The founder of Europe’s largest social enterprise confides in his latest book, My happiness is other people (1). In a more personal tone than in his previous works, Jean-Marc Borello, 64, who is also Deputy General Delegate of En Marche, traces the path that led him from a position as a specialist educator for children who are difficult to the age of 19, to the presidency of the SOS Group. A behemoth which brings together 22,000 employees for a turnover of 1.2 billion euros.
A generation of social workers
All may not have, like him, read Lost dogs without a collar of Gilbert Cesbron, but he belongs to a generation of social workers who quickly understood that, if they did not roll up their sleeves to find jobs for the largely excluded, they would not come out of misery in the long term. At the same time as SOS, Jean-Guy Henckel created the Jardins de Cocagne, Pierre Grosset the Juratri cooperative and André Dupon came to revitalize Vitamine T.
In the 1980s, launching businesses was a Copernican revolution for these educators who were usually suspicious of the economic world. In addition to his acolytes, with whom he created the Movement of Social Entrepreneurs in the 2000s (which became Impact France), Jean-Marc Borello has for him to have had several lives before: “educ spé”, then technical adviser in ministerial cabinets, and boss of the singer Régine’s group of nightclubs.
A commitment born with AIDS patients
The SOS Group was born from its commitment to people suffering from addictions and AIDS patients. “We had to constantly invent more suitable systems, sometimes even before the public authorities became aware of the need to evolve”, he wrote. And SOS to create therapeutic apartments and palliative care centers. Gradually, this pushed the group to buy hospitals and nursing homes and to grow quickly.
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An evolution carried out with respect for the fundamentals of the social and solidarity economy, insists Jean-Marc Borello in his book: collective governance, non-profit, proximity, adding more professionalism and the recruitment of new talent. Today the SOS group is an associative company, without shareholders, and which provides what are called support functions (IT, human resources, communication) for a myriad of 600 establishments including nurseries, accommodation centers, integration companies.
Over the years, without a defined plan, the SOS group has continued to launch initiatives, particularly internationally and in the ecological transition, but it has also taken over SSE structures in difficulty, sometimes changing teams and the projects, which has not always been appreciated in the voluntary sector. “We must go beyond the legal status of the social economy and take a greater interest in what companies do, whatever they are”, assume Jean-Marc Borello.
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Called into question by press articles for inappropriate behavior with certain employees, which have not given any known legal consequences, he defends himself and considers “that from the moment we are the president’s friend we are exposed, and many are very happy to harm someone close to the president”.
Adviser listened to Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Marc Borello is again involved in the next presidential campaign. Regarding SOS, he is preparing to hand over to a collegiate management.