News from Olivier ? We are reaching the end of the year, after a snowy and rainy month of December, and I’ll be happy to update you on what has happend to me since my last newsletter sent in August.
There is indeed something new to report on, and that is my commitment as Advisor to the Board of Sireas (www.sireas.be) – Service International de Recherche, d’Éducation et d’Action Sociale-, an organisation which was founded 55 years ago to facilitate the integration of migrants and also to help young people acquire some basic vocational training. The task at hand is to assist them in finding a new strategy for the years to come as two of their founding members are leaving the organisation rather unexpectedly and simultaneously for reasons of health. Clear objectives must be established in terms of governance, organisational matters and funding. Siréas has to set up an active and responsable Board and needs to resort to expertise from volunteers on certain occasions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you think the work done by Siréas is worth your while!
Allo ? Allo ! (www.allo-allo.be) is ready to present itself to the stakeholders of the Brussels Region at the start of January 2018 so that a joint decision can be taken about how to make this tool available to everyone. Tests carried out in the centre of Brussels have proven that it is both needed and relevant. According to estimates at least 20.000 people in the Brussels Region are alone, isolated and fragile, without help from family and friends and not digitally connected. The main purpose of Allo ? Allo ! is to allow these people access to the network of nearby volontary helpers by using a dedicated phone number. Two similar projects are underway in Flanders and Wallonia, also initiated by the Roi Baudouin Foundation. My job as project manager will officially end in the middle of January when we’ll be organising a press conference to explain our project to the stakeholders of the Brussels Region so that it can be taken forward. I shall then, as stipulated in my contract, submit a report to the Foundation to wind up my part of this superb project.
Then there is EMMI where as an administrator I am trying to help find a successor to the Secretary General who is looking forward to a well deserved retirement; I am also a member of the Audit and Risks Committee and participate in the work of a think tank on strategy. This kind of work is essential right now at a time when the financial markets are still extremely fragile and looking for a new equilibrium (https://www.emmi-benchmarks.eu ).
MicroStart is working to expand further in Belgium and we are doing whatever we can to make this magnificent undertaking sustainable (www.microstart.be). Three impact studies which were done in parallel show that every second client of microStart rapidly earns enough money to find his or her way out of poverty, that they employ 0.6 people within two years from the start of their activity and that over a period of two years the public coffers save 4 Euros per 1 Euro invested (less unemployment benefits to be paid out and more tax income and social contributions paid in). But the road is still hard and bumpy in a country where microfinance is grossly under-used and badly defined at an official level.
The cooperative NewB also continues to grow (https://www.newb.coop/). I am now a member of the Bureau, a liaison body between the management and the Board which meets every two weeks bringing together the operational directors, the Chairman of the Board and an independent non executive director (me ☺ ☺ ☺). It is far from easy to keep one’s patience and resolve with this project which is struggling to find its place in an uncertain financial environment but which more than ever needs to make an impact in terms of ethical behaviour. In Belgium NewB is spearheading that movement.
Propelled by the energy of the new President and assisted by several persons Alumni Europae (www.alumnieuropae.org) is working towards further consolidation and growth. The road is still long but we are getting there! The first results of Reinhold’s sterling work are beginning to appear. Forza !!
Together with my friend Diederik, a director and a group of volunteers we are working towards the recognition of Emergency in Belgium. This Italian NGO which specialises in setting up high quality care structures in poor countries is always looking for volunteers, professionals and funds to continue its mission (www.emergency.it and www.emergencybe.org ).
These are quite a handful of worthy causes to which I try to make a modest contribution. Things do not always turn out the way I would have imagined, or wished, but that only makes me try harder. That’s the story I tell whenever I get a chance in conferences about my transition from the world of business to the world of the social economy based on solidarity. After each and every such event people come to see me afterwards to meet someone, and so I never run out of challenges! It’s been 5 years already that I set out on that road; now I’ve turned 60 but still can’t manage to take it easier…… But why should I? I get a lot of positive energy from singing in the choir of Optimistan (la chorale de l’Optimistan).
What about your house in the Dordogne, Olivier ? Everything is just fine and I look forward to spending more time there as Barbara is moving closer to her retirement! We are still on the look-out for another partner to complete the team and I can’t wait to return to our paradise in the spring. In case you haven’t seen it yet – don’t hesitate to click on this link
http://b34tz.net/eymet/Eymet_2017.mp4 and you will understand why we named it “ Les Cèdres “ !
So 2017 is almost over. I wish you all a pleasant festive season and a peaceful transition into 2018. May the new year bring you joy and success!!
Olivier, December 2017