One of the answers to the questions of our changing economic model is the development of local economies. How can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bring life to the local economic fabric while still meeting the needs of the local population?
Relationships at the heart of progress
« You can do things I cannot. I can do things you cannot. But together we can do great things. »
This quote from Mother Theresa summarizes the spirit the 20B conference's speakers tried to embody.
Suvankar Mishra, from India, Abdoulaye Gning, from Senegal and Charlotte Sewell, from the UK gave three concrete examples of SMEs that tackle societal challenges and bring solutions to global issues in each of their countries. They are all based on cooperation between actors and emphasize the human dimension of doing business. Nourishing the relationships with the communities they help is one of their priorities.
Democratizing the future of farming
Suvankar Mishra's company Blooom addresses the global farming problem. To keep the 9,1 billion people that the Earth will bear in 2050 well fed, the food production should be increased by 70%. However, agriculture is a complex system that depends on many variables and only those with good information, inputs, technologies and tools can thrive. « Unfortunately, only big corporations have access to those and the 120 million smallholder farmers of India chronically underproduce », regrets Mishra.
The solution that he proposes to that complex problem is a digital platform that aggregates data and transactions as well as enabling farmers to have direct interactions with markets and financial institutions.
But in many areas of India, the smart phone penetration is low and people are often illiterate. The idea is to combine this technology with educated people trained to be micro-entrepreneurs and serving as change agents on the field. As Mishra says: « to introduce change, you need to build trust. »
The resulting solution is a highly functioning human-technology hybrid model: it analyses the needs of each member of the food value chain and creates benefits for all. By bringing actors together through digitalization, Blooom allows them to improve and produce better.
Breaking taboos about female hygiene
Abdoulaye Gning, co-founder of ApiAfrique with his wife Marina Gning, explained how they came up with the idea of their social business by recalling his personal experience. During his yearly vacations in Senegal, he was appalled by two issues: the fact that 45% of young girls skip school when on their menstruations and the amount of waste that hygiene creates. In the first two years of his life, a toddler produces up to a ton of waste that will take 450 years to biodegrade.
ApiAfrique brings an answer to both of these concerns: washable nappies and washable pads that can be reused up to 400 times and are chemical-free.
This business doesn't only provide a practical solution to the African hygiene crisis, it also aspires to empower women by raising awareness and breaking the strong taboos about female menstruations in Africa. With local women’s testimonies and local language translation, their digital awareness program is adapted to the social and cultural context of each African community.
Shaping the food industry in a human form
The third example is a family business in the UK since 1997: the frozen food company Cook, presented by Charlotte Sewell. Their slogan « made like you would at home » is not false advertising since all of the food is hand-cooked and home-made with local products.
Most importantly, the driving purpose of the company is to promote human relationships. Charlotte Sewell gave the example of an elderly man who had fallen in his house. His family was warned by the employees of the nearby Cook shop who were worried by not seeing him. This shows the level on which they connect with their customers.
Employees can give a “Care Card” to any customer coming on hard times. It gives them 30% off all products for a period of 12 months. For instance, people who have relatives in the hospital and don't have the opportunity to spend quality time at home have been offered this discount.
The company also designed human shaped benefits for employees, such as having their birthday off or a hardship loan up to £ 1 000. Moreover, they do not hesitate in employing people facing barriers to employment such as homeless people, former inmates or mentally ill individuals.
In the end, these three businesses create a shared and durable prosperity at a local level, based on trust, fairness and progressiveness, making them forces for good in society.
Around the World Forum
Speakers of this edition
Deputy Director General
Great Place To Work France
Animator-Coordinator Economy of functionality
Young European Leadership France
Chairman of Réseau Alliances
Réseau Alliances, World Forum for a Responsible Economy France
Founder and ceo
Project leader of the Prospective rev3 2022-2032 group
President of Mission REV3 Hauts-de-France Regional Council
Mission REV3 Conseil Régional Hauts-de-France France
ATRE Insertion association Director
Chief Executive Officer
Camif Matelsom France
Tous les possibles France
Veolia Recyclage et Valorisation en Hauts-de-France France
Coach in personal and professional realization
Inclusion and Diversity Delegate
Réseau Alliances France
Co-director and founder
Forum Vies Mobiles France
Materials sourcing & impact strategy manager
Balzac Paris France
Chair of the Climate Change Department
Conseil mondial des entreprises pour le développement durable Royaume-Uni
Impact & Social innovation Director
Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of OVHcloud
Journalist and trainer
Le Grand Ecart France
Director of Sthree France
Sthree France France
ORIGIN Rénovation Responsable France
Group Marketing, Innovation and New Mobility Director
Chairman of the Board
Réseau Alliances France
Author of the documentaries Work in Progress and the newsletter Billet du Futur
LAB Welcome France
Co-founder of M la Constellation
M la Constellation France
ADEME Nord Pas de Calais France
Concertation/Negotiation Project Manager, Social Dialogue Department, HRD
Signes de sens France
CSR and Sustainable Mobility Project Manager
Réseau Alliances France
Director of Innovation and Sustainable Development
Project manager on mobility for the city of SENLIS
La ville de SENLIS France
Communication and Design Project Manager
Signes de sens France
Université Paris Est-Créteil – École d’urbanisme de Paris France
Technical advisor for mobility and public spaces
Ville et Eurométropole de Strasbourg France
Head of Collaborative Economy & Emerging Practices
NEP, Wéo France
Founder & CEO
World Forum for a Responsible Economy France
Highlights of the program
Plenary session to celebrate the 10th anniversary of rev3, the Third Industrial Revolution in the Hauts-de-France region
Meetings and lunches to interact and network
Experiences, to debate, to get, to know each other, to acquire the tools to cooperate more effectively
Opportunities to get involved in the responsible economy
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