Covid-19 and social entrepreneurship: unlocking social economy potential during emergencies

Social enterprises have been at the forefront in adapting to change and challenges met by national governments, local authorities, policy makers
and economic stakeholders.
Social enterprise, for instance, promoted sustainable economic and social development during periods of economic crisis or to fight against climate change challenges.
During emergencies, in fact, social enterprises have the capacity of primarily addressing and satisfying unmet social needs, and therefore creating social value.
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) emergency is affecting all around the world with, by bringing down the health systems of all countries and locking down entire cities.
Despite this, solidarity and spirit of initiative seemed to be stronger and more contagious than the virus and some social enterprises distinguished themselves for their commitment and innovative solutions against Covid-19.

The case of Soap Cycling

“During a crisis like the coronavirus situation, people who are already struggling are hit hardest first,” Justen Li, chairman of Soap Cycling, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
With flights being cancelled and factories, restaurants and schools closed in many Asian cities, social enterprises have swung into action.
Hong Kong’s street cleaners, vulnerable to contagion and often seen pushing metal carts through the skyscraper city, approached Li’s staff when they were handing out soap to city-goers in February.
“They began asking us for masks,” he said. “The government provides them with masks but they are sweated through in an hour or two. Once they are sweaty, they are not helpful anymore.”
After teaming up with a local partner and activating a network of volunteers, Soap Cycling now provide hygiene kits and masks to around 3,000 of the city’s 21,000 street cleaners.

This is just one of the endless ideas and initiatives that entrepreneurs all over the world have started to support local, national and international communities. Being social entrepreneurs means that the economic value serves social objectives.
Solving social challenges is their articulated goal and the whole business project is built around this objective.

Thus, it can be said that social entrepreneurs create value but are not motivated by the appropriation of this value: “What distinguishes social entrepreneurship from commercial entrepreneurship is the predominant focus on value creation rather than on value appropriation. … Although individuals may have multiple goals, organizations need clarity of purpose in order to engage with their environment in coherent ways. They need to choose either value creation or value appropriation as their dominant focus”.