Stand Up to the Status Quo: Social Entrepreneurship in Europe with Europ Assistance

Since 2010, the Europ Assistance Group (EA) has made social entrepreneurship its leading commitment in the Corporate Social Responsibility field. Today, 10 Group companies are actively involved in selecting and supporting top social innovators in Europe, in partnership with Ashoka France, to advance the growth of the social sector on a worldwide basis.

Ashoka caught up with Europ Assistance Group CEO Martin Vial to chat about how social enterpreneurship can build more community-spirited—and more effective—business models for a new global economy in the video below. The Ashoka France team also shared their perspective on the partnership in the Q&A: 

Q: How is social entrepreneurship able to address some of the pressing social issues in Europe?

A: In France—as well as in the nine other participating countries in the Europ Assistance and Ashoka partnership—it is becoming clearer everyday that neither the public sector nor the business community alone have the capacity to develop efficient answers to the most pressing social issues. Social entrepreneurs have the capacity for innovation and co-creation that is needed to tear down the walls between the different sectors of our societies, and to develop new solutions at the scale of the problems.

Q: What does the general public think about social entrepreneurship in France and Europe. And what can help the idea tip?

A: Although the idea of social entrepreneurship has become more and more popular in France and Europe in areas like media and education, it has yet to become a mainstream business option. But the fact is that social entrepreneurs face the same challenges as standard entrepreneurs: building an initial financial capacity, accessing technical competences, getting acknowledgment. It's up to partnerships with global companies, because of their strong capacity to reach larger audiences, to motivate and inspire people to jump onboard.

Q: In light of the current austerity and employment problems in Europe; how can social business better the lives of people?

A: Although Europe's public social system is quite well developed, it simply cannot address all the needs of every citizen—societal problems are becoming increasinly more dense and complex. Social entreprises, especially in the field of health and personal services, have the capacity to do “better with less.” Take the example of Siel Bleu, which helps seniors stay healthy, fit and avoid physical disabilities through age-appropriate sports activities. Projects like this can be game-changers; a McKinsey study has shown that if the older population in France were to participate in programs such as Siel Bleu, the cost of medical care for bone fractures and diabetes would be decreased by 15 billion euro every three years.

Q: Through the spread of a culture of social responsibility, what kind of social movement are EA and Ashoka hoping to inspire?

A: Europ Assistance and Ashoka share the same objective: to make people understand that everybody—whatever their position in the society—should have the opportunity, competence and confidence to stand up to the status quo and launch ideas to make things better. Creating that “changemakers framework” begins by supporting current initiatives, and, ultimately, developing a social change ecosystem that will help all the potential changemakers turn ambition into action.