A Lesson In Partnering Up For The Greater Good: Corporations Assist NGO In Employing The Homeless
(Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Forbes.com. Welcome desk in main Paris agency for telecommunication services (photo credit : Emmaüs Défi)
Today, over 16% of the population of the European Union lives in poverty and does not have access to several essential products and services. But according to a recent European study from Accenture France, co-creation between the business and social sectors can enable the emergence of hybrid models that are better positioned to meet key societal needs, create new market opportunities, generate public savings and create new jobs.
The study focused on six sectors linked to essential needs such as housing, healthcare, and financial services and pointed out that “low income does not mean no income”: poor people do spend a significant budget on these goods but are not adequately served, given that most offers are designed with higher income targets in mind. For instance, 21 million people are struggling to heat their homes, and the household energy market for vulnerable populations is estimated at € 25 billion. Twelve million people suffer from severe housing deprivation and the housing market for vulnerable populations is estimated at € 124 billion.
Accenture is convinced that businesses, together with social organizations and the public sector, can invent new approaches to address this large scale demand and co-create both high economic and social value. For that reason, Accenture’s Skills to Succeed initiative—which aims to equip 500,000 people around the world with the skills to get a job or build a business by 2015—supports the work of people like Charles-Edouard Vincent, founder of project Emmaüs Défi.
Looking at Emmaüs Défi’s case may be inspiring and give us some useful hints into the “how to’s” of co-creation.
Emmaüs Défi was founded in 2007 with the vision to create an innovative business model that proposes a large scale, step-by-step work system for the homeless. As part of this model, homeless people can also benefit from a set of services such as access to permanent housing or telecommunications.
This innovative economic model is based on partnerships between public entities, leading private firms, and social action organizations. Public entities, such as the Paris City Mayor’s office, are key to facilitating the emergence of innovative projects like the implementation of a flexible work contract for the homeless, which gives them the possibility to work one, two, or four hours a week, until they reach the capacity to sign a 26-hour contract and get a full-time integration job.
Private firms help to co-develop new businesses with economic potential that create a positive social impact by offering goods and services to poor populations.
For example, Carrefour gives unsold goods to Emmaüs Défi, which then supplies its “Solidary Equipment Bank,” through which the underprivileged can access furnishings at low prices once they find permanent housing. Likewise, leading telecommunications company SFR is a strategic partner to support Emmaüs Défi’s “Solidary Connexions” service, which aims to reduce the digital divide by offering low-cost and pre-paid phone and internet access to a fragile population whose needs in telecommunications are not covered by the traditional market.
Technology has a role as a strong driver for social impact change and a strategic enabler for developing co-creation and convergence of social and business initiatives. Technology has been vital to Emmaüs Défi in creating a wide range of social services, expanding from a centralized organization to a network of agencies covering the French national territory, and reaching more beneficiaries.
Accenture recognized that it could provide valuable technology support to Emmaüs Défi, so since 2012 it has co-created together with the organization by implementing, among other things, a customer relationship management tool.
“The support of Accenture has enabled our teams to build the essential tools for our development projects. The Accenture consultants’ expertise, combined with the setting up of a system Salesforce.com database has allowed us to create the necessary know-how to replicate our social programs,” says Charles-Edouard Vincent.
The choice to use a cloud technology was particularly important for the organization, which does not have an IT team. This also enables them to reduce the costs associated with IT maintenance and infrastructures. From an organizational point of view, the implementation of the CRM tool has helped in many ways: aiding process harmonization, data centralization reliability, reporting capacities to pilot activities, managing relationships with partners, and measuring social impact.
If Emmaüs Défi can continue to get support from large corporations like Accenture, there’s no telling what this could mean for the organization’s ability to scale and maybe even eliminate homelessness in France.
Are you involved in cross-sector collaboration in Europe? Apply to Ashoka’s competition, Social & Business Co-Creation: Collaboration for Impact, which is open to social entrepreneurs, non-profits, companies, and public sector organizations. Entries can include early stage ideas or fully established projects, as long as they involve a minimum of two partners from different sectors. Multi-partner projects are encouraged to apply. Entries close on April 10 2014, 23:59 CET.
This post is part 7 of a 10 part series on co-creation and intrapreneurship. It was written by Vincent Boyet, Managing Director of Accenture France, which partners with Ashoka on its corporate citizenship program.