The bank for a changing world

Social entrepreneurship spurs innovative technology and use cases with a positive social impact

  • 11.04.2016

Social entrepreneurship is on full display at the Produrable Expo taking place on March 30 and 31, 2016 in Paris. Maha Keramane, Social Entrepreneurship and Micro-Finance Europe Manager from BNP Paribas Group’s CSR department, answers our questions on this future growth topic. 

When did entrepreneurs first start to focus on the social economy? What are their goals in this area?

Maha Keramane: They first arose in the 1990s in the United States and Europe, as the limits of social initiatives led by the state became clear. The private sector realized it had to get involved and undertake efforts employing traditional economic techniques with a social purpose! 
Over the years, the movement spread first to universities and schools, and then throughout the rest of society. More and more entrepreneurs no longer want to have to choose between “earning a living” and “having a meaningful life”. That includes both new graduates and those already in the “classic” business world. 

Why do they play such an important role in meeting the challenges facing society today? 

M.K.: These entrepreneurs can bring efficient and innovative solutions to fighting social exclusion due to poverty or disabilities, for example. First of all, because their initiatives often emerge directly out of their personal experience – when they or their loved ones are impacted by a form of exclusion or when they witness first-hand a practice they want to combat. That experience motivates them to get fully involved and imagine solutions perfectly suited to solve that problem. 

Next, because they work in a win-win relationship with the government. In fact, social enterprises work on issues that typically fall under the public sector’s remit. They do this by setting up the best possible structure for carrying out the mission. In return, the entrepreneur benefits from subsidies or grants, representing a portion of the budget that public authorities would have spent through their social initiatives. 

Can you tell us about some of the social entrepreneurs taking part in the roundtable at the Produrable Expo? 

M.K.: They offer a perfect illustration of the diversity and strength of innovations and models applied to these issues. Some leverage new technologies to amplify their impact. 
I can think of three examples of that: 

  • 1001pact is a crowdfunding platform specialized in raising money for social enterprises
  • Roger Voice offers a text transcription of mobile phone conversations, which enables those with hearing impairments to make standard calls 
  • Goodeed is a platform that raises funds through advertising where web users can give by simply watching an advertisement, with 80% of revenue going to NGOs

Other businesses are developing innovative use cases:

  • Phenix fights against food waste by collecting goods nearing the expiration date, sending them immediately to food pantries and food banks through an optimized logistics process
  • Maison Felippa is a club for activities designed to bring seniors out of isolation and improve their autonomy

All of these projects aim to offer a disruptive solution to a social need and to remain active over the long-term, even if these enterprises frequently take longer than traditional companies to generate profits!

What can a bank like BNP Paribas do to support these entrepreneurs?

M.K: BNP Paribas has several levers for action at its disposal!
First, as a bank, we have the right organization to offer the best service to social enterprises. We have created a network of specialized professionals taking a case-by-case approach to these customers, as well as a special product line

We have also created funds designed to finance social enterprises, using customer savings or employee savings plans. 
We also organize meetings between social enterprises and traditional customers in order to spark activities, partnerships, co-developments, etc. 

As an international Group, we offer support to social enterprises seeking to replicate their model in other countries. In addition, we have integrated social enterprises into our purchasing policy, while working to fortify the social entrepreneurship ecosystem through partnerships and even sponsoring. Finally, our employees also take part in charitable skill-sharing initiatives.There are so many ways for us to get involved!