The Minister was invited to the Social Investment Forum in London. The local model, in which finance replaces the State, was in the spotlight.

When the left wing of the French government arrives in the land of finance and a power that has made the withdrawal of the state the basis of its political action, we can legitimately expect a clash of cultures. Visiting London on Thursday, the Minister of Social and Solidarity Economy, Benoît Hamon, proudly represented France at the very select “Social Impact Investment Forum” organized by David Cameron’s government, as part of the British G8. A meeting bringing together at the sumptuous European headquarters of the financial agency Bloomberg, in the heart of the City, political leaders, financiers in search of a new virginity as well as new markets and social entrepreneurs, in order to reflect on the future of a social economy and no profit. All things considered, it’s a bit like the cooperative movement choosing a high-tech Defense trading room to hold its annual conference. Delay guaranteed in France, but not in the United Kingdom.

“investments”. It was the Conservative Prime Minister himself who came to inaugurate an event precisely calibrated to highlight his concept of “Big Society”, in which civil society and the private sector take the place of the State to manage social and invent a future for the welfare state, in the era of public debt reduction. “Social entrepreneurs, charitable foundations and volunteerism often have the local knowledge, human touch and personal involvement that governments lack to solve problems, he said, before slipping away. We need social investments from banks and financial investments with social impact.” The tone was set on this day when the United Kingdom inaugurated its first “social” marketplace.

In this very atmosphere business as usualorchestrated by journalists from the FinancialTimes and of The EconomistHamon multiplied the meetings aside and defended his vision – in French in the text – less liberal of the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS). “Our findings on the needs are identical, but our different solutionshe explained to his British counterpart, Nick Hurd, Secretary of State for Civil Society. Where you replace the State with the private sector and civil society to take charge of social needs, we are involved in co-production with private actors, such as in the development of early childhood services, by entrusting them with the creation of a third of new reception places.” A philosophy summed up by the formula: “Not necessarily less state, but a better state.” By insisting that the private sector should not replace public services, but work in concert with them. Understood? “To each his own way, politely replied Nick Hurd. The important thing is that it moves.”

yield. What is moving the most these days in England, and even mind-blowing with regard to the French approach, is the introduction of new social impact bonds (social impact bonds), set up by the bank Big Society Capital. The heart of the reactor for financing and monitoring the myriad of programs entrusted to private social entrepreneurs (reintegration of prisoners, return to work, fight against school failure, etc.), this private establishment offers financial products whose profitability is indexed to their social return.

This is the case in the prison of Peterborough, in the east of England, where the financing of the fight against recidivism has benefited from this unprecedented “social finance”. Provided by a company, this program will bring a comfortable return on investment to its subscribers (more than 10% interest) in the event that its success allows the State to save on the construction of a new establishment. Otherwise, the sums invested will be lost.

Father of this new “social venture capital” in the United Kingdom, Sir Ronald Cohen, president of Big Society Capital and founder of the Apax fund, praised the appeal of this model to Benoît Hamon, assuring him that the State is very winning. “These social impact bonds are remunerated according to the risk taken and the State benefits from it. In the end, he keeps between half and two thirds of the savings made. After Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, these placements, twelve in number today, are being studied in Mozambique and Pakistan. “And in France, would this be possible?” tests Ronald Cohen with the minister. “It would be difficult for us to mix social issues with finance in this way.” On the way back, Hamon did not hide his satisfaction at being in charge of such a dynamic sector. “It was an excellent conference, we learned things, not the usual “bla-bla”.” The least we can say.