L'Atelier at a glance

L'Atelier is a regional resource centre for developing social entreprise and the responsible economy.

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L'accueil à l'Atelier

The « social economy » : towards the responsible economy of tomorrow

The social economy as democratic initiative

The social economy is a positive response to today's social and environmental challenges. In the context of ecological crisis, outsourcing and the predominance of the financial sector in the economy, the social economy combines the requirements of social and ecological returns and economic performance.

Whether it be cooperatives, mutual societies, voluntary organisations or fairtrade companies, the organisations that make up the social economy share a set of values :

  • their aim is to create social or environmental returns, not to maximise immediate financial gain. With such an aim at the centre of these organisations, the economic activities they create do not leave for government or civil society the collateral costs of social exclusion and environmental pollution. This is a major distinction between the social economy and the traditional capitalist economy.
  • they apply democratic rules in their governance : strategic decisions are taken at Annual general meetings along the principal of « one person = one vote ». Every member has the same weight in decision making, regardless of their investment time or capital. In the day to day running of the organisations, an effort is maintained to privilege collective decision-making so as to ciment the work ethic with sharing and listening.

Through these values, the social economy promises an evolution in social conditions. It is not a specific professional field, but an overriding economic approach.

Today, the social economy is developing activities in fields as diverse as insurance products, the service industries, environmental protection, eco-tourism, training schemes, fairtrade, women's entrepreneurship, local agriculture, technological innovation... Through this development, the social economy represents tomorrow's economy. It is not a marginal sector, but is gaining ground in the economy overall.

Some key numbers

With more than 2,3 million jobs in France in 2009, which represents 9,9% of the workplace, the social economy creates jobs and is more resistant to crises that the private sector, in particular because jobs cannot be delocalised. Between 2006 and 2008, the number of workers grew twice as quickly as the private sector (respectively +3% and 1,4%).

Ile-de-France, the Paris region, le social economy is comprised of 31 600 individual organisations or branches of larger groups. Ile-de-France boasts the highest number of jobs in the sector nationwide, with more than 380 000 employees. The « education, health and social sector » represents 58% of these jobs in the region, mainly in voluntary organisations and charities. Financial activites come second with 11% of jobs, mainly in the cooperative banks and mutual societies providing insurance. The overall number of jobs increased in 2009, whereas jobs were lost in the private sector.

The percentage of women working in the social economy is higher than in the private sector. In voluntary organisations, charities, mutual societies and foundations jobs occupied by women represent nearly 65%. In cooperative societies, the figure is nearer 50%, the Ile-de-France region showing a higher percentage than the national average.

L'Atelier : a workshop to accelerate the development of the social economy

in the Ile-de-France region

Our actions

The regional ressource centre has four main actions aimed at developing the social economy and social enterprise in the Paris Region:

  • offering support and networking opportunities for young social enterprises, and mature entrepreneurs seeking to develop their organisations
  • advising local authorities on ways to encourage social enterprise, and supporting local economic cooperation
  • helping understand the dynamics of the social economy today, and open opportunities for its development tomorrow through partnerships with the national office of statistics, and research bodies interested in social innovation
  • promoting the social economy and social enterprise through media partnerships, a scheme for young people, and the development of online and documentary resources


Nearly 250 organisations are members of L'Atelier. The board, with its twenty-four seats, represents the diversity of stakeholders in the social economy as a whole. L'Atelier reflects the private-public partnerships found within the social economy by associating in its governance local authorities,

L'Atelier sur les salons

A few of the social enterprises we have helped on their way

Voisin Malin
Improving the quality of life in working class districts by increasing skills levels among local residents and placing economic value on their hidden talents.
Through Voisin Malin, Anne Charpy employs and trains "resident talents" among local people. This facilitates connexions between people who are disadvantaged for economic, linguistic and cultural reasons and local public and private services. The "neighbours" who have been recruited knock on doors to explain the projects and services of the local Council and the commissioning partner firms. They provide translation services and support local residents in their everyday lives (post office, town hall, public transport, etc.).

Developping urban agriculture by transforming roofs and wasteland into a kitchen garden.
Virginie Dulucq's project is ambitious. She wants to promote and create kitchen gardens on roofs and wasteland in the Paris Region in partnership with companies, Housing Associations and local authorities. Her initiative will enable very local vegetable production at the heart of towns, and bring together local residents and employees on a shared project. This will build awareness about urban biodiversity, and encourage improved isolation of buildings or the use of rain water in kitchen gardens. Urbagri will support project developers from an idea right up to the growing and distribution stages.

Creating innovative shared workspaces for employees, entrepreneurs and students.
The co-founders of Buro'nomade plan to offer workspaces close to people's homes which are open to all. These spaces will break with the solitary nature of work for individual entrepreneurs and those working from home. Buro'nomade's users will avoid long daily commutes, developing numerous benefits : less traffic, lower levels of pollution, better balance between work and home life. Buro'nomade is a cooperative and will also welcome a social entrepreneurs Beehive on its premises.