Leading modules


Module 5 “Can I solve problems?” – Creative problem solving

Unit 4 – How to develop problem-solving skills?
Exercises/questions for self-reflection

Case study + questions

Julie Abbadie, 33 years, is a special-needs educator and farm manager, coming from a Basque family having been farmers for several generations. The idea of launching a project to revitalize the family farm at Hasparren, had been germinating in Julie’s head for several years. She created an association called “La Ferme d’Uhaldia”, named after the old sharecropper house on the farm. Her objective is to offer socio-professional support to adults in precarious situations and remote from normal labor market, thanks to an organic market gardening activity with short supply chain.

Julie identified two challenges: The Basque country imports 80% of its fruits and vegetables. Despite a strong identity and a well-established and dynamic agriculture in the area, the need for fruit and vegetables is existing and the market gardeners fail to cover the request. She also noted that the structures who support people who are excluded from the labor market are mostly located on the Basque coast and not so much in the Basque inland areas like the village of Hasparren. The special potential of her project idea was the fact to be able to use her family’s farmland that had stayed unexploited for a while.

At the beginning, Julie looked for a lot of orientation and advice around her. She met more and more interlocutors giving her sometimes contrary advises. Most of the professionals she met encouraged her, but some also said that what she wants to set up would not work, that she should think about something else. At this point, Julie started to realize that her project idea was either too unknown in her region or truly not feasible.

Analyzing this situation, she decided to enlarge the circle of competent persons to find concrete answers to her questions, all above of course to administrative, financial, and legal questions. She decided to take advise only by professionals who had experience with the kind of project she wanted to set up. Secondly, she decided to look for similar projects in other French regions to learn from their experience by searching on the internet. She contacted the people, visited their projects, and asked them about the actions they took, the difficulties they faced, the delays they had to respect, ….

These approaches helped her to take the right decisions. She founded an association and decided to create her structure under the form of a work integration workshop (ACI) for 26 hours a week, hours for support included. An ACI is an integration structure through economic activity that exists in France. There is now a steering committee with state partners and other funders (region, employment center, social entrepreneurship service agency, …). The Cocagne network (an associative network of organic farms working with social integration) helped her a lot to deal with the land issue, as she is owner of the farm land and therefor had to make an agricultural lease, that her association can rent the land. She is now in the process of taking the steps to obtain the legal accreditation. In the meantime, she organized a successful fundraising and is looking for grants from private foundations, which is a new challenge for her.

Julie did not stray from her initial project even though she faced and still faces a lot of challenges. She set a guideline with a calendar, like a red thread that she follows, respecting administrative deadlines and being aware of the time the paperwork needs to be done.

After having read the case study of Julie

  • Please answer the following questions:
    • Which challenge questions or needs did she identify when developing her idea?
    • Which challenges did she face when she started to analyse the potentials and the feasibility of her project idea?
    • Can you describe in which way Julie is a proactive problem-solver?
  • Use the PPCO tool to analyze Julie’s project idea.