Project "OSE On S'entreprend Ensemble à Grande-Synthe"
City/Region : City of Grande-Synthe , France

In our territory, the economic model is characterized by wage labour, industrial culture, territorial polarisation and persistence of unequal distribution of resources. This is leading to a deepened social divide, oil dependency and planned obsolescence, which is no longer able to help us cope with the ecological, social and economic challenges the city is facing.

The objective of the project is to contribute to the improvement of the social, economic and ecological resilience of our territory through the setting-up of innovative grassroots entrepreneurial communities. A cultural change on how everyone can/has to contribute to a more sustainable and fairer economic model will be initiated.

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationSocial inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
The Mayor Damien Carême with the representatives of two main stakeholders of the project

Grande-Synthe became a mid-size industrial town in the 1960s when the French State decided to implement a plan of industrialization. The town is currently facing social, economic and ecological challenges. Grande-Synthe has a poverty rate of 30% and an unemployment rate of 29% (reaching 46% for people aged 15-24). 45% of people aged +15 have a low educational background. Business creation has decreased by 20% from 2010 to 2015.

Since the 2000s, Grande-Synthe has implemented a sustainable development and wellbeing-oriented strategy for the city and its inhabitants. It declared itself a “Transition Town” in 2011. In 2017, it decided to launch a project improving the social, economic and ecological resilience through the setting-up of entrepreneurial communities. This project aims to:

  • Mobilize and create a transition-focused entrepreneurial community.
  • Facilitate the realisation of citizens’ initiatives.
  • Materialize the approach with the creation of a Third Place of social and ecological entrepreneurship.
In Action
Team-building workshop

In 2017, “Agence France Entrepreneur” launched a call for projects entitled “Develop, lead and coordinate support for the creation and revival of business in vulnerable territories” aiming at facilitating the development of economic activities in disadvantaged areas.

In Grande-Synthe, 1% of the firms employ 44% of the working population. 45% of the workers depend on decisions made abroad. At the local level, only 38 businesses have been created for 10.000 inhabitants in 2016, whereas the rate reached 83 creations at the national level.  

The municipality decided with their partners to participate in this call for projects through “OSE” On S’Entreprend à Grande-Synthe. This project questions the local development model and supports the intention of the municipality to contribute to a fairer and more inclusive local economy, enabling social cohesions and ecological conservation. The main stakeholders are the House of Initiative (an association carrying out the orientation and support to vulnerable populations and developing a set of innovative methods in the field of social and professional integration), BGE Flandre Création (an association specialized in the coaching and training of entrepreneurs), and social associations of the territory.

The target group are the inhabitants of priority areas in the town representing half of the population.

This project will be developed in several stages: uncovering talents and awareness raising, accompanying, financing, and setting-up a Third Place.

One of the most important aspects of this project is the improvement of the collaborative momentum between local stakeholders thanks to individual and collective meetings and team-building workshops.

The original aspects of this project are:

  • A broad vision of sustainable entrepreneurship: foster business creation/development adding value to their territory and more broadly a sense of action and commitment to the general well-being.
  • A cross-disciplinary approach: entrepreneurship is an innovative way of tackling a series of issues such as unemployment, social cohesion, ecology.
  • A quadruple approach between citizens, local authorities, companies, and researchers: the entrepreneurial community can only work if all the stakeholders commit to the general objective of developing a sustainable entrepreneurial culture.
  • A bottom-up and co-construction approach: the tools and methods will be tested and developed in a participative way.
  • A digital strategy: development of digital tools to spread the action.
  • A research program: define the benchmark that will allow to qualify the sustainable entrepreneurial initiatives (which intend to be broader than social economy), with a progress-making approach and finally assess the impact of the process.
Awareness to the entrepreneurial culture at primary school

This experimental approach aims at finding new responses to improve the access to employment, the wellbeing and the blossoming of the whole community.

OSE” is a young project so all results stated below are expected results:

  • An improved entrepreneurial index
  • An increased number of sustainable initiatives and business creation
  • A strengthened social and/or professional integration process through entrepreneurial capacity building (meaning that the latter can also lead to a return to salary work)
  • A cultural change on how everyone can and has to contribute to a more sustainable and fairer economic model

The results will be measured and assessed through the entrepreneurial index calculated at the beginning and the end of the project, through the impact study.

The purpose is to create an entrepreneurship community involving a plethora of actors, such as the civil society, trade organizations, city representatives, businessmen, trade unions, schools, associations, journalists.


In this project, the ultimate goal, beyond the creation of firms itself, is to:

  • Promote skills and know-how, boost the inhabitants’ confidence, push back the limits of the possible.
  • Stimulate the entrepreneurial culture to create or to revive a sense of commitment and general interest, a critical mind on our lifestyles and an individual and collective responsibility regarding the socio-economic issues of our territory.
  • Develop and/or reinforce the entrepreneurial capability to face these issues by the empowerment of inhabitants and the realisation of innovative support and financing tools.

The design of most of the outputs of “OSE” is thought to have a scale-up and long-lasting effect:

  • The development of multilingual digital tools that can be widely spread out through different public and private structures.
  • The coaching of trainers (among teachers and professors, social and professional integration actors, civil society..) that will be able to continue and reproduce the training sessions over a significant period of time.

Through the awareness-raising process, we will work with many stakeholders in order to promote the entrepreneurial culture through:

  • The lobbying towards public authorities so that entrepreneurship is put on the political local agendas.
  • The mobilization and implication of the school sector is a long-run investment. The more the entrepreneurial culture will be adopted by teachers and professors, the more the new generation will consider entrepreneurship as a real professional opportunity and even a way of living.
  • The awareness-raising process not only aims at fostering entrepreneurship but also at changing habits and way of thinking of people who would not declare themselves entrepreneurs but could make a change through their consuming choices and commitment to the general wellbeing.
Challenges and lessons learned

From the beginning of the project, the project team identified the essential conditions for the success of “OSE”.

  • Communication and networking tools: an efficient circulation of information and an attractive and federative communication strategy are elementary conditions to create a real entrepreneurial community.
  • Interdisciplinary expertise: in order to improve and enhance competence, it is necessary to include external partners: together, we work on the characterization of sustainable entrepreneurial initiatives, the definition of a progress approach towards transition and the adequate method to measure the short and long term effects of the project.


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