I have relished seeing how Social Venturers around the world have sprung into action to support entrepreneurs in their communities! Tip of the heat to everyone who instead of being stifled by fear and uncertainty (me right here!) jumped in with both feet to help purpose-driven founders navigate these rough times. I am SO excited to share their stories with you here and on social media over the coming weeks! 

Second responders to crisis

On March 11, I had the pleasure of hosting a virtual session at the Skoll World Forum together with the wonderful Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter. Together with Rick Turoczy (Portland, Oregon, US), Danielle Anderson (Nairobi, Kenya) and Leon Reiner (Berlin, Germany) we discussed how each of them were responding to the crisis. Our blog post with our 5 key learnings as well as the recording of our session are now up on the Skoll Foundation’s website. Check it out here!

In my conversations with Michelle, the idea of Second Responders was born: Once entrepreneurs have taken care of their most basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.), ecosystem builders are able to come in as second responders and help take care of the entrepreneurial community by helping founders, pivot, adapt or – if necessary – wind down operations. 

The case of IMPAQTO – a mini case study

Status Quo: How are entrepreneurs in your community dealing with the current situation?

“We did a survey immediately after shutdown. On average, they have 40 days to stay alive with current cashflow, so we are very much focused on offering mentorship and helping them device emergency plans for their startups.”

IMPAQTO serving immediate needs of its community

How have you helped entrepreneurs respond to COVID-19?

“We have a 3-front strategy: 

  1. Learn and adapt (25 webinars and counting, with over 3500 participants so far -topics range from mental health to financial support and digitizing payments. 
  2. Grants for covid-related enterprises – we raised funds for a small grant program for social enterprises that have potential to help improve the community’s response to quarantine and COVID (example)
  3. Help change agents help others: we launched a series of 4 hackathons to activate virtual volunteers – our first one is about solving challenges around domestic based violence in COVID isolation.

What does support look like for you and your team right now? 

“We have been fortunate to access support for specific initiatives to support our operations and keep some of our staff employed, but this won’t last beyond 4 months. If we will support entrepreneurs and change agents for real, we need to support the institutionality of ecosystem buildings – I know grants for hackathons may be sexy, but capital support for our operations and overhead makes for a more resilient response. For instance, $150k would give us the stability we need to keep our financial staff, controllers, media team and digital infrastructure running so we can be agile and feel secure.“

How do you expect to support entrepreneurs in your community post-COVID? What tasks and challenges do you foresee?

“I believe we will pivot to becoming centers for entrepreneurship recovery, intermediary investors and builders of community and emotional support. Many entrepreneurs will need palliative care for their ventures, and we will move towards saving the entrepreneur from the death of their start-up – they will become the main holders of lessons learned, re-bounce, and resilience in our community.”

IMPAQTO is re-envisioning their role in the ecosystem

Responses from Social Venturers worldwide

Ann-Christin Kortenbrede’s Guest Contribution: Making it through COVID-19. Advice from an Impact Investor.
Pie hosts several virtual events per week all geared toward supporting the Portland and national entrepreneurial ecosystem during COVID-19 (and hopefully beyond!)
  • Leon Reiner (Berlin, Germany) helped organize the world’s largest hackathon – WirVsVirusHackathon – to address how communities respond to the current situation. 
  • Noa Gafni (New York, NY US) shared her thoughts on what we can learn from grassroots leaders in times of a pandemic.
  • Naomi Ryland (Berlin, Germany) and her team at tbd* opened applications to the Purpose Fellowship to support anyone feeling lost or stuck in their career to (re-)discover their purpose. The program is well underway by now.
  • Laura Haverkamp (Hamburg, Germany) spoke on the German news about the consequences of under-financing social entrepreneurs in times of crisis.
  • Enoch Elwell (Chattanooga, TN, USA) and his team at CO.STARTERS are curating a variety of webinars and workshops to help business owners and ecosystem builders navigate this challenging situation. See it all here.
  • Christina Marie Noel (Raleigh, NC, USA) is moving her signature program, the Figure Your Sh*t Out Accelerator completely online to support even more mission-driven entrepreneurs remotely. She is also hosting an umber of virtual events to support purpose-driven founders, for example Marketing in Crisis on May 5th.
  • Yuliya Tarasava and her team at CNote put together a COVID-19 resource page to shed light on how the pandemic affects small businesses and what each of us can do to help them survive.
  • George Tsiatis (New York, USA) of Resolution Project and his team are continuing to support their Fellows at the front lines. George says “We are doing what we can to accelerate support for vulnerable communities through our Fellows who work in these communities. We are allowing broad flexibility for Fellows to deploy funding so that they can more easily respond to the immediate needs of their communities while reducing reporting requirements for the time being. We are also trying to continue to source new Fellows because we strongly believe that we need young leaders more now than ever. To continue to invest in this talent, we are planning three virtual Social Venture Challenge competitions (SVCs) between June and August, including with the MasterCard Foundation and World Model United Nations.”

What’s next

I’m sloooowly picking up interviews again. To be honest, I’ve gone back and forth about whether this is a good use of my – and quite frankly Second Responders’ – time. I try to be respectful of shifted work priorities and am super grateful for everyone who is keen to share their current approach to ecosystem building.

Speaking of shifting priorities: I am GREATLY enjoying our mastermind. We are five weeks into the program and I LOVE brainstorming and giving feedback with Kaat and Peter. It has become a safe space to speak honestly about what’s on our mind and dream big. Stay tuned!

I am also working on a new blog posts series, eeek! I always dreamed of creating a sort of handbook for ecosystem builders outlining personal and professional skills and characteristics to lead both a meaningful life and purpose-driven career. And I’m taking a first stab at it! And YOU can be part of it! Read on below:

How you can help

I am looking for change makers who are dedicated to seeing social entrepreneurs thrive and who are particularly talented in one or several of these areas:

  1. Put entrepreneurs front and center
  2. Foster conversation 
  3. Enlist collaborators. Everyone is invited.
  4. Live the values (lead by example)
  5. Connect people bottom up, top down, outside in (across silos)
  6. Tell a community’s authentic story
  7. Start, be patient.

If you know someone who I absolutely MUST talk to, please let me know!

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