Back in March, when we were first reacting to the lockdowns of the early pandemic, it became clear very quickly that the economic and social effects were going to hit the poorest people the hardest.
At Yunus Social Business, our funds finance and support social businesses in India, East Africa and Latin America. As an organisation, we had to mobilise fast. We weren’t surprised to see our entrepreneurs in our portfolio quickly assuming ‘first responder’ roles but also quickly becoming cash-starved. Social businesses serve and employ those who are already excluded, overlooked by traditional financial services and not adequately served by governments. But with a truly global problem acting with such speed and force, whatever we could do alone as an organisation would be a drop in the ocean.
Through conversations with the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, we decided to join hands and co-initiate an alliance of organisations that work with and support social entrepreneurs. An alliance that would be stronger than any single organisation could be alone. Such a neutral and inclusive platform as the World Economic Forum provided the perfect host to unite as many (normally competing) organisations as possible. Within the first weeks, we already had 20 organisations and the number has now reached over 60. The social sector came together within weeks to pool their efforts, their resources and speak with a single, stronger voice.
Bringing together this many players is incredibly powerful, but it can also be unwieldy. It became apparent that rather than starting anything from scratch, the existing organisations in the alliance were much better placed to respond to the crisis. They already had deeply ingrained links to local communities and the processes in place to make quick assessments and deliver results.
Rather than building a singular global emergency fund, the alliance was most useful as a facilitator for information and orientation on what others were doing and where gaps existed. An alliance member Duke university e.g. created covidcap.com a searchable database with over 1 trillion USD in COVID cash resources available to small business and nonprofit entrepreneurs around the world. It acts as a place of exchange for how the organisations can support the 50,000 social entrepreneurs in their networks. Using this collaborative approach, the organisations in the alliance were able to already deploy $90 million dollars in funding.
But also all of these collective efforts are still not enough compared to the massive need we are facing. Through the action agenda, Leaders on the Front Line: COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda the alliance members are calling on their peer supporting intermediaries, investors, corporations, funders, and government institutions to do more to come to the rescue of social entrepreneurs.
In the run-up to the EVPA Annual Conference, Building Alliances for Impact, it’s important to reflect on the importance of collaboration in times of crisis.
Neben der Digitalisierung müssen sich Unternehmen der „social disruption“ stellen. Unsere Gründerin Saskia Bruysten ist überzeugt: Wer einen positiven Beitrag zur Gesellschaft nicht bald als Teil seines Kerngeschäfts versteht, ist bald weg vom Fenster.
Since 2016, our team in Colombia has been running an accelerator programme in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The goal of the programme is to build the ecosystem around social business in Colombia and help those with a high potential to become ‘investment ready’.
Before Susan Mubiru bought a water purification system for her school, Namutebi Nkata Primary in Uganda, she had to find a way to boil water for all of her 516 students. “When we used to boil it, it was never enough. The children would not always have drinking water regularly”. For Susan, and schools across Africa lack of access to safe drinking water is a huge challenge.
We are delighted to be part of delivering the fantastic F-LANE Accelerator, Europe's first accelerator with a focus on early-stage social impact start-ups that utilise technology to empower women worldwide.
What is it like to work as a venture builder at Yunus Social Business? We spoke to Lorelei Logel-Demoulin about her work on a project in collaboration with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and the Ingka Group. She discussed her experiences and challenges building an ambitious social innovation project during a global pandemic.
Tom Schneider is one of our dedicated mentors from MAN Truck & Bus, here he has published his thoughts and unique perspectives of his mentoring experience with the MAN Impact Accelerator.