Social Entrepreneurship and COVID-19

The life of all people changed two years ago when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, governments are trying to control the situation nationally by suggesting measures and restrictions but also internationally by aligning with other countries’ policies. Two years later, with vaccinations already given to the majority of the population, things are as “normal” as they could be yet, many are the experts that claim that the “normality” that we used to live in before the COVID-19 pandemic will never be restored.

During these two years, the “traditional” way of doing things was replaced by a more creative, mostly digitally-oriented, way. Innovation, creativity, and social change have been some of the elements most needed, three elements that are also highly related to social entrepreneurship. Therefore, can social entrepreneurs be also even the slightest solution to COVID-19?

 Social entrepreneurs and COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought gigantic social problems, not only related to health. More specifically, it brought unemployment, food insecurity, as well as economic disparities, and made us realize how inadequate education systems are. All these consequences of the pandemic need solutions, just like any other global issue that the world faces such as climate change, gender inequality, poverty, and others. Social entrepreneurs have been tackling already the aforementioned issues through their social enterprises and/or initiatives, trying to make the world a better and fairer place to live. Therefore, they can be the key to tackling the problems brought by COVID-19 as well.

First of all, social entrepreneurs are well-positioned to address gaps in the market and reach groups that the government may not be able or it will be really time-consuming to do. More in detail, socially disadvantaged communities are the most affected by the pandemic and social enterprises can be more efficient and experienced than the government to act. For example, the social enterprise named Root Capital works in remote indigenous communities in Africa, Latin America, and Indonesia and has already provided supplies (face masks, soap, medicine, etc.) to thousands of rural families. Moreover, Amazon Conversation Team has been translating public health information into the native languages of indigenous communities and has been sharing it through the channels that they are using.

Another reason why social entrepreneurs can tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that they can address secondary and tertiary problems whereas the government concentrates on reducing the highest-level problems such as health and economic shocks. Yet, another major issue is education since it is evident that education systems and schools were not ready for such a change and a digital transformation. Even if governments are trying to improve not only students’ but also teachers’ digital skills, it is very time-consuming and expensive, resulting in education gaps and a lack of confidence and socialization. YouthBuildUSA and Citizen Schools are just some examples of social enterprises that focus on tutoring and the wellbeing of students in the age of distance learning.

Lastly, social entrepreneurs have already the experience and the courage to change broken systems. Before the pandemic, they were already tackling social injustices which were then exacerbated. Therefore, they have the know-how to help society. Of course, improvements or changes may be needed due to how rapidly our lives change, but they are more familiar with the target group, their needs, and challenges than anyone else.

In conclusion, social entrepreneurs can be a significant help to governments and society against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. Its impact will remain in our lives for years, even when the pandemic won’t be a major discussion in current news, therefore the need to have businesses with their main aim being to tackle social injustices rather than to make money, is fundamental.

Social Entrepreneurship and gender equality

Gender equality is one of the European Union’s priorities since 1957. In 2019, after the European elections the issue of gender equality made it back on to the political agenda with strong support from the first-ever female Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen who indicated that “equality for all and equality in all its senses” is necessary to be established in the Union. However, gender equality has only slightly improved in recent years. In fact, the EU scored 68 points (out of a possible total of 100) in the 2021 Gender Equality Index published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). This is an improvement of just 0.6 points over 2020.

Now, let’s think about positions of leadership and power. The examples and cases of men in these positions are many more compared to women working in the same position. As a result, women are less likely to run a business or be in positions of leadership. This leads to a culture where young girls and women are not encouraged to develop entrepreneurial skills or pursue leadership positions. However, social entrepreneurship can help change this situation.

Social enterprises against gender inequality  

Social entrepreneurship differs from the “traditional” one because its utmost goal is to make a difference in society and/or the environment. Therefore, there are social enterprises that aim to defend women and their rights by tackling gender inequality, especially in developing countries. In fact, in the UK, only 4% of social enterprises focus on women’s empowerment whereas, in India, this figure is 33%. Below, there are some examples to show what already exists and can be used also as inspiration to potential social entrepreneurs.

Blackburne House

Based in Liverpool, Blackburne House provides education and training opportunities to local women in areas where they are underrepresented in the workforce, providing the skills they need to live as financially independent. They also provide services that remove barriers to education to support women who face barriers to employment.

Blackburne House run a number of social entrepreneurship initiatives that support their educational mission, including a nursery, bistro, health spa, an events facility, as well as the School for Social Enterprise North West.


Al Alhidn Association

Al Alhidn Association is a nonprofit organisation created for social and cultural development of women, family and childhood in Morocco. The organisation works towards economic and social empowerment of the woman and the youth through a number of projects, including cultural centers for youth, family mediation, special assistance to widows and orphan girls, who have stopped their studies and active advocacy for women and youth rights, nationally and internationally.


Social entrepreneurship as tool for women’s empowerment

Moreover, social enterprise is a really powerful force for women’s empowerment. The British Council analysed in 2017 the impact of social enterprises on female empowerment in different countries and stated that women-led social enterprises could have a big effect on other women’s lives (through education, counselling, health, skill development, job creation, campaigning, affordable childcare, combatting gender stereotypes, accessing finance and giving women a voice in their communities).

In fact, female social entrepreneurs can identify with other women, therefore they can significantly support their self-development and upskilling. These entrepreneurs understand the need for and the lack of mentorship that women go through when they need a new start or a change and they are more likely to help them. In addition, female social entrepreneurs are more likely to hire women and therefore, contribute to gender equality in society. Moreover, according to the same study from British Council, the social enterprise sector offers far greater training opportunities for women, the chances for women to take a leading role are higher and can be used as a powerful source of funding as many women’s rights organisations are underfunded. More results found according to this study can be seen below:


*Countries for this research: Brazil, India, Pakistan, the UK and the USA

From Activist to entrepreneur: The role of social enterprise in supporting women’s empowerment

Yet, as it is shown above, gender is still a barrier, even in the social entrepreneurship sector. However, this should not limit women and their dreams from coming true. Women should transform their ideas and vision into their proper social enterprise, aiming for a change that can improve society and the environment. After all, a new female social entrepreneur is another step closer to gender equality.