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France

Sophie Fourchy, Head of the Carrefour Foundation

To begin this series on jobs in the solidarity sector, we want you to meet with Sophie whose experience has led her to become Head of the Carrefour Foundation – a foundation that she sees as a social innovation pilot scheme which has to incubate an increasing number of projects.

Sophie trained as an agronomics engineer and began her career on a number of rural development projects in South Africa, Ecuador and Brazil. She put her expertise to good use working out in the field alongside local farmers with organisations such as the Institute for Development Research. "When I returned to France, I wanted to keep working in this field. I found out that Carrefour was setting up its foundation. So I sent an unsolicited application because the job was exactly what I wanted". Two people were hired to set up the foundation – one of whom was Sophie, since her field knowledge was precisely what Carrefour  was looking for. Having started off as deputy in 2001, she took over as director in 2005.

When it was first set up, the foundation was involved in two key areas: disaster response providing emergency humanitarian aid on the one hand, food aid on the other. Since June 2017, its responsibilities have been expanded to include a third area: preserving biodiversity. "In emergency situations, the Carrefour Group mobilises local teams to work alongside civil security services. They identify needs and enlist the company's volunteers so they can help various associations. They also provide logistics resources and equipments". This way, the teams on site can get basic essentials directly to the affected people. The foundation coordinates and finances the emergency aid. The second area involves professional integration, food aid and searching for solutions to nutritional problems. The foundation provides field teams with support in countries in which Carrefour operates. Local teams are involved in numerous skills and sponsorship initiatives, in addition to distributing more than 100 million meals every year. "We also provide our partners with support in structurally organising themselves, formulating their needs and training their personnel", adds Sophie.

 

Sophie tells us about the team's various roles in the foundation: "There are three of us. One person overseeing projects in France, another for international projects and then me, coordinating it all". Although the team is very small, the foundation is fully-committed to the Group. This commitment can be seen in Sichuan (China), for example, where it has helped Carrefour's teams on site to support small-scale pepper farmers so that their sector can become more professional and consolidated. Carrefour first purchased the pepper as a way of guaranteeing an income for the farmers. Then its local teams helped them to set up a cooperative which the farmers now use to negotiate their prices directly with various distributors, including Carrefour. Sophie emphasises that it is a win-win arrangement: "work upstream on production, structuring the project and then securing prices with the group's local entities… We were there at each stage of this project, right up until it was able to stand on its own two feet".

TESTIMONY
My aim is to succeed in bringing social innovation to the heart of the company. So I have a coordinating role to play, creating a positive dynamic for everybody.

On a day-to-day basis, the foundation undertakes high-level coordination work alongside its partners and project managers, ensuring that “they are able to meet, since the human connection is important, so people's needs can be listened to first and foremost". Supporting the Group's mobilisation through its human, material and logistics resources and monitoring the progress of the programmes supported are other important aspects of the work. Sophie also serves as an interface with the Board of Directors which is made up of highly qualified personalities, including former directors of the French Agency for Development and of the SAMU Social humanitarian emergency service. In addition to this work, coordinating internal stakeholders and putting them in contact with one another takes up most of her time. This involves everything from getting involved with a given department to "do more" with a partner, to providing social entrepreneurs with support: "my aim is to succeed in bringing social innovation to the heart of the company. So I have a coordinating role to play, creating a positive dynamic for everybody". The pitch party held jointly in early November by the foundation and Carrefour France's innovation department alongside Ticket for Change association perfectly illustrates this role. The event brought around a hundred or so Carrefour managers together in order to support SSE start-ups working to bring about food solidarity.

 

The dynamic nature of these new SSE organisations, together with the experience of a major group, nurtures the accompanied social entrepreneurs, as well as Carrefour on the whole. The group "sees itself as one stakeholder among a number of others, operating within its ecosystem". For the future, Sophie sees the foundation as a social innovation hub that will need to incubate an increasing number of projects "to bring pride to employees and enable the Group to excel as a company".

 

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