Skip to content

Civil Society Organisations

After the revolution in Tunisia in 2011, the number of associations soared

Mehdi Baccouche, from LAB'ESS, the SwitchMed local partner for the Civil Society programme, tells us how the number of associations soared after the revolution in Tunisia in 2011, and how Sustainable consumption and production is an emerging sector in Tunisia.

Tell us about your organisation’s activities

In 2013, Développement sans frontières Tunisie (DSF Tunisia) [Development without borders Tunisia] launched the LAB’ESS [Laboratory for a social and solidarity-based economy], a programme devoted to capacity building for Tunisian social-welfare associations and enterprises. The activities of the LAB’ESS are developed around two centres:

- the BAC - Bureau associations conseil [Office of associations consulting], which provides training for Tunisian associations and offers individual assistance;

- IMPACT, an incubator that finds, hosts and advises socially oriented companies.

In addition DSF Tunisie, through the LAB’ESS, offers to help network agents of change in Tunisian civil society through talks and convivial meetings.

 

Please tell us about yourself

My name is Mehdi Baccouche, and I have worked for DSF Tunisia since October 2013. I was initially in charge of the IMPACT incubator and launched its activities, and since July 2015 have been director of programmes with responsibility for all DSF Tunisia activities and for managing the staff. I formerly worked in Lebanon and Benin on matters related to ecotourism, and in France on problems of youth employment in the suburbs of Paris. I am extremely interested in innovation for social change and am convinced that this is part of the solution to our problems in Tunisia. In December 2014, I also started a social enterprise to return Tunisian craftsmen to the centre of the value chain, more specifically a group of craftsmen in Nefta who weave carpets using recycled rags.

 

The BAC is one of your activities and trains and advises Tunisian social welfare associations. Good governance, fund raising, communication, etc. often involve numerous tasks and these organisations are often short on resources. Where do you start in terms of analysis and advice for these associations?

After the revolution in Tunisia in 2011, the number of associations soared. These associations, often comprised of young people, need training for their staff so they can become better managers.

¨After the revolution in Tunisia in 2011, the number of associations soared¨.

The BAC thus offers a series of training courses (project design, fund raising, communications, association law, follow-up evaluations, governance, etc.) that serves to cover the fundamentals. The associations can then benefit from individual consulting suited to their needs. Although many associations come to us with problems related to funding, our analysis at the initial meeting serves to identify the factors they need to work on first, especially understanding the context and stakeholders, defining objectives and actions to be implemented, and internal governance, which are the building blocks of any funding strategy for association projects.

 

You help network many organisations in civil society to strengthen their projects. What would you like to be able to do to further broaden your activities? Do you need more partnerships with institutions, for example?

DSF Tunisia has been able to develop an action plan for networking that is user-friendly and informal. We thus hold, on our premises, ‘LAB’SESSIONS’ that bring together on a particular topic or initiative various participants who take action on a range of issues. We also hold talks on topics related to current events. The projects, associations and enterprises we support are put in touch with financial partners, media or government institutions to present their projects, but most of all to obtain concrete support for the implementation of new practices and, we hope, to promote new government policies. Discussions with government agencies and individuals are becoming more intense, the importance of civil society and a social economy are more and more accepted, and working groups are under way.

 

Could you give us some examples of Tunisian civil organisations to be used in the field as examples of sustainable consumption and production? 

Sustainable consumption and production may seem to be a recently emerging sector in Tunisia, but there are already many initiatives based on Tunisian know-how, specifically for agricultural or crafts products, where sustainable production for the producers, consumers and the environment are increasingly valued. This is a good way to provide a new approach to these activities by placing producers and consumers at the heart of the value chain and by listening to the desires and demands of consumers, as well as protecting the environment.

¨Sustainable consumption and production may seem to be a recently emerging sector in Tunisia, but there are already many initiatives based on Tunisian know-how, specifically for agricultural or crafts products¨

New initiatives are springing up, such as Tunisie Coop, the first consumers’ cooperative that allows for consumption in a more direct relationship so as to provide producers with increased revenue and consumers with a means of traceability. It is also an effective way to teach small producers about the value of adopting more sustainable methods, without pesticides, etc. It’s a way of linking words and actions: by guaranteeing the small producer a market, we can motivate him to improve his methods. In the field of tourism, there are innovative projects appearing, such as Dar El Aïn in north-west Tunisia, which provides nature hikes and tours, and which provides value for the natural resources but also serves to discover small crafts and agriculture businesses in order to create a direct link protecting nature and local development while providing value for all the resources of the land. Lastly, a ride-sharing project was set up last year in Tunisia, Karhbetna.com, which means ‘our car’ in Arabic. The SwitchLab workshop will be an opportunity to see other initiatives come to light.

 

As a partner in the SwitchMed programme, you will soon be holding a workshop to improve the sustainable consumption and production projects of organisations in civil society. How do consumers view ecology?

For consumers, one might think that ecology is not a priority. However, an initiative such as Tunisie Coop shows that consumers are joining forces in order to learn more about traceability. Although this is just beginning to happen, it is growing rapidly, and Tunisian consumers, what with freer media and access to information, are more and more demanding and aware that the act of consumption is not harmless. Many citizen initiatives are emerging and are pilot actions destined to grow and serve as an example. Efforts should also be made to ensure that this attitude is adopted by as many people as possible, thus making ecology accessible to everyone and not just to a privileged socio-economic group.

 ¨Tunisian consumers, what with freer media and access to information, are more and more demanding and aware that the act of consumption is not harmless¨