The ambitious and optimistic “tomorrows” of Emmanuelle Falaise

The usual journey of a social innovator

Despite her apparent shyness, you can sense an incredible inner strength in Emmanuelle Falaise, an overflowing energy, a disconcerting authenticity and, let’s face it, a tendency to dream. And why not, if the dream leads to action? One of the winners in the MIS’s Civic Incubator program in the fall 2018 cohort, this social innovator and full-time medical archives technician uses every means at her disposal to realize her social innovation project. She didn’t think twice about using all of her vacation time and even some unpaid leave to take part in the training program offered by the MIS. So what is this project?

“Demain Verdun”, a citizen movement focused on ecology

A local citizen movement, called “Demain Verdun” (Tomorrow Verdun), aims to be “optimistic” and dedicated to ecological transition. It is a movement that revolves around three main pillars to sustainably address the major environmental issues of today:

  1. Inspire the citizens ;
  2. provide them tools and mobilize them around meetings and initiatives led by local organizations or citizens ;
  3. and support them in the action by putting them in touch with each other, by promoting visibility and by referring citizens’ initiatives to the relevant resources.

By publishing reports on the Demain Verdun platform about the various organizations in the borough devoted to the environment, citizen participation and democracy; by promoting new citizen initiatives; by revealing “what’s happening on this or that person’s little plot of land”; and by sharing information and inspiring experiences, as well as opportunities for meet-ups and collective mobilization, Emmanuelle seeks to infuse citizen action into the DNA of the borough, and wants to make Demain Verdun a true voice for environmental issues.

“I am driven by the desire to document, gather and make known the existing solutions to achieve this ecological transition,” she explains. “I want to offer choices and spark citizen action rather than wait for changes to be imposed on us. You do not have to be a specialist to take action and launch an initiative. It’s up to us to take responsibility and to be agents of change ourselves. If, through this movement, I can contribute to developing a sense of belonging to a supportive community and inspire its members to act, then Demain Verdun will be a successful bet.”

Different meetings that sparked the desire to act

How did she come to launch this movement? Led by her intuition and her passions, it was a bit by chance, but also through important encounters that she was convinced to take action. While not an environmentalist or environmental expert, Emmanuelle is in love with nature. The first time something clicked was during a working stay in Alsace on an organic farm. A few years later, she was deeply affected, almost overcome, by the French film entitled “Demain” by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent.

What could she do, a medical records technician with a love of writing and the etymology of words, to ensure the “tomorrow” of her community? A stint as a volunteer for Projet Montréal, reading the book, Demain, Quebec (Tomorrow, Québec) by Diego Creimer, Louise Hénault-Éthier, Karel Mayrand and Julie Roy, and a lecture about the book given by Mr. Creimer at the Librairie Verdun bookstore, eventually persuaded her that she could no longer hold back her desire to do something to contribute to a more peaceful future for the planet.

Digital tools at the service of a citizen project

Someone suggested she write Demain Verdun. Another suggested she create a Facebook group. The idea of mobilizing others by opting for the means that had drawn her to the cause seemed obvious. Talking about about positive changes, promising initiatives, the journeys of agents of change; countering cynicism, inspiring others, breathing optimism into the discourse to convince the uninitiated to take action – this is the mandate she gave herself.

So she launched her Facebook group in May 2018 to publish reports on the initiatives of Verdun residents dedicated to sustainable development and the support of their community, hoping to mobilize others. To her surprise, each time she published an article about a Verdun initiative, a hundred members joined the group. Gradually, Demain Verdun has become a reference in the local community and has taken off. People asked for more. Citizens mobilized around this movement and thematic working units have even been created. But very quickly, she had to wonder what was next, in order to avoid burning out. And it is within the MIS’s Civic Incubator that she found new allies to structure her project.

Evolving Demain Verdun in the MIS Civic Incubator

Through a journey lasting a little over three months, she was able to clarify the mission of the movement, rethink the governance of the project, acquire a wealth of skills and knowledge to help support and develop the web platform and activities surrounding Demain Verdun. It was necessary to recognize and validate her aspirations and strengths as well as her weaknesses; to learn to delegate by surrounding herself with people who are competent, committed and supportive to share the tasks of Demain Verdun and plan the scaling-up and sustainability of the movement.

“From my first contacts with the MIS team, they saw a leader in me, something that I did not recognize in myself at the outset. I trusted them. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, encouraged to see that I could be something other than a good soldier and that I could be a visionary and truly contribute to a better world. The leadership skills and confidence I gained in the Civic Incubator are undeniable and will serve me well beyond my project. They literally transformed my life. This is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had!”

There were many challenges for someone who prefers to work behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight. Occasionally swapping her pen for a microphone was not easy. 

“I have to admit, it was hard to adopt certain working methodologies that use diagrams. I probably navigate better in writing than in mapping. The service blueprint aimed at revealing the hidden areas of my target clienteles was a challenge!” she adds with a laugh.

Fortunately, she was able to count on the help of colleagues in the cohort with whom she developed real friendships.

“Building an effective pitch, strengthening the positioning of a project with more sustained marketing concepts, recognizing the right windows of opportunity, knowing when you’re ready, or not, to move to the next stage, being enriched by listening and sharing the diverse experiences of the other winners, these are all elements that have served me particularly well until now.”

Leading by example to inspire other initiatives

When asked if we can hope to see the creation of a Demain Montréal one day, she answers: 

It is through the local ownership and at the community level that Demain Montréal and Demain Québec will materialize. Being anchored in a small community is easier. Nourishing a sense of belonging to a community, facilitates the creation of selfless social capital among the individuals who form the collective, which in turn fosters exchanges, solidarity, inclusion as well as complementarity in collective diversity and mobilization.

Whether or not you’re a proud Verdun resident, we can enjoy being inspired by this movement and drawing inspiration from it to take action ourselves, no matter what form it takes. We wish this project much success!

Daria Marchenko, porteuse du projet ECOist Club, lauréat de la cohorte de l'automne 2020 de l'Incubateur civique de la MIS

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