Pierre Benassaya, class of 2019
Pierre Benassaya, class of 2019
- Pierre Benassaya © Franck Dunouau
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?
In 2014, after obtaining a scientific baccalaureate, I decided to take the Sciences Po entrance exam. I still remember the pressure when I entered the huge exam room in Villepinte as if it were yesterday. I think that room left its mark on a whole generation of students.
I then chose the Menton campus in order to better understand the problems in the Middle East, which at that time was shaken by the consequences of the Arab Spring. Now I admit it, the beach and the sun did contribute to my choice of this campus. My two years in the Bachelor’s program were very intense. I met some wonderful people who I still meet on a daily basis, many of whom have joined the "Graines Populaires" adventure.
During my second year in Menton, I decided to take the entrance exam to the French Institute of the Near East (Ifpo). My initial plan was to acquire a sufficient level of Arabic to take the competitive exams of the Quai d'Orsay and the Cadre d'Orient. Sad to leave the quiet city of Menton but excited at the idea of discovering a new country, I flew to Lebanon in October 2016.
I quickly got used to Beirut, its complexity and beauty, but I also discovered a very unequal country where public services were non-existent. The Lebanese people seemed revolted by the way the country was run. They were constantly criticising the corruption but seemed resigned to the status quo. They said they had no weight or power in the community political system. Beyond its academic and linguistic contribution to my life, the country of the Cedar has therefore deeply politicised me. I became aware of our individual responsibility: the absence of commitment is ultimately a form of commitment to the status quo. To do nothing is to support the existing state of affairs. This experience encouraged me in my desire to get involved in politics in order to change things in a concrete manner.
Once back in France, it was in this spirit that I chose to join the Master in Public Policy at the School of Public Affairs at Sciences Po. During my second year of the Master’s program, I pursued an apprenticeship in a communications and public affairs firm. After graduating, I joined a consulting firm, TNP Consultants, where I continue to work today. My job is to support the public sector in its complex digital or organisational transformation projects. I am currently working on an assignment for Agirc-Arrco, the compulsory supplementary pension scheme for private sector employees.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE GRAINES POPULAIRES INITIATIVE? ("POPULAR SEEDS")
I have always been quite surprised to see that in France, environmentalism was considered a concern of the rich, even though the first victims of ecological disruption are the poorest and most precarious. It was with the aim of responding to this paradox that we decided to launch this association. Graines Populaires is a young association that we founded in August 2020 to respond in a very concrete way to the social problems of citizens by means of ecology. Last summer, there were only three of us. Barely four months later, and despite the health context, we are now already more than a hundred volunteers present in 60 districts in France and 7 countries in the world.
We have built a workshop methodology with Design Thinking specialists that takes place in two stages. During the first part of the workshop, we discuss with the inhabitants the problems related to the district in which they live. In the second part, we work with them to define sustainable solutions to these problems. These solutions become the roadmap of the local chapter of the association. They can be very direct (such as solidarity or awareness-raising actions), or more political, and the association then becomes the voice of the inhabitants to the local elected officials. This unique way of approaching ecology makes it more accessible and more concrete for the thousands of citizens who still consider it too abstract a notion. In short, with "Graines Populaires" (popular seeds) we sow ecology on a daily basis.
The association also gives a lot of freedom to the local chapters, which define their own mode of action. In this manner we make individual initiatives all over the world collective. We are not here to make anyone feel guilty, everyone must make their transition at their own pace. Finally, the commitment at Graines Populaires is on the scale of what we can do at the associative level, but in order to change the scale, we have to understand that the problem is systemic, that it goes beyond us, and that the last commitment is therefore political...
YOU ARE ALSO INVOLVED IN POLITICS.
Yes, and I think that it is a commitment that is completely complementary and necessary to volunteering in associations. It is through politics that we could completely review and correct our production system, which is responsible in unbalancing the ecosystems in which we live; we could relocalise our economy and develop a real circular and sustainable economy; we could favour an economy of functionality, where the creation of value would be in the use of a good rather than in its possession. I think that it is through political commitment that we can most strongly influence these developments.
I am therefore a member of Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV). It is the party with which I am most in tune in terms of values, and which, in my opinion, is the most likely to embody the legacy of political ecology in France. I was very involved in the last municipal campaign in Paris in the 19th arrondissement and I now have some internal responsibilities. I have been elected to the Parisian Departmental Executive Bureau (BED), where I am in charge of mobilisations and external relations. I will also free up some time to take part in the upcoming regional elections campaign. Between work, the association and politics, my agenda is now very busy.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BENEFITS OF YOUR STUDIES AT THE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR THE POSITION YOU HOLD TODAY?
Professionally, politically, and within Graines Populaires, I have to carry out radically different activities. The EAP has helped me to be adaptable in all circumstances, and to carry out all these projects at the same time.
I admit that I don't have to use the rulings of the Conseil d'Etat or the rules of public finance every day, but I think that this fundamental knowledge structures the way we approach public affairs. The organisation and rigour that Sciences Po requires are also very useful habits in project management. Beyond education, it is the links I forged with my classmates at EAP that made me who I am today and oriented me towards my current activities.