmentally friendly materials from the lotus plant all whilst promoting employment access and educating the most disadvantaged women in the region.
For Thomas Piveteau, a student of the Sustainability and Social Innovation major, “this experience has really been very rewarding. The initiative allowed us to analyze projects, very distinct from one another, but which all in one way or another try to have a positive impact on the environment or society and quite often both.” He adds, “Later on in my career, I would like to work in the sustainable development sector. Therefore, seeing what is done, what works and being able to get involved in all of that really is motivating.”