Days before the launch of Harambee’s newest partnership with the South African presidency to scale up in-person job placement centers across the country, COVID-19 forced the country into lockdown. Plans came to a halt, and Harambee pondered how to move forward in the face of an unexpected crisis.

We imagine that many of our peers recognize the feelings experienced when a crisis disrupts a painstakingly planned initiative. Whether it is COVID-19, economic fallout, a government coup, or other crisis, social enterprises often find themselves working in communities where disruption is the rule, rather than the exception. To understand how to make the best of such trying circumstances, we interviewed leaders of social enterprises as part of our Scaling Pathways series. We wanted to know how these enterprises were making short-term adaptations or more lasting shifts in their strategies to navigate through crisis. Amid the insights that emerged from our conversations, four stood out:

  1. Re-Evaluate the Problem Have the needs of the people we serve changed as a result of this crisis, and do we need to address those changing needs to move forward?
  2. Mind Your Money Organizations, whether they need to solve new problems or not, face increased financial pressure amid the unpredictable costs a crisis may generate. What short-term and long-term financial decisions do you need to make to survive during the crisis and finance your path forward?
  3. Don’t Start Anew A crisis is a time to consider how an organizations’ core assets and competencies could be leveraged in different ways, not to try something totally new. Ask yourself: What existing assets, including physical resources, people, and partnerships, could we build on to solve new problems arising from a crisis?
  4. Prepare for a Post-Crisis World While the future is always uncertain, some sort of “new normal” is coming. How can you use crisis-driven experiments as a way to prepare for tomorrow?

Read the full article about social enterprise by Erin Worsham, Kimberly Bardy Langsam & Ellen Martin at Stanford Social Innovation Review.