The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on many businesses across the region, including Entrepreneur Support Organisations (ESO).
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on many businesses across the region, including Entrepreneur Support Organisations (ESO). Recognising the strains, the #BuildBackBetter program exists to build the resilience of ESOs in South and South-East Asia during the pandemic while also working towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal 9: Industrial Innovation and Infrastructure. Currently, we are halfway through a 16-week interactive cohort program with 20 individuals — 70% of whom are in a leadership position or the CEOs of their organisation.
As co-facilitators of the #BuildBackBetter program and a global leader in entrepreneurial ecosystem, we at Spring Activator view the program as the tipping point into the future of the global economy and how we operate our business and run our programs. To #BuildBackBetter means more than getting the ecosystem back to normal. It means building a “new normal” of financial sustainability and ecosystem resilience that addresses the needs of entrepreneurs and those that support entrepreneurs, to a point where they are thriving while doing good for the planet.
Having worked directly with entrepreneurs, we’ve seen firsthand just how much entrepreneurial thinking has shifted during this challenging time. Most of them who identify as social enterprises now seek to move beyond business and play a pivotal role in economic development by supporting the vibrancy of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This shift in entrepreneurial mindset means that ESOs also need to change their approach in how they support entrepreneurs, how they build programs and services, and how they are funded so that they can better support the entrepreneurs and other actors in the ecosystem during this time of change and beyond.
Through the program, we are focusing on supporting ESOs to build business resiliency and adapt their programs to virtual spaces. We began by asking ESOs to take a step back and think strategically about their own business resilience. As we take our ESOs through an assessment of their current situation and ecosystem mapping, we enable them to update their plans and think through ways they will fund and execute initiatives moving forward. We then deliver topics addressing their specific needs during this time, such as resilient leadership, pivot strategies and virtual convening skills. Beyond that, we also facilitate peer support sessions so that ESOs can exchange ideas and learn about best practices, on-ground stories and support each other more wholly in responding to business challenges post- pandemic.
In the broader context, supporting ESOs to adapt and thrive through this crisis will bring significant positive impact for the greater community. What sets ESO leaders apart from other business leaders is that they are also supporting larger communities to survive and thrive together. ESO leaders — including us — are often approached by local communities and networks for inspiration and knowledge on what to do during this time of crisis. Thus, it is increasingly crucial for these leaders to reflect, refocus, and reimagine future systems and economic structures in order to #BuildBackBetter. The space of reflection will allow them to better adapt, find resilience, and maximize their impact with the entrepreneurs, investors, and communities they support.
As a leader in the entrepreneur ecosystem, we at Spring Activator sees the #BuildBackBetter program as an opportunity to view the ecosystem as a collaborative environment where organizations could — and should — work well together to provide all necessary support for entrepreneurs to solve some of the toughest problems during this time.
Just like the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, elevating entrepreneurs and ESOs requires a group effort, as noted by Spring Activator Co-Founder Keith Ippel. “This program’s power is in the collaborative, group approach that brings expanded wisdom, perspective, experience, and probing questions to help participating organizations to assess, respond, thrive, and create lasting impact in their community and in our world,” he further emphasised.
In collaboration with SecondMuse, Conveners, and Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the program is harnessing collective knowledge to support the cohort for another 6 weeks. After the program concludes, the cohort will deploy knowledge in their local ecosystems by adapting the learning materials to their specific contexts and cascade these learnings to local stakeholders through targeted interactions (eg. Train the Trainer programs).
To #BuildBackBetter means to work towards a resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. South & Southeast Asia has a huge potential in its strength and resilience as a region. With a rapidly developing ecosystem and strong relationships, this region has the opportunity to not only reshape their own future for the better, but also to help lead the global movement towards realizing a sustainable and impactful economy and achieving the SDGs.
Created by – Olivia Hough@Impact Hub Phnom Penh