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

Many of these examples will be discussed in further detail at SEWF Digital as we explore the sector’s response to COVID-19 and how we can recover together, creating a global impact economy in the process. The SEWF Digital Event Report also further outlines COVID-19’s impact on the sector and the SEWF Digital Story showcases the social enterprise response and opportunities for the sector moving forward using footage from SEWF Digital.


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 COVID-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.

While certain social enterprises may still miss out on some of the critical support packages the government has released, the sector is encouraged by a lot of the support. The JobKeeper scheme for example will allow social enterprises, across business types and legal entities, to access subsidy support for their employees. The sector continues to advocate for increased support.

Social Traders (ST) is one of the many organisations in Australia that worked with their membership to record the collective impact of COVID-19 on social enterprise organisations and use that data to advocate for the sector with government bodies. The survey ST conducted indicated that 85% of the ST certified social enterprises in Australia indicated they needed strategy and human resources supports in particular during this time. To respond ST launched a pro bono support services initiative in partnership with Westpac Foundation and Social Impact Hub. Learn more about this pro bono initiative and the other ways Social Traders is supporting the sector during COVID-19.

Canada - social procurement digital learning

Buy Social Canada recruited 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 focused 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 that took place on 22 April and some of the recommendations for social procurement that will maximise the potential of social enterprise for community recovery and economic rebuilding, read this article.

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.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is also creating a repository of information featuring work that their members are doing to help support communities and social enterprises during the pandemic. WEAll operates all around the world and is not exclusive to Europe so this resource captures a global and not just European response. Many featured responses include webinars and other though pieces that may be of use to social enterprises and policy makers weighing their responses to COVID-19.

European Commission - Strategy and Recovery Plan

The European Commission is committed to releasing a European Action Plan for the Social Economy in 2021 and is engaging with stakeholders all across Europe to ensure that social economy orgnisations and social enterprises are included in all aspects of a European COVID-19 recovery plan.

On Friday 23 April, Commissioner Nicolas Schmit (Jobs and Social Rights) sent a letter (transcribed here) to Member States’ Ministers of Labour/Employment urging them to ensure that social economy enterprises and organisations are well equipped and supported, so they can keep playing their crucial role to manage and overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

On 29 April Social Economy Europe and its members had an exchange with Commissioner Schmit during the meeting of the European Commission Expert Group on Social Economy and social enterprises (GECES). Schmit confirmed that the European Action Plan for the Social Economy will be published by the European Commission in the second semester of 2021. He called on social economy actors to actively contribute to shape this policy to ensure that social economy is at the heart of the economic and social recovery that Europe needs and showed his intention to connect the Social Economy Action Plan with other EU policy areas such as the Green Deal, the Social Pillar, or the Industrial and SME strategies. He also referred to the importance of mobilising EU funds and investments for the social economy in the framework of the recovery plan, which the Commission is currently working on, as agreed by the European Council, and of a strengthened EU budget (MFF).

France - strategic finance, scheme access, and liaison unit

The French Chamber of the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS-France) has been actively advocating for all social and solidarity economy actors, including associations, to ensure they can access to the French government’s measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis, particularly ensuring social and solidarity economy enterprises can access state guarantees for bank loans and French Government measures to support employment and save jobs throughout the economic slowdown (short-term unemployment schemes).

A synthesis of measures adopted by the French Government can be found here (in French) and since then ESS-France has been successful in this advocacy. Social and solidarity economy enterprises have benefited from support packages that now include: payment deadlines for social and/or tax deadlines (sometimes including direct tax rebates in the most difficult situations determined on a case-by-case basis), deferral of rent and utility payments for struggling small enterprises, a simplified and reinforced partial unemployment system, legal support from Business Ombudsman for enterprises who might encounter conflicts with customers or suppliers, access to aid of up to 1,500 Euros through a solidarity fund financed by the State and the Regions for very small enterprises, self-employed individuals, liberal professions, and micro-entrepreneurs.

France also pledges 300 billion Euros to guarantee bank cash lines for social and solidarity economy enterprises and are providing support to enterprises alongside the Banque de France to negotiate rescheduling of bank credits for struggling enterprises. Regarding loans, until 31 December 2020, enterprises of all sizes and whatever their legal form (e.g. artisans, associations and foundations with economic activity, enterprises, farmers, liberal professions, micro-entrepreneurs, traders) can ask their usual bank for a loan guaranteed by the State (up to 3 months of 2019 turnover or 2 years of payroll for enterprises founded 1 January 2019 of later). Banks are reviewing these requests and promptly distributing cash to relieve cash-flow challenges. The loans are not required to be repaid in the first year and can be repaid over a maximum period of 5 years.

In France many social and solidarity economy enterprises employ fewer than 3 people. In response to this reality, ESS-France worked to develop the SSE Relief Facility (launched in May 2020) to offer simple, rapid, and flexible emergency aid for those with less than 3 employees. The SSE Relief Facility allows these enterprises to access 5,000 Euros (the entire fund is 1.5 million, with an appeal out to partners to grow the fund to 8 million) of direct aid and an offer of support. This support is additional to existing measures and intended to cover fixed costs not covered by already existing aid systems (in particular May and June salaries).

These support programmes are not just coming from the national level. Many local authorities have also developed their own plans to support the social and solidarity economy enterprises and the regional banks have also created specailised support funds. To ensure proper collaboration and communication, the High Commissioner for Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Innovation quickly set up a “liaison unit” with the main network heads. This liaison unit met weekly since the start of the crisis and put out communications nearly every day so individuals in the social and solidarity economy were aware of support measures being developed and could access them.

Germany - Hackathon

Impact Hub in Berlin, Social Enterprise Network Deutschland (SEND), along with other mission-driven partners launched a hackathon where programmers, social entrepreneurs, designers, and anyone with creative and innovative ideas to address the COVID-19 crisis were invited to participate.

The German Government committed significant financial support to the #WirVsVirus (“Us vs the virus”) hackathon which brought together 43,000 participants for over 2,000 challenges, with 3,000 mentors and 1,000 companies signed up for pro bono support. Over the course of 48 hours, these individuals came together to generate over 1,500 solutions. There is have a Slack channel of 30,000 people committed to implementing these solutions and encouraging this type of collaboration globally. The selected winners will receive monetary support to implement their solutions and really help make change at the community level.

This model was also used for a Hackathon in Estonia and then replicated by the EU for the #EUvsVirus Hackathon 24 – 26 April.

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.

New Zealand - sector collaboration and grant support

Since the beginning of this crisis, social enterprise and community sector organisation across New Zealand have been meeting to plan and prepare a collective sector response to COVID-19. Through a series of letters to government they have raised awareness for the critical work of the sector and some financial grant support has also followed.

These charity, NGO, and community sector group meetings have been occurring virtually in effort to encourage and inspire collective government response. More information on these calls can be found on the Community Networks Aotearo website. After the first three calls, all the stakeholders involved in these calls, including past SEWF 2017 Event Host the Akina Foundation, wrote a letter to top government leaders outlining concrete actions the government could take to support the diverse needs of the sector during this time. Most recently, the group wrote a letter to government leaders at the beginning of May asking for increased budgetary support for the NGO sector, noting the invaluable role the sector will surely play in COVID-19 recovery. The initial letter written on 9 April 2020 is not available online, but if you are interested in accessing to benefit social enterprise sector advocacy in your own country, please reach out to SEWF and we’ll provide you with the connections and resources.

At the end of April, the New Zealand government announced a NZ$4.8 million appropriation for community grants to support innovative, community-led solutions that support local resilience. This allocation was part of a larger NZ$27 million pool of funding released on 26 March 2020 designed to help essential social services keep delivering for communities through COVID-19. The Community Awareness and Preparedness Grant Fund closed on 11 May 2020 after benefiting over 900 community groups across the country through one-off grants of up to $5,000 for any group delivering services during this time.

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).

Sweden - sector led business consultancy

Coompanion, a collective organisation with 25 offices across Sweden that specialise in business support and advocacy services for social enterprises and cooperatives. In light of COVID-19, they have expanded their traditional consultancy services and are offering free consults to social enterprises and cooperatives.

The organisation’s members are mainly cooperatives and social enterprises and together Coompanion works to promote social enterprise development and foster social entrepreneurship through advice platforms, projects, services, and educational initiatives. Their specific consultancy services, which are now being delivered remotely, will help social enterprises and cooperatives: find new business ideas and sources of revenue, collaborate with one another across the social enterprise sector, have trusted liaisons with government authorities, receive financial and legal advice, and consider how to still plan for future success. Coompanion is also helping social enterprises navigate government support for social enterprises in response to the pandemic. The Swedish Government has created a number of schemes to help social enterprises, cooperatives, and other small business entrepreneurs during this time including state supported severance pay, deferral of tax payments, and coverage of employee sick pay. Learn more about these policies on Coompanion’s COVID-19 advice page.

United Kingdom - advocacy, national funding, 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.

After significant advocacy and lobbying efforts, SEUK and other key sector partners were able to work with the UK government and secure critical funding to support the social enterprise sector during this time. Most recently the government established a new £370m grant scheme specifically for the social enterprise and charity sector alongside the new £100m Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund. For more information on the most recent support funding in the UK, view this briefing. Even after the release of significant funding, SEUK continues to lobby for additional support for the UK’s vital social enterprises and has been conducting sector surveys and releasing those findings in various reports in efforts to inform government response.

One of SE UK’s current response resources includes the following webinar:

27 APRIL 11AM: SOCIAL INVESTMENT BUSINESS ON NEW FUNDING SCHEME  – Nick Temple CEO at the Social Investment Business (SIB) will be running through how the new the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund, administered by SIB, works for social enterprises. He’ll also be joined by SEUK’s Andrew O’Brien who’ll give an overview of the current state of government funding for our sector

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. Here they have links to their older webinars with support information for business. They will continue seeking feedback from the sector and adjust their response and support as appropriate to meet evolving and emerging needs.

One of their more current responses to emerging needs of social enterprises across the UK has been the creation of their member forum. It was specifically curated to address topics relevant to the social enterprises community during the challenging, COVID-19 period. SEUK will continue to use the forum going forward to cover everything related to social enterprise and best respond to ever-evolving needs of their members.

United States - Peace First Grants for Young Social Enterprise Leaders

Peace First is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people around the world to become powerful peacemakers by providing them with support and a platform for their innovative ideas. While their efforts are not always linked to social enterprises, they have created a specific grant fund that young people with ideas for social enterprises and community responses to COVID-19 can access.

The rapid response grant process attempts to help young people around the world lead projects that address community impacts of COVID-19, from providing meals to elderly neighbors to launching digital mental health campaigns to support youth feeling isolated. Rapid response grants are open to young people between the ages of 13-25, anywhere in the world. Those interested can learn more and apply here.


Australia - collaborative food relief system

A collection of food-based social enterprises across Victoria have joined forces during this pandemic to provide food to the most vulnerable Victorians experiencing increased need. The partnership currently includes 18 social enterprises and is growing.

Over the coming weeks and months, Moving Feast will focus on growing and cooking food and then delivering meals across the state. They are anticipating that the demand could exceed 250,000 meals per week and at proactively trying to scale up operations to rise to the challenge if need indeed reached peak levels. Their current operations focus on providing immediate food relief for the state’s most vulnerable, but they have an eye toward a sustainable future and a plan that focuses on recovery (mass producing and distributing food boxes and backyard growing kits) and rejuvenation (creating more integrated and resilient local food systems).

Canada - feeding communities

All over the world, restaurants and food producers are setting up community kitchens and pivoting to get product to the most vulnerable in our communities. In Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, two organisations in particular, The Canteen and Made with Local, are stepping up to nourish their community.

Back in the middle of April, a beloved community restaurant teamed up with the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre and Margaret’s House (feeding Others of Dartmouth Society), two local charities to provide a meal distribution service to those in need. Under the new name, ‘The Canteen Community Kitchen, ’ the team is producing 300-400 meals a week to feed those most in need. Read more about this partnership and new venture.

Also in Dartmouth, Made with Local is continuing to make their real-food bars and other snacks. Their products are made locally and sustainably through partnerships with other social enterprises that employ otherwise marginalised individuals. As part of their response to COVID-19, they’ve been providing donations to healthcare workers and discounting their products across Canada so that everyone can still have access to healthy, nutritious foods during this time. Learn more about their ongoing efforts to uplift individuals and communities on their Facebook page.

To see social enterprises like these in action, consider attending SEWF 2021 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Canada - headbands for healthcare workers

The Humanity Made Headbands campaign was launched in April by EcoEquitable, a social enterprise based in Ottawa, Canada. This crowdfunded campaign, aims to raise funds to help produce sustainably produced headbands with buttons on them that make it easier for healthcare workers to more comfortably wear surgical protective masks all day long.

As it turns out, wearing a surgical mask all day, every day is incredibly tough on one’s ears so EcoEquitable decided to manufacture special headbands that allow healthcare workers to safely affix their masks to the headband instead of around their ears. The idea behind this campaign is not only to support healthcare workers physically, but to also highlight the emotional support that exists for these frontline heroes all across Canada. Donations are still being accepted for this campaign.

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.

Colombia - 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 Colombia 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.

Ghana - sewing face masks for the general public

Global Mamas is a social enterprise based in Ghana that employs women to make Fairtrade clothing and household products. Responding to plummeting demand for their traditional products and increasing concern about global shortages of face masks, the enterprise shifted to start producing washable and reusable African-print face masks.

These masks are not medical grade, but there is still a large unmet need for masks among the general public and Global Mamas is looking to fill that void. By pivoting their production, they are able to still safely support opportunities for all of their female employees to earn a steady stream of income and provide for their families and communities. These cotton masks will also help keep medical masks in hospitals where they are urgently needed. Learn more about the response from Global Mamas and the support they’re receiving from other organisations across Africa.

International - street papers pivot to remain in business

Street papers exist in 35 different countries around the world. COVID-19 created an environment where it was nearly impossible to operate their traditional model of selling a paper for profit and providing a livelihood, while simultaneously humanising and making a whole community of marginalised and vulnerable people visible to society at large.

With this challenge, street paper organisations began to pivot, positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation within the media, publishing, and social justice worlds they straddle. From organising crowdfunding campaigns for individual sellers, to forging partnerships with local retailers who remain open, to moving journalism online and developing innovative subscription models, street papers all around the world have become emblematic of the innovation, solidarity, and enterprising spirit embodied by social and community enterprises. Read more about how specific street papers have pivoted to still provide their services within communities during lockdown.

Ireland - home gardening education

GIY is a social enterprise based in Ireland that supports people to grow some of their own food in effort to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. Through social media, a TV series, national campaigns, and partner platforms, GIY is helping individuals and families adjust to life in social isolation by equipping them to grow their own food.

In response to food shortages and public concern about food safety, GIY is providing information, growing kits, daily tips, and advice to help anyone who is interested in growing food at home. As part of their new COVID-19 response, each day they release videos and other associated content for a daily food growing project for both adults and kids. They have also made chapters of their adult and children’s books available free of charge to help provide additional educational materials to individuals and families during this time. GROW HQ, their cafe, food school, and main revenue generating component of their enterprise, is closed, but the space has been repurposed to provide food to frontline healthcare workers in the hospital nearby.

Italy - face mask manufacturing

Progetto Quid is a textile and fashion social cooperative based in Verona, Italy that employs women from fragile backgrounds, often those recovering from drug addiction, those who were formerly incarcerated, or migrants. Using their skills and enterprise with design and production, they developed a unique hygienic face mask product.

Realising the unique opportunity to have a huge impact across Italy, Progetto Quid put out a call to other Italian social cooperative organisations who might want to manufacture their masks. these masks are reusable and can be washed at high temperatures multiple times while still retaining their signature antimicrobial features. Now 12 different organisations are part of the group that is producing a million masks to help protect Italians. Within one week of piloting their new face mask, they produced and distributed 300,000. Learn more about the mask specifications and the extensive reach of their partnership

Kenya - sanitation and essential provisions response service

Reafric is a social enterprise that operates in Kibera slum, producing eco-friendly, fashionable and fabricated shoes in partnership with skilled artisans and women’s groups across the informal settlements in Kibera as a means to generate sustainable income for its employees and their families. Right now, those living in Kibera are at increased risk of being severely affected by COVID-19 due to overcrowding and the lack of proper sanitation so Reafric has launched numerous programming efforts to support the community response against the virus.

Reafric is a social enterprise that addresses numerous social issues from environmental degradation, educational equity, to gender equality, to youth and talent empowerment. While their organisation was launched to recycle waste materials like discarded fabric from tailors, used vehicle tires, leather from carpenters, or old jeans that would otherwise litter Kibera slum, their impact has grown singificantly allowing them to do so much more than simply reuse waste and create sustainable employment for vulnerable women.

They are currently working closely with organisations, youth groups, and young leaders within Kibera slum to implement sustainable and effective safety measures including: getting essential food and other provisions to vulnerable households (i.e. those with young children or elderly individuals), distributing hand soap, hand sanitizers, gloves, and other protective equipment to residents in Kibera slum, ad launching an awareness campaign dedicated to cultivating appropriate hygiene habits among the residents. Learn more about Reafric’s response to coronavirus.

Malawi - safe, effective cloth mask production

Tiwale is a youth founded & led community-based organization in Mtsiliza, Lilongwe, Malawi focused on supporting women and girls through educational, entrepreneurial, and economical opportunities. They continued to engage and empower women and girls in the community through the pandemic b using their workshops to create masks that could be donated and sold to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In February 2020, Tiwale was working with 53 new younger members between ages 11-22, expanding the number people they’ve directly worked with to 313 people. Their core programs prioritize after school homework support, a new library program, education grants, SRHR education and workshops, computer literacy, music (DJ+Production workshops), and local trips (culture and our history exploration). When COVID-19 hit, they knew a lot of their programme delivery would have to look different, but they wanted to keep their new members engaged. They followed a University of Cambridge research study on cloth material effective in blocking COVID, then with CDC & WHO recommendations, they began making non-medical but effective protective face masks.

The Tiwale masks have 73% less filtration compared to the 90% less filtration of the surgical mask, and a 6.5/10 breathability score compared to the 5/10 breathability of the surgical mask. The masks are made in a safe and socially distanced space by Tiwale community graduates from their sewing workshops providing work for these graduates. The masks are cleaned then donated to essential workers and offices in Malawi, and sold to the public to support our programs, our community members, and further the production.

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.

The grassroots Malaysian response to COVID-19 had been particularly strong, and Biji-Biji is one of the social enterprises leading the way. Many other officially accredited social enterprises in Malaysia are responding to the pandemic by pivoting services to support the community. For example, Nature Renascent was fundraising to procure essential PPE items to donate to hospital workers around Malaysia. Some of their funds were generated through donations, while they also sold hand sanitizer and face masks to generate additional funds. Tanoti is another social enterprise that launched a fundraising effort to procure PPE for frontline healthcare workers.

There are also many other charity organisations or community solidarity initiatives that are stepping up to feed communities and get food to vulnerable populations and frontline workers. Learn more about some of the many grassroots community responses across Malaysia.

Malaysia - mobile feeding programme

Masala Wheels is Malaysia’s first social enterprise food truck founded in 2015. On March 23rd they began a campaign where they asked community members to pay it forward and contribute to their #foodwithoutborders campaign so they could reach the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masala Wheels sells affordable and flavorful Malaysian cuisine and uses their food truck as mobile empowerment for targeted community groups. They also have a catering service, retail lines, and a cafe which they use to extend their social impact throughout Malaysia. While meal distribution wasn’t part of their traditional service portfolio, they knew they had the capacity to provide for community members in need and pivoted to do so. They continued their social outreach programmes, particularly among at-risk youth, while scaling up meal distribution. From 23 March – 23 May they served 26,054 meals and 397 provisions packages serving those in poor households, medical frontline workers, university students, those living on welfare, and other individuals like migrants and refugees. Throughout lockdown, they expanded services (for example beginning to offer provision parcels to households in need during phase III beginning on April 15) while increasing the geographic area they served.

Many other social enterprises across Malaysia have since developed a “pay it forward” model to help fundraise for additional services they can provide the community to help aid with recovery and rebuilding efforts. For example, Batik Boutique has been fundraising to produce cloth face masks for refugees and elderly populations.

Mali - producing high-quality face masks

Kabakoo is a social enterprise academy in Mali focused on enhancing capability and improving employment and entrepreneurship outcomes, through learning and training related to manufacturing. Their focus on locally relevant techniques and tactics, was particularly relevant in the wake of COVID-19 when

Kabakoo’s academies are places of hybridized learning, part school, part makers’ space, part open science lab, with a focus on both low-tech and high-tech solutions for decentralized manufacturing. When they ceased traditional learning and operations because of the pandemic, the entire community thought it made sense to transform into a hub of activity against COVID-19 continuing to focus on creating open-source knowledge, imbedded in experience-based learning and leveraging the challenges from our environment. Very rapidly the Kabakoo community launched this platform which activates numerous volunteers including engineers, health professionals, and social scientists. Kabakoo learners built up a supply chain with local tailors and seamstresses to produce high quality face masks based validated patterns. More than 3000 masks were ordered and produced in the first days of this campaign, with a couple thousands more in the pipeline. This generated income for the tailors and seamstresses, facing significant business losses, and also generated income for the Kabakoo Academy learners who do the quality control and logistical work. Another group of learners is working on 3D-based solutions and they have bene crowdfunding for the necessary machinery to launch some of those initiatives locally.

Pakistan - translating government messages

Information access is critically important especially during times like these when information is rapidly changing and government regulations are continuously being updated. ConnectHear is helping deaf individuals across Pakistan access all of the government’s advice regarding COVID-19 through interpretations services.

On their social media pages, they have been translating government announcements since 18th March. One of their most popular videos, which helped spread news of the lockdown in Sindh province on 22nd March, has received over 20,000 views between ConenctHear’s Twitter and Facebook. Since then, the ConnectHear team continues to share videos of important government announcements and other public service announcements with Pakistani Sign Language interpretation to increase accessibility.

Scotland - community food support

Dockyard Social is a social enterprise food hall in Glasgow, Scotland featuring a rotating selection of 10 street food vendors. While the hall itself has had to close down, the team has figured out how to keep the food vendors employed and get meals distributed to community members in need.

Dockyard Social was founded to support the growing and thriving food community and the Glasgow community at large. In addition to the classic Dockyard Social venue, they have developed a training and development school to help get Glasgow’s most disadvantaged people launched into the exciting and growing hospitality and food industry. As part of this training school, there will also be a specific employability service for local homeless/unemployed people who can benefit from accessing training, work experience, career support and job matching. All of these programmes are designed in partnership with local and national charities.

During the pandemic, Dockyard Social has specifically been working with PEEK (Possibilities for Each and Every Kid) Project, a charitable organisation that supports community development through creative programmes targeted at fostering relationships and connections while improving wellbeing and opportunities for children and families. Dockyard Social is providing 100+ individually packaged and prepared meals for these families across Glasgow, contributing to the more than 110,000 healthy meals PEEK Project has distributed since the start of the pandemic. Follow Dockyard Social’s community 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.

In this guide to maintaining tenancies in the private rented sector, they are showcasing their commitment to the wellbeing of renters across Scotland. They have also demonstrated a deep commitment to their Homes for Good tenants through a comprehensive digital inclusion strategy, a tenants engagement programme, and a tenants befriending service, all targeted at improving wellbeing and combating social isolation. For more on their advice campaign and some of their other engagement activities, 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.

Sri Lanka - People's Mask Initiative

#PeoplesMask is an Sri Lankan effort to ease the pressure on the demand for surgical masks, which are supposed to be reserved for medical professionals. The initiative is a product of WFTO Asia and Fair Trade enterprises in the region like Selyn, Sri Lanka’s only Fair-trade certified handicrafts company and one of its largest social enterprises.

Selyn is among the top handicraft retail brands in Sri Lanka while exporting to fair trade and other customers all over the world. Most recently, their production efforts have been concentrated domestically to ensure non-medical frontline essential workers, and those from the most marginalised sectors of society can be protected. The People’s Mask is produced based on the HK Mask Design, a laboratory-tested system using fabric masks and filters coupled with proper washing and sanitation. It is a reusable cloth mask with a disposable middle layer filter with filtration efficiency close to that of an N70 mask. For those interested in supporting Selyn’s efforts, masks can be ordered through their website. For international orders, please contact Wasala.

Thailand - symptom reporting and PUI management system

Opendream, a social enterprise in Thailand has been building a pre-spillover zoonotic disease detection system since 2014 after the swine flu outbreak in Southeast Asia. Responding to a rapid demand increase in Thailand for contact-tracing and managing the influx of patients under investigation (PUI) or awaiting COVID-19 test results, Opendream partnered with the Thai CDC and the Ministry of Public Health to launch a chatbot service that addresses this need.

Called Sabaidee, this service focuses on anonymous participatory symptom reporting for the general public and PUI management for hospitals. With both hospitals and the general public using this streamlined application created by Opendream, public health officials are able to access larger data sets to estimate the scope of the outbreak in Thailand beyond what can be officially confirmed by laboratory testing.

Hospitals use Sabaidee to onboard PUIs by reporting their initial symptoms, then to track their self-reported symptoms over 14 days, and communicate with them if their symptoms worsen or if their COVID-19 test is positive. Patients consent to sharing their symptom & contact-tracing information via Sabaidee, so the hospital can immediately begin contacting close contacts and sending instructions to the infected individual. This contact is facilitated by Sabaidee’s integration with LINE (the #1 social messaging app in Thailand that 99% of smartphone users have). It also allows individuals to easily self-report information before even reaching the hospital. Opendream hopes that their open-source Sabaidee technology will have a significant impact on flattening the curve in Thailand.

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 four DC public schools
  • 9 mobile feeding locations serving to-go breakfasts and lunches for children (with the school sites this represents over 11,000 meals a week)
  • 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
  • Distributing thousands of bags of fresh, local produce at 20 high-need sites across Washington, DC while also providing groceries for Culinary Job Training students and their families in need
  • Supporting grassroots mutual aid networks with meal and produce bags
  • Providing meals to first responders and healthcare workers across the District

In response to DCCK’s immediate meal distribution programmes, they received a significant amount of philanthropic support from individual and community donors. So much so that DC Central Kitchen developed its own micro-grant programme to support other social enterprises in the Washington, DC area who are feeding the community and serving the most vulnerable. DCCK has distributed multiple grants to parter organisations so that collectively social enterprises and nonprofit organisations addressing hunger and its root causes can be more effective in their shared mission.

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