Cre'Action was launched by the Centre d'Education et de Formation Interculturel Rencontre (CEFIR, Intercultural Education and Training Centre Encounters). The programme aims to enhance the (self-)employment opportunities of young persons with a Northwest African immigrant background. In 2005, Cre'Action was followed up with the programme De la migration a la création d'activité (From migration to the setting-up of an activity). This follow-up programme established a network of entrepreneurs dealing with Northwest Africa in order to increase exchanges with this economic area.
CEFIR implemented both the original Cre'Action programme and its follow-up programme De la migration a la creation d'activite. The NGO CEFIR was set up in 1975 by an Algerian Muslim and a French nun, with the support of the national fund for immigrants' family allowances, to assist immigrants from Northwest Africa. CEFIR aims at promoting intercultural encounters, favouring economic, cultural and social exchange between Europe and Northwest Africa and strengthening the public image of immigrants from Northwest Africa.
In implementing Cre'Action CEFIR cooperates with four local organisations: a business start-up cooperative called Graine d'Affaires, a local employment initiative (Mission Locale d'Agglomeration), a local structure for the social and economic inclusion of young persons of up to 26 years called La Maison de /'Initiative, and the Catholic University of Lille. In August 2007 the programme had two full-time employees and five part-timers for project monitoring and training.
Funders and funding
The Cre'Action programme had a total budget of nearly € 775,000 for a period of three years (2002-05). The budget for its follow-up programme De la migration a la creation d'activite was about € 368,400 for 2005 to 2007. Half of the funds for both programmes came from the ESF through the European Commission's EQUAL initiative. In the Cre'Action programme about 40% came from public funds
(Dunkerque, the nearby town of Grande-Syrthe and CNASEA1) and 10% from private funds. These private funds came from partner organisations such as the business start-up cooperative Graine d'Affaires and CEFIR itself. In the follow-up programme, 34% came from public funds and 16% from private sponsors.
Compared with other French regions, the region Nord-Pas de Calais, in which CEFIR operates, has a high unemployment ratio and a low self-employment ratio. This is partly due to the region's economic structure marked by a strong industrial sector, a seaport and the nuclear power station of Gravelines, 20 km from Dunkerque. Cre'Action originated from CEFIR's long experience of training immigrants. The programme was established by the Regional Council in 2000 in order to boost entrepreneurship in this disadvantaged area. The initiative was furthermore supported by the European Commission's EQUAL initiative and the Regional Programme of Business Start-up and Take-Over in the region Nord-Pas de Calais.
Cre’Action has four main objectives: Public appreciation: to upgrade the public image of young persons with a Northwest African background in France; Self-esteem: to strengthen young immigrants' self-esteem by motivating and supporting them to create their own job and appreciate their culture; Economic integration: to assist young immigrants, often having the same qualifications as their French counterparts, in their difficult search for a stable job. Exchange: to develop a network of entrepreneurs related to Northwest Africa in order to foster exchanges with this economic area.
De la migration a la creation d'activite, the follow-up programme of Cre'Action, builds on the experience of the first programme. While Cre'Action focused mainly on business support for immigrant entrepreneurs, the follow-up programme puts more attention on visibility and communication as well as networking between successful (second-generation) immigrant entrepreneurs and young, starting immigrants. The objectives of Cre'Action and De la migration a la creation d'activite are more qualitative than quantitative in nature. The two programmes focus less on the numbers of participants or businesses set up, but more on the quality of services offered such as the amount of knowledge and experience it can transmit to its beneficiaries, which is important for starting a business or finding a job in the labour market. Most programme participants who did not set up a business have found a job thanks to the assistance they received.
The programme De la migration a la creation d'activite targets young unemployed persons from 18 to 30 years with a Northwest African background who want to start a business. The programme only supports businesses that highlight the value of belonging to two cultures. This bicultural value can be highlighted in various ways.
Examples include: an enterprise in France selling African products, or a transfer of activities that have been developed in France to the country of origin. Natives as well as persons over 30 years can also participate as long as their project has a Euro-Mediterranean dimension. Special attention is given to women. A 2006 evaluation revealed that the great majority of participants (68%) came from Northwest Africa, 15% had a Turkish or Sub-Saharan African background and 17% were native French.
How Cre'Action works
CEFIR's business support for young persons with immigrant background relies on relations of proximity and trust. This enables CEFIR to provide high quality face-to-face and tailor-made business support. CEFIR's work with immigrants in Dunkerque is based on over 30 years of experience. Thus, the association is very familiar with the specific problems immigrants face.
- The first contact
The first contact with would-be entrepreneurs is usually established by CEFIR's local partners in Dunkerque. These direct the entrepreneur to CEFIR if they meet specific criteria. CEFIR then conducts an interview with the person to find out more about the project. If the project appears interesting, the entrepreneur has to present it to a recruitment commission consisting of representatives of CEFIR's partner organisations, CEFIR itself as well as entrepreneurs who have successfully set up their enterprise with CEFIR business support. If the project is approved, CEFIR will assist the entrepreneur to make a business plan. Sometimes the entrepreneur is advised to go to another support structure better adapted to his needs.
- The employment contract
An entrepreneur supported by CEFIR signs an employment contract for six months2, receiving the minimum wage on a part-time basis (20 hours per week). The contract gives the entrepreneur the status of an employee and the security of a regular salary. This allows the entrepreneur to satisfy his or her daily needs while setting up the business. During the first three weeks of the contract a compulsory integration seminar takes place twice a week to deal with questions related to business start-ups. These questions relate to judicial and fiscal issues, social security, insurances, sources of funding, communication, marketing and budgeting. Throughout the entire contract period the entrepreneur is closely monitored and assisted. Monthly follow-up meetings take place to report on project progress and to identify and discuss difficulties. A professional counsellor provides advice on issues such as how to conduct a market study, funding possibilities, fiscal law, management and business regulation. Moreover, depending on individual needs, training courses are organised on project administration, accounting, commercial approaches and the economies of Mediterranean countries.
- Local support and market study
Entrepreneurs can also contact CEFIR's local partners for information or support. Local partners include associations such as the Maison Euro-Mediterraneenne in Fes, Morocco, or other partner networks in Algeria, Senegal and Italy. The local partners are very helpful in the phase of market research. A market study in the country of origin can be relevant for entrepreneurs planning to export products from France to their country of origin. The entrepreneur's salary allows him or her to assume the travel costs for such a trip. CEFIR decides whether a trip to the country of origin is necessary.
- Information and incubator services
Cre'Action also provides business information and networking services. The (starting) entrepreneur has free access to a resource centre providing documents and publications on different African countries, magazines and economic journals as well as handbooks. Additionally the entrepreneur may obtain business information through a specific Euro-Mediterranean business database which provides information on business between Europe and Northwest Africa. Logistical support and office equipment (computers with internet access, printer, fax, copy machine, telephone) is also available. Moreover, the Euro-Mediterranean Business Centre (Centre d'Affaires Euro-Mediterraneen) in Dunkerque has four offices available for interested entrepreneurs at preferential rates, for up to 48 months. In August 2007, there were three enterprises in the Business Centre.
When the contract ends and the business is launched, a follow-up is proposed to each entrepreneur, depending on his or her specific needs. CEFIR may assist the entrepreneur through regular telephone calls and visits upon request. At the minimum, the entrepreneur is required to inform CEFIR on the functioning of his or her enterprise once every three months.
Accessibility to target groups
Cre'Action is highly accessible to its target groups. First of all, information is easy to get. CEFIR has its own website and runs its own radio station. Basic information is available on the website; interested persons can download the application form and send it to the association. CEFIR works closely with its local partners, most of whom have their own website. An information bulletin is published every three months together with the local business support initiatives. There are no fees: the programme is free of charge and participants are even remunerated. In Cre'Action [CHECK] entrepreneurs had to pay € 45 to cover phone calls and training material; in the follow-up programme participants do not have to pay anything. The programme is locally based. The programme's implementing bodies are located in the same region as the target population.
A programme evaluation conducted at the end of 2006 provides details about the participants' social and economic background and the programme's impact on their economic status. From 2002 to the end of 2006, 223 entrepreneurs applied for the programme. About 70% were men. Most applicants were between 20 and 25 years (55%) or between 26 and 30 years (33%) old. All of them were looking for a job: 78% were unemployed and the other 22% were either at the end of their temporary contract or had just finished their studies. They held relatively high degrees with 76% holding their A-levels with up to five years of studies and 20% had a vocational training. With regard to their origin, 68% had a Northwest African background, 15% a Turkish or Sub-Saharan African origin, and 17% were native French. Out of these 223 applications 48 potential entrepreneurs were selected and signed a CEFIR labour contract. Out of these 48 potential entrepreneurs, 25 actually managed to set up a business. Almost half of the start-ups are active in trade. The others are active in transport, IT, tourism, personal care, communication and construction. The 23 participants that did not set up a business failed to do so due to difficulties in finding business premises, a lack of funds or because they found another job.
Moreover, the programme produced: A publication on immigrant business start-ups in Nord-Pas de Calais. A guidebook for business set-ups. A CD ROM and a brochure presenting Cre'Action and its entrepreneurs. A Euro-Mediterranean Business Centre. A website.
Monitoring of supported businesses
Evaluation of businesses assisted by CEFIR takes place regularly. One month after the signing of the contract, a first evaluation of the business project's progress is made by an evaluation committee made up of CEFIR, representatives of partner organisations and representatives from the relevant business sector. Further project evaluations by the follow-up committee take place every two months. When the contract ends and the business is set up, a follow-ups are carried out to monitor the development of the enterprise.
Assessment of Cre'Action
CEFIR is offering the right service at the right place. The region Nord-Pas de Calais is undergoing a strong restructuring of its industrial economic structure. Unemployment in the region is 3 to 4% higher than the national average. Youth unemployment is especially high and young persons with an immigrant background in particular report having difficulties finding a job. Moreover, a lack of knowledge of Northwest Africa makes other business support structures reluctant to invest in entrepreneurs from this area. In this respect CEFIR fills a gap in the region's business support structure.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
From 2002 to 2006, 48 out of 223 applicants benefited from a subsidised employment contract and personal monitoring. About half (25) of the beneficiaries actually started their own business. Participants who set up an enterprise continue to receive follow-up assistance within the framework of the EQUAL II programme De la migration a la creation d'activite. Those who did not set up a business could use the personal and professional qualifications acquired through Cre'Action to find a job on the labour market.
Cre'Action is an innovative measure with an original approach for promoting immigrant entrepreneurship, notably among young people by hiring them and paying them a monthly salary, while they prepare and develop their economic project. The project simultaneously provides training as well as individual and logistic assistance.
Cre'Action can thus be characterised as a paid training programme towards (self)employment. The follow-up programme De la migration a la creation d'activite adds another innovative dimension: the promotion of a network of entrepreneurs of immigrant origin.
The programme can be replicated elsewhere under certain conditions. The programme must target a well-defined group, either of immigrant origin or located in specific areas, who face difficulties in finding a job. There should be a local focus and an extensive network of partners in order to meet the needs of the target group, to implement the measure effectively and to identify possible sources of funding. Staff should include persons with a multicultural background and expertise in the field of business support. The implementing body must also establish a network of partners in the entrepreneurs' home countries to support the implementation of the programme.
When European funding of the programme ends in July 2008, CEFIR plans to continue the programme and to make it financially self-sustainable. To this end, Cre'Action will be transformed into a branch of the future Apprenticeship Training Centre (Centre de Formation par I 'Apprentissage) which will train EuroMediterranean Business Development Agents as part of the Euro-Mediterranean Business Centre.
Key learning points
- Young immigrants face serious difficulties finding a job or setting up a business.
These young immigrants are hard to reach due to their lack of knowledge and trust of mainstream business support organisations, and vice versa. A support programme with tailor-made services targeting immigrants is necessary to fill this gap.
- It is difficult to introduce a new programme that focuses on a particular target group in the local business support landscape. A high level of experience and expertise, strong networking and a strong communication strategy are necessary to ensure that such a programme is acknowledged and supported by mainstream organisations.
- For the new entrepreneur, establishing contacts in a network of entrepreneurs who can pass on their practical experience and know-how is equally important as business training and technical assistance.
CEFIR Enterprises 26/28 rue de la Paix 59140 DUNKERQUE E: creactionJormation@cefirJr F: +33.(0)3 28 24 98 41 T: +33.(0)3 28 60 26 33 W: http://www.cefirJr Contact: Karine Blondeel
Notes and references
Interview with: Ms. Monique van Lancker, managing director of CEFIR
Websites: CEFIR:  and Documents CEFIR. (n.d.). De la Migration a la Creation d'Activite [From migration to the creation of activity. /01-migration %202pages%20C2 RP .pdf CEFIR. (n.d.). Cre'Action. Leaflet. http://www.cefirJr/cefirentreprises.htm CEFIR. (n.d.). CEFIR depuis 30 ans au service de la lutte contre toutes les formes d'exclusion [CEFIR, 30 years in service against all forms of social exclusion]. PowerPoint presentation.
Doan, D. & Huchin, M. (January, 2006). Creation d'entreprises, une chance: L'immigration et sa jeunesse [The creation of enterprises, a chance]. CEFIR
1 CNASEA is a national public establishment under the ward of the Ministry Economy. Payment of public allowances is one of the main activities of CNASEA. It acts on behalf of the State, the European Union and local collectivities as well as other public organisms.
2 In the original Cre'Action programme financial support was provided for a period of twelve months. This period of support was based on the governmental new services-jobs for young persons programme (nouveaux services-emplois jeunes): assisted contracts for the economic integration of young unemployed persons enabling the employer to receive financial support. In the follow-up programme the support was reduced to six months due to the elimination of this type of assisted contract. The programme is now based on the Employment Support Contract (Contrat d'Accompagnement dans I'Emplo/) and the Contrat d'Avenir for the economic insertion of unemployed persons in social organisations, associations and public establishments.