Creating businesses in problem areas: a 10-year partnership with the ADIE

The ADIE and the Veolia Foundation have been working hard since 2006 to create jobs in high-unemployment, underprivileged neighbourhoods… a major challenge, and a source of social innovation. Indeed, both partners have been busy experimenting with and deploying new solutions to provide support for business creators and to help them ensure that their business will last.

Social and Employment


Eric Lesueur
Pauline Danel

€180,000 for the Board of Directors on 15/05/2006
€60,000 for the Committee on 26/01/2010
€15,000 for the Committee on 18/01/2011
€150,000 for the Board of Directors on 10/06/2013

Project Owner 

Adie - Association for the Right to Business Initiative


“No, there is no right age to be creating one’s own business; no, no one is unemployable; and no, there are no areas lost to the Republic, no off-limits ghettos if only we decide to conduct a series of initiatives that are relentless, serious, open and respectful. Free of all prejudice or demagogy. And performed meticulously and lucidly.”
Catherine Barbaroux, former ADIE Chairperson (2011-2016)

“Microcredit to create your business”. That is the motto of the Association for the Right to Business Initiative (ADIE), certified as being in the Public Interest in 2005. The ADIE helps people who are left out of the job market and barred from credit to create their own business, by combining microcredit with professional guidance.

Founded in 1989 by Marie Nowak, the ADIE brought microcredit into France, following the model deployed by Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. It can provide loans of up to €10,000. In order to ensure success among the entrepreneurs it funds, the ADIE has developed additional free support services provided before, during and after the business creation process: they include a course in business management and development, administrative guidance, and advice in legal and tax matters and in human resources… There are 500 employees and 1,300 volunteers at the ADIE who process credit applications and who teach the business creators

120 branches in France
In 2015, 18,000 people received funding for a mean average amount of €2,000

116,000 businesses have been assisted in their creation since 1989
225 jobs were created every week in 2015

Longevity index of the created businesses: 59% over 3 years (as compared to 71% for standard businesses)

Half of those who received support from the ADIE were living below the poverty threshold (under €1,000 per month) at the time they first got in touch with the association: now they are no longer dependent on welfare and have left the ranks of populations at risk. Micro-companies supported by the ADIE are participants in the creation of a local business fabric within problem areas where unemployment is particularly high.

The ADIE is also intent on fostering the growth of an institutional environment around microcredit and business creation. It is working hard at ensuring that they will turn into instruments to be used in policies governing jobs and social integration.

An interview with Marie-Hélène Scheidecker (ADIE)

The Veolia Foundation shares the same values in social innovation and business attitudes as the ADIE, which have been enshrined in one of the Foundation’s missions: Help in getting back to work. So both organisations signed a partnership in 2006 in order to conduct initiatives to encourage the creation of small businesses in problem urban areas.

The 10-year partnership has gone through several phases, and priorities have changed over time.

2006-2009: ADIE Consulting Areas for learning and networking
The Veolia Foundation has been contributing since 2006 to the development of tools and solutions to support micro-entrepreneurs. With the Foundation’s help, the ADIE opened the first EAC (ADIE Consulting Area) in Garges-les-Gonesse (95) to provide support for projects within that sector of the “Val-de-France”.

ADIE Consulting Areas were designed as teaching venues focused on three ranges of services:

  • “I build my project”
  • “I start my business”
  • ​“I make my business grow”

They provide collective and individual workshops, where all aspects of running a business are addressed, ranging from administrative to legal matters and from sales initiatives to banking. The volunteer teachers are all familiar with business creation.

Microcredit for a few will benefit the community

The ADIE makes regular assessments of the true impact of its activity. A survey conducted by KPMG in 2015 looks at the Social Impact Return on Investment approach (SROI): it shows precise amounts for averted costs and generated income, by reconciling them with the costs covered by public and private funders.
The KPMG survey also shows that €1 invested in business microcredit is amortised after 14 months, generating €2.38 after 2 years.
The ADIE’s efforts are therefore a great help in generating quick, significant revenue for the community thanks to taxes and social contributions paid by the businesses as well as the jobs created. The ADIE also helps in reducing social expenditure: over 70% of those who received ADIE support were welfare recipients prior to receiving funding towards their business.

In addition to this customised advice, the entrepreneurs may also meet with their peers at the ADIE Consulting Areas, share useful information and, possibly, start setting up commercial synergies. And those with a project can get good advice from business creators who have already taken the plunge.

After a year-long experimental phase, the ADIE Consulting Area concept has shown how effective it is. About fifteen other sites have opened in the Paris Region and across France, thanks to help from the Veolia Foundation.
2010-2012: ADIE Connect and community microfranchises
Given the success of the ADIE Consulting Areas, the Veolia Foundation has extended its partnership with the ADIE for a further three years. As it did in the three previous years, the Foundation has allocated €60,000 per annum to the ADIE towards new support solutions.

An interview with Nathalie Huon.
To begin with, ADIE Connect: This microcredit website provides online consulting 24/7 and completes the offer from brick and mortar venues. Micro-entrepreneurs can go there for video courses, access to legal and finance experts, a range of useful files, and a help forum for business creators.

In parallel, the Foundation has committed with the ADIE to design and test “community microfranchises”. This new model in social entrepreneurship draws from the franchise system. Once potential markets have been examined, local business channels are available to entrepreneurs in problem areas who do not wish to go it alone. On top of a microcredit to fund the start of business, franchisees also get a choice of courses, logistics support, pooled supplies, a well-known brand and an influx of new customers.

In 2011, the Foundation funded a feasibility study concerning a “DIY and Water Repairs” business channel, but it did not prove viable. The Foundation gave its support for the creation of the Chauffeur&Go microfranchise, which currently has about a hundred drivers all over France.
A social innovation like community microfranchising has received a host of distinctions. Among those, it won the “La France s’engage” prize in 2014.

2013-2015: CréaJeunes provided support to 100 young business creators
30% of the entrepreneurs supported by the ADIE are under 32: that is why, back in 2007, the association launched the CréaJeunes programme in order to boost its efforts towards youths aged 18 to 32. They are provided with free pragmatic interactive workshops focussed on gaining in self-confidence and practical knowledge about the business world. These 6-week-long collective courses are followed by individual tutoring towards clarifying the project and learning networking initiatives. The young creators also have access to microcredit and to a loan on trust at 0% with deferred repayment.

Over 7,600 young creators have enjoyed CréaJeunes support since 2007. The programme is available in 19 sites all across France.

In 2013, the Veolia Foundation decided to guide, through CréaJeunes and for a three-year period, 100 youths from problem areas in the Paris Region in how to create a business. Veolia Group employees had an opportunity to get involved as sponsors or as members of the end-of-course jury of those young people.

2016-2018: 75 new businesses in Plaine Commune
From 2016 to 2018, the Foundation is providing its support to ADIE initiatives performed within the Plaine Commune[1] (93) territorial limits, which includes the town of Aubervilliers, where the Veolia Group has established its head office. Young creators in Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers and surrounding municipalities are receiving reinforced guidance in creating their business: as project owners with a well-structured plan, they are entitled to the ADIE microcredit and to 48 months’ worth of tutorship if required. Veolia employees are encouraged to get involved in guiding the young creators.

The ADIE plans on the creation of 75 businesses and about a hundred jobs over a 3-year period. Indeed, every new ADIE-supported business generates 1.26 jobs on average [2].


[1]The cities of Plaine Commune in Seine-Saint-Denis are Aubervilliers, Epinay-sur-Seine, La Courneuve, l’Ile-Saint-Denis, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen, Stains and Villetaneuse. [2]Source: ADIE Impact Assessment Survey conducted in 2013 by the CSA Institute.