Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The 1990’s ended a long period of prosperity in Switzerland, with the global economic crisis hitting the country ten years later than other European countries. The major economic recession accelerated changes in the structure of the labor market, and for the first time the level of unemployment greatly increased, from 1.2% to 8%. The Swiss social sector, which was rooted in traditional models of social action and charity, had no solutions to effectively fight against widespread unemployment and economic exclusion.
Moreover, because Switzerland is structured as a confederation and policy and practice is highly-local, the growth and spread of successful, high-impact social initiatives has been limited. With four official languages and 26 cantons, running their own local governments and regulations, Switzerland is a country of small, atomized and locally-based organizations. Public policies defined at the levels of the state, the cantons or the cities are often inconsistent with each other, including those related to employment regulations, disabled people’s rights or funding of vocational training. This locally-oriented structure has restrained the spread and large-scale development of solutions geared towards social problems.
Compared to neighboring countries like France, Italy or Germany, who saw the emergence of cooperative movements in the 18th century, Switzerland has had little history of social entreprises or social economy. Because Switzerland is building this sector from scratch, social sector leaders are learning from the successes and failures of social sector leaders in other countries, and are seeking to be more efficient and effective from the start. For example, new solutions employing vulnerable people are promoting the need to be close to the market, developing strong economic models and partnering with business players.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Throughout the nineties, Christophe started building the field of “social integration enterprises” (i.e social enterprises focused on connecting vulnerable, unemployed people more permanently to the workforce) and demonstrating the power of social entrepreneurship. He invented and scaled a new model to reintegrate the most excluded people into the labor market and made it the new reference for the whole social sector.
Capitalizing on his experience and recognition in the field of social integration, Christophe has replicated his model and initiated a changemaking movement in all the social fields of action, from education to environment to health, working against exclusion. His transformative model relies on a threefold strategy: 1) creating networks to federate local initiatives under a common identity and breaking down barriers created by the highly-local nature of the social sector and government regulation; 2) incubating new solutions and demonstrating the power of innovation to change traditional systems; and 3) breaking silos to engage government, academic and business players. The DNA of Christophe’s national platform to connect local initiatives for employment includes training for in-demand jobs, scalability, innovation and private partnerships.
Because of Christophe’s work, a single definition of social integration enterprise is now accepted in all the Swiss cantons, which unlocks funding and support for scaling-up initiatives. In addition, the “’Swiss Integration Network” – which gathers all public and private organizations working on labor issues - uses Christophe’s model as its new strategic framework.
Christophe also has created a flagship network of “Cantonal Chambers for Social Economy” which provides unprecedented visibility, coordination and collaboration to the Swiss social sector, which has been slower to embrace innovation and which is highly local in nature. Finally, Christophe started the first classes on social entrepreneurship in universities and business schools in Switzerland, influenced the city of Geneva to create a new employment contract for people with social issues, and he engaged the National Confederation of Swiss Employers (26,000 companies) to change their recruitment processes and hire people coming from social integration enterprises. A key figure in Switzerland, Christophe’s pioneering efforts have created a legitimate legal and financial space for the sector of social entrepreneurship to surface and scale.