Director of the department of social affairs of Paris City Goverment


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Workshops for Christian and Jewish social organizations

Workshops for social service organizations: «Fundraising and finding partners»



Initiative: LVIV


Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Geneviève Gueydan. For the last four years I have been responsible for directing the social initiatives of the city of Paris.


I will talk about the kind of initiatives we undertake, the audiences they are directed to, and the human resources we employ. My goal is to present our experience, rather than promote what we do in Paris as a model, since our actions are shaped in many ways by the French, and specifically Parisian, context.


The plan of my talk is as follows:


- the institutional context of local social policies

- Parisian social policy


1. Global institutional context


The French social system has a long history, but its foundations were laid after the Second World War.


- 1st characteristic: it is overall a very protective and costly system, which nevertheless has weaknesses

=many risks are covered (unemployment, illness, old age, family problems ….)

=many social rights are defined by the law in order to ensure equal treatment – to guarantee a base of rights applicable all over the country for the benefit of individuals (as opposed to a system of private insurance, for instance health insurance, or strictly local social insurance)

= limitations: massive unemployment thrusts a major part of the population into poverty (all the unemployed cannot receive compensation)

= it is a costly social system that rests upon essential public withholdings (salary withholdings for social purposes, and taxes); a political debate exists regarding collective solidarity with respect to guaranteeing rights and benefits.


- 2nd characteristic : complexity. There isn’t a single structure responsible for social policy in France, but three principal institutional actors:


  • the central state, which plays a double role:

=defining, by means of law, the social rights that apply throughout the country;

=financing certain social initiatives (decreasingly so, since over the last 20 years the state has been transferring many responsibilities to local governing structures).

For instance, the state finances actions to benefit the homeless and handicapped children.

  • social insurance provided by trade unions and by employers :

this type of insurance covers major risks to life (illness, unemployment, retirement, family stipends), and is financed by withholdings from salaries. It protects rights that apply throughout the country and concern the great majority of the population. It plays a major role in situations of danger to life and risk of poverty.

  • local governing structures (communes, departments, regions):


  • These structures have a double responsibility:

= to execute, on the territory subject to them the national social assistance programs that are required by the law

(they must be set up to serve the public, prepare for the level of demand, provide assistance, and finance all programs)

= to develop specific services and programs of assistance that seem to them necessary for the given population, in one of two ways: either by creating them directly or by aiding non-profit organizations

(for instance: establishing nursing homes and free clinics, or financing charitable associations)


  • In addition to providing social insurance, these structures intervene in certain types of situations, as defined by the law:

= the elderly and the handicapped

= those lacking resources

= children in danger


  • Decentralization

In these last years, the state has transferred many responsibilities to local governing structures with the reasoning that the latter interact more closely with the people and can conduct initiatives better adapted to the needs, and the diversity, of local contexts. In the realm of social policy, the main beneficiaries of these transfers have been departments.

This is frequently a subject for political debate, because it means that local governing structures must finance social programs required by the law, but are not included in the discussion out of which this law emerges; because some governing structures have more resources than others, there is also a concern that social programs should be identical throughout the country.



2 – The experience of the local government in Paris


2.1 The Parisian context


Institutional context


Paris has a special status; with 2.2 million inhabitants, Paris has the legal authorities and the executive responsibilities both of a commune and of a department.


Social context


- It is a generally wealthy city, but home to a considerable number of poor persons with serious problems of housing. There is a large ongoing effort to build social housing and fight against unhealthy living conditions; but there is still a significant gap between what is needed and what has been done.

- It is a large metropolis that attracts a flux of immigrants, often in very precarious situations; there are many people without definite residence.

- It is a very densely populated territory; it is difficult to find land for buildings dedicated to social purposes. Historically Paris has had a tendency to “outsource” into the suburbs, or at the expense of the elderly or the handicapped.


2.2 Social initiatives of the city of Paris


= they form a very important part of the city’s budget (1/6); 1/5 of city employees work in the social sector, understood broadly (day-care centers, nursing homes, administration of social programs, foster homes….)


= the mayor of Paris, and those of his assistants who are responsible for the social sector, define the direction of social programs and the amounts dedicated to them, and decide on new projects; the administration provides services and programs, and develops the means for further initiatives.


2.2.1 The city acts through a number of means


  • § Providing services and establishments:


= teams of social workers employed by the city are planted in every neighborhood of Paris: they serve people in difficult situations, inform people about their social rights, help them in interactions with the administration, assist their search for housing and employment (for those who have a right to a minimum income).

Social workers are specialists whose training is recognized by means of a national diploma.


= various establishments are managed by the city: nursing homes, clubs and restaurants for the elderly, foster homes for children in danger who have been taken away from their families; day-care centers ; free health clinics …

It is worth noting that these city establishments are not a monopoly ; there are many nursing homes and day-care centers created by non-profit associations or private societies; the majority of foster homes are run by associations, as are all shelters for the handicapped – the city does not operate any such shelters.


  • § Providing financial assistance


Assistance foreseen by the law

= financial aid enabling elderly persons to afford either a domestic assistant for the longest time possible (to cook, help with bathroom needs, run errands), or to stay in a nursing home when they can no longer live on their own. This aid depends on income in accordance with the tax structure; the elderly persons themselves and their families contribute primarily to these expenses, which are very high.

= assistance to handicapped persons, to pay for their accommodation in a special home, or for a domestic assistant (paid in full)

= assistance for persons lacking resources: welfare benefits for persons with no income (nor the right to unemployment compensation, or to a pension); whenever such funds are disbursed, a social worker is assigned to help the recipients understand and live out both rights and responsibilities (they provide assistance with finding a job, housing, access to healthcare)

Assistance programs specific to Paris

Life in Paris is very expensive, in particular housing

= helping low-income families pay rent (to avoid eviction)

= helping the elderly (transportation, additional health coverage, etc.)

= one-time disbursements of financial assistance


  • § The city finances projects carried out by non-profit associations

(I will come back to this in more detail); operational assistance and help with fixed costs (considering, for instance, the cost of real estate in Paris)



2.2.2 The role of the non-profit sector


Diversity of the non-profit sector

= non-profit associations have always played an important role in the social sector

= the sector exhibits a great deal of diversity: the size of associations (from very small ones centered in specific parts of the city and operated only by volunteers, to large ones employing hundreds of salaried workers), their target audiences (persons living on the street, the handicapped, endangered children…), whether the associations are secular or religious (though the latter usually serve all people, regardless of religious affiliation), etc.



Three main types of relations between the city and non-profit associations:


  • § Some activities are regulated by the law:

In order to run an establishment that supports vulnerable persons (nursing home, shelter for the handicapped, foster home for children in danger, day-care center etc), administrative permission must be obtained. This is necessary in order to guarantee the safety and quality of the services provided.


This type of service is funded either wholly or in part by local governing structures from the means allocated towards assisting the kinds of persons served by the establishment in question. Thus, every year we meet with these associations to review their budget and determine the way in which their services should be priced (for instance, per elderly person or child served).


These tend to be well-established associations, with trained and salaried employees (though volunteers may be involved in addition).


  • § Other activities are not regulated :

Here we speak about undertakings in which the initiative rests with the non-profit association – such as food distributions, visits to elderly persons, school support for children, shelter and counseling for persons caught in a difficult situation, etc.

The non-profit associations can conduct these initiatives without applying for public funding, relying on volunteers and on private gifts.


Often, however, these associations request assistance. Every year, my department assists 600 associations. In such cases, we examine the project in question according to several criteria. Is the initiative of prime importance, given the current social needs across Paris? How many people does the initiative involve? What is the quality of its execution? Does the association serve all individuals, without discriminating based on race or religion? Is the association accountable and transparent? If it already received funding from us, how were those funds used?

We provide technical training, and often pay one or several visits to the organization. Ultimately, it is the Council of Paris (municipal counselors elected by the city) that votes upon the distribution of funds, based on a presentation document prepared by our administration.


- Other activities are purchased through a public sector contract

This is rather new for the social sector.

Instead of running a service on its own, with its own agents, the governing structure purchases them from a private provider (an enterprise or non-profit association).

The structure creates a set of specifications that defines precisely the service that is expected; it declares an invitation to tender (a call for bids) and chooses the provider that makes the best offer at the best price.


For instance, we have used these open market methods to help recipients of welfare benefits find work, since our own services are not equipped to do this.


Complementarity between the activities of non-profit associations and local governing structures


Generally, relations between the government of Paris and non-profit associations are very direct and positive, conducted in a spirit of respect for the prerogatives and identity of both partners.


Personally, I think that the two modes of action are complementary, and that everything is to be gained from maintaining a good equilibrium between them:


- Public governing structures must ensure that a basic collection of services and aid programs is maintained

This enables equality in access to rights, neutrality in the provision of information, and is the expression of a political approach that emphasizes solidarity among all the citizens of a particular territory.

Managing service establishments directly also allows the city to rely on resources that the city can use according to its primary objectives. For instance, it is the city’s nursing homes that accommodate the majority of low-income elderly persons, offering conditions of comfort that would be too expensive for them in the private sector; the city’s clinics that provide dental care at much lower prices than the private sector; etc.


- Non-profit associations enable the direct engagement of individuals and groups, as well as, in many cases, a high level of professionalism:

Through the work of volunteers and through donations, non-profit associations encourage individual and group engagement in efforts to benefit others; they often react very well to needs, and are very close to the persons whom they assist.

They are capable of managing establishments that are regulated by law at a level of professionalism and efficiency equal to that of the governing structures.


In both cases, we must share the same principles: impartiality; respect for the freedom and dignity of the persons we help (being elderly, handicapped, or in need of assistance does not make one a second-class citizen!)


Good luck with your projects.