Victoria Mandefield is a social entrepreneur from France, and the founder and CEO of Solinum, creator of Soliguide, a survival guide and support for the homeless. Mandefield is a board member of the French Red Cross, and has been recognized as one of Vanity Fair’s 30 under 30 list of new faces, Euclid Network’s Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise, and Carenews’s Top 50 impact entrepreneurs. In 2018 she received L’Usine Nouvelle’s Social and Solidarity Commitment Trophy as part of the Engineers of the Future Awards.
Mandefield is driven to change the world by using innovation to increase societal impact and fight poverty. She has been working to support the homeless since she was a teenager and, at only 27 years old, she has already helped nearly 100,000 people in need. Mandefield aims to raise awareness of the different kinds of homeless people: not just single men in their 50s but also women, families, exiles, refugees, and children. Similarly, statistics show that 70 percent of homeless people have a smartphone. For most, it is their lifeline to financial support and administration. Online access to the digital solutions provided by administrations is key to their very survival. Mandefield is passionate about optimizing technology and using it as a time-saving tool to focus on what is most important: the people. She believes that technology is only interesting if it answers a real problem; but if the solution to a problem is a pencil, there is no point in using tech.
Solinum came about after Mandefield’s Excel spreadsheets of useful addresses for the homeless were no longer an adequate solution. Solinum detects key issues in the fight against poverty, experiments with solutions, measures their effects, and generalizes them. It responds to an obvious social need in France—one that has become even more urgent since the COVID-19 crisis. Soliguide is a keystone of Solinum, helping France’s urban homeless populations find meal centers, shelters, hot showers, advice, and more.
Mandefield holds two degrees: one in engineering from ECE Paris and one in management from Audencia Business School. Her education has allowed her to devote her technical, organizational, and managerial skills to overhauling the social sector and replacing its existing pens and paper with technology. In 2016, while she was still a student, Mandefield launched Solinum—a contraction of “solidarité” (solidarity) and “numérique” (digital)—a mission-driven, nonprofit startup. Throughout her studies, both the business and engineering schools supported Mandefield in bringing her project to fruition, granting her student entrepreneur status, supporting her initiative via an incubator, and, following a rigorous selection process, awarding her financial support. She also benefited from the Audencia Class Gift Fund.
Since graduating, Mandefield has continued to maintain her relationship with Audencia, recently tasking a team of five MBA students with a consulting mission. Over a period of five weeks, the students worked full-time on producing a European internationalization study for Soliguide.
In 2018, just two years after its launch, Solinum hired its first employee. In its six-year existence, Solinum has grown rapidly and currently has 34 full-time employees and many more volunteers across France. Mandefield is innovative and agile when recruiting volunteers, as illustrated by her call for Ukrainian translators to provide information for the influx of Ukrainian families arriving in France since February 2022. Solinum is currently in a scale-up phase and is expected to cover all of France’s territories by 2025.
On a national scale, Mandefield is gaining recognition as a key contributor in raising awareness and providing solutions for the homeless. She continues to shake up the world of societal impact, working closely with France’s major support systems, including 115, the call center run by the emergency social services, as well as the French Red Cross.
In response to urgent needs, Mandefield works with benchmarks and statistics, but also with intuition and agility. For example, she recently launched Merci pour l’invit (Thanks for the Invitation). This new service allows private individuals to provide women with somewhere to sleep when emergency housing solutions are overwhelmed and unavailable. People can sign up with Solinum to host a woman experiencing homelessness who is referred by a social worker. Solinum then checks its database to find hosts that are the most conveniently located for each individual. As many people experiencing homelessness have jobs, this particular feature enables them to be hosted as close as possible to their workplaces.
Mandefield says, “I don’t pretend that on my own I’m changing the world, but I am making my contribution by helping a few people and thus improving the system as a whole. That’s something.” Her humility, energy, and youth are truly inspirational.