To change mindsets and transform the way society sees unemployment and unemployed people, Emilie has structured a four-fold strategy: building local communities of “active” unemployed people, working with social workers and institutions, influencing corporations and advocacy work.
First, Emilie has built a strong, widespread and very active community of “Activ’Actors”. “Activ’Actors” are unemployed people who either attend or facilitate Activ’Action workshops (Activ’Boost, Activ’Up, Activ’Jump, Activ’Citizen, Activ’Entrepreneur). Emilie based herself on existing research work on positive psychology to design five three-hour collective workshop formats and content to support the unemployed in either overcoming negative feelings, focusing on their strengths and potential, collectively engaging in a civic project, or getting prepared to start up a project of their own. The Activ’Action workshops are freely accessible and follow three key design principles: first, focus prioritizes learning and developing oneself rather than on getting back to the job market. The positive, non-judgmental and empathic posture of the facilitator is designed to encourage initiatives and create a safe space for experiment. Second, the workshop should facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges: they are kept to a maximum of 10 people to ensure qualitative social interactions. The third principle is diversity of the attendees: efforts are made to bring unemployed people with different backgrounds together in the same workshop; the reason for this is that beyond the diversity of their situations, they all undergo the psychological impact of unemployment alike, and this is a great base for learning from each other. Emilie’s strong belief that everyone has the capacity “to bring something”, to be a “co-creator”, underlies these key design principles.
To start up a local community of Activ’Actors, Emilie reaches out to the unemployed both through social media and historical ecosystem stakeholders such as the national unemployment agency or local social organizations working for social and professional integration, who find Emilie’s approach complementary to their action. Through the organization of first collective workshops, Emilie fosters the creation of social ties and solidarity among the unemployed people of a city, who form a local community of “Activ’Actors” capable of taking on the methodology and spreading the solution independently. Indeed, the key to the fast spreading of Emilie’s idea in a very resource-effective way is that any participant can volunteer to be trained to facilitate further workshops for peers. Participants see in this role of facilitator an opportunity to develop new skills, and are seen as legitimate by their peers because they have experienced unemployment themselves. This way, this is an impactful replication process that adds value to the community. Beyond facilitating the existing workshop formats, Activ’Actors can also create their own workshops to bring new skills into the community. For instance, one participant created the workshop “Activ’Theater” around public speaking; another created “Activ’Twitter” on social media management.
To date, 1200+ workshops have been organized in 20 cities in 6 different countries, reaching 7,000 unemployed people. Her key success indicators include an increased self-confidence, developing one’s network, a positive mindset change regarding the unemployment period, acquiring new skills, satisfaction with the new job when found and an increased citizen engagement. According to Emilie’s first impact measurement study in 2016, 85% of the participants consider Activ’Action helped them reducing a psychological risk, and 65% developed at least one new “soft” skill. What is more, 250 persons were trained as Activ’Action facilitators, and endorsing this role has a strong impact on the way they see their own capacities: 90% of the facilitators found a job or created their own venture within 6 months after starting Activ’Action workshops. Demonstrating that the Activ’Action community is a great space for experiment, several of the participants who had created and facilitated new workshops for the community, such as Activ’Theater, then found, or created their own, job as facilitators.
To reach an even more broad and diverse range of unemployed people, Emilie works with social work local organizations and public institutions with the medium-term objective to equip social workers and public agents, who interact with the unemployed, with her new positive mindset and methodologies to integrate more systematically the psychological dimension into their support programs, and see in the unemployed active partners to co-create their path through unemployment. For instance, in Strasbourg, a local association supporting women in underprivileged neighbourhoods included Activ’Action sessions as an integral part of the training track they provide; the public authority of Strasbourg decided to co-develop with Activ’Action a new public program for the unemployed that will integrate Activ’Action workshops. These players see value in Emilie’s approach to unemployment, as it brings a new and missing piece to their work. They pay for it, and thus provide her with a steady stream of income as they benefit from Activ’Action expertise. As her solution is decreasing and preventing psychological risks that negatively impact health and slower the capacity to get back to work, Emilie also identified mutual health insurance companies as key partners. In 2018, she partnered with one of the major mutual health insurance groups in France, Malakoff Médéric (more than 6 million beneficiaries), so that their affiliates can easily access Activ’Action’s community and tools.
Employers are other key stakeholders that need to change their mindset and practices toward the unemployed. Emilie works with corporations with the objective to impact their recruitment process and make sure they prioritize core competencies as the capacity to learn, teamwork or empathy; for instance, to help them see beyond qualifications to capabilities of people, she organizes Activ’Action workshops where both the recruiters and the candidates are participants put on a equal footing. Furthermore, as the quality of their former work experiences directly impacts the psychology of the unemployed, Emilie also works at changing the way companies invest in their own employees. By showing them that developing these core competencies will serve both their organization and the society at large, she is building eagerness for capacity building of core personal skills to be continuously enhanced.
Having built a strong community of affected individuals as well as relationships with institutional and corporate stakeholders, Emilie now plans on focusing more and more on advocacy, to foster a change in public policies and collective consciousness. To convince on the political side, she works at measuring avoided costs for the system to prove the effectiveness and necessity of her solution; she also plans to invest in research to bring in the debate existing and new data about the impact of positive psychology on unemployment. For instance, she collaborates with RAND Europe, a not for profit research institute that aims at improving policy through research, to leverage Activ’Action data on the self-esteem of the unemployed. Emilie wants to push for giving more space to mental wellbeing, core capacity building and empowerment, rather than only job placement, in the way public funds are allocated to support the unemployed. With the objective to include the first concerned in the discussion, she ambitions to tap into the potential of her community to create a committee gathering Activ’Actors, employers and other non-profit organizations to influence political decision makers. On the awareness-raising side, she is preparing a media campaign to share stories of Activ’Actors. She aims at helping the general public to see beyond the unemployed “status” and consider the unemployed as great resources rather than burdens for the society.