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Catherine Chalom: “The social and solidarity economy sector is developing because people are looking for meaning”


Each year, the Crédit Coopératif foundation rewards players in the social and solidarity economy (ESS) with inspiring projects. During the 2022 edition of these “SSE inspiration awards”, the Crédit coopératif foundation rewarded 3 winners in Île-de-France, elected from among the 177 applications received in the region. The jury considered that they provide concrete answers to many societal challenges, and that they participate in an ecological and social transition in the Ile-de-France region. Catherine Chalom, president of the Île-de-France regional committee of Crédit coopératif, presented the main lines to us.

Actu-Juridique: Who is this competition organized by the Cooperative Credit Foundation for?

Catherine Shalom: Since 1983, the Crédit coopératif foundation has organized prizes to support the social and solidarity economy. Since 2019, these distinctions have been called “inspiration prize in social and solidarity economy”. This is therefore the fourth edition of the competition in this form. It is aimed at all types of organizations. Can participate in cooperatives, mutuals, associations, integration enterprises, solidarity enterprises of social utility (ESUS). The project may be starting up. The only condition is that these structures have been in existence for at least one year. They do not have to be Crédit coopératif customers. Every year, I am surprised to find that many of them do not even know the establishment.

Actu-Juridique: How did you become president of the Crédit coopératif regional committee?

Catherine Shalom: 15 years ago, I made a professional retraining. A graduate of the central school, I gave up a career as an executive at Renault after seeing my boss explain in a full amphitheater that the 4-4 market was a buoyant niche. I saw the relocations, the trades at the bottom of the ladder being more and more precarious. I had a background as an employee, I knew nothing about food distribution. I wanted to open a biocop, which had an agreement with Crédit coopératif. This bank allowed me to borrow. I then noticed that the Crédit coopératif is not cooperative in name. It is structured as an agency, department or regional committee. I have always been a committed person, whether in politics, for ecology, or as a parent! Logically, I therefore joined the Crédit Coopératif committees. When the president of the Île-de-France regional committee left office, I had just opened a second store. Cooperative credit sought to be feminized and to represent all of its customers. I was a dynamic woman, I represented committed organic distribution, an important sector among the members of Crédit Coopératif. I was offered to become president of the regional committee.

Actu-Juridique: How is this competition organised?

Catherine Shalom: This competition is organized by the Crédit coopératif foundation. There is a first filter at bank branch level. They communicate about the competition and motivate the companies or associations in their network in order to apply. The structures must therefore be able to present accounts as well as a website. The candidates are then selected by a first regional committee, which evaluates them according to a grid. The selection process is done on a voluntary basis. It’s an investment, because when you do it right, looking at companies’ sites and accounts takes time. The Île-de-France region is divided into 3 zones: Paris intra muros, Île-de-France East and Île-de-France West. Each zone determines one or more winners. There is then a competition at regional and then national level.

Actu-Juridique: What is the objective of the competition?

Catherine Shalom: The winners receive a grant of €3,000, as well as easier access to the foundation’s expertise. The objective is not just to give money to a structure. It is also a question of offering him visibility. We organize award ceremonies, which are attended by people from the foundation, agencies, local or regional elected officials. This gives rise to publications in the press. You cannot imagine the happiness of the laureates, who have worked a lot in thankless conditions, when they are rewarded. My problem, each year, is to choose between the winners. Each time, there are a lot of super cool projects!

Actu-Juridique: What are the selection criteria?

Catherine Shalom: The first criterion is innovation and social originality. Priority is given to projects that provide answers to new environmental or social problems. Then come local usefulness, the potential for duplication, the potential for visibility, the sustainability of the structure — the objective in the social and solidarity economy is not to earn money but you still have to be able to survive. ! We have included a bonus point this year: setting an example. This can lie in respect for equality between men and women, in the integration of people with disabilities, in the democratic management of the structure, etc. We have precise grids to assess these different criteria. Each project is rated by the various members of the regional committee, which has one person per agency.

Actu-Juridique: Can you briefly introduce the 3 Île-de-France winners?

Catherine Shalom: This year, the first prize goes to the association Droit et habitat, which, since 2004, has been helping people who are poorly housed. This time it targets women victims of domestic violence, whose difficulties in finding an apartment are well known. The second prize goes to the Club des six, located in Malakoff (92). The association has a truly innovative concept of shared housing between disabled people, who can thus resume an individual and collective life. Personally, I had never heard of this before. The third prize goes to La Sauge, an organic and participatory urban nursery located in Bobigny (93). It shows that cultivating makes it possible to regain autonomy. In Bobigny, more than elsewhere, there are modest people, children who grow up in concrete, who will see that peas do not grow in plastic bags. Learning through children makes it possible to reach entire families. Often, parents also have to reconnect with this cultural learning. These projects can be done anywhere. It is important that these beautiful ideas can be duplicated. All the positive examples of social and solidarity economy make you want to be imitated.

Actu-Juridique: How do you see the social and solidarity economy in Île-de-France?

Catherine Shalom: It is a sector that is growing, because more and more people are looking for meaning. See what happened during the graduation ceremony at Agro Paris Tech. I understand it, because I’ve been there, as well as several of my classmates who have similar trajectories to mine. Fifteen years ago, I attended a meeting organized by the Ashoka Foundation. I had met the creator of the Jardins de cocagne, an entrepreneur who made organic and fair trade clothing — which, at the time, was very innovative. I owe it to him to do what I do today. The social and solidarity economy operates in a virtuous circle. You are inspired by others, and you in turn inspire yourself. Having met inspiring people makes you inspiring. The social and solidarity economy spreads by word of mouth because many projects are worth dedicating one’s life to. I see people giving up a doctorate to become a versatile employee, others who give up management jobs to open an organic store. I think that there will be, by force, a problem of recruitment in the big companies.

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