Why quit your job and become a Public Interest Entrepreneur (EIG)?

29 May 2018 / by Tiphaine Phe-Neau, EIG Prévisecours

Tiphaine looks back on her journey - from Dailymotion to Public Interest Entrepreneur - and tells us what motivated her to get involved in the program.

Une jeune femme se tient de trois-quart : elle a les cheveux noirs et longs, des lunettes et sourit légèrement. C'est le portrait de Tiphaine Tiphaine Phe-Neau, Public Interest Entrepreneur for the Prévisecours challenge

To be honest, there are 1,000 reasons to get involved in the Public interest entrepreneur program. If you ask each of the entrepreneurs you will get a different answer every time. In this article, I'm going tell you why I started, or at least my thought process.

For some, the concept of public interest is associated with "community work", which is synonymous with punishment. But when I explained to the CTO(2) of a French company what I was working on, he was astonished to find the positive aura around public interest. Because, unlike a punishment, public interest is literally in everyone's interest.

So why work for the Public Interest?

Everyone, EIG or otherwise, has already been revolted by a fact of our society: an observation, a decision or an institution. But how many of us thought we could change all that? Without necessarily having gone through a prestigious graduate school like ENA, X or some other well known acronym (3) is it even possible? Yes, and for me, this is the essence of the Public interest entrepreneurs program.

"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" is the French motto: we are all equal, we all have something interesting to say and share, whether it be through our career paths, our life paths or our personal feelings. We have something to contribute to society, whether from a "maker" (4) or "user" standpoint.

Everyone, with their own abilities, can contribute to improving our society, and we, as EIGs, do so with what we know how to do. For example: when I see an inefficient distribution of resources in some restaurants (yes, I like to eat) I automatically start optimizing the process in my head (this may well be some sort of scientific bent of mind). But haven't you ever thought that things would be better if we did them differently? Or if we thought about problems in a different way, about new ways of doing things? Or, quite simply, have you ever wanted to help other people in their daily lives?

Here's another personal example: when I hear a fire brigade siren, I always hope everything will be all right and that it's nothing serious. But beyond that and taking my first aid certificate, there's not much more I can do. I'm not able to transport someone who has fallen ill on the street or fight a fire in the middle of the night. But by working in technology and specializing in Data Science, I have acquired other skills that could be useful. In my own way, perhaps less directly than being a firefighter, I can improve the daily life of citizens.

But in what way does the EIG program work in the public interest?

Tiphaine et Guillaume, discutent avec une personne qui est de dos Tiphaine and Guillaume, Public Interest Entrepreneurs for the Prévisecours challenge (© Liberté Living Lab)

I'm working with Guillaume Lancrenon on the Prévisecours challenge. Guillaume is a fullstack developer and comes from the entrepreneurship world and I am a data scientist with a private sector background.

Together, we are trying to help the Essonne fire brigade. Their need: better predict their operations to better prepare for them and provide better service to citizens.

Team work is a reality for all EIG challenges :

  • Designers, project managers, engineers of all levels, gender and age (I'll let you browse the website to see for yourself) work together within challenges, but also between challenges, sharing their skills with host administrations and other EIGs.
  • Team work, numerous discussions and the culture of sharing that permeates our ecosystem allow us all to better understand other professions (firefighters for Prévisecours) and other digital specialities (design, data science, system administration, mediation and even project management).

It is also a way of seeing all the ways in which we can get involved in helping citizens : The challenges of the 2nd EIG promotion range from the creation of a platform for sharing and aggregating social innovations (SocialConnect) to identifying and supporting companies in difficulty (Tell-tell signs) through harmonization work on health data (LabSanté).

Citizens sometimes have the impression that the digitisation and centralisation of departments has disembodied administrations. But when we join a department for 10 months as an EIG, it's not the Administration with a capital A that we meet. They are people like you and us, with their life paths and experiences, and it is with them that we exchange ideas and try to improve what has previously upset or revolted us. At the core of the EIG program is the desire to help administrations and society through specific projects. To come and help whenever possible, and not get involved in a political game of construction and deconstruction.

We are here for a short period of time, to try to do our bit, and impart our points of view and ways of doing things. We come to show different things and different backgrounds and learn more about administrations. Public interest involves simply helping society, each in his own way, little by little. Becoming an EIG is like doing our part as a hummingbird."

_ In the end, for me, the main purpose of an EIG is to help. _


(1) Or be on standby, of course.

(2) CTO (Chief Technical Officer).

(3) I emphasize these aspects as there are an increasing number of egalitarian initiatives to give everyone a chance. And where did this come from? People believing in the equality of society and trying to make a difference with their knowledge and skills and their way of thinking. A bit like we do for 10 months as an EIG.

(4) Designer.

Around the EIG program, other initiatives echo this sense of commitment and innovation for the public interest. Discover for example Latitudes or Data For Good. Several members of these collective initiatives have in fact become EIGs!