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Strengthening collective bonds across the social distance



ImpactAlpha, March 25A crisis can bring out the worst or the best in us. Across the globe, millions of people are choosing ‘best,’ picking up groceries for vulnerable neighbors, buying gift cards to keep local businesses afloat, and sending takeout orders to frontline health workers.

This grassroots response is moving quickly to bridge gaps as Congress haggles over a relief package that could take weeks to reach families and businesses. Mutual aid networks that match people in need with neighbors who can help have remade the lowly spreadsheet as impact tech. The neighborhood aid networks have spread around the globe nearly as fast as the coronavirus itself.

“Ecosystems with the most supportive, inter-dependent, inter-species relationships have the highest survival rates,” writes Sandra Kwak of solar finance startup 10Power. The coronavirus crisis “is a test of how we take care of each other and an opportunity to set up and fortify social infrastructure that supports coordinated action from the local to global level.” 

Peer-to-peer. Cooperatives and other forms of mutual aid can flourish when systems break down. In Minneapolis, Star Finance, a Somali-led cooperative that evolved from immigrant-led savings circles, “could work when the market economy shuts down,” writes SOCAP co-founder Kevin Jones

Open source. Makers, entrepreneurs and tinkerers are sharing open-source plans for everything from masks to ventilators even as government and industry struggle to meet demand for critical supplies needed by hospitals and healthcare workers. Open Source Ventilator, created by a trio of engineers in Ireland, has hundreds of contributors worldwide. Chilean startup Copper3D is refining an open-source design for 3D-printed antiviral masks. 

How community investment funds are building resiliency to disasters, pandemics and economic shocks

Crowdsourced lending. Crowdfunding has helped thousands of small businesses raise capital from their communities since 2016. Now businesses can tap crowdfunded emergency loans from Fundopolis, WeFunder, Honeycomb and Wisefund. WeFunder’s Coronavirus Crisis Loan, for example, offers loans of up to $1 million; revenue-based repayments are deferred until 2021. “Small businesses need access to cash, and customers and community members desperately want to help,” says WeFunder’s Jonny Price. Estonia-based Wisefund offers crowdfunded loans for European businesses. 

Resilience funds. Cities, states and associations stepping up to provide relief to small businesses and organizations affected by COVID-19. National: SBA. Regional: Truist Cares. States: New Mexico, Iowa, Florida. Cities: Birmingham, Philadelphia, Erie, Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver. Nonprofits. New York. International: India, South Africa.

Local resource mobilization. Living Cities is keeping a list of city-level commitments to small businesses, including efforts targeted for businesses owned by people of color or that predominantly employ people of color. National League of Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies are collecting actions taken by local leaders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pay it forward. Online lender Kabbage will help small businesses sell gift cards online. Pre-pay app Credibles lets customers pay in advance for products and services from their favorite businesses.

Resources for entrepreneurs. CASE at Duke has built a searchable database of COVID19 capital resources for entrepreneurs. Add to the list.

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