Their complicity is obvious. Thierry and Martin Sibieude are seated in the shade of parasols, at a cafe table. The words fuse and betray the enthusiasm that animates father and son. On Tuesday August 23, this contagiously energetic duo hit the road with an ambitious project: to walk 750 kilometers from Puy-en-Velay (Haute-Loire) on the way to Santiago de Compostela, to meet the actors of the social and solidarity economy. Despite a physical preparation worthy of professional athletes, Martin is pensive: “So many kilometres, it’s still abstract, it’s crazy to think that we’re going to tread every centimeter of this route.”
Share a highlight
If the kick-off has just been given, the genesis of this bet dates back to February. While Martin harbors the idea of going abroad, the 23-year-old student is diagnosed with diabetes. He realizes the obvious: it would be too imprudent to fly away tens of thousands of kilometers carrying in his luggage an illness that upsets his daily life so much. Monitoring his blood sugar level, injecting insulin several times a day, adapting his diet… Martin is well aware of these reflexes that he observed in his big brother Baptiste. As his master’s degree in Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Innovation at Sciences Po Bordeaux comes to an end, the young man with the tender smile does not give up; “It was an opportunity to ask myself: what do I really aspire to?”
To take some distance from your daily life and think about your professional orientation, there is no need to travel the whole world: “Our family history is very linked to the way of Saint-Jacques. The first time that my parents took me there, I I was 5. Coming back to mark the end of my student life and, somewhere, of part of my childhood, makes sense.” Among the five Sibieude children, the third of the siblings, Philippe, had autism. Died in August 2009, he had completed part of the journey with his family a few weeks earlier. “Walking allows you to share a strong moment, even with a child who cannot communicate”, confides, with striking serenity, Thierry.
A thirst for transmission
At the invitation of his son Martin, the 62-year-old father immediately responded: “This project is a catalyst, a synthesis of our respective paths.” And the proposal is timely. The man with the natural bonhomie retires this year. As a teacher at theEsseca renowned business school, Thierry created the “Innovation and social entrepreneurship” chair in 2002. A revolution in the world of business schools, more familiar with teaching and research on finance or retail. In fact, the social and solidarity economy defines a mode of entrepreneurship that aims to combine economic activity with a social or environmental impact.
“By going to meet the actors of this economy in territories as varied as the country of Velay, the Lot and Célé valley or the Pyrenees, we have decided to share what binds us”, launches Martin. And his father added, all smiles: “Even if we often disagree and that’s healthy… It’s even a very good engine to move forward!” Established along the way, the structures identified by the duo are part of the reality – and the constraints – of rural territories. While the cooperative Railcoop in Figeac (Lot), reinvests abandoned rail links to connect small towns, Ethical in Fleurance (Gers) promotes the work of small producers in organic farming… “We want to highlight these initiatives, because they speak to us and respond to obvious and urgent needs. To transform our world, and switch to sustainable models, it is requires commitment and energy. This is what we hope to highlight through each meeting”, sums up Martin. At the coffee table, the glasses are finished. But the thirst for transmission, discovery and hope of these two walkers is still far from being quenched.
SSE in France, a dynamic sector
The social and solidarity economy (SSE) brings together all the structures (associations, foundations, cooperatives, mutuals, social enterprises) whose operation does not only aim for financial profitability but also has a social or environmental purpose.
The management method is intended to be both democratic and participatory; the results are mostly reinvested.