Social Entrepreneurship in Times of Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the economy into a tailspin with hundreds of thousands of people out of work and scrambling to survive. Never before has the need for forward-thinking entrepreneurs been greater or more in demand to reach beyond their skill set and help forge solutions to ease those hardest hit.

Entrepreneur Melissa Levick explains, “It’s about connecting your brand’s why with how it can be used authentically to serve the world. It’s not a gimmick or a marketing tool. It’s a genuine mechanism to solve social problems while feeling connected to a higher purpose.”

A great example of Levick’s perspective is demonstrated by the efforts of PadSplit founder, Atticus LeBlanc who created a platform that helps find affordable housing for low income individuals. In the earliest days of the pandemic LeBlanc knew that his residents would be hardest hit, which prompted him to raise $200,000 to support emergency housing assistance for unemployed workers. 

“It occurred to us that this was going to be a major issue for our members even if they didn’t realize it at the time,” he said

Serial entrepreneur Bobby Genovese shares LeBlanc’s forward thinking approach, adding that now is the time for entrepreneurs to dig deep to help innovate viable solutions to the many issues created by this health crisis.

“Support health research, sponsor a family in need, donate to a food bank — any of these initiatives to lend a helping hand,” says Genovese. “This crisis not only demonstrates how successful we can be in coming together for a common cause, it also shows how necessary it is for each of us to be involved as a society. No idea is too small right now.”

One such organization has done just that by targeting the needs of front line workers, and those who continue to play an important role in the COVID-19 response.  Through May of next year US-based Dimagi is giving free subscriptions to its open-source mobile data platform, CommCare, to help with surveillance, case management, contact tracing and laboratory data management. Their efforts can prove invaluable in the fight to stem the tide of this fast moving virus.

Those efforts are being shared by software developer, Propel, builder of software for platforms accessed by low-income Americans. Upon learning that eight out of 10 of their customers had three days or less of money for food, the company tweaked their platform to allow donors to give direct cash contributions to those customers. 

“We talked to them about ways to reach those who were most in need,” says, COO Jeff Kaiser. “We knew they were much better at fundraising and could ensure that people received the money.”

With that partnership in place Propel created a program to send emergency payments of $1,000 in food stamps to 200 households. 

Now more than ever programs such as these that meet immediate, short term needs, are the kinds of creative solutions that socially-minded entrepreneurs are best at developing. Not only are their efforts proving invaluable but they demonstrate the power of the entrepreneurial spirit to affect change with life-changing innovation.