Illustration: Robert Rurans

Illustration: Robert Rurans


The Intrapreneurship Programme at 21 supports volunteers, employees and students in the French Red Cross carrying out a social innovation project with its development from prototyping to testing and deployment in real conditions.


Faced with the major socio-economic changes of the 21st century, the French Red Cross has transformed itself over several years in order to strengthen its impact. It has launched a performance and development plan, implemented a Corporate Social Responsibility programme and deployed a social innovation strategy to remain true to its history and values. This is why the Association created 21 in 2019. 21 is a social innovation accelerator, including a coworking space for social enterprises and a set of programmes to support social impact projects. 

21 has developed a support programme for “intrapreneurs”, i.e. members of the French Red Cross network wishing to develop a social innovation project within the Association. 

The objective of the program is to support and promote ideas from the field – from the ideation phase to the creation of a new product or service, helping volunteers to embrace a new professional journey. This approach also transforms the nature of volunteering – creating more committed and proactive opportunities.

By reversing the top-down approach to innovation typical of pyramidal structures, the French Red Cross relies on the knowledge, skills and creativity of its 60,000 volunteers and 18,000 employees who work everyday as close to the field as possible. The French Red Cross seeks to capitalise on the emerging ideas coming from its local chapters, retirement homes, homeless support or first aid actions, in order to meet the social needs of today and tomorrow.

Technical details & Operations

The Intrapreneurship programme enables employees and volunteers to design, prototype and test their project with people supported by the French Red Cross and its stakeholders. If it proves effective, it will then contribute to improving the quality of the Association’s service and the working environment of its network. 

Selection phase

Each programme season lasts 6 months during which 4 projects are supported. French Red Cross members have between 2 and 4 months to respond to an internal call for projects to join the programme. Once the applications have been received, the team of 21 presents the most promising ideas to the various business divisions of the French Red Cross. The latter give each a mark between 1 and 4 and a written comment. The team of 21 then centralises all the feedback and selects, on this basis, the 10 finalists who will appear before the Selection Committee.

Mixed, equal, diverse and composed of personalities from within and outside the Association, this Committee is made up of four juries of five people. After its presentation by the project team, each project is examined by two juries. After a day’s deliberation, the Selection Committee announces the four winners for the new season. 

Here are the selection criteria on which the juries base their decisions: 

  • Project: 
    • the identified social need is poorly or not currently met;
    • the proposed product/service is innovative;
    • the institutional and legal environment is favourable to the development of the project;
    • the project is sufficiently focused to be initiated and will be able to develop autonomously in the long run;
  • Candidate/team leading the project:
    • the candidate can demonstrate other experiences that demonstrate his/her willingness to pursue an intrapreneurial project;
    • the candidate can make use of both internal and external supports;
    • the candidate has experience and/or expertise on the issue in question;
    • the candidate is a team player and eager to learn;
  • Opportunity for the French Red Cross:
    • the project is relevant for the French Red Cross;
    • the development of the project in partnership with the French Red Cross will increase its social impact and accelerate its development.
  • Interest of the support:
    • the support offered by 21 meets the needs of the candidate;
    • the experimentation is feasible with regard to the duration of the support by 21.

For each winning project team, the Intrapreneurship Programme of 21 offers:

  • a weekly follow-up by a the Intrapreneur manager of 21 specialised in the support of social projects;
  • the provision of a mentor from the French Red Cross to support the development of the project within the Association;
  • access to a community of experienced entrepreneurs, external professionals and a corpus of training courses;
  • access to advice from external professionals, a body of training and peer sharing time;
  • Funding to carry out the experiment of up to €15,000;
  • a workstation in the coworking of 21, located in Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine department, 92).

In addition, more specific but very useful project management tools have been developed, such as a master plan, a tool for monitoring weekly points, a directory of useful contacts and an impact measurement kit. All these elements are centralised in a Google Drive shared with the winners.

All of these resources are used throughout the winners’ journey. This is broken down into three successive phases: conception, prototyping and deployment, if validated by the Validation Committee.

Conception phase (8 weeks)

The objective of the conception is to ensure that each winning team acquires maximum knowledge of its target and its ecosystem in order to develop the best possible value proposition. To do this, each team must follow the following four training courses: from idea to project, introduction to measuring social impact, search for partnerships & funding, communication around the project. In addition to other complementary tailor-made training courses (issues of influence & mapping of internal stakeholders, user research, user path design, prototyping, socio-economic models, etc.), the intrapreneurs have at their disposal a pool of more than 50 experts who can be called upon for individual work sessions. Their expertise ranges from marketing to fundraising and team building.

A mentor is assigned to each winner. The former ensures that each stage of the coaching process runs smoothly. In particular, he or she must anticipate technical or organisational difficulties and centralise all information relating to the project. The Intrapreneur manager of 21 spends an average of one day per week to each project. The role of the second is to guide the intrapreneur in his or her relationship with the French Red Cross and to support him or her in the overall consolidation of his or her project. This involves identifying the key people for the project within the French Red Cross, bringing the project to the association’s decision-makers and passing on its expertise and experience in the field. The frequency of exchanges with the mentor varies, depending on the duos and needs, from 1 hour per week to 1 hour per month.

At the end of the conception phase, each winner must have defined his or her value proposition in relation to the needs of the beneficiaries, and built a solid team ready to commit to experimenting with the project.

Prototyping (8 weeks)

This phase starts with the creation of a prototype of the solution, i.e. an incomplete and non-definitive example of what the final product or service could be. The aim is to improve the process in an iterative logic: the prototype is tested in the field and, after identifying the weak and strong points, it is improved. A new phase of tests is started and so on. These prototypes can be of different types: a mobile application, a landing page, a flyer, a paper guide, physical prototypes, contracts, etc.

Using their network and that of their mentor, the intrapreneurs identify French Red Cross structures wishing to experiment with their concept. The multiplication of trials makes it possible to specify the form of the final product/service, to estimate the costs and therefore the amount of funding to be obtained. This stage is therefore an opportunity to lay the foundations of the economic model. At the same time, obtaining the first results from successive trials requires the implementation of an impact measurement system.

Deployment phase (8 weeks)

A Validation Committee then assesses the relevance of the deployment of the winning projects within the Association. It is made up of the following members of the French Red Cross: the Secretary General, the relevant business departments, the Chief of Innovation and other representatives of the Association’s and 21’s board. The intrapreneurs and their mentors are also present. 

The proceedings of the Committee are as follows: 

  1. The Intrapreneur manager of 21 presents the results of the experimentation with :
  • a review of the achievements of the 6 months (around the work areas defined at the beginning of the coaching: product, communication, team, legal, etc.);
  • a review of the feedback of the actors and public supported by the French Red Cross who were able to test the solution; 
  • an assessment of the social impact of the project;
  • the conditions of deployment (economic model, human resources, governance).2. The mentor and the intrapreneur briefly share their feedback on the support programme

    3. The Validation Committee establishes : 
  • whether labelling the project by 21 and the CRf;
  • whether deploying the project on a larger scale. 

Deployment & Impact

Since its launch in May 2019, 21 has supported eight intrapreneurial projects after two full seasons. After six months of acceleration, the objective of 21 is to assure the autonomy of the projects. Of the four solutions in the first season, two have been integrated into the French Red Cross services.

The Intrapreneurship programme allows to:

  • Invest in talents | Redefining an employee’s career path and improving the French Red Cross’ service offer ;
    Ex. Croix-Rouge Mobilités – This project supports local French Red Cross structures in the development of shared and solidarity-based mobility solutions. Now independent from 21, it has been integrated into the Organisation’s Social Responsibility (OSR) mission. The career path of its creator, Cyprien Noble, proves that 21’s Intrapreneurship Programme enables professional development within the French Red Cross.
  • Bottom-up innovation | Capitalising on the skills and knowledge of volunteers ;
    Ex. Minutis – Developed by a team of volunteers, this mobile application enables the management and traceability of teams engaged in emergency operations.

The laureates of the Intrapreneurship programme of 21 are:

Season 1 

  • Croix-Rouge Mobilités – A powered platform of shared mobility services offering carpooling, passenger transport, car sharing, vehicle rental and transport of goods;
  • Minutis – An IT tool allowing the management and coordination of first aid actions (emergency plans, exercises, etc.);
  • MeHandYou – A platform facilitating  dialogue and coaching between people with disabilities;
  • BackPack : A mobile solution for chronic lower back pain. (The project is no longer working since the Covid-19 crisis as the rehabilitation service is closed and the team has been allocated to other services).

Season 2

  • Itinerant and Dematerialised Social Grocery (ESID)  – A grocery that enables people to order their basic products online and pick them up at the grocery shop;
  • Pot’agés – Bringing together elderly, disabled and/or isolated people and young people around gardening;
  • Clichés – A podcast presenting “inspirational portraits” to address the issue of self-discrimination;
  • Gulao – A tool for dynamic monitoring of volunteers thanks to a database offering numerous functionalities.

Season 3

  • Home visits for isolated people;
  • Bus Connecté de Téléconsultation – Connected busses visit rural areas allowing to consult a doctor online;
  • Sensibus – A sensory bus aiming to stimulate disabled people who no longer have access to certain health care practices because of the covid-19 crisis;
  • Modul’air – Facilitate the access to emergency housing via alternative solutions.