Globe, the Geneva Graduate Institute Review
21 November 2023

Paying It Forward with Suspend'us

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Inspired by the concept of caffe sospeso, Suspend'us is a Swiss association founded by Clémence and Laure Oriol, a local mother-daughter team who wanted to digitalise the trend that originated in Naples during the Second World War, when locals would pay for coffees at local cafés and leave the receipts hanging at the counters so that they could be claimed by soldiers. Through their platform, Suspend'us allows donors to pay for items and services at local businesses and credit them towards people in need, who can claim them at a later date. Master student at the Geneva Graduate Institute and Research Assistant at the Centre for Finance and Development, Grégory Cerutti is Vice President of Suspend'us and tells us about the work that they do in fighting poverty in Switzerland.

Grégory Cerutti
Contrary to popular belief, poverty in Switzerland represents a significant social issue. According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2021, 8.5% of the population was considered to be living below the poverty line.
Grégory Cerutti

Tell us about Suspend’us and how you got involved in the project.

Founded in Nyon in 2020, Suspend’us is inspired by the concept of caffe sospeso. Neapolitans would pay for a coffee with the ticket hanging on the counter, and the coffee could be enjoyed free of charge by someone else. Suspend’us was born out of the desire to make the concept relevant to today’s issues. Thanks to a digital platform, people in precarious situations have access to goods and services from local shops. Donors choose the amount and the partner shop to which they would like to donate. The amount donated then becomes available at that specific shop to people in precarious situations, who can then benefit from a free good or service of their choice, such as free haircuts, dental care, books, and groceries of course. As I was already familiar with the principle of the “Suspend’us” café, I found the idea of extending the concept beyond the simple café very interesting.


What role do you play in Suspend’us?

At the end of 2021, I began as an external advisor to the association. I wanted to get more personally involved in the project, so I joined the committee as vice-president over a year ago. As we're still a small association, everyone has a bit of a hand in everything. However, given my background, I mainly focus on the financial side of association, including auditing, budgeting and fundraising.


Switzerland has the reputation of being one of the richest countries in the world, yet poverty and precarity still exist. Is poverty in Switzerland much worse than we perceive?

Contrary to popular belief, poverty in Switzerland represents a significant social issue. According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2021, 8.5% of the population was considered to be living below the poverty line, meaning more than 700,000 people. People over 65 are the most affected by poverty and this situation has definitely not improved since the Covid crisis. Precariousness is therefore a reality in Switzerland contrary to the perception one might have from abroad… On the other hand, Switzerland’s good economic situation, which can be a source of bias in the perception of precariousness, largely benefits the more than 60,000 not-for-profit associations present on our territory. To give an order of magnitude, more than CHF 2 billion was donated to non-profit organisations in 2021.


What reception has Suspend’us received in Switzerland and how do you see it evolving in the future? 

Suspend’us was first tested around Nyon in 2020. We quickly developed a loyal network of shops. Donors responded and beneficiaries quickly benefited from recurring donations. Following the same model, we then developed in other towns in French-speaking Switzerland: Yverdon-les-Bains, Fribourg, Geneva and, most recently, Lausanne. Currently, demand from beneficiaries exceeds the supply of donations. Therefore, we are seeking donations from partners who can support us in ensuring the sustainability of our project in the medium term. As part of this strategy, after several rounds of selections, we succeeded in convincing private donors of our project and raised CHF 62,500 during the “Genève pour le bien commun” evening in September. Many other projects are also underway, such as bringing together as many runners as possible for the “Course de l’Escalade” at the end of the year.





Read More about Suspend'Us through their Platform

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