SSE Conversion Fund: “a way to pave the way”, according to Antoine Detournet (ESS France)

ESS France is offering a fund to transition to ESS. Source: iStock.

ESS France published proposals for the social and solidarity economy (ESS) in early March with the aim of influencing the presidential debate. One of the key proposals is the creation of a conversion fund that will encourage and support the transformation of profitable private companies willing to do so into a social and solidarity economy. Interview with Antoine Detournet, General Delegate of ESS France.

  • Why do you think it is necessary to create a conversion fund?

In recent years, emphasis has been placed on creating new activities in the social and solidarity economy and changing the scope of existing SSE structures. The transformation of an ordinary company into an SSE company, however interesting, was left without attention. However, survey after survey, we see that this model attracts more and more people. However, there are not so many ways to achieve this and transform your business. We thought that creating a fund that responds to financial problems might be a good way to pave the way and respond to this social demand.

  • Is the financial aspect the biggest barrier to conversion?

The first hurdle is notoriety: SSE is not well known yet. Second, you need to know the differences between SSE company models and what they imply in terms of transformation. Subsequently, when we are in the logic of transferring or transforming a business, this is not done without actually allocating financial resources for this.

  • What will this fund be used for?

We know that when transforming a company, several questions arise. The first is the buyback of shares, since we are not talking about the confiscation of shares from the shareholder. We can imagine different paths on the subject and gradually fit things in over time. But anyway, need to buy shares because it is in social capital that the difference between the SSE organization and the ordinary organization lies.

Moreover, at the financial level, the transfer implies the investment of resources and investments. Therefore, it is essential that investors demonstrate a willingness to support and provide resources for this kind of transformation.

Finally, support for this transformation is necessary to fully understand the legal aspects, to be able to choose correctly between different forms of SSE, because it is not the same thing, to become a subsidiary of a foundation, a cooperative society of collective interest, or for EHPAD to become an associative or mutualist. Therefore, there is a need for support in change management. That being said, we can very well imagine that the funds provided will be used to reward this support.

  • What types of businesses can benefit from this conversion fund?

We give EHPAD as an example. A certain number of territories may have an interest in profitable EHPADs, of which we see an abundance today, transforming into non-profit or limited-profit EHPADs. We also understand that for a certain number of small businesses in rural or suburban areas, conversion may be an issue. This foundation could also convince early childhood. It is possible to transform local nurseries, in particular, to involve parents in management.

Finally, there are several tens of thousands of businesses that close their doors every year because they are not handed over. This is not our first goal, but we think about it a lot.

  • Why hasn’t this fund been created yet?

We have to convince people. We started doing it. It is not easy to voice our concerns in the current public debate. But we are very motivated and the current period is one of SSE development. Within a few months, we had everything to put together and make ESS seem bigger than it is now.

We also feel that a cheerful wind is blowing at the European level, which proves that it is time to bring up these topics.

Interview with Theo Nepivoda

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