Increase Valorisation Sociale

Sittingbourne, United Kingdom Economic sustainability, Local social sustainability
EU funded project


The £8.6 million cross-Channel programme, called Increase Valorisation Sociale (Increase VS), trains residents how to launch their own businesses or how to find a job.
The programme operates along the South and East Coasts of England from Cornwall to Norfolk, and the North Coast of France from Brittany to Pas-de-Calais.
It is led by Optivo, is a partnership between nine French and English housing associations and training providers.

The project is co-funded by the Interreg France (Channel) England programme with a European Regional Development Fund contribution of £5.9 million.


The project aims to tackle above average unemployment by supporting a sustainable pipeline of small businesses in each area that will benefit local economies and households.

Our innovative solution is tailored to social housing residents by creating an integrated service. The 6 step service offer involves:
Step 1- Engagement and assessment of needs
Step 2- Preparation activity
Step 3- Implementation of new training modules
Step 4- Ongoing support into new business, employment or further training
Step 5- Ambassador training
Step 6- Ambassador activity

The project will create a number of community ambassador roles and a strong stakeholders network in each neighbourhood.
These ambassadors will provide on-going support to micro-entrepreneurs and will continue to engage future participants, ensuring the long lasting legacy of the project.

Issues tackled

All of the 38 UK and French neighbourhoods targeted in the project are characterised by above average unemployment.
Up to 53% HA residents are unemployed or economic inactive in the UK compared to a 30% average (NHF:Work & Welfare) and unemployment is 24% for social housing residents in France against 21% for private tenants (INSEE).

Although enterprise and employment state training exists, current support is fragmented.
Clients move from one support organisation to another without progress tracking. Many clients fall back to inactivity and are at greater risk of rent arrears.

It’s more likely our clients will face more than one barrier, requiring more capacity to support; widening the gap between them and employment or enterprise as options. Our target neighbourhoods have multiple, complex barriers such as:
– Single parents without support networks,
– Disability/long term sickness,
– Multi-generational benefit dependency,
– High rate of poverty, low job opportunities.

Actors involved

  • Optivo
  • Clarion Futures
  • Radian Group
  • University of East Anglia
  • Pas-de-Calais Habitat
  • Polylogis
  • INCO
  • WeKer
  • Archipel Habitat
  • Neotoa

Actions carried out

  • Engaging with residents
  • Engaging with local stakeholders
  • Offering business training and employment support
  • Supporting trainees post-course
  • Building groups of Ambassadors
  • Sharing best practices with housing and enterprise training specialists sectors in France and in England


Our objectives by 2021 : 4,000 unemployed people will pass through the training over a three year period (2018-2021), creating up to 1,200 new businesses and helping a further 2000 into work.

By March 2020, Optivo has engaged more than 1,500 residents and 253 people had taken part in Radian’s CREATE programme, with 127 of them starting a business or finding employment; and another 98 completing further internal and exernal training courses.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is undertaking an academic evaluation of the range of approaches taken. In learning from each other and working together, the Increase VS partners aim to create best practice delivery models and a lasting legacy.

Why it works

– Work more closely with local stakeholders to develop a complementary offer.
– Combine clever use of social media, with direct engagement and stakeholder relations.
– Capitalise on and cascade the historical experience of some partners, e.g. UK housing associations have delivered successful
employment services for some time.
– Tailor engagement to needs (events, referrals, communications).
– Train clients in areas such as marketing, sales, finance.
– Include sales techniques and building confidence in business training.
– Maximise use of social media.
– Offer ongoing support by peers and experts.