June 28 is quite a special day in the world of social innovation and social business. It is Muhammad Yunus’ birthday and, for that reason, it has been chosen as International Social Business Day. Each year, everywhere in the world, people gather on June 28 to celebrate social business together: in Dacca, hometown of Yunus, in Senegal, in Brazil and in Paris. Last week, the danone.communities teams held a YY (Yunus and You) Cocktail Party in Saint-Ouen, near Paris, as part of the worldwide celebrations. They chose a theme recently popularised by Yunus: social fiction.
A film by Wim Wenders and five young entrepreneurs
Miora Ravainoarinosy, community manager at danone.communities, said as an introduction that the evening was designed to interweave fiction and reality. As an illustration, Person to Person, a film by Wim Wenders was shown. In the film, the director addresses how micro-credit can favour interactions between developed and developing countries – this is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
The evening then continued with a discussion between the audience and five young entrepreneurs, each with their own expertise in social business: François Desroziers, co-founder of Spear, a solidarity-based finance cooperative which supports social entrepreneurs; Alexandre Jost, founder of La Fabrique Spinoza, a think-tank which works on the concepts of happiness and citizen well-being; Jérôme Ruskin, founder of Usbek & Rica, a futuristic magazine which explores all aspects of the world of tomorrow; Lucie Poirot, co-founder of Le Vent tourne, which produces transmedia and educational stories, fictions and games to raise awareness of important issues for the future; and Christian Vanizette, co-founder of MakeSense, a platform which brings together social entrepreneurs and people who are willing to use their skills to help them.
Writing social fictions
Everyone agrees that social business is gaining more and more attention from the public, but is still in an initial phase: “the general public is not necessarily aware of the new economies that are being born now,” says Jérôme. Which is why telling the story of social business – and demonstrating its efficiency too – is important. Lucie explains:
At first, you have to do everything yourself to prove that it works. You make, you learn on the job, and then eventually you get paid to teach others how to do it.
The tipping point is when the “classic economy” realises how powerful social entrepreneurship can be, and wants to be a part of it too. Alexandre calls that “rational altruism”. He believes that our economic choices need not be driven by selfishness, and that making decisions that are good both for you and the society you live in is viable and powerful.
As many questions from the audience revolve around the issue of entrepreneurship itself (how do you get started, how do you make a living out of it, etc.), François insists:
helping other people does not make you any less profitable. Your project creates value somewhere, which means that you can make money with it.
Christian also explains how the social value of a project can encourage people to support it, through crowdfunding for instance. Jérôme sums up: “the positive economy asks one question: what do we do with the money we make? It is up to us to answer that question.”
Then, during the “cocktail part” of the YY Cocktail Party the audience is invited by Lucie to co-write a social fiction. In the wake of Yunus’ call to invent social fictions to draw desirable paths for the future, the aim is to seek inspiration from the experiences that have been shared and to invent an equally inspiring story. They come up with the adventures of a lonely baker, in Ancient Rome, who wants to invent a collaborative and non-competitive sports game, and ends up making many friends (including Don Quixote) and inventing a way to make peace between Rome and its enemies. How this particular fiction is going to influence the positive economy is a little unclear, but you get the idea!