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Dear friends,

We were extremely happy for your presence at CoopEst 10th Anniversary. Thank you for celebrating this milestone with us. Our special thanks go to our faraway clients for joining us and to the key note speakers from the European institutions (Commission and EIB) and Crédit Coopératif. We are very grateful for your trust and support.

Following your multiple requests, we are very pleased to share with you the inspiring closing speech of the Chairman, François Soulage, the official CoopEst video as well as some selected photos of the cocktail.

All the contents here below. Enjoy!

CoopEst 10th Anniversary: the Chairman’s inspiring closing speech

Dear friends,

The 10th anniversary of CoopEst, that we are celebrating today, pushes us to think 10 years ahead, even though it is tricky to project us so far.

CoopEst project is strongly linked to the history of Europe and we cannot predict what will be Europe in 10 years and which policies for social inclusion and employment will be implemented. Will they go in the sense of maintaining nationalisms as we see it now or rather in the direction of a greater integration?

For our part, during these last 10 years, we took up the challenge of a more inclusive Europe. Our European partners such as the European Investment Fund made the same bet. This is probably the reason why we work well together.

For 10 years we have demonstrated that microfinance is effective. We have contributed to develop microcredit as a tool of progress throughout the European countries which have gradually joined the European Union and those who aspire to do so.

For all that we cannot stop there. The change that we feel with our partners and final beneficiaries is the scaling up from micro units to larger and more entrepreneurial entities. We have the moral duty to go along with this evolution. In the next 10 years CoopEst will not be probably called CoopEst anymore. 2023 is the official winding up term, but this is not the end, it will be rather the starting point of a new wave which should take into account a changing world. We believe that there is, next to the changes in the financial sector, another trend that goes beyond; we are willing to question everything in and around ourselves. We will necessarily go, at least we hope so, in the direction of an economy turned towards sustainable development and this will impact businesses and enterprises.

Resources optimization, energy savings, new economic sectors, promotion of local know-how and the desire of not being alone in a fast-changing environment are a lot of arguments for developing a new form of cooperative entrepreneurship regardless its status: what Europe calls social enterprises and we in France, call social and solidarity economy.

What we are interested in for the coming years is to help directly or indirectly these enterprises as we do now through the REDI project, initiated to support entrepreneurship of Roma populations.

The panelists mentioned before “social impact” and they are right. We should be more cautious to companies’ social performance in a world where social cohesion and inclusion are key issues. I believe that young generations are particularly vigilant to social enterprises as a new way to tackle new challenges. Social and solidarity economy is not just for vulnerable individuals but rather a new and different approach which allows to reach more and more people.

Our question is how to remain a social investor in a world where the financial aspects seem to be, still, the only outcome indicator. My dear friends, we are today taking up a new challenge to create new funds to meet the needs of those who rely on us, and I’m sure that in 10 years we will still be there.

François Soulage

Brussels, 19 October 2016

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