While some countries are already addressing the aftermath of their COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization projects that the worst is yet to come in many developing and emerging countries, with the global pandemic expected to last at least another year.
As of August 2020, over 20 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported, of which one- third are in Africa, Brazil and India. Marginalized communities worldwide are being hit the hardest by the health and economic effects of this crisis and will thus continue to struggle. The pandemic has a much greater impact on these communities: an additional 100 million1 people could slip into extreme poverty – a number that could easily climb higher. Decades of work to tackle impoverishment are being erased as the world witnesses a rise in global poverty for the first time since 1998.
With citizens and decision-makers shifting their attention to the immediate effects of the crisis, and with a global recession looming, the future of people and the planet, embodied by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sustainable Development Agenda, is at risk of permanently falling behind.
For decades, social entrepreneurs have effectively reached and helped vulnerable populations and have served as the guardians of people and the planet. Often and increasingly, they:
1. Bring vital products and services to those on the fringes of society, while acting as first responders during a crisis
2. Sustain jobs and social security, at a time when the effects of losing one’s income can be particularly devastating
3. Innovate to address the intractable social and environmental challenges society faces
4. Champion the sustainable development agenda, calling for an inclusive and green economy and a reset of markets
5. Empower and create agency among communities so they can develop and advance their own trajectories and solutions.
The social entrepreneurs’ track record and ingenuity to confront immediate problems on the ground are vital to the collective ability to weather the crisis today and shape a new tomorrow.