Transport Challenger: a Social Enterprise that Helps Ex-Prisoners back into Work

By June 02, 2014

This new socially responsible transport service, based on a collaborative business model, helps people who have served a prison term to get back into work.

According to a survey on how the French social enterprise model is being financed, carried out by market research firm OpinionWay on behalf of certified social enterprise Le Comptoir de l’Innovation to mark the third round of the IMPACT2 Forum, 38% of all French people believe that the social enterprise system in France needs a revamp, while 26% think that this approach has simply run out of steam. Nevertheless, interest in the model remains strong and 73% of those surveyed say they are interested in investing in a savings product designed to finance a social enterprise, compared with 60% who said the same thing two years ago. A number of initiatives have recently been set in motion as part of the movement to drive forward the Social Economy. One example is the collaborative innovation platform Call4team and another the Transport Challenger service, which aims to give a fair chance to ex-prisoners who are looking to return to the world of work. Founder Marc Boitel, who says he has “always been involved in social work”, has now become a social entrepreneur.

Socially useful, socially responsible

Transport Challenger provides a range of taxi and transport services for individuals or groups of people, aimed at both private citizens and businesses in the Paris region. The company offers such special services as general support for people with reduced mobility, including accompanying a senior citizen as far as the train platform or putting up and getting down from the luggage rack suitcases for a mother who has a number of task to cope with, plus driver assistance for customers who want to use their own vehicles but are unable to undertake a long journey all by themselves.  Meanwhile Transport Challenger also takes a socially responsible approach on the workforce side, with its policy of hiring mainly newly-released prisoners. Ex-convicts who want to get back to work “often run up against the general disapproval of society,” points out Marc. He is striving to overcome this kind of prejudice and companies have the opportunity to demonstrate their Corporate Social Responsibility credentials by making use of his services.  An additional social goal of Transport Challenger is to help drive the transition to more environmentally-friendly energy use, so “we use a fleet of hybrid vehicles,” he underlines.

Developing the Social Economy and fostering social enterprises

Transport Challenger works on a fixed-price basis, using a scale of tariffs that is generally in line with market prices. Meanwhile the company’s management approach is geared to job creation. All profits are re-invested in the company and the workforce are all enrolled in a shared ownership scheme. This system of sharing the benefits is part of the definition of a ‘social enterprise’ debated recently by the French National Assembly (Parliament) ahead of the first-reading vote in mid-May on a new law governing the ‘Social and Solidarity Economy’. Companies designating themselves as a ‘social enterprise’ will henceforth have to demonstrate that they are actively pursuing socially useful goals, are run along democratic and participatory lines, and are managed in a way that limits the profit-making motive. The new law will affect around 200,000 charitable organisations, mutual societies and co-operatives, accounting for as much as 10% of France’s total GDP and representing around 10% of all employment in the country. Meanwhile French state-owned financing and investment company Bpifrance is making close to €500 million available to help finance these kinds of organisations. In addition, there are plans to set up a national Chamber of Commerce specifically for the Social Economy, with a brief to help promote and develop this sector.

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