The social impact of this initiative stretches across multiple groups of beneficiaries and is categorized in the United Nations Accelerated Actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, with hashtag #SDGaction36773.
Problem we are addressing
With more than two-thirds of the global population employed by MSMEs, formal and informal Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) make up over 90% of all firms and account, on average, for 70% of total employment and 50% of GDP. Nearly two-thirds of micro and small firms reported that the crisis strongly affected their business operations. Service companies have been the hardest hit around the world. In accommodation and food services, for instance, 76% of firms said lockdowns strongly affected their business operations. As is often the case with crises, COVID-19 has put the spotlight on those who are economically disadvantaged, such as informal sector workers, migrants and people in microenterprises and SMEs. Many have been deprived of even subsistence level income during economic lockdowns.
The Lockdown Economy initiative gives entrepreneurs a forum to share their struggles, successes, and experiences of dealing with the pandemic. It enables the exchange of knowledge, best practices and examples of immediate response to the crisis, adapting to the ‘new normal’, lessons learned, and business models that foster resilience, inclusiveness and sustainability and that ride the digital wave. It is a social innovation ecosystem that connects MSMEs, universities, incubators, foundations, and conscious citizens. We are trying to involve UN agencies, intergovernmental organizations, corporations, and investors.
The initiative fulfils the United Nations recent call to increase efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, by contributing to economic growth (SDG 8), social innovation (SDG 9), better education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), and stronger mental health (SDG 3).
Impact on Sustainable Economic Growth (SDG 8)
The United Nations has recognized (and published) the Lockdown Economy as an Acceleration Action towards the Sustainable Development Goals. All our work is dedicated to inclusive and sustainable economic growth: to supporting micro-, small- business owners and self-employed professionals (half of the productive population of the Earth) in surviving the pandemic.
By enabling the peer-to-peer exchange of the experiences, best practices for and lessons learned due to COVID-19 impacts, we increase their capacity to adapt, improve their flexibility, resiliency and responsiveness. Especially for the businesses initiated by the vulnerable, such as women and youth. We contribute to economic equality by featuring a diverse group of guests by gender, geography, nationality, the type of business and prior education.
The initiative helps to diffuse innovation. We grow their competence in using digital technology to increase their visibility and reach their customers. The initiative gives insights into new market opportunities locally and internationally. It fosters new partnerships needed to weather the hardships of the pandemic even in the cultures where entrepreneurs see each other as rivals.
By running joint educational programs based on the Lockdown Economy, we help universities to prepare business students for the new economy.
Impact on SDG 5 Gender Equality
Gender equality is a fundamental human rights principle and a central, standalone goal in the 2030 Agenda. Women are especially at risk of losing their livelihoods during the pandemic-induced economic crisis. According to the report by the OECD, “the COVID-19 pandemic has affected female business leaders differently from male business leaders. Women were more likely to operate micro-businesses and were concentrated in sectors that have been particularly impacted by lockdown measures.” 64% of women-led firms declared their business operations were strongly affected by the crisis. It means that women-led firms are more sensitive to crises and have fewer support options.
The Lockdown Economy supports women’s entrepreneurship and gives special attention to the businesses initiated by women. It ensures a reinforced role of women as actors of change, advances their economic empowerment and provides female entrepreneurs with access to markets and support services. It raises the profile and increases opportunities for women entrepreneurship. Additionally, the Lockdown Economy has a strong representation of women in the coordinating team, providing opportunities for self-development, growth and support in these challenging times.
Impact on Economy and Community
We uplift, inspire and unite entrepreneurs all over the world in facing the pandemic together. We raise public awareness to their challenges and show them simple ways of helping. It inspires entrepreneurial thinking, power of belief in your potential and bold action. It empowers the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
We develop the communities we touch. We involve current students in helping business owners address real challenges. Besides providing our interview guests and volunteers with a global source of personal connections, we are training each participating volunteer in communication skills, build or improve their professional online image, and use of digital technology for virtual collaboration.
By giving examples of how micro-, small- business owners and self-employed professionals respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a sustainable, inclusive, green and resilient way, we are contributing to Building Back Better society.
Impact on Environment
All the activities for the initiative are done digitally and remotely which minimizes the carbon footprint of all participants, compared to if it was done in person. In the interviews we showcase and promote sustainable businesses that are environmentally-friendly. For example, a sustainable fashion brand with non-cruel silk production in India, a coffee-caterer using plant-based milk only, a webshop distributing coffee from small cooperative farms in nature protected zones of Mexico, a cruelty-free plant-based sushi restaurant.
We feature a number of businesses from the tourism industry that came up with innovative solutions on how to continue their operations safely during the pandemic. For example, a mother-daughter travel business that is doing virtual expeditions (through collaboration with local counterparts) for its many followers.
“MSMEs are reaching many sustainable development goals without even realizing it. Yet, they can be empowered to do more.” Our initiative raises awareness of various possibilities micro- and small- businesses can pursue to protect our environment.
Impact on Featured businesses
SDG 8 Economic Growth
The first one is the businesses that are featured in the interviews. It gives them a voice and forum to speak, to share their thoughts, apprehensions and learning. We focus on true stories of real entrepreneurs from around the world. Not the ones who regularly show up on tabloids but of the ones who live and work among us. To see what they have been doing during the quarantine, how they are keeping their business alive, and what their outlook on the future is.
The format of an open conversation where they can share their ups and downs creates a rapport with the audience. As a collateral benefit, the interview might increase their chances to be contracted in these uncertain times if their current and potential clients watch their interviews. We are promoting this initiative on a variety of professional channels, so the value propositions become known to a much wider audience than they could have reached on their own.
Impact on Entrepreneurs worldwide
SDG 3 Health and SDG 8 Economic Growth
The second group is the wider community of entrepreneurs. The Lockdown Economy series is a real source of inspiration for SMEs no matter what stage of business they are in. It gives them access to inventive ideas, ways to adapt, tips on how to reinvent themselves and overcome the crisis of pandemic. They learn from examples from around the world of what can be done. European Commission report on SMEs highlights the key role of entrepreneurial education and training that enhances business knowledge and skills in overcoming the pandemic.
The initiative enables entrepreneurs to feel that they are not alone but a part of the community — even now when we cannot get together in groups — where every business is facing similar challenges. The interviews fill the void that always existed but became especially evident during the pandemic -- connecting with and learning from fellow entrepreneurs.
Impact on Entrepreneurs in emerging economies
SDG 5 Gender Equality and SDG 10 Reduced Inequality
The third beneficiary is the entrepreneurs and small business owners from the emerging economies. The interviews give them accessible role models. We feature a diverse group of guests by gender, geography, nationality, the type of business and prior education, that share real situations. The advice and learning that comes from the interviews can be easily applicable.
In the emerging economies, entrepreneurs often lack access to role models and an ecosystem. One of the benefits of the ecosystem is availability of mentors for people who are only starting out. Since the interviews demonstrate what the guest-entrepreneurs have done, achieved and experienced, it can be a good opportunity for viewers to identify a possible mentor and approach them directly. The teachings shared in the interviews — especially from locations where the business culture is well-developed — have a huge value to small-town businesses that have no exposure to others.
Impact on Students
SDG 4 Better Education
The fourth group is the students, particularly the ones studying business, entrepreneurship and innovation. Across the globe, young people are being disproportionately affected, particularly in the world of work. None of the courses they had, prepared them for this crisis. The European Commission report on Youth employment emphasizes that they require additional support adjusting to the world of work that has been changing, “with an increasing prevalence of non-standard forms of work, increasingly precarious school-to-work transitions and more frequent job-to-job transitions.” According to the European Commission, one of the educational domains that deserve special emphasis is entrepreneurial skills allowing young people to profit from the perspectives connected to self-employment.
The Lockdown Economy interviews are a powerful resource of educational materials, which we plan to distribute to business schools. It allows students to work with real-time cases worldwide. The fact that interviews are recorded with actual business owners provides students with an opportunity to reach out to them for questions, advice and perhaps an internship. Among direct benefits for students is the exposure to the global project and different mindset. They get a chance to learn the language of business and how what they have studied at schools can be applied in practice.
How do we measure our Impact
Given our current resources, to measure our impact we rely on information about the number of views and people reached. We hope to collaborate with a PhD researcher to identify the right metrics for our social innovation, collect necessary data and produce reliable and quantifiable analysis of our impact. If you like to help us - get in touch.