Global charities team up on coronavirus lifeline for social entrepreneurs

With many countries living under strict lockdowns, some social entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

poor boy manila
A homeless boy sleeps on a solar blanket next to a garbage pail on the sidewalk along Malate, Manila in the Philippines.. Image: FotoGrazio, CC BY-SA 2.0

A group of 40 global aid agencies and charities launched an alliance on Monday to help social entrepreneurs weather the coronavirus crisis, saying they provided a vital safety net for some of the world’s poorest people.

Backed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the alliance is made up of 40 leading global organisations including the Schwab Foundation, Yunus Social Business and USAID.

Members of the partnership, called the Covid Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, collectively support more than 15,000 social entrepreneurs who help vulnerable and marginalised groups in about 190 countries.

“Social enterprises support the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable in our world… We have to help them help others,” Saskia Bruysten, CEO of Germany-based fund Yunus Social Business, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

With many countries living under strict lockdowns, it has become harder for social entrepreneurs - many of whom are directly responding to the crisis - to keep their businesses afloat.

Some of them are seeing revenue plunge or being forced to cease operating.

Social enterprises support the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable in our world… We have to help them help others.

Saskia Bruysten, chief executive officer, Yunus Social Business

“We don’t know of course how long these lockdowns are going to take so we don’t know if we are going to be able to save everyone … but we are right now saying ‘let’s give it a shot’,” Bruysten said.

The alliance, which also includes the Skoll Foundation, Ashoka, the IKEA Foundation, the Global Impact Investing Network and Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, has collectively raised $75 million to help social entrepreneurs in the crisis.

It will focus on helping social entrepreneurs in poorer countries where they act as the “de-facto social net” but struggle to receive government support, Bruysten said.

Access to non-financial support and lobbying governments to support their local sectors are among the alliance’s other aims.

As part of the initiative, Duke University in the United States has created a searchable database with information on emergency funding available for social enterprises.

“These front-line organisations now face bankruptcy and severe constraints while they also innovate and respond to this global pandemic”, said François Bonnici, head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in a statement.

“Through this alliance, members are committing support for social entrepreneurs to protect decades of work in the impact sector,” he said.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate.

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