Sustaining social enterprise amid COVID-19: Responses from the sector and governments

by Helen Harvey / March 2020

Social Enterprise World Forum has been highlighting social enterprise responses to the COVID-19 pandemic on our website. We are partially focused on elevating systemic and structural responses where actions are being taken to assist the social enterprise sector in a nation or region. If you are engaging your municipality, or regional, or federal government to support your social enterprise sector, it might be helpful to cite examples from elsewhere. While some governments and social enterprise sectors have taken leadership and delivered innovative responses, others will prefer to follow, adopt, and adapt from elsewhere. Two closely aligned responses are from Scotland and South Korea.

In South Korea both the government and the social sector have stepped up to provide funding and support to social enterprises that are struggling during this time. The government’s emergency support measure package was established in coordination with the social sector and all SMEs (including social enterprises) may access these funds. This includes a resilience fund worth KRW 29.1 trillion and temporary subsidies and funds for employees of social ventures for expenses like family care. Businesses, government institutions, impact investors, and the general public have also come together to raise a COVID-19 response fund known as the “Overcome Together Fund” via a crowdfunding platform.

Scotland created a £20m Resilience Fund to assist social enterprises and charities with loss of business from coronavirus. The fund is part of a £350m sector response that was created in under 10 days. 300 applications were received in the first 24 hours. In addition, the national business support service for social enterprises, Just Enterprise, changed its focus from business development to business recovery and cashflow management, providing one to one digital support to social enterprises in difficulties.

Also read:  From funding to income:  How White Box Enterprises is supporting social enterprises to start and grow in Australia, while also generating revenue 

Meanwhile, in Australia, the state-wide social enterprise networks have taken the lead and are working together to secure governmental support for the social enterprise sector. 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 of COVID-19 at and build public awareness of the positive impact of social enterprise. This grassroots initiative is coordinated, evidence-based, and it hasn’t waited for government to act. This initiative demonstrates the potential of social enterprise agencies acting together for the greater good and SEWF encourages others to follow suit.

In times like these, social enterprises, just like all other businesses and organisations around the world, need support to continue meeting their mission. These structural, sector-based responses in South Korea, Scotland, Australia, and many other countries will help social enterprises do just that. Next Monday, SEWF will post another blog highlighting the local impact of social enterprises meeting the ever-growing needs of communities and individuals affected by this pandemic. Until then, please continue sharing stories of both community and structural responses with us so the entire SEWF network can benefit from your work and advocacy.

Helen Harvey is SEWF's Event Director