"What is our purpose? To stop society falling apart."

When the COVID-19 crisis hit France, the public-driven platform "Bouge Ton Coq" decided to direct its efforts towards saving the small businesses, producers and craftworkers who are a vital part of France's towns and villages from going under. Corentin Emery, spokesperson for the organisation, tells EESCinfo how the organisation started and what it plans for the future.

What prompted you to start your project or initiative?

We aim to improve daily life in villages. Less than a week after lockdown started, local associations and elected officials from country areas told us about the precarious situation of key parts of village life - cafés, small restaurants, riding schools, etc. - and we lost no time in springing into action. Simply because these small businesses are the heart of life in our countryside! It was an emergency and we wanted to act as quickly as possible to stop society falling apart in many towns and villages.

How has your project been received? Have you obtained any feedback from the people you helped?

The project was immediately approved and received strong support from the Association of Rural Mayors of France, a network of 10 000 mayors from the French countryside. This network worked with us to meet this emergency, and the mayors spared no efforts in contacting and helping the shopkeepers and craftworkers in their areas. We have had very touching feedback from people who would not normally ask for outside help and others who saw this as a real opportunity to get their business ready to open again. We have received so many letters and videos thanking us and inviting us to visit the villages.

How will you use this specific funding to provide further help in the community? Are you already planning any new projects?

The funding will be useful as it will enable us to scale up our new project supporting local shops in rural areas. We are currently busy rolling out a major programme involving opening 2000 solidarity-based food shops in the villages which are most in need. We are asking the municipalities that we supported during the lockdown to set up a business like this in their villages in order to make them more attractive places to live, with a broader range of services for residents.

What advice would you give to other organisations in terms of achieving results with such activities and programmes?

To go for it! A genuine project driven by the general interest will always be rewarded. We truly believe in collective action and pooling resources between partners with different but complementary jobs and capacities. This is exactly what has enabled us to establish a direct relationship with the people we have helped and to act as swiftly as possible.