Global charities team up on coronavirus lifeline for social entrepreneurs

Residents are pictured in Rocinha slum during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 29, 2020. Picture taken April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

A group of 40 global aid agencies and charities have launched an alliance to help social entrepreneurs during the coronavirus crisis, providing a 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 organizations and charities, 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 marginalized 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.

“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 organizations 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. 

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


By Sarah Shearman

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