Global response to coronavirus

Global social enterprise responses to coronavirus

The global coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating effect on communities and social enterprise business throughout the world. Social enterprises are responding in two ways: on the structural and community level.

1. Structurally, social enterprises and intermediaries are working with governments and foundations to protect and support social enterprise organisations so they can survive loss of business and income in order to deliver social outcomes both during and after this global pandemic.

2. Within communities, social enterprises are working to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. Some are scaling up with the assistance of their skilled and dedicated staff and volunteer teams, others are changing what they deliver and using innovative approaches.

SEWF wants to highlight cases of social enterprises responding to the pandemic, so that others forming their responses can be motivated and informed by work happening elsewhere. We will promote all relevant cases on social media and our SEWF website below offering a repository of material that might assist others in their responses.

To share your response or an initiative that you are involved with or inspired by, email us at


Australia - sector alliance for relief advocacy

Regional social enterprise networks across Australia have joined forces to launch a public awareness and advocacy campaign that aims to influence the government’s stimulus response to COVID-19 and ensure social enterprises can access necessary support.

SENVIC and QSEC have joined with the Social Enterprise Council for NSW and ACT (SECNA) and the South Australia Social Enterprise Council (SASEC) to advocate for federal and state government initiatives to address the needs of all businesses suffering at this time. The alliance is lobbying the government to urgently release an emergency support package to deal with the imminent loss of thousands of jobs, business closures and loss of positive social and environmental benefits created by the social enterprise sector. This group is calling on social enterprises to join #thegoodnessgap, to record the collective impact C-19 at and build public awareness of the good created by social enterprise. The goal of this imitative is to ensure that social enterprises do not miss out on government support that may unintentionally exclude organisations the do not fall specifically under the traditional definition of a business or a charity. Beyond advocacy and awareness raising, the networks will continue to work collaboratively to help Australian social enterprises navigate the government support that will be put in place.

For direct questions about this campaign and the grassroots efforts in Australia to unite social enterprise intermediaries and membership bodies across the country, please contact Nick Verginis, CEO, SENVIC on 0410 583 573 or Elise Parups, EO, QSEC on 0411 048 248.

Canada - social procurement digital learning

Buy Social Canada is seeking individuals from around the world to participate in the Buy Social Canada Digital Symposium 2020. The Symposium will feature panels with experts on social procurement from around the world. // The dialogue will focus on the importance of community and how social procurement can be part of a global movement to ensure local economies become increasingly resilient in the wake of this global pandemic. To learn more about this online event scheduled for April 22nd, visit this event page.

European Commission - consolidating resources online

The European Commission’s Social Economy Community has created a webpage that also highlights various ways in which social economy organisations are all coming together in the fight against coronavirus. Initiatives and actions featured in this fight include: technology solutions, services for elderly, volunteering requests, food delivery services, and online courses, among others. This is a resource to which that individuals and organisations can personally contribute.

Hong Kong - lobbying for social enterprise relief

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Social Enterprises (GCSE, HK) conducted a survey among its members to assess how COVID-19 had been affecting their business and lobby the government for support based on those results.

In February The Hong Kong General Chamber of Social Enterprises (GCSE, HK) conducted a survey to understand the complicated ways in which the evolving coronavirus pandemic was affecting their members. Based on the survey results, it was clear a relief measure for over 500 social enterprises totaling HK$40 million was necessary to sustain the social enterprise sector and enable social enterprises to continue operating in pursuit of their social mission. More information on this lobbying effort can be found in this news coverage.

GCSE is also currently working closely with its members to advocate for rental reductions from property owners to allow social enterprises to continue to operate.

In addition, for social enterprises involved with retail services, the Hong Kong government just announced an amount of HK$80,000 to help each retail outlet.

Ireland - government's community support plan

Ireland’s Department of Rural and Community Development released a “Government Action Plan to Support the Community Response” to COVID-19 on 20 March 2020. While this action plan does not specifically refer to social enterprise support, social enterprises are involved in many of the actions and collective mobilisation efforts across the country.

The Action Plan, developed in coordination with many local bodies and community organisations, has three main actions: encourage and facilitate volunteering, provide community supports for older people, establish a helpdesk facility for local community groups. Within the first action about volunteering, all volunteering opportunities have been consolidated through the I-VOL database so that organisations, including social enterprises that may partially rely on volunteers for service delivery can find volunteers, and so individual community members can better support a collective response. The third action also directly involves social enterprises, some of which are members of their local Public Participation Networks (PPNs). This action stems from the advocacy of the 31 PPNs in Ireland who have asked for increased support for their networks of local community and voluntary groups who will see increased demand for service and decreased volunteer capacity. The helpdesk the government is providing will connect concerned organisations with others for mutually beneficial partnerships and will help answer queries about appropriate sources of support among other business needs.

Scotland - resilience fund and business support

As a response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Scottish Government has set up a new fund to support charities, social enterprises and enterprising third sector organisations. Additionally, the social enterprise business support service has switched focus to meet the needs of enterprises in crisis.

The Third Sector Resilience Fund (TSRF) was announced on 18 March 2020 by Communities Minister Aileen Campbell as part of a £350m support package for the sector as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Third Sector Resilience Fund will support charities and social enterprises who are at risk of closure due to a sharp decrease in income or that are unable to deliver their services during this difficult period. The fund will distribute £20m of emergency funds over the coming months to help these organisations to stabilise and manage cashflows over this difficult period.

The Fund will be delivered by Firstport, Social Investment Scotland and the Corra Foundation and will provide grants between £5,000-£100,000. In addition there will be up to a further £5m available in fully flexible, 0% interest loans starting at £50,000. The three delivery organisations are working as fast as possible to get the fund up and running, so these crucial funds are distributed to organisations most in need. More information about the fund, eligibility, criteria and application process will be available in the coming days. For social enterprises involved in technology solutions, there is an additional fund which will disperse up to £25,000 for orgnaisations that can find digital ways to support people who are isolated during the coronavirus outbreak.

In addition to the resilience fund, the national business support contract in Scotland is changing from its standard delivery of business development support to digital delivery of a business recovery and resilience service. The partners are working as hard as they can to reconfigure the service. Further information on it will be available in the coming days at

These initiatives will support social enterprises and third sector organisations to retain staff, cover overheads, manage expenses, and get through this period of challenge and uncertainty.

South Korea - developing social finance and support packages

In South Korea, both the government and the social sector have stepped up to provide funding and support to social enterprises who are struggling during this time. The government’s emergency support measure package was set up in coordination with the social sector and all SMEs (including social enterprises) may access these funds.

Two ministries are involved in the support packages for SMEs: The Ministry of SMEs and Startups and the Ministry of Employment and Labor. The Ministry of SMEs and Startups is providing a resilience fund worth KRW 29.1 trillion for social ventures and SMEs. The Ministry of Employment and Labor is responsible for providing temporary subsidies and funds for employees of social ventures and SMEs as a way of supporting employees and providing emergency allowance for expenses like family care.

The social sector in South Korea has also stepped up to provide other sources of funding, particularly for early stage social ventures which may be ineligible for the government’s emergency assistance. Businesses, government institutions, impact investors, and the general public have come together to raise a COVID-19 response fund known as the “Overcome Together Fund” via a crowdfunding platform. This initiative was mainly organised by the Korea Social Value and Solidarity Foundation (SVS Fund). The SVS is the first wholesale fund established in Korea based on a public-private partnership for the development of a social finance ecosystem and the social economy. Additionally, the Work Together Foundation is providing temporary support for the emergency living costs (60-80% of one’s salary) of partner organizations’ employees to help them them maintain employment amid unexpected closure orders for grant programmes dedicated to social ventures in developing countries.

Furthermore, 95 institutions including social ventures, social enterprises, NGOs, and impact investors have formed an impact alliance of organisations across South Korea. This Alliance is providing various supports such as donations of daily necessities, reduction of logistic costs, free childcare services for working parents suffering from school closures. Support is targeted within the special management zone (Daegu region).

United Kingdom - advocacy and resources for business support

Social Enterprise UK is supporting its members and social enterprises all around the UK through three primary actions:

  1. 1. engaging with the government and serving as the voice of the sector;
  2. 2. providing technical business support for social enterprises whether they are scaling up to provide increasingly demanded public services, or they are facing decreasing demand and are concerned about revenue and other business issues;
  3. 3. creating digital networks to allow collaboration and peer-to-peer support between social enterprises.

Some of SE UK’s current response resources include the following webinars and briefings:


A webinar focused on supporting social enterprises through the crisis and to go through SEUK plans and the latest support that is being made available from the Government and other sources.


SEUK’s guide to the support and resources available to help the social enterprise community at this time; from accessing loans through the COVID-19 Business Interruption Loan Scheme to business rates relief.

SE UK is continually updating this website to provide social enterprises with as many resources and as much information as possible throughout the coronavirus outbreak. They will continue seeking feedback from the sector and adjust their response and support as appropriate to meet evolving and emerging needs.


Canada - sanitation response service

CleanStart is a social enterprise that provides junk removal, hoarding cleanup, and pest control, primarily for social housing providers across the Vancouver area. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, they pivoted from some of their traditional offerings to create a sanitation response service. Their experience in cleaning services for extreme hoarding situations provides the foundation to pivot, provide a quick response and keep their price point at what they charge for Hazmat/Extreme Cleaning Services. This new line of work is providing jobs for their current employees who want to continue working, while providing systematic, daily sanitization in shared and common spaces. for each customer’s facility. Learn more about CleanStart and their COVID-19 response.

Columbia - making data and facts easily accessible

COVID-19 has exposed many inequities within our societies from healthcare, to technological literacy, to financial inclusion, and more. Fundación Capital, a social enterprise based in Columbia with partnerships and projects in countries all over the world, is attempting to address many of these inequities by making concise, accurate, and informative information about the pandemic easily accessible to the most vulnerable populations around the world.

Traditionally, Fundación Capital focuses on improving the financial livelihoods of those living in poverty around the world by working with financial institutions, governments, and families, to co-create and deliver solutions that leverage digital technology to make families more economically resilient. In the wake of the pandemic, the organisation has realigned its chatbots and virtual assistants to provide assistance and information to the most vulnerable population on: official government information, crisis management, practical advice and preventive measures in physical and psychological health, and managing finances in times of crisis.

Ethiopia - supporting mental health

Erk Mead is a social enterprise that focuses on mental health and education throughout Ethiopia by delivering programmes via radio show and other media platforms. Observing the panic and trauma that the COVID-19 pandemic was creating, Erk Mead decided to focus on addressing virus prevention mechanisms while focusing on mental health.

They are particularly interested in addressing mental health needs among children and youth. To do so, they partnered with the Ministry of Education to create programming directed at children that aims to calm anxieties and address rampant misinformation regarding COVID-19. The cartoon character, Kuncho, that Erk Mead created to develop stories to educate children about mental health, will soon be a prominent fixture on all Ethiopian media outlets. Erk Mead also entered into a year partnership with a youth-led organisation in Kenya to spread awareness for positive mental health via social media platforms and are beginning the campaign with messaging focused on positive behaviors and coping techniques during this global pandemic.

Malaysia - creating PPE for healthcare workers

Biji-Biji Initiative is an environmental based social enterprise that provides a range of up-cycling and art installation services. Currently they are collecting materials that can be used to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). There is a critical shortage of PPE in many countries around the world and in Malaysia, Biji-Biji is stepping up to manufacture this equipment for the healthcare workers on the frontline of the disease while maintaining their commitment to upcycling and circular solutions. Read their call to action in this post and learn more about their ongoing response.

Scotland - landlord and tenant advice

In response to growing concerns from tenants, landlords, and community members generally, Homes for Good CIC, a social enterprise letting-agency based in Scotland, is stepping up to curate helpful tips and advice for citizens all over to ensure everyone feels looked after and safe during these times. For more on their advice campaign, visit their social media pages.

South Africa - food recovery

FoodFlow is a social enterprise that emerged to respond to breakdowns in food supply chains being caused by coronavirus. With many children who rely on school feeding schemes for their meals now out of school, and many local farmers struggling for business because local restaurants that buy their produce are now closed, FoodFlow provides bags of fresh food to the families who need them most. Learn more about this initiative and how FoodFlow is engaging local farms, local restaurants, and other community partners in the Western Cape.

Spain - community organising via social media

Amid the lockdown in Barcelona, community members have started to respond organically, forming Facebook Groups in solidarity with one another and highlighting the on-going work of social enterprises and individuals within communities.

CO-VIDA is an example of a recently established Facebook Group that brings together people from all over the world to share inspiring stories and practical examples of individuals and communities looking out for others that would be replicated or adapted in different contexts. Similar groups could be created in other regions or others could join already existing platforms like CO-VIDA.

Additionally, groups like these can be used to highlight some policies being pushed for by government to support social enterprises and communities. Learn more about the policies being advocated for in Spain via social media.

USA - meal distribution

DC Central Kitchen, a social enterprise based in Washington DC, has been scaling up their meal distribution efforts amid public school closures that leave many students in the DC area without guaranteed meals.

In response to COVID-19, DC Central Kitchen has decided to close its volunteer operations to ensure they continue to comply with all government guidance while still effectively and collaboratively working with the community to respond to needs across Washington, DC. Some of their activities in response to the pandemic include:

  • Takeaway meal sites at two DC Public Schools
  • 11 mobile feeding locations serving to-go breakfasts and lunches for children 8 and under
  • Increasing meal deliveries to local shelters and nonprofits
  • Further price reductions on their Healthy Corners fresh fruits and vegetables sold at corner stores in Washington

Learn more about DC Central Kitchen’s response to coronavirus in the Washington, DC community.