Over 44,000 individuals deemed ineligible for a bank loan have already benefited from a microcredit. Although it was introduced at the end of 2005, this system providing loans (capped at 3,000 euros) and personalised support is still in the experimental stage. This original solution – not quite a market commodity and not quite social assistance – involves different stakeholders such as credit institutions, associations and social services and sometimes requires them to operate – and co-operate – in different ways from their usual approach. Public policy has the key role – that of implementing the guarantees provided by the Social Cohesion Fund (Fonds de cohésion sociale) where the principle of solidarity prevails over that of pooling risk among borrowers. Based on the findings of a study (2,000 microcredit-applicants and 350 professionals included) updating the impact of this system on borrowers as well as its limitations – in terms of social support in particular – this study questions future organisational and economic choices regarding the development of this system and their consequences – depending on whether a commodity or solidarity based approach is adopted to this hybrid tool.
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