Peter and the other thematic pole managers (Philip Stein and Paul Soto) have been busy supporting URBACT – the EU networks of cities to develop their action plan approach. Following the production by Peter Ramsden and Nick Wates of the Local Action toolkit which will soon be available in 25 EU languages there have been successful roadshow meetings in 12 Member states scheduled to complete in June.
Our first contract at Freiss in 2003 was to evaluate the UK’s Phoenix Development fund – an £83 million fund for innovating in supporting enterprise in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and under represented groups (such as women and the disabled). The work took three years, generated two major reports, over 20 case studies and a certain amount of tendonitis. At the end of the day government supported business simplification instead of inclusive entrepreneurship. The rest as they say is history. The idea of the braided approach that would link the specialist providers with the mainstream was picked up by Prowess and others. Nowadays everyone understands the terms outreach and specialist support.
Now with the recession the question of how to use enterprise based approaches to re-activate the inactive and to regenerate communities will push its way back.
You can still see the final report at http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file37787.pdf
Freiss is short for Freissinieres, a tiny community of about 160 residents based in the Hautes alpes at 1200m. The company is named after this tiny community in the alps where the Vaudois had settled in the 13th century after leaving Lyon.
This community were dedicated to living a humble life and were accused of heresy by the catholic church. Their reforms had included eschewing the wealth of the church and living frugally, and translating the bible into the local language. Women were empowered and the community was highly literate because their bible was accessible. They were persecuted and murdered by the armies of the church especially in the neighbouring valley of Vallouise. In freissinieres many escaped south after wintering in Dormillouse – a high village with no road access, and found a new future in the Luberon. The valley’s people continued to be non conformist, a little rebellious and today many are protestant or atheist.
Today Freissinieres is still rebellious in a small way. Its 160 citizens elect their local municipality. The valley is an oasis of calm in which social capital is freely and readily available. Unusually the village has been welcoming of outsiders, although this can bring its own difficulties with too many houses lying empty.
For many people whether residents or visitors Freissinieres offers some clues about what a more relationship based and sustainable society might look like. But there is still much to do. The community is now heavily dependant on the economy outside the valley, not enough has been done to increase economic resilience and support local jobs. Too many cars drive through without spending any money and the environmental capital is not sufficiently valorised though the air is pure and the environment relatively unspoilt. You can see more at http://www.freissinieres.fr/
Freiss has continued its longstanding support of the development of European Microfinance by carrying out the evaluation of the EU funded aspects of the network’s activities for the second year running. Using a similar methodology to that deployed in 2008 with a strong focus on identifying the added value for members of the annual conference, learning exchanges and magic consultancy. The evaluation concludes that EMN is providing a strong service for members run with a lean and efficient secretariat and guided by an energetic board. It is hoped that the growing awareness within the European commission of the role of microfinance in the crisis will lead to faster growth among members and the emergence of stronger models that are more sustainable over time and continue to reach clients in precarious social situations.
Freiss carried out the evaluation of the Progress funded One stop mobility shops project led by the European citizen action service and involving Project Charonne in Paris, London Borough of Hammersmith and fulham in London working with the Barka foundation and STEP in south Tyrone. The evaluation found that there were two main types of One stop mobility shop for vulnerable migrants in the project. The Barka model concentrated on reconnection of A8 migrants who were rough sleepers in the affected boroughs. After repatriation Barka were able to assist the migrants to reenter Polish society and many spent periods in Barka group homes. In the rights based model STEP worked with a broader cross section of migrants including those at risk of becoming excluded. STEP also succeeds in creating work opportunities for interpreters in over 30 languages. Both approaches reveal the failure of mainstream services to adequately deal with migrants in precarious situations. On the positive side they show that targeted support can help people to turn round their lives and either reintegrate in host societies or make a go of it back in their own country.