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Inventing the Future: Findings of a Fondation de France Experimental Program.


Inventing the Future is an experimental program of Fondation de France to support innovative charities, led by Mrs. Marion Ben Hammo, Project Manager. We met with her to hear more about the first findings since the program started two years ago.

Bringing together innovative projects to do more life changing work

Inventing the Future aims to reinvent ways of doing philanthropy that are in line with social and environmental issues. “We have come to realize that cooperation between different actors is essential in times of crisis and Fondation de France has this ability to connect people who usually do not know each other and are not used to working together to try and solve the issues of our contemporary world,” declares Marion Ben Hammo.

Since the causes of medical, social and environmental problems are intertwined, the program wanted to bring together innovative projects to help connect these causes with a true vocation to not only fix, but to transform society.

Fully committed to supporting community transformation initiatives

Inventing the Future. Copyright: Theo Giacometti

The way in which projects relate to project representatives, are selected, financed, and supported is an experiment. Marion Ben Hammo explains, “We are in a partnership logic: we listen to them as much as they listen to us, we build meaningful and long term relationships.”

Projects have been selected on the basis of both internal and external network recommendations. Additionally, they are selected through a constant watch of the social charity sector and its innovations.“There was no call for projects, we went looking for initiatives,” adds Marion Ben Hammo.

Project identification is rather simple; the focus is on emerging community transformation initiatives. The selection relies mainly on the people presenting a strong ambition, a solid project with a clear vision. Once the process of selection is finished, projects will fully benefit from the program and financial support. “We believe in them, and the trust we build finally becomes an integral part of projects development,” confides Marion Ben Hammo.

A networking hub to boost charity development

Getting together was a real challenge in 2021, but as soon as face to face meetings could be resumed, Marion Ben Hammo observed “positive connections and the desire to cooperate took shape. After the first seminar, discussions began to be more spontaneous; at the end of the 3rd seminar, sincere and open discussions came naturally.” Meaningful networking became a portal to building trustworthy relationships. 

From exchanging best practices and peer advice to discussing future cooperation on mutual issues, the connections are rich, various, and targeted to their needs. High levels of exchanges between project representatives with diverse backgrounds is boosting their developments.

Initiatives can benefit from specialized legal advices, which is essential for emerging projects. Individual meetings and follow-ups organized by the program are also truly appreciated by charity representatives, as they help better document the initiatives developments.

One striking result is the rapidity of their development. Within a year time, some initiatives grew from a one-person ambition to a structured project.

Encouraging synergies and collaborations to promote collective problem-solving

Once in the program, representatives benefit from two annual workshops, quarterly individual follow-up meetings, and monthly visio-conferences on specific themes, with experimental activities to tackle contemporary issues.

“We experiment activities that could eventually transfer to all nonprofits,” explains Marion Ben Hammo. For example, the “mental health first aid” training, which is going to be available very soon. Inspired from think tank, projects representatives pinpointed their need in preparedness on mental health issues to better respond to beneficiaries.

Monthly visio conferences are an in depth reflection on an issue of change and social transformation. During these conferences, each representative presents his/her goal and the ways to achieve it. It is a source of inspiration for charity projects developing in a relatively closed environment. Listening to ideas from various sectors can help them realize how things can be done differently.

Focus on an ingenious initiative that saved lives during the recent cold wave

Bureaux du Coeur mission aims to develop the use of professional premises for individual emergency care, in the evenings and on weekends, when they are empty. Since 2021, this initiative has helped many people in precarious conditions find a safe place to sleep. In September 2021, a first financial support facilitated the hiring of the first employees. As an unusual cold wave just hit all of France in December 2022, the government officially called private companies to make available spaces for homeless people. Bureaux du Coeur representatives were ready to answer the call and quickly proposed solutions.

Workshop on key actors of change in Marseilles. Copyright: Theo Giacometti

Other inspirational stories

Marion Ben Hammo illustrates in stories how the diverse interventions of the program are unique and tailored to the needs of each initiative. She explains how they rapidly grew into a functioning organization, felt legitimate, hired a first employee, and found the right partner(s) within a year in the program.

Point d’Eau is a day center for people in a difficult situation. They are both a place to live and a center where multiple services are offered as key steps towards dignity and self-reconstruction. Point d’eau is an example of a unique initiative that rapidly grew into a successful project in which the beneficiaries are the volunteers. These volunteers shared a common passion for cooking and together wrote and published a cookbook. They recently even started catering services, as a professional insertion program.

The latest projects include Graines de France and GHETT’UP, both inspired by American models around community organizing. They gather volunteers and professionals to create safe spaces to facilitate discussions and improve the image of neighborhoods by reducing biases among the general public and residents.

Another example of the most recent addition is Hameaux Légers, whose work aims to revitalize rural territories by connecting people to places with financially accessible eco-hamlets, which host a small number of reversible habitats, respectful of their environment. The program’s success of the year is Convergence France. This avant-garde initiative fights against extreme exclusion through a progressive return to work. With a wealth of operational experience, the nonprofit deploys its actions in a spirit of co-construction, experimentation, continuous evaluation and strong territorial adaptation. Inventing the Future has been supporting them on the program national expansion and currently works on its integration in basic civil rights, for an access to all.

What’s next? Consolidate, deepen and spread

Today there are 23 nonprofit organizations supported structurally, benefiting from individual follow-ups and from a collective approach.

“I would say that today we have proven that it is possible to identify projects, finance them and support them in a different way,” says Marion Ben Hammo.

Marion Ben Hammo concludes, “The focus will now be made on consolidating the program we created and deepening the existing collaborations. We also envision to reinforce and systematize this new way to support initiatives, and finally to spread this new culture to other Fondation de France’s teams.”

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