Since the COVID-19 crisis began in January this year, we at Yunus Social Business have been acutely aware of the potential threat it poses to the populations we support. While governments in wealthy European countries have been subsidising employee salaries, this has not been the case for the emerging countries in which our portfolio Social Businesses operate.
As such, we wasted no time in co-initiating, along with the World Economic Forum, the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs. This is a 48-strong group of global organisations, from foundations and multilateral organizations to private companies. It was set up to provide business and financial support to social enterprises across the world, so that they in turn can continue to improve lives in their communities.
Today we are delighted to share that we have already distributed 650k USD to 14 of our portfolio including to our Social Businesses in Uganda and Kenya.
One of the companies to benefit from this emergency support in Uganda is Cycle Connect. At the start of this year, Cycle Connect was carrying out its usual business: providing lease-to-own bicycles and asset loans to smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda. The farmers benefit from increased mobility and opportunities. When the lockdown was introduced in Uganda at the end of March to stop the spread of COVID-19, it presented a huge challenge: Not only to Cycle Connect but also to its clients, the smallholder farmers who were no longer able to work on their farms.
Muyambi Muyambi, founder of Cycle Connect, explains the team’s dilemma: “[At Cycle Connect,] we believe that distance should not be a barrier, and in the midst of COVID you can imagine what this distance is doing to our farmers.”
Much like other social businesses, Cycle Connect has been quick to react to the economic crisis resulting from COVID lockdown. The team identified 3 key issues affecting their community and clients:
The team identified 3 main challenges:
They then quickly initiated a response to address these challenges:
We are delighted to see the work Cycle Connect is doing to react to the challenges brought about by COVID-19 and to the economic crisis from the resulting lockdown.
Yunus Social Business was happy to support Cycle Connect in their initiatives with the local communities. Cycle Connect was among 14 Social Businesses to receive grant capital from Yunus Social Business purposed to support their payroll in the extreme times of the current lockdown. Thus, they are able to continue their remarkable work in their community.
Molly Burke, CEO of Cycle Connect, shared her reaction to the capital grant:
These are extremely difficult and unprecedented times. Having a partner like YSB makes Cycle Connect all the more resilient—and now is when I feel that most. Their quick response during this time is instrumental in enabling our team to take immediate action to respond to the challenges emerging in the communities we work in due to COVID-19 and its effects. Their commitment ensures our team can continue to empower rural families today, tomorrow, and beyond the pandemic.
Specifically, we have been able to donate over one hundred bicycles to health centers and are now launching a response to support hundreds of families in accessing seeds to plant and strengthen food security. Such tangible and swift action would not be feasible without the kind of support that YSB stepped in with, and so early on. Without a strong and resilient team, you cannot execute any idea. By ensuring that our team stays on board at its full capacity, they are catalyzing efforts now and in the future to ensure last mile communities in Uganda can get the support they need.
In full honesty, I was truly blown away when I heard the news and am humbled by such a generous response.
We have teamed up with the World Economic Forum to co-initiate a COVID Response Alliance for Social Businesses with a total of 48 philanthropic organisations, including USAID, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, IKEA Foundation, Schwab Foundation, European Venture Philanthropy Association and many more. Together with our partners, we have already mobilised 75M USD, reaching 15,000 social entrepreneurs in 190 countries. But much more needs to be done.
You can support our COVID Response Alliance for Social Businesses via our COVID Appeal page. Thank you for your support.
This is for growth-stage businesses that seek to solve a social problem. We are looking for businesses that want to level up and become ready for investment. Social Businesses that seek to apply to the programme should be generating revenues of around US$250,000.
How should we give? Along with the issue of how much, questioning the model into which we donate our money is becoming more and more pertinent in the modern age. As we seek to optimise the way we spend and invest our money, it’s not surprising that we are also looking to optimise the way we give. There is a scarcity in the philanthropic capital available - so it’s important that it is spent well.
Already in the crucial latter half of my 20s, I was seeking opportunities where I could accelerate the growth of my personal and professional capital more than my financial capital.
Why do we need a social sector? Shouldn’t businesses create economic opportunities and governments ensure a just distribution of these opportunities and set incentives and boundaries such that the environment is protected?
People in rural and peri-urban Kenya are lacking access to high-quality healthcare and medication. Less than 5% of Kenya’s GDP is spent on healthcare and only 17% of Kenyans have health insurance coverage. With 46% of the country’s population living below the poverty line, Kenyans are particularly vulnerable to financial catastrophe when facing health issues.
Is it possible for a fledgling social business to source to a large corporation? Sounds tough, but we know it can work! Corporations have so much to learn from social businesses about putting people and the planet first - and corporations are a great opportunity for a social business looking to scale. It can be the perfect combination. But it needs work.