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15/10/2021 News

Community of Partners: Taking Action Together

On Friday, September 24, participants representing over 70 public interest organizations across France gathered at Industreet in the Greater Paris region for the first TotalEnergies Foundation Partners Day. This special event was a day for TotalEnergies Foundation and its partners, both new and old, to meet in person and reaffirm the cause that brings them together: a better future for young people. In particular, it was a unique opportunity to create a cross functional network made up of TotalEnergies Foundation teams, the initiatives the Foundation supports, and its partner organizations. For people in the field, it was a rare chance to meet and discuss ideas. During the conferences and themed workshops, all present were able to share their problems and find areas for synergy in their initiatives, at a time when everyone is still reeling from the effects of the health crisis. With the work of public interest organizations turned upside down during the pandemic, it is more important than ever they draw on each other's expertise to move forward.

A New Event to Help Associations

The idea for the event came about during an online webinar in February 2021 bringing together the nonprofits supported by TotalEnergies Foundation. Backed by the Entreprises pour la Cité association, this first in-person Partners Day was focused on action and cooperation for young people. So it was only fitting to hold the event at Industreet – a campus for new industry professions that opened its doors in Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, in late 2020. This innovative space is a TotalEnergies Foundation initiative, offering free training courses for 18-25-year-olds in new industry professions – a sector with many sustainable job opportunities for young people.

Creating a Community and Taking Action Together

“Taking action together” was the catchphrase of the morning conferences. Manoelle Lepoutre, Senior Vice President, Civil Society Engagement and Managing Director of TotalEnergies Foundation, highlighted the importance of working with all stakeholders in the community to maximize the positive impact on society. “No one should be left behind. You can't optimize your impact alone – but you can go so much further by working together,” she told attendees. Bruno Courme, Vice President, TotalEnergies Foundation program, added: “I am setting all of us a challenge today: to create strong ties with each other, so that the work of this community can continue over the long term and go beyond being an active financial partnership.”

After these introductory remarks, partners Crée ton avenir and Association Nationale les Entrepreneuriales spoke about a topic that all the nonprofits could relate to: how they navigated the troubled waters of the health crisis. In their inspiring interviews, led by Alicia Izard from Entreprises pour la Cité, representatives from the two nonprofits explained how they adapted their youth support program during the health crisis and how this learning curve helped develop their respective organizations. Digital technology became a major asset, but it also presented a challenge, as it is harder to keep up young people’s interest virtually. The tenacity and inventiveness of the solutions presented by the two organizations gave us great hope for the future, such as 9th grade workplace shadowing being replaced by a practical online project with the goal of setting up a company on the moon.

Making an Impact Together

There were several social opportunities throughout the day, including group tours of Industreet led by its students, and discussions flowing over lunch. “I agree with what Bruno Courme said this morning – we could have all been split up on our own, but here, we have the chance to talk and work together. We are making something happen. This morning, I met three people from associations that I had never heard of before and we said we must do something together. We will be in touch, we will discuss different topics – we have a common interest. It’s a really important day for us,” said François Fritsch, Head of Partnerships at the French National Federation of Production Schools.

The afternoon was mainly dedicated to practical workshops on various key challenges regarding the development of nonprofits and their impact, such as strategies for multi stakeholder cooperation and rescaling, the principles of measuring social impact, the benefits of digital tools, changes in socio-economic models and even creating an effective advocacy campaign.

Led by experts and supported by partners’ stories, these workshops brought together groups of 10-30 participants, making use of collective brainpower and giving organizations the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences and to share their concerns and problems in a transparent and non-judgmental environment. The workshop leaders designed their presentations so they could share practical tools and resources that organizations could easily and quickly put in place upon their return, even for more theoretical topics such as impact measurement.

A Concept to be Repeated and Developed

It's rare for a company or foundation to organize this kind of event. This Partners Day successfully fulfilled its main goal of creating new connections between partners. It showed that TotalEnergies Foundation was a great resource and support for nonprofits, through its actions and initiatives, but it also highlighted that the nonprofits themselves could provide ideas, innovative solutions and support for each other.

“There are many people here from the social and education sectors. I don’t work with these people on a daily basis, so this gives me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and work on finding new synergies for our projects,” explained Suzanne Rihal, head of the Fonds Nature 2050 program, a project with strong regional partnerships working to establish nature-based conservation solutions.

During the closing conference, the TotalEnergies Foundation team presented all the tools available to continue discussions after the event, including a support program for targeted skills needs and an online platform with partners’ contact details available to all. There was even talk of organizing a similar event in the future... Stay tuned!