Learning About Strategy Through French Social Enterprise

Cecily Liu

Master Strategy Day is a highlight for INSEAD students. One of our core courses is Introduction to Strategy, where we compete in teams to design a creative yet feasible strategy for a client within 24 hours.

The challenges, learning, teamwork, excitement and intellectual fulfilment all made the experience incredible.

The ‘client’ of our Master Strategy Day competition was a French social enterprise, and the experience opened my eyes to the shocking existence of extreme inequality in France, and I felt moved by the role that French social enterprises are playing to alleviate this inequality.

Our 'client' was Banlieues Santes, a social enterprise that works to channel funding, expertise, and resources towards grassroot social initiatives in French 'banlieues' (immigrant communities gathering on the outskirts of big cities, these communities are marginalised and suffer from social isolation, poverty, lack of education, healthcare and public resources). Banlieues Sante was founded by El Badaoui, a second-generation Moroccan immigrant who grew up with first hand experiences of the disadvantages of banlieue communities. More specifically, when he was seven years old, one incident occurred which changed his life.

He accidentally knocked over a pan of boiling water and was rushed to the hospital with burns covering 70% of his body. The problem was made worse because his immigrant parents didn’t speak French and struggled to understand how the French medical system worked. Thankfully, their injured son acted as translator, and ultimately he managed to receive treatment.

El Badaoui became determined to help others in the immigrant community, so that his experience would not be repeated by others in similar situations.

That was Banlieues Sante’s beautiful founding story. Banlieue Sante was eventually founded in 2018 (after decades of El Badaoui working relentlessly to understand the medical needs of banlieue residents, and gaining hands on experiences through running his own clinic).

Essentially, the reason that many banlieue residents lacked access to medical care is not because of a lack of funding. France spends 11% of GDP on healthcare, which is relatively high. But due to bureaucracy and misalignment of distribution, the funding often doesn’t reach communities that most need it. So Banlieues Sante helps many grassroot initiatives to apply for funding in the right way, and mentor them to scale up their practices. One such example is “La Vue est Belle” (meaning; "Sight is Beautiful"), which is an initiative that provides optometry support to banlieue residents. The initiative started after research showed that deteriorating eyesight is a leading cause of ‘giving up’ on healthcare in France.  

The reason that Banlieue Santes is able to make these initiatives happen is that it works closely with local community leaders, knows them well and has their trust. But having achieved its initial success, Banlieue Sante stands at a crossroad as to what to do in the future. Ideally, El Badaoui would like to maximise the impact of his work, and make the business model replicable across marginalised communities in France and globally.

We were tasked to think of three strategic development options for Banlieues Sante and recommend the best one.

I loved working with my groupmates, and learnt so much from everyone’s input!

Our ideas were: 1) to optimise current operations while carrying on existing trend of impactful work, 2) to become an incubator for community projects, connecting them with fund providing bodies, 3) to develop a tele-medical service giving virtual consultation sessions to banlieue residents. Over the case competition’s intensive timeframe of less than a day, we designed these strategies, and created our presentation – which we delivered to our classmates.

The process was interactive, fun, engaging, and we got lots of helpful feedback from our assigned mentor (as every group is assigned a mentor, who is actually a consultant). We gathered for a ceremony where the top three teams presented in front of a panel of judges, who gave incredible feedback and insights into all the solutions considered. The ceremony was also attended by El Badaoui and Ennomany (his co-founder at Banlieues Sante), who also gave their feedback. Our team didn’t go to the finals, but we all deeply treasured the experience and learnt so much!

Despite the long hours (we hardly had any sleep during the competition’s highly intensive day), it was such a rewarding experience!