The empowering mindset : developing soft skills to navigate through a changing job market

Creating empowering communities of unemployed people to develop soft skills through lifelong learning and peer support

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Emilie Schmitt

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • France

Where are you making a difference?

Our projects have an impact all over France (35 cities) and in Bruxelles.

Website or social media url(s)'action/

When was your organisation founded?


Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $500k - $1m

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Activ’Action was created by Emilie, Pauline and Fabien as the three of them were facing the negative psychological impact of unemployment. Through their experiences and findings, they’ve realised that this jobless period could be used as a way to improve ones’ competences in order to gain the most needed skills of today and tomorrow labour market. With a safe space, unemployment could be lived as an empowering time, when ones could get out of isolation and reduce depressive symptoms while gaining self confidence, meeting new people and redefining ones professional and personal path for a more fulfilling existence. Their first experimental workshop in June 2014 generated a positive word of mouth encouraging them to take their idea further

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

There’s about 6million unemployed people in France and more than 192million jobless persons in the world (ILO). Scientific studies show that 1.unemployment destroy soft skills 2.these skills are the most needed 3.everyone has a risk to experience unemployment and its consequences as we will be required to change job from 5 to 14 times in the future. It is then essential to learn the soft skills needed to navigate in this changing environment.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Thanks to our unique methodology approach based on transdisciplinary researches on positive psychology,neurosciences,peer-to-peer learning, sociology and economic geography, beneficiaries meet new different people, find solutions for themselves and for others, experiment, regain their capability to take action in their local communities. We plan to solve this problem by 1.Direct impact: Soft skills training workshops for unemployed people and train them to facilitate and create their own workshops. 2.Indirect impact: We train social workers to implement our methodology in their own programs. 3.Systemic impact : We train public institutions with the soft skills needed to create economically resilient territories by creating collaborative projects with the 3 majors actors of the job market ((un)employed people, social workers, enterprises). This makes our approach unique as it shows people that everyone has value for society regardless their social status. We only needed the right environment to develop collaborative skills that lead to a renewed motivation to look for and create new economic opportunities.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Claudia, solo mother of 4, in a disadvantaged area. Agnès, her social worker, recommended to attend Activ’Action’s workshops. At first, Claudia is afraid to participate in a collective initiative. The more she gains soft skills through our methodology, the more she gains self-confidence. She gets more energy and hope. She identify that her first break to find a job is child care. She decide to take the initiative to talk to unemployed parents, local company, social workers trained by Activ’Action and together they launched a local initiative of solidarity child care supported by Romane, representing the city and trained by Activ’Action. By being in a safe social environment, and learning new soft skills Claudia empowered herself and others.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

The labour market is evolving fast and is getting more complex. As this evolution takes place, people need to develop their adaptability more than ever. Hard skills can fast be outdated but soft-skills usually don’t because they are transferable. Activ’Action gives unemployed people tools to adapt themselves to any job sector, to create the right job environment for themselves and to be fulfilled both in their professional and personal life. Our methodology gives people a safe and open space for experimentation, where they can test and develop new soft skills without pressure (public speaking, self-confidence, teamwork,selfmotivation,resilience). Through our different workshops, participants co-create the means to lift barriers to employment and/or entrepreneurship. They create a network filled with a pool of diverse and co-empowering people, thus increasing social cohesion and openness.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Unemployment impacts negatively people’s soft skills. That is why we support job seekers in regaining self-confidence and self-esteem: the first step before being able to develop new skills. Then we focus on developing the key soft skills needed, based on the WEF: active learning, creativity, team work, emotional intelligence. We believe that another skill for tomorrow is the ability to work with diverse people. Our impact assessment manager conducts semi-structured interviews. Participants fill impact surveys and are addressed a survey based on the scientific Warwick Mental wellbeing scale.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The association Solidarité Nouvelle Face au Chômage and Pôle Emploi (job centre) are addressing the same problem as us in France. However, they focus on individualised support, with in the case of Pôle Emploi, conditions linked to the fact that they provide benefits, thus giving a particular pattern in the relationship between a jobseeker and an advisor. We don’t see ourselves as competitors to those entities but as connectors between all of them. We focus on peer support, we think that this is both a way to tackle isolation and to open jobseekers’ mind to new ideas to tackle unemployment.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have had more than 12000 participants and organized over 2500 workshops. 87% of the participants have developed new softskills and 95% have reduced at least one psychosocial risk. Activ’Action has been a trigger for many people to go forward in their projects (60% of participants have gain confidence in their entrepreneurial project). Our methodology has had a positive impact on thousand of people as 63% found a job, went back to a training or to be accompanied by incubators. Recently, one of our participant told us that she had found a job in exactly what she was looking for. She was in the process of retraining and has been able to work on herself thanks to Activ’Action’s workshops. She told us that the workshops helped her regaining self-confidence and motivation to apply to a job that she thought she couldn’t have gotten before and to which she probably wouldn’t have applied to.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We've been funded by the European Social Funds, French State, regional and city councils (59%), private foundations and companies (12%) to experiment, measure, formalize our specific methodology. Now we sell it to socio-professional structures supporting specific public and to companies to accompany them in their HR processes (19%). We also receive donation from the general public (10%). Since today, we never did any commercial prospection and couldn't answer all the demands. Based on this data and softskill need forecasts we estimated that in 5years we will increase the contract revenues from paid trainings of social workers, public institutions and companies to 50%, donation15%, private funding15% and public bodies20%

10. Team

The board : a president and a secretary (both entrepreneurs) and a treasurer (a facilitator in entrepreneurship). 30 individuals in our permanent team (18 full-time contracts). The team has qualifications in pedagological ingenieering, community building, philosophy, social science, political science, social work, fundraising, HR, administration, business development and communication. We are hiring new members with digital background to digitalize our trainings.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Gender

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

As a young girl from a traditional background I was told "not to be bossy", that I should focus on "getting married and having children" instead of dreaming about my career, etc. This resulted in a lack of self confidence and doubts about my choices and abilities to become a social entrepreneur (which was the job I always wanted to do). Unemployment has been a great opportunity because it forced me to create Activ'Action and now I know that I'm able to be a leader and to trust my own choices.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Omar, 26, resident of a disadvanteg area, came to one of our workshops. He told us that he was keeping bad company and was involved with all sorts of trafficking. He expressed his desire to become a facilitator from his second participation of an Activ’Action workshop. He did a short theoretical training and jumped into joint-facilitation with one project manager. He then facilitated 6 workshops for unemployed people in his area. He gradually regained self-confidence and had more energy to spare for his projects. He co-organised a workshop to discover new management organisation. He registered to a temp agency which gave him more and more missions has they trusted him and his learning and team capacity. He is now in a long term contract with a construction company. He then became Activ'Ambassador and told his company about our soft skills trainings. His company now wants to work with us.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Research
  • Board Development
  • Marketing Strategy, Design

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

individual donations  10%

foundation or NGO grants 12%

grants or contracts 59%

earned income (product or services sales, licensing, franchising, consulting, financing, etc.) 19%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Our main goals in the next 12 months is to increase our contract revenues for social worker, public institution and corporate online and offline trainings. After our business plan has been assessed by France Active (the biggest solidarity finance actor in France), we contracted a 300k€ loan to invest in digital and business development skills for the next 5 years. Budget distribution through programs : - Unemployed trainings including programs on Disability and Rurality : 15,4% - Public institutions trainings : 25,9% - Social workers programs : 24,7% - Companies trainings : 9,3% - R&D department : 9,7% - Administration : 15%

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

1.Training for unemployed to do workshop facilitation and a "train the trainors program" to scale direct impact faster, using open sourcing strategy. We target to reach 20k unemployed/y in 5 years in French speaking countries. We will translate our methodology so that unemployed people from other countries could use it. 2.Training social workers to our methodology to replicate our impact. We also developed trainings for wannabe social worker by giving training in social workers schools. We target to have trained 2000 social workers that will use our methodology with 200k unemployed in 5 years.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

The participants have the opportunity to be trained to facilitate Activ’Action’s workshops. Over 400 people have been trained since 2014.

The trainings give the participants a way to reach their potential and to discover that they too have value to bring to society. 

Volunteers give back to their community and accompany other jobseekers in regaining self-confidence and in developing soft skills. Volunteers who were once participants, are empowered and are empowering others. They become role model and proof that everyone can develop tools to control their own destiny and support others.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Emilie Schmitt is a Fellow Ashoka. 

Activ’Action is also supported through Antropia ESSEC and has been incubated by SenseCube. Finally, we are laureate from the Institut de l’Engagement and 2016 laureate of the Trophées de l’ESS of the city of Paris.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

Collaborations is the core of our project and will enhance the exchange of best practices to tackle the negative impact of unemployment and to accompany jobseekers in developing important soft-skills. Collaborations are deeply important to reinforce our local impact, as much through cooperation with local public bodies or private entities. We aim to be the link between all those entities and the beneficiaries, to create bonds of trust.

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 12.5%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 37.5%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 37.5%

Maybe - 37.5%

Maybe/no - 25%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 25%

Yes/maybe - 75%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 75%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 37.5%

Yes/maybe - 62.5%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 60%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 20%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 20%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 40%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 60%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 20%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of HopeBox Vietnam

Really enjoyed your focus on developing 'soft' skills as this is indeed relevant before future progress can be made. Regaining self-confidence and self-esteem is paramount in order for someone to successfully move on.

Photo of Charlène

HopeBox Vietnam Thank you very much for taking the time to read our project and for your feedback !