How to Collaborate with Inclusive Businesses to Tackle Covid-19

How concretely can inclusive businesses become part of the Covid-19 response in low-income settings? In our last post we explored where inclusive business provides solutions. VC4A has mapped relevant enterprises across Africa, and many others exist in other regions. The challenge is that most of these enterprises only cover parts of the population in a country. Cross-sector collaboration will be critical to organize effective action.

Implementation partners

… for governments. Inclusive businesses can play an important role in implementing response programs. Governments are clearly in the lead here, often with support from public donors and development agencies. Their task in rolling out awareness campaigns, providing hygiene and health care services, maintaining discipline during lock-down and still making sure people and businesses can live is humongous. At the same time, their own structures to reach and serve people are limited, which can slow down implementation.

Governments can work with inclusive businesses to deliver services and raise awareness. LivingGoods, for example, serves almost 8 million people in Kenya, Uganda and Myanmar with health services through 10.000 Community Health Workers. They are already working with the national governments to align on their role, and contribute to awareness raising and identifying potential cases. Governments can invite inclusive businesses and other relevant players to the table for a coordinated response.

… and for large companies.

Many large companies are making donations in cash and in kind to support response efforts in low-income settings, including Unilever, Facebook, Apple, Henkel, are many more. These contributions are often channeled via big platforms such as the UN or the World Economic Forum. Inclusive businesses can offer an alternative route to implementation here, as well. Donations of soap, disinfectants, masks etc. could be distributed via micro-distribution networks, community health workers, or community clinics.

Cash donations could help strengthen and scale up social enterprises providing health, hygiene, finance, eLearning and other solutions. Direct partnerships with inclusive businesses can not only deliver faster. They also provide an opportunity to involve staff, e.g. as mentors or to support back-office functions. Staff could benefit from a meaningful way to contribute and a professional growth experience. On a strategic level, these enterprises could become partners for inclusive innovation and growth in emerging markets (including through Corporate Impact Venturing).

There is always a risk that crisis response crowds out market-based solutions, and thus reduces resilience. Implementing with inclusive businesses helps these enterprises survive and emerge stronger from the crisis.

Innovation partners

This crisis is also an opportunity to develop more resilient and inclusive economies. Inclusive businesses can be partners in innovating solutions that will allow us to react more effectively. They are at the forefront of exploring the role of new technologies in responding to the crisis, as their contribution to various Covid-19 hackathons shows. In collaboration with partners from the public and private sector, they can also implement innovations quickly, thus making a meaningful contribution to managing this and future epidemics.

Do you know more examples of how inclusive businesses already collaborate to implement and innovate in this crisis? Please share them here!

This post was co-authored by Dr. Christina Tewes-Gradl, co-founder and managing director at Endeva.