Tēnaka: A Sciences Po start-up wins the Columbia Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge

Tēnaka, a social business founded by Anne-Sophie Roux, recent graduate of the Sciences Po School of Research and supported by the Centre for Entrepreneurship, is the winner of the 2021 Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge! This social entrepreneurship competition organized by the Columbia Alliance awards a prize of U$25,000 to support the development of a social venture project.

According to a NASA study, 27% of the world’s coral reefs have disappeared in the last 50 years, and 32% are threatened with extinction.. Yet corals are the lungs of our planet, guarantors of the balance of the Earth's ecosystem and the survival of 60 million people around the globeTēnaka is the first social enterprise that rebuilds these key ecosystems alongside corporations, scientists and local NGOs and communities. And while Tēnaka targets corporations, the programme My Coral Garden allows individuals to plant their own coral.


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Photo 1. In Asia and the Pacific, Anne-Sophie discovered the crucial importance and the fragility of our oceans’ ecosystems: she decided to find one of the many solutions to save them. Here, she installs a dome nursery with Alvin, marine biologist in charge of field operations in Malaysia, April 2019. ©Tēnaka.

Coral reefs play a leading role in our oceans and are essential for our planet: like trees, they emit oxygen and absorb carbon. They also ensure food security for millions of people, and enhance local economies by protecting them from climatic disasters. Thanks to a gap year taken within her Master's in Comparative Politics at Sciences Po, Anne-Sophie Roux became involved on the front lines of the climate crisis, alongside the most vulnerable communities, from the Pacific Ocean to the Himalayas. She began to take marine biology courses and discovered that planting coral is as simple as planting a tree. After 15 months spent in the Asia-Pacific region, she witnessed the positive impacts of reef restoration, for both the environment and coastal communities.

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Photo 2. A coral nursery installed for Tēnaka’s first client, the ethical jeweler Courbet, in Malaysia. © Anne-Sophie Roux / Tēnaka

Planting Corals with Tēnaka & My Coral Garden: How and Why?

We all know the positive effects of planting trees: the return of biodiversity, the protection of neighbouring communities, the regeneration of soils, oxygen emission, etc... But we generally know much less about corals: hidden beneath the surface of the oceans, they play the same role and hold the same functions as forests on Earth. Planting them is as easy as planting a tree, and the positive impacts are huge! The team of Tēnaka is working in Malaysia (where the first restored reefs are located) towards these positive impacts.
Tenaka builds tailor-made CSR programmes for businesses to engage in the restoration and preservation of our blue planet. It builds bridges between these businesses, marine scientists (who provide impacts measurement data) and the local communities that plant corals to restore their ecosystems, ensure food security, and work against climate change, typhoons and erosion.

By creating a synergy between businesses, NGOs, vulnerable communities - and through My Coral Garden, individuals - the team of ocean enthusiasts lays the foundation of an impactful, measurable and sustainable Blue Economy. They firmly believe that engaging each and every actor to restore our oceans’ ecosystems is a perennial solution to the climate crisis.

From Sciences Po to Social Entrepreneurship in Asia-Pacific

During her Master's degree at the Sciences Po Doctoral School, Anne-Sophie benefited from the multi-disciplinary approach, and the international dimension of the programme. Having just finished her dissertation on the empowerment of the most vulnerable communities to climate change in the Philippines, she hopes to "put into action" the theoretical training she received at Sciences Po. "Although the research field is often perceived as a somewhat closed-off world, it is more and more opening up to concrete fieldwork, with opportunities that are quite conducive to innovation," says Roux. Finally, in the context of the global climate crisis, the importance of acting on both fronts - that of research and that of the invention of alternatives - is, according to her, crucial. Sciences Po thus gave her the opportunity to innovate while receiving an important theoretical background necessary for the construction of her project.

Since the very first days of her entrepreneurial journey, Anne-Sophie has been accompanied by Sciences Po’s Center for Entrepreneurship. The in-house incubator allows her and her team to gain knowledge, funding and mentoring, while being part of a dynamic community of startuppers. “I could not have dreamt of a better way to start my social business,” she says.

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Photo 3. A healthy coral reef has been rebuilt thanks to a crowdfunding campaign in 2018, with recycled glass and cement. Pictured here is the reef one year later, in April 2019. © Anne-Sophie Roux / Tēnaka

Act for the oceans

If you are working in a company that is willing to engage for sustainable transitions, you can contact the team to build a CSR programme that meets your company’s needs. Tēnaka’s offers to business include (but are not limited to): coral reef restoration for your brand, scientific monitoring, impacts measurement data for CSR reports and communication. Various offers are to be built to engage your collaborators (immersion into your coral reef through virtual reality, intrapreneurship initiatives, etc.) and your consumers (drive-to-store mechanisms, marketing initiatives, etc.).

If you are interested in acting for the oceans, stopping the decline of the reefs and helping the most vulnerable communities, you can plant your own coral garden, give your coral a name and watch it grow on the My Coral Garden website! Through the platform you can follow the growth of your coral, meet the divers who care for them, but also meet the members of the local community via video reports and interviews. You also have access to detailed reports on the evolution of your reefs and the growth of your corals.

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