Hayatte Maazouza (EDHEC Master 2015): the interview of an alumni engaged for economic inclusion

Published on 17/10/2020
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crédit photo : Bruno Lévy pour INSSD

Hayatte Maazouza embodies the values of EDHEC and the alumni community through her career, her commitment and her life choices. She is also the 15,000th to join our LinkedIn group reserved for EDHEC alumni! We wanted to interview this inspiring graduate and introduce her to you. 

What are your current responsibilities?

I’m responsible for impacts, advocacy and operational partnerships at Positive Planet France, which is recognised as a not-for-profit association under French legislation. It was set up following the uprising in the French banlieues in 2005. The idea was to use entrepreneurship as a lever to combat unemployment and exclusion. I’m responsible for measuring the impact of our work because it is important to know the kind of positive effects our initiatives can generate so we can get a better picture of what we are doing. These measures can also be used to justify each euro we have asked for and demonstrate the impact it is having. We really go into the details, not only economic but also human: we are interested in the long-term survival of businesses. For example, we realised that out of 100 projects we offer support to, 70 of them are still in place 3 years later and in a position to pay a salary. I am currently piloting a new study that will be published soon. It looks at the projects we have supported that led to the creation of companies but also at the benefits and positive externalities that our support generated for people who may not have set up a business but found work in another way.

What does the word “advocacy” mean in the work you do?

Advocacy is something that has always been done by associations but wasn’t necessarily referred to like that. We are in an era in which associations are ever more professional. This is a result of the current context, with increasing needs and more and more associations. But public subsidies are falling, which means we have a smaller cake to divide between more people. And so it is really becoming essential for structures to increase their visibility and not only among the general public. Advocacy initiatives are also needed, in particular influencing or lobbying economic, institutional and political decision-makers. We need to make them understand that this notion of entrepreneurship in working-class areas to stimulate economic inclusion is ultimately vital for the whole of society.

What does it involve in concrete terms?

I try to understand the fears of the people we meet so we can find common ground. This is something I developed an understanding of while with BCG (Boston Consulting Group). Back then I was responsible for the Social Entrepreneur award and influential partnerships. Through that work I met many CEOs and asked them about their fears and expectations when it came to the social/environmental transition in France. I was very pleasantly surprised to realise that ultimately those business leaders were headed in the same direction as us! They have been active for a very long time and did not wait for the State or the media to make this a priority. For them, it just made sense. Ultimately we are all French and we are all trying to find solutions to live in a more or less forgiving society, and above all trying not to mess everything up for our children.

 

Today at PPF, what are the levers you rely on to carry out your mission to boost positive entrepreneurship in working-class areas? 

Economic inclusion – regardless of whether we’re talking about salary-paid jobs or entrepreneurship – is actually a marker of social inclusion, and what really interests me is combining that view with social innovations as a way to include people economically.

Positive Planet France covers 150 “priority” neighbourhoods. These are city neighbourhoods categorised as working class, and our work involves backing projects based in these areas. We follow them from the idea phase up to the registration of the business created. We offer support in setting up a business and entrepreneurship training (adopting the right attitude), and we also create third places. Since 2010, third places have been popping up all over the place, but these social co-working spaces are often a bit “bourgeois bohemian” and reserved for a specific social category because very few of them modify their rates to reflect revenue. So we realised that the existing spaces actually exclude many entrepreneurs. So ultimately the social link is a bit skewed because users stick to the same circles and live in a kind of bubble. We therefore decided to establish third places adapted to working-class neighbourhood entrepreneurs. We have one in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, another in Vénissieux and will soon be opening one in Montreuil. Everyone will be welcome! It is possible to facilitate spaces that offer social diversity because although these neighbourhoods have many different factors and challenges, they are nonetheless part of society as a whole. So the idea was not to create a space only for these neighbourhoods but one for a whole range of users. Rates depend on the entrepreneur’s revenue. This is really about inclusion.

What is "positive entrepreneurship" at Positive Planet France?

In our support programme, we make entrepreneurs from these neighbourhoods aware of their environmental and societal impact. We know that it is often the most fragile who pay the price for crises, so we give them instruments of empowerment which they then integrate into the creation of their businesses. For a launderette, for example, we will explain the appeal of using a particular machine that consumes less, we’ll encourage them to think about using organic detergent to limit their carbon footprint. We raise awareness so they think about future generations, but we don’t force them, it’s an educational approach.

 

The common thread in your career has been social justice. Is it because you yourself felt or experienced social injustice?

I was born in Trappes in the Yvelines department and I grew up in the same town. My father came from Morocco to work in France as a labourer and my mother raised my 3 brothers and me. When you’re born in a place and when you’re young, the world is your neighbourhood, it’s your family. You don’t have the perspective needed to realise the way things are. Ultimately it’s other people who give you that understanding. For me, the trigger was an event that occurred during the uprising in 2005. I was at the secondary school in Trappes where the caretaker died from a heart attack as he was trying to extinguish a fire in the school that had been lit deliberately. A week earlier, during an outing for the class representatives, he had accompanied me and we had shared a laugh together. The event shocked me, and although it might not be an injustice as such, it’s a form of violence. You can’t walk away from something like that unscathed, without asking questions about yourself, about the social milieu you live in. And so I realised things couldn’t go on like that and that if we didn’t anticipate the small fires in society, we would end up paying a high price.

 

Is this common thread ultimately a duty for you?

Statistically speaking, I was never destined to attend a grande école. So I always said to myself, “would it not be selfish of me if after attending such a school I headed off to a cushy job to earn lots of money?” So yes, I ended up seeing it as a duty and in my case, a lot of things came together that ultimately steered me towards that common thread. This kind of “chameleonisation” that I developed by moving in many different social circles has ensured that I always gravitate towards very tangible things and force myself to be humble. These different social environments have helped me realise that there are major disparities everywhere and I always wonder: “how, with the knowledge that I have built up, can I capitalise on it and try to create new bridges?” I wanted to help people in need, not by giving something to them but by teaching them to get by on their own.

Today, what are the major obstacles impeding entrepreneurship in these neighbourhoods?

The main problem is one of financing: the start-up capital they have is much lower than that of other entrepreneurs in France. If I remember correctly, the average start-up capital in these neighbourhoods is €27,000, compared to €45,000 in the rest of France. That’s a pretty big difference!

Another obstacle, which is also linked to financing, is that these neighbourhoods continue to be associated with risk. This is real prejudice, there was a study done by BPI/Terranova/JP Morgan that came out this summer, and when you look at the figures, you see that the long-term survival of entrepreneurs in these neighbourhoods is actually higher than the national average! The prejudices are there because there are loads of factors that are not taken into consideration, if only the determination, resilience and solidarity you find in these places. But investors think it’s risky, and that’s another reason I engage in advocacy: to identify, measure and above all make people understand that there are a certain number of prejudices penalising economic development, it’s a snake biting its own tail.

At the age of 24, you’ve taken on a mandate as an elected representatives in Trappes. Why are you pursuing such an adventure?

While completing my studies, I immediately felt the need to engage. I asked myself: “why do all these people with pretty good jobs get into politics?” I thought there must be something to it. I became aware that you can do as much business as you like, but ultimately politicians will always have their say. I said to myself, “it might be interesting after all, even in my career” because the profession I was leaning towards wasn’t an orthodox one. It’s more about political and societal issues. I really saw political engagement as a way of developing a broader vision of the mechanisms at work.

I had the opportunity to join the list of municipal candidates up for election in Trappes, and I was successful. So at the age of 24 I am now a municipal councillor in charge of early childhood.

You decided to attend EDHEC after your bachelor’s degree, what lessons did you learn at the school that continue to be useful today?

I had the equivalent of a 3-year bachelor’s degree in philosophy. I chose this school to learn more about business. I needed to understand how companies operate, I needed a more concrete grounding.

EDHEC taught me how to work in a group, to understand the importance of networks, which are vital. I did my dissertation on the question of origin-based discrimination on the job market and the responses in terms of social innovation because I thought to myself: “actually I really want to make the most of this moment, not only to do a good dissertation but to learn things that will help me later.” And that’s what happened because I went on to meet certain people like Saïd Hamouche (Mosaïk RH).

EDHEC’s 2020–2025 strategic plan is “EDHEC for future generations”. In your opinion, what role can EDHEC play and what impact can it have on challenges such as social justice or positive entrepreneurship?

EDHEC and other business schools have a fantastic role to play beyond prescription and pedagogy. They must train students to adapt to the current and future needs of companies. The World Economic Forum tells us we can no longer list hard skills because the majority of tomorrow’s professions don’t exist yet. We need to concentrate on the soft skills that will allow us to adapt to these future professions. When you look at the courses on offer in schools, you realise that they’re not too far ahead in this respect. It is fundamental for schools to catch up on civil society, essential for them to capitalise on the knowledge and experience of associations and the agile structures operating in the social & solidarity economy. They need to design and transform their programmes in a way that includes the social and environmental transition.

In big firms, CSR (corporate social responsibility) is now central to strategy. These firms want to undergo a transformation. The problem is that there aren’t enough experts in transition, they are very rare and in short supply! Perhaps it could be the role of EDHEC to train these future experts in transition?

The grandes écoles boast fantastic capital in terms of prescription and pedagogy and are hotbeds for recruitment for big firms. They need to coordinate with the real world. And they shouldn’t be afraid to be audacious!

The EDHEC Alumni values are SHARE, CARE & DARE. To what extent do these values reflect your actions and your driving forces all these years?

SHARING is my primary value, and I would say that I have benefited as much from the SHARING of others as I give back today. I am convinced that the wealth of any individual is to be in a sufficiently humble position to be willing to share the experience of others and in a sufficiently bold position to think that one’s experience and one’s network can benefit others. I have never regretted giving a helping hand to anyone. Indeed, I spend a lot of time answering messages people send me, people from EDHEC for example who want to chat and ask questions. I firmly believe that the more we SHARE, the stronger we are.

CARING for me has 2 meanings:

- caring about and for others and our environment. You can’t achieve anything in an ecosystem that is sick, you need positive actions around you. I like the ubuntu concept, a philosophy that says: “if I succeed, it is because others have succeeded.” If others are well, I am well, and if others are unwell, I too am unwell. If we applied this concept to society as a whole, things would be much better.

- taking care of one’s health, for you can’t do anything without your health. We overvalue those who exhaust themselves and work late. Before taking care of others, one must take care of oneself.

DARING means going where you are not expected and where you don’t even expect yourself to go. After EDHEC and given my social background, I could have said to myself, “you need to pursue a profession where you can earn money; because I lacked certain things in my life, I have to choose security.” Well, I took the gamble that the common thread we spoke of was the future. It’s important to take gambles and invest in oneself. You have to take it upon yourself to create the conditions that later on will allow you to be an expert in such and such a subject and to do what you’re passionate about while being paid a fair amount in return. There are positions to fill, but there are also positions to create.

What advice do you have for students from EDHEC?

Don’t pursue anything but your passions, things that have meaning for you. Take pride in your values and passions. There are many new professions that will emerge so you have to project forward, try to be an expert in something. In my case, I know I want to be an expert on questions of economic inclusion, but I really don’t know what form that will take 5 years from now, but ultimately it doesn’t matter! Allow yourself to live, open up to the freedom of new encounters and new events. The most important thing is to have a direction and to hold your course.

 

Career change? Moving house?