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"DarESS will spearhead the SSE in Tunisia"

Exclusive interview with Sonia Benyahia, director of ProgRESS Tunisia, and Rodérick Égal, president of iesMed

Written by Interview by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, March 11th 2021 à 14:46 | Read 330 times

Sonia Benyahia, director of ProgRESS Tunisia, a program of prefiguration, matrix of a future national center of resources of the social and solidarity economy, and Rodérick Equ, president of iesMed, Mediterranean platform of accompaniment to the SSE, draw up, exclusively for, the panorama of the SSE in Tunisia. They reveal their projects in this country, while they are preparing to inaugurate, Friday, March 19, 2021 in Tunis, DarESS, the house of SSE.

According to Sonia Benyahia, "SSE has a real card to play in Tunisia" (photos: ProgRESS / photomontage:
According to Sonia Benyahia, "SSE has a real card to play in Tunisia" (photos: ProgRESS / photomontage: Where is the SSE today in Tunisia?

Sonia Benyahia: The Tunisian SSE is in full evolution. In June 2020, a law defining its scope was voted by the Assembly of People's Representatives (editor's note: ARP equivalent to the National Assembly) and promulgated on August 30. It is the first law on this subject to be passed in North Africa. But, the decrees of application remain to come.
The SSE appears in the speeches of the politicians since the revolution thanks to the impulse of a lively and more or less organized civil society. We count today about ten significant actors who boost the emergence of the ecosystem. Many Tunisians already have this fiber, without formalizing it in SSE.

Why did you choose Tunisia to develop your ProgRESS program?

Rodérick Egal: For quite logical reasons. The only democratic initiative in the Arab world is being carried out there and the values of democracy are essential for the SSE. Choosing Tunisia as a laboratory is a way to be useful where there are the fewest barriers to advance the cause. Even if we had to preach a lot in the desert.
We start from not much, so it is easier to create ambitious things. Our approach began in May 2013 with the organization in Tunis of Medess, the first, and the only until today, event bringing together Mediterranean actors of the SSE.
S.B.: We want a new Tunisia and not a "Tunisia that kills its children". With the pandemic, the economic problems, the current system is dying, if not already dead. For the country to become prosperous, a minimum of dignity, health, education... The SSE contributes to this. This form of economic and social organization has a real card to play here. We must show that it is effective and that young people equate it with Hope, with two s.
R.E.: It is in Tunisia where the SSE can make the most leverage in North Africa. Morocco is a regional power in this area, there is a historical tradition, a more mature market, more structured.
But it is easier to create a "Springtime of solidarity commitment" in a country like Tunisia. Here, we had a political perspective, a will to move the lines, mentalities and accelerate the proselytization on the Mediterranean region.
The SSE has no shores, said a tenor of the French cooperative world. All peoples, all nations, all Mediterranean states can and must cooperate to develop it, always and everywhere.

"The EU finances 80% of the ProgRESS budget"

"DarESS will spearhead the SSE in Tunisia"
Who brought this program on the baptismal font and for what objectives?

R.E.: ProgRESS is the result of the shared will of the Tunisian government, the delegation of the European Union and iesMed, a Mediterranean cooperative for the stimulation of the economy and social innovation based in Barcelona. We are talking about 2017-2018, but the program could not be set up until much later. It is steered by a multi-stakeholder committee bringing together the public and private sectors, civil society and universities.
S.B.: The European Union is financing 80% of its €1.25 million budget over three years. The remaining 20% will be provided by national and international public and private partners, whose names will be announced in the coming weeks.
ProgRESS started in July 2019 with three objectives over three years: to capitalize on experiences and enhance best practices to feed a pedagogy of SSE; to produce operational tools, including methodological guides; to strengthen the capacities of different types of actors in the ecosystem of the Tunisian SSE.


Rodérick Égal wants to "accelerate SSE proselytization in the Mediterranean region." (photo: F.Dubessy)
Rodérick Égal wants to "accelerate SSE proselytization in the Mediterranean region." (photo: F.Dubessy)

"DarESS will address all the actors of the ecosystem"

Is Progress the foundation of your future national SSE resource center?

R.E.: ProgRESS is putting DarESS into orbit. This national SSE resource center will be able to stand on its own two feet by the end of 2022. It all began with a prefiguration study to understand the expectations of the players, validate the initial assumptions, enrich them and complete them. At the end, we have a 200-page report defining the architecture and the connections to be established, a team and connections with the entire ecosystem.

S.B.: DarESS aims to be a hub of collective intelligence that interconnects the regional, national and international levels. We believe that the future will prove us right and that in 2030 this country will be well placed in the global SSE panorama.
DarESS will be inaugurated on March 19, 2021 and will address all the actors of the ecosystem by allowing the pooling of the various existing resources. We want to establish DarESS for the long term. Its operating budget is being set up with the recruitment of a dozen employees.
The center will be based on four pillars: an observatory with cultural repositories, an application pole with toolboxes (TransFair), a collaborative project to reflect on the future ecosystem of solidarity finance in Tunisia (FinSol) and ESS Emploi which will catalyze job creation projects by and for SSE.

R.E.: DarESS will be the spearhead of SSE in Tunisia. We also want to build new CitESS, cities of SSE, regional poles of SSE in Tunisia, operating in close cooperation with DarESS and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. We have been working on this concept since MedESS and we want to build an efficient Mediterranean network of CitESS. Two have already opened in Tunisia in Mahdia and Sidi Bouzid.
Another CitESS will soon be opened in the Greater Tunis area. It is a showcase of DarESS. We hope to open one in Sousse and two more cities by the end of 2021.
At the same time, we will set up small thematic satellite hubs to work on specific topics such as the city and SSE, the circular economy, alternative tourism, health, education ... We are also setting up a digital cluster, which we had not planned at the beginning. But, with Covid-19, having digital resources and distance learning, appeared as a matter of course.

"Tunisia is a pivotal country for an intercontinental dynamic of SSE"

DarESS will be inaugurated in a few days (photo: ProgRESS)
DarESS will be inaugurated in a few days (photo: ProgRESS)
What is the involvement of the Tunisian government in your project?
S.B.: We are at the service of the different ministries. However, the complexity of the political situation and the lack of clear supervision over SSE makes operational collaboration difficult.

R.E.: A portfolio of SSE had been created in late January 2021 and ratified by the ARP. An institutional blockage prohibits since its establishment.

Will DarESS spread to other Mediterranean countries?
R.E.: Will DarESS become a Mediterranean center that will spread to other countries? Or will the DarESS concept be replicated under a different brand in other countries? We shall see... In any case, these are the two most logical avenues to pursue.

S.B.: We have established initial relationships with our colleagues and friends in the Mediterranean and on the Euro-African axis. Tunisia is a pivotal country for an intercontinental dynamic and I hope that we will demonstrate that we can fully play this role in the "next world".


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