The Red Cross wants to kick-start social innovation

Grande-Synthe, in the north, in late 2020. For the first time, with the help of a voice assistant, volunteer caregivers speak in Sudanese Arabic with migrant patients who cannot read or write. At the beginning of this experiment, Aaliatalk, a translation tool dedicated to health, exists in 79 languages, ten of which are already well developed. “In an emergency, interpreters are not always available,” explains Samah Ghalloussi, an entrepreneur who had the idea for this invention to deal with the language barrier that many GPs encounter. ” In our translations, we also try to integrate a cultural dimension. For example, to find out if Vietnamese patients eat too much salt, doctors ask them if they eat a lot of fish sauce. ” she details. An engineer, this computer scientist is one of the fifty award winners who have benefited from the support of 21, the French Red Cross’ social innovation accelerator.

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This resource center was established in May 2019 and is both the laboratory for ideas, advice and experiments in the social field of the humanitarian association. He also took shape over 1,000m2 in the heart of its campus in Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), where its headquarters are also located. As soon as it was launched, its initiators had to show adaptability to the pandemic emergency. “21 remained open and very quickly became a major psychological support call center”, witnesses Jean-Christophe Combe, Director General of the French Red Cross. The leader is concerned about the social isolation, which affects almost 5.6 million people in France: “On this occasion, we also developed home deliveries like we had never done before. »

The teams at the 21st Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), March 7th.
Axelle Lemaire, brand new director of the French Red Cross in charge of strategy, transformation and innovation, and general manager of the 21st Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), on 7 March.

As the health protocol eased, social entrepreneurs (fifteen structures in total) took over this comfortable place – natural wood furniture, floors made from recycled materials – to do coworking. They now encounter volunteers, Red Cross employees and creators from the private sector who have come to be accompanied to develop their projects. “Here it’s a bit like the social Station F”, summarizes former digital foreign minister Axelle Lemaire, brand new general manager for 21, referring to the Paris start-up incubator. “In the light of the current context, it is crucial to establish joint constructions between the public and the private sector, to connect large groups and entrepreneurs, volunteers, employees to invent tomorrow’s solutions and create a systemic social effect”, she emphasizes, while a new call for projects has just been launched.

“21’s role is to identify innovations, support them and test them with our business experts at the Red Cross House”, according to Axelle Lemaire, CEO of 21

For if the health crisis has multiplied the challenges, other trends has already weakened the organization’s social model. “The context has become more complex”, confirms Grégoire Ducret, founder of 21 and predecessor of Axelle Lemaire. Firstly, “15% of the French population now live below the poverty line and 2 million people are in a very high poverty situation”, and on the other hand, we are witnessing “lack of public funds and greater volatility in volunteer engagement”.

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In this environment, social innovation, according to its initiators, aims to provide new solutions to poor or dissatisfied social needs by involving actors in the field as an integral part of the solution. To this end, the Red Cross relies on the experience of its approximately 60,000 volunteers and 17,000 employees who, among other things, work in nursing homes, hospitals, places in early childhood. “The actors in the field, to which additional project managers are added, are the first to be confronted with the reality of the problems, analysis Axelle Lemaire, and therefore to know how to imagine solutions to meet the challenges encountered. 21’s role is to identify these innovations, support them and test them with our Maison Croix-Rouge business experts and the 120 activities it carries out on a daily basis. »

From left to right: Beverly Derrien, project manager for the Red Cross.  Flore Kalfon and Binh Trinh, work in the direction delegated to the strategy of innovation, transformation, effect for the Red Cross.  Giulio Zucchini, Head of the International Innovation Department of the Red Cross.  Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), 7 March.

Among these varied profiles, there is a partner from the Red Cross who comes from Backpack, an application that accompanies patients suffering from chronic low back pain; volunteers who came up with the idea of ​​MeHandYou, an exchange solution to promote autonomy or professional integration of people with disabilities; a HEC candidate initiated by Tous mes aides, a platform that enables individuals to identify the support to which they are entitled. “There are more than 6,000 in France, but the lack of use of benefits and social rights is estimated at between 40 and 70%”, sums up Cyprien Boutard-Geze, president of this start-up and Red Cross volunteer.

With at least 13 million people affected by the digital divide, support remains one of the challenges of this change. “Our goal from the beginning has been to achieve social inclusion through digital and not digital for digital sake”, Grégoire Ducret insists, realizing that the initiative he has launched will require more vigilance. Especially with regard to the security of health data that some start-ups are working on. “We had never had surgery on health data before, admits the former CEO, we have therefore learned about this, as we, in addition to our legal department, are assisted by a data protection consultant and a law firms specializeds to better regulate their use. »

Big ambitions

A reflection is also underway on the legal status of 21. Currently, the accelerator is carried by a SAS with a capital of 833,300 euros, a subsidiary of the Croix-Rouge Group, 60% owned by the association Croix-Rouge. Rouge Française and 40% of Nexem, an association of the social and medico-social sector. But this scheme could develop, just as the area of ​​activity could: “We could imagine a non-commercial form, or even the creation of an investment tool”, says Axelle Lemaire.

The campus of the French Red Cross.  To the right Grégoire Decaux, who heads the Inspirience agency, a dedicated event communications agency and a social and solidarity company.  Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), 7 March.
The campus of the French Red Cross.  Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), 7 March.

Today, the revenue model is divided between sponsorship (73%), coworking (17%) and services such as events and consulting (10%). While the accelerator has partners involved in both project creation and sponsorship. Like the AG2R La Mondiale, the OETH association or the Roche Foundation. The budget may change from 1,671,229 euros in 2021 to 1,772,173 euros this year. “But the success criterion is not the growth of 21 per se, but rather the growth of the innovative products or services that have been successfully scaled up in this way, says the general manager. That said, when 21 grows, all social innovation in France grows because we do not distribute any dividends to shareholders. »

In terms of development, the issues revolve around the replicability of the solution in other socio-economic contexts. “In this sense, we are working on the creation of a 21 branch in Mombasa with the Kenyan Red Cross”, she adds. And there are other projects. For example, in France to merge a network of actors in order to discover future “unicorns” of social innovation.

This article was produced as part of the Global Positive Forum, organized by the Institut de l’économie positive, which will be held on March 9 from kl. 9.00 to 13.00 in Paris, in the auditorium in World, partner for this event. The forum will bring together more than twenty personalities to discuss the themes of childhood and education, the fight against inequality and the need to unite people with nature to solve the climate challenge. Sign up for the event and follow the conference live here.

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