FranceSocial entrepreneurship

Inspire France

Social business co-work in Paris

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 55 seconds.

Podcast La Ruche

Paris is a city of diversity. Sometimes so much so that you feel it suffocates you. People are all over you in the metro, around the offices, around the city center. I had to take a picture after getting out of the metro station La Defense because I couldn’t believe it. Beyond that, being in Paris also felt like being at home (Hamburg)… It poured down like there would be no tomorrow. Slowly the streets turned into river flows. There must be some shelter, somewhere? A place to rest but also to create something with bright minds around you to make the world just a little bit better.

More than a place to work

With a humming sound a door opened, and I entered the warmth and coziness of La Ruche, the leading co-working space for social entrepreneurs in France. Over 100 social businesses and over 300 individuals work here to create something that benefits others. It could be a new way of renewable energy use, empowerment of disabled people or a way to create connections between the masses that pass by each other in the metro every day. The ideas of the founder Bruno Humbert go beyond just creating a place to work but a place where people learn from each other. With the strong corporate partner Orange a leader in the French telecommunications sector a strong team was ready to go beyond anything else that France has seen before in the social business environment.

Adrien, Laure and myself on the balcony of La Ruche in Paris (Justine took cover behind the camera).

Christmas Market in the Garage

To create that learning environment La Ruche has 2 annual events where everyone gets together. One of them I just missed on the 6th December. The whole team and hundred of entrepreneurs joined forces in the garage of the co-working space on the La Ruche Christmas Market. Local sustainable produce was offered. In general, the concept of going beyond just working next to each other is very apparent. The atmosphere at La Ruche is genuinely open and plenty of people approached me just saying hi and see what this German is doing in Paris. It felt like people actually care about each other.

Startup ecosystem

More than 100 social businesses work from the La Ruche Hub that I visited. Unbelievable that this hub is just one out of 7 in the whole country. Interesting to say not all of the hubs are actually managed by the La Ruche team. Some La Ruche co-working spaces are based on the franchising concept, i.e. encouraged and motivated fellows of La Ruche took up the challenge to build a social business ecosystem themselves with the La Ruche team and the brand as a backup. So similar to the Impact Hub franchising approach La Ruche also empowers others to build their own community and a local family of social businesses.

My snapshot from the inside of La Ruche on the 5th floor in the heart of Paris.

How social do you want to be?

La Ruche obviously is a huge network of social startups. More recently also “normal” startups joined la Ruche because the management realized that regular businesses implement social business practice when working next to social entrepreneurs within the same office. I love the idea to broaden the business in terms of the target group even though it is dangerous to dilute the number of businesses with a social impact idea. Let’s see what the future offers for La Ruche. In general, I feel France is on the verge of a massive societal transformation and La Ruche is part of it.

9th December 2018, Paris, France

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