My colleagues and I have been taking part in several conferences over these past few weeks alongside impact investment peers and social entrepreneurs. These leaders bring the most innovative elements of business creation to a global stage. Think Silicon Valley but at the small and medium business level. These businesses are hyper-local, hyper-connected, and hyper-accountable to the needs of their employees and surrounding communities.
What are the needs of small and growing businesses (SGBs) during a Covid-19 world?
On the various panels and private meetings during these conferences, the organizations that were quick to listen and respond to SGBs at the onset of Covid-19 highlighted the actions and responsibility we have as impact investors and social entrepreneurs.
- Provide resilience funding that is flexible and designed to meet immediate needs.
- Embrace e-commerce and digital workplace solutions with an open mind and diligence to ensure our programs continue.
- Manage liquidity and access to working capital.
- Ensure supply chain resilience in order to overcome disruptions.
- Design tailored approaches that take into account the specific needs of different communities (i.e. youth will need different types of support than single mothers).
- Integrate a Gender Lens to address the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on women particularly on the work/domestic life balance.
- Offer psychological support to ensure individual well-being and ensure consistency in business performance.
- Introspect honestly as intermediaries and as SGBs to make sure that we are being truly equitable and inclusive.
How can we motivate organizations to take action?
During a global pandemic, the rise of social and racial justice demonstrations, current events, and natural disasters, people globally are motivated to get involved in change-making.
While some are doubling down their investments by focusing on existing partners, others are taking the leap and building out new programs that pave the way for new partnerships so as to just get started.
For new and old partnerships alike, experts from all walks of life agreed on the following guiding principles:
- Iterate as you go, embracing failure along the way but not lingering too long in it.
- Channel the expertise of complimentary players towards building solutions. There is such great potential in how you determine what “complimentary” is. Think beyond disciplines and consider working styles, drive, and network effects.
- Demonstrate resilience that can inspire others, don’t just tell others that it can be done.
- Communicate so that we are adopting best practices and scaling (as opposed to reinventing the wheel). This is the moment to build momentum off of one another.
With some of these principles in place, we’re likely to see transactional partnerships evolve into transformational partnerships that bring unlikely collaborations to life.
What skills do we need for transformational partnerships?
I’ll keep it simple for this one.
- A “stumble-forward” mindset.
- Pathological collaboration.
- High appetite for risk and the ability to convince partners to invest in it.
- Ability to leverage the upside of digital workplaces and build systems to responsibly collect and utilize data.
- Long-term thinking so that we don’t lose sight of growing SGBs and the new ones emerging in response to the changes brought on by Covid-19.
How can funders and investors support transformational partnerships?
We have the responsibility to provide philanthropy to prove the patient capital model and allow for innovation. In building out these new agreements, we should be conscious of designing realistic return expectations. Finally, this is a great opportunity to strengthen the microfinance sector, which is the backbone of capital for suppliers.
I was amazed by these insights and the powerful case they make. The call to action is clear.
SGBs are not always regarded as sexy unicorns, but they provide dignified jobs to millions and will become even more relevant and important in a post-Covid-19 world.
We know what they need and ANDE members are leading collaborative and transformational models that are working. We now just need to scale them.
Read the original post on LinkedIn.