Réseau Cocagne

Promoters: 
Jean-Guy Henckel
Country: 
France
A nationally scaled Social Enterprise addressing the needs for employment of excluded people thanks to a network of market gardens, the Jardins de Cocagne (Cocagne’s Gardens), that produce organic vegetables distributed to local customers.
What solution does the innovation propose?

While employment was indeed a major obstacle for the marginalized, the need for capacity-building was a larger challenge, and to combat this Jean-Guy Henckel launched a training center to provide the skills training needed. Realizing his employees had problems with transportation, he created France’s first associative driving school. Each of these companies were created to employ and educate excluded people using sustainable business models and in doing so, Jean-Guy played a key role in demonstrating and shifting the mindsets of social workers previously averse to private activity. The focus of the training centers, carpentry shops, and Jean-Guy’s other projects was carried over to the creation of a sustainable enterprise, Cocagne Garden in 1991; employing excluded workers to grow and sell high-quality organic produce. Jean-Guy created the first Integration Work Site (ACI) in France, obtaining official legal status in the 2005.

Recognitions

Humanitarian Award of the Foundation Louis. D, Institute of France ( 2013).
Awarded The Green Business Trophies, Expansion (2011).
Corporate Social Responsibility Award, Ernst and Young (2011).
The Heroes of Our Time Award (2011).
Social Entrepreneur of Ashoka Fellow (2008).
Social Entrepreneur Award, Boston Consulting Group (2007).

Impact evidence

Outputs
  • The national network of Jardins de Cocagnebrings together nearly 130 associations with employment insertion projects who all have common values: organic and responsible agriculture, the integration of people in difficulty. This network supports and develops the gardens in its network.
  • Since its inception, over 25,000 people have been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society by Cocagne programs. 
  • The first Cocagne Garden was replicated and reached forty-five by 1999.
  • The reintegration rate of the Cocagne vegetable farmers is encouraging and has increased each year. Approximately 30 per cent of them find gainful employment upon completion of their experience, 10 per cent go on to take continuing education classes, and 8 per cent continue with their reintegration program.
  • The indirect benefits from two years in the garden are noteworthy: 38 per cent of participants manage to get a grip on their living situations, or their debts. 
  • 750 permanent employees of whom 57% were women.
  • 4,000 employees in integration in 2016, 40 people per garden on average of which 37% are women.
  • $13 million revenue from the sale of vegetables
  • 48% of gardeners experience positive transitions (company creation, contracts within another adapted social company or major social progress)
  • The Cocagne network numbers 30 partners in total, including 23 private partners, 8 public partners and 9 working partners.
How does it work?

ACIs offer a first step towards full employment to people who have been estranged from the job market, those in especially difficult social and professional situations, by providing them with employment and support to reintegrate into the market. Representatives from ACIs supervise the training of their employees and create the conditions for sustainable employment. Cocagne Gardens are based on three pillars: To restore workers’ self-esteem, to achieve environmental sustainability, and to promote engaged consumption. Each garden must: Employ people in difficult situations; commit to organic farming; work with a network of concerned customers; and, build bridges between the social, public, and professional sectors to ensure that each member garden has supporters from all three groups. The network holds yearly meetings in which hundreds of people, including employees, volunteers, and managers share ideas and offer their input, in an effort to refine and improve the model. Jean-Guy Henckel created a training center, where they synthesize the lessons learned and pass them on to new people; ensuring priorities and core values are not lost as the organization grows and evolves.
Psychological support is crucial for participants to rediscover the joy of living; it is provided by psychologists and addiction centres, and they plan to integrate social therapists too. But there are other barriers to professional success: some participants are illiterate; 90% do not know how to use a computer, write a resume or have a driver’s license. The greatest obstacles are health and housing problems.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Montpellier, France.
Where has been implemented so far
La Rochelle, Grenoble (France) and Romania (Bucharest).