Reintegrate school and social dropped-out young people

Since 2015, the Foundation has established a partnership with the Les Cités d’Or association, whose mission is to impart "fundamental human skills" in society, particularly among young people who are academically and socially disengaged.

Logo Les cités d'or LyonCreated in 2007 by Karim Mahmoud-Vintam and recognized as being of general interest since 2013Les Cités d’Or is an association developed in the parisian area before establishing in Lyon. It is directed at all and more particularly at young adults (16-35 year old) who are in social difficulty. “People who are going through hard times but above all who feel a deep material, emotional and symbolic disarray. They don’t believe in anything and are convinced they don’t have any role to play in society” explains Karim Mahmoud-Vintam*, Les Cités d’Or president.  

In order to enable these young people to experience an original adventure while asking themselves about their lives, the association organizes alternative schools consisting of five “fundamental human skills” workshops. These workshops are keys to learn arguing one’s point of view and participate to a debate, find information, develop one’s network, becoming self-confident and understand the contemporary world.

The Gattefossé foundation supported the launch of the alternative school in the Guillotière area in Lyon, which  started in January 2016, for 13 participants between the ages of 18 and 22. As part of this civic project, members of the La Guillotière group met twice a week to interact and work together. They also had the opportunity to share with Gattefossé employees about their life course, the obstacles they have overcome, the lessons they have learned in life…

The Gattefossé Foundation is very proud to partner with Les Cités d’Or, which has already helped more than 800 people so far.
The association is also among the 30 finalists of the major competition “La France s’engage”, a label that distinguishes projects that are the most innovative and useful to society.

Jean-Louis Etienne meets the public


Audition publique Jean-Louis Etienne et Les Cités d'OrAn Alternative School usually ends with the organization of a “meet-the-public” session, an interview during which a French celebrity is invited to discuss his or her career, successes and failures. The session focuses on a question which is both simple yet daunting: what do we all need in order to become active stakeholders in our own lives and in society?

In January 2017, Jean-Louis Etienne was a guest of Les Cités d’Or for a meet-the-public session at Gattefossé intended for company staff.  This explorer and adventurer agreed to answer questions from the “citoyens d’or” Alicia, Anthony, Daniel and Emeric on his life and career, the beginnings of which were complicated and tortuous. His successes, his obstacles and discouraging moments, his notion of friendship or his role as a father are just some examples of the themes raised by youngsters from the Guillotière alternative school before an audience of 70 spectators who were visibly moved and convinced by what they heard.  From his native Tarn to the Southern Ocean, this warm, inspiring and exciting man, whose conviction and commitment are almost contagious, has always succeeded in transforming his weaknesses into strengths, showing the youngsters from the Cités d’or that nothing in life is set in stone.

View the photo report from the meet-the-public session thanks to Jean-Jacques Bernard pictures.

An embedded photographer in the “écoles buissonnières” (=alternative schools)


The Foundation has appointed the photographer Jean-Jacques Bernard to produce an ‘embedded’ photo report in the Guillotière alternative school. This photographer produced around a hundred photographs to illustrate the association’s work and to raise awareness of the association.

“We’re always hearing about people dropping out of school and out of society, but rarely from the people actually experiencing this. The ‘Cités d’Or’ initiative is quite unique, combining fundamental skills and practical knowledge, with a noble ambition in mind, that of enabling participants to (re)build their lives and helping them understand the world in which we live to become genuine stakeholders in it.

For 6 months, I participated on an ‘embedded’ basis in the weekly workshops involving a group of young people without employment or training, who left school very early on. What immediately struck me was the huge waste occurring when we see young people who possess positive qualities which are not so different from those found during the training sessions in image technology and photography that I provide in higher education establishments, but who lack something so minor yet so vital: verbal and behavioral assurance, self-awareness, self-confidence and the right connections, etc. We worked on all these things over the weeks and it was an amazing and impressive adventure. I’m delighted that photographers can contribute to building upon the Cités d’Or’s work and also that I have been able to help the participants project a positive and accurate image of themselves. In any case that’s how I see my role.”