The Lockdown Economy is an international nonprofit social-economic and educational initiative. It is a series of interviews where entrepreneurs from various parts of the world and occupations share how the lockdown has affected them and what their market looks like now. The objective of the Lockdown Economy is to give them a forum to speak, to provide a source of inspiration for a wider community of entrepreneurs and SMEs no matter what stage of business they are in, give them access to role models and inventive ideas, ways to adapt, tips on how to reinvent themselves and overcome the crisis of pandemic.
The Lockdown Economy is also a powerful resource of educational materials. It allows students to work with real-time cases. We plan to distribute these materials to business schools through platforms such as Edx and through collaboration with on-campus courses of educational institutions worldwide. The initiative fulfills the United Nations recent call to increase efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, by contributing to economic growth (SDG 8), better education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), and stronger mental health (SDG 3). This initiative brings entrepreneurs of the world closer together in building a new better world based on inclusion, equity, and sustainability.
Lockdown Economy Initiative is registered as an Acceleration Action for Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. #SDGAction36773
FINANCING THE INITIATIVE
It is vital for entrepreneurs that this initiative continues. Right now it runs on the money two co-founders saved from their corporate jobs. In October 2020 we started a crowdfunding campaign to fund the initiative.
WHAT DO WE NEED FUNDING FOR?
To cover the time of people who work on the Lockdown Economy initiative full time.
To replicate the interview model and bring it to many more countries with good quality of technology and services.
To develop training and learning materials from the real-time field-research we are doing with interviews.
BECOME OUR PARTNER
We welcome educational institutions and non-profit organizations to collaborate with us on bringing the Lockdown Economy to students worldwide. You can help us with the propagation and planning of new seasons of interviews. If funding is provided, we would be able to prepare a topical Lockdown Economy series, depending on your key beneficiary.
The long-term plan is to connect independent universities we are working with into one network that works on the production of joint programs and courses based on the rich materials that come from the Lockdown Economy series.
BECOME OUR FUNDING PARTNER
Think Tank AlterContacts is responsible for producing the series, including inviting guests, filming, post-production, promotion and transforming interviews into business cases and training materials for schools. We are looking for partners who would be willing to sponsor this initiative.
As for benefits, the sponsor will be featured in every episode they sponsored (to which extent is to be discussed). That will provide the sponsor organization third-party advocacy, one of the most efficient ways to win consumers today. The sponsor can request the episodes to be focused around a specific topic, sector or guest. This initiative has been registered and recognized by the United Nations as an Acceleration Action towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The sponsor organization can become an official partner and be mentioned in that registration.
PROBLEM WE ARE ADDRESSING
The life of entrepreneurs has never been predictable. But from January until now we saw their world turned upside down. Whatever plans of growth self-employed professionals and freelancers made for 2020 had to be changed and adapted. Some business models required significant altering, others simply stopped working.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spiralled the EU into the deepest recession in its history. It was noted in the United Nations report on SDG that although the coronavirus affects every person and community, it does not do so equally. Instead, it has exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities and injustices.
Entrepreneurs are one of the biggest groups impacted by the pandemic. International Labour Organization estimated that small and medium enterprises, the self-employed, and daily wage earners are hit the hardest. According to an OECD report “at the beginning of the crisis, 40% of households in the OECD were three months away from poverty.” The introduction of quarantine requirements affected the employment of workers in the service sector and a large share of the self-employed. Moreover, according to the EU Spring 2020 Economic Forecast, the self-employed tend to receive less support from government schemes and are overrepresented in the sectors hardest-hit by the confinement.
There are over 25 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Europe. According to the European Commission, they are the backbone of the EU economy. “They employ around 100 million people, account for more than half of Europe’s GDP and play a key role in adding value in every sector of the economy. They provide two out of three jobs, bring training opportunities across regions and sectors, including for low-skilled workers, and support society’s welfare, including in remote and rural areas.” Entrepreneurs are doing a lot for the communities where they are based.
SMEs, self-employed, entrepreneurs are deeply woven into Europe’s economic and social fabric. So the survival of this layer of the population is vital and primordial to maintain social stability. The United Nations report on SDG states “the COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid reminder of the need for global cooperation and solidarity. We must strengthen and combine our efforts to leave no one behind and to forge the transformative pathways needed to create a more livable world.
One of the key things missing in enabling entrepreneurs in overcoming the crisis of pandemic is access to real-time information. For example, information on how to reach and market to potential customers given the quarantine, how to access and what funds are available, how to maintain the cash flow while the stores are closed. As a society, we made it a norm to only share success stories publicly. Nobody wants to come out and openly admit that the business is suffering, the sales are low and the uncertainty of the future is daunting. But now, when the world is going through such a foundation-shaking change, it is more important than ever that we can tell the story of what is really happening to the business, share our experiences with each other and help one another rebuild our own ventures and the world “one entrepreneur at a time”.
So how are businesses actually doing right now? How are their owners dealing with the challenges of lockdown, quarantine, social distancing?
The Lockdown Economy is an international social-economic and educational initiative, organized by the Global Think Tank for Sustainable Development AlterContacts. It is a series of interviews where entrepreneurs from various parts of the world and occupations share how the lockdown has affected them and what their market looks like now.
We gather and share the stories of real people who live among us, who chose to be their own boss and were faced with something that the world has never seen before. Entrepreneurs and small business owners from around the world share openly how the lockdown has affected them, their companies, their markets and their future. It allows the transfer of best practices, know-how and skills in these challenging times. We want to spread the inspiring and inventive lessons of how these businesses managed to survive the lockdown.
The objective of the Lockdown Economy is to give them a forum to speak, to provide a source of inspiration for a wider community of entrepreneurs and SMEs no matter what stage of business they are in, give them access to role models and inventive ideas, ways to adapt, tips on how to reinvent themselves and overcome the crisis of pandemic.
The last few months reminded us, probably more than ever before, that even the best economic forecasts cannot predict the future. While the international organizations and governments are collecting data to yet again use average numbers to plan and forecast how the economy will go forward, we at the Think Tank AlterContacts have decided to discover in-depth stories behind those “averages” and bring them to light.
Available as podcasts at https://anchor.fm/altercontacts
The Interviews of Lockdown Economy are available here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtxviGuiJz5JhBNtewKbRwj0U02AnP4op
The Lockdown Economy Academy is available https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtxviGuiJz5ITRRHx2vH__p30PJgEgZQ7
25 August: Article “Don't be a Bystander: How to Save Small Businesses in Europe” about the Lockdown Economy is featured on the cover of the leading online magazine for small business Entrepreneur.com.
24 August: Article by the Anahuac Mayab University about the Lockdown Economy and four lessons for business
19 August: Article “How is the Coffee Catering Business in Amsterdam Surviving the Pandemic?” based on the story of one of the interview guests is published on Medium
17 August: The Lockdown Economy was published on the website of the United Nations
14 August: Interview about the initiative and the lead coordinator in the online newspaper of the Syktyvkar State University
1 August: Presentation about the "Four Lessons from the Lockdown Economy" was live streamed by the Anahuac Mayab University.
25 July: An interview about the initiative was published in the leading regional magazine in the Komi Republic.
13 July: Article “Four Lessons from the Businesses that Survived the Lockdown” was published on the Helm: Today’s Business Leaders in their own words.
July: The Lockdown Economy was mentioned in the newsletter Secrets of Paris with over 35K readers
At the end of September there will be an article about the Lockdown Economy in the local newspaper of Amsterdam Wijkkrant Buitenveldert with over 30K printed copies.
The social impact of this initiative stretches across four groups of beneficiaries and is well aligned with at least five Sustainable Development Goals.
Featured businesses - SDG 8 Economic Growth
The first one is the businesses that are featured in the interviews. It gives them a voice and forum to speak, to share their thoughts, apprehensions and learning. We focus on true stories of real entrepreneurs from around the world. Not the ones who regularly show up on tabloids but of the ones who live and work among us. To see what they have been doing during the quarantine, how they are keeping their business alive, and what their outlook on the future is.
The format of an open conversation where they can share their ups and downs creates a rapport with the audience. As a collateral benefit, the interview might increase their chances to be contracted in these uncertain times if their current and potential clients watch their interviews. We are promoting this initiative on a variety of professional channels, so the value propositions become known to a much wider audience than they could have reached on their own.
Entrepreneurs worldwide - SDG 3 Health and SDG 8 Economic Growth
The second group is the wider community of entrepreneurs. The Lockdown Economy series is a real source of inspiration for SMEs no matter what stage of business they are in. It gives them access to inventive ideas, ways to adapt, tips on how to reinvent themselves and overcome the crisis of pandemic. They learn from examples from around the world of what can be done. European Commission report on SMEs highlights the key role of entrepreneurial education and training that enhances business knowledge and skills in overcoming the pandemic.
The initiative enables entrepreneurs to feel that they are not alone but a part of the community — even now when we cannot get together in groups — where every business is facing similar challenges. The interviews fill the void that always existed but became especially evident during the pandemic -- connecting with and learning from fellow entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs in emerging economies - SDG 5 Gender Equality and SDG 10 Reduced Inequality
The third beneficiary is the entrepreneurs and small business owners from the emerging economies. The interviews give them accessible role models. We feature a diverse group of guests by gender, geography, nationality, the type of business and prior education, that share real situations. The advice and learning that comes from the interviews can be easily applicable.
In the emerging economies, entrepreneurs often lack access to role models and an ecosystem. One of the benefits of the ecosystem is availability of mentors for people who are only starting out. Since the interviews demonstrate what the guest-entrepreneurs have done, achieved and experienced, it can be a good opportunity for viewers to identify a possible mentor and approach them directly. The teachings shared in the interviews — especially from locations where the business culture is well-developed — have a huge value to small-town businesses that have no exposure to others.
Business students - SDG 4 Better Education
The fourth group is the students, particularly the ones studying business, entrepreneurship and innovation. Across the globe, young people are being disproportionately affected, particularly in the world of work. None of the courses they had, prepared them for this crisis. The European Commission report on Youth employment emphasizes that they require additional support adjusting to the world of work that has been changing, “with an increasing prevalence of non-standard forms of work, increasingly precarious school-to-work transitions and more frequent job-to-job transitions.” According to the European Commission, one of the educational domains that deserve special emphasis is entrepreneurial skills allowing young people to profit from the perspectives connected to self-employment.
The Lockdown Economy interviews are a powerful resource of educational materials, which we plan to distribute to business schools. It allows students to work with real-time cases worldwide. The fact that interviews are recorded with actual business owners provides students with an opportunity to reach out to them for questions, advice and perhaps an internship. Among direct benefits for students is the exposure to the global project and different mindset. They get a chance to learn the language of business and how what they have studied at schools can be applied in practice.
The Lockdown Economy is also a powerful resource of educational materials. It allows students to work with real-time cases. We plan to distribute these materials to business schools through platforms such as Edx and through collaboration with on-campus courses of educational institutions worldwide.
There is lack of real-time relevant information available for students and entrepreneurs. Some time will pass before there will be new books published and new university courses designed that reflect the current situation, show how to adapt to it and overcome the challenges of the post-COVID world, incl. social distancing, lockdowns and quarantine, etc.
How to build continuity plans? How to do crisis and post-crisis management? How to reinvent your value proposition? How to survive and keep creating? How to be an entrepreneur today? How to prepare for “what if” scenarios?
This initiative gives us unique educational materials and access to concrete cases which could be used along with Harvard, KPMG, McKinsey and other business cases. By integrating lessons from multiple countries on several continents, we provide a comprehensive overview of how one can proceed in entrepreneurship in the new world.
Joined by our partner universities we are designing educational programs that are based on real case studies from the lockdown. We have the ambition to publish our online courses on EdX where millions of students worldwide will get access to them. We expect these materials to be distributed across various geographies, different levels of education and age groups.
An example of collaboration with universities
On 31 July, together with the Anahuac Mayab University (Mexico) we launched a 3-weeks course for the MBA students that was based on the information provided in the Lockdown Economy.
As part of their program, MBA students had to watch the interviews and reflect on the issues discussed and approaches to solve it.
On the practical side, five teams of students were paired up with five interview-guests (business owners) to work together on tackling the real business cases and the aftermath of the lockdown.
We have seen a very positive reaction both from students and business owners. It was an alternative way to learn and the exposure they got to international business is priceless for their future.
For entrepreneurs involved in the Academy, it is an opportunity to address a complex challenge of their business and involve a group of students in solving it; a chance to have an outside look at their business model and how the operations are run. Often sole entrepreneurs simply do not have the capacity to take care of everything so this collaboration will provide them with extra pairs of hands and minds to address it.
Think Tank AlterContacts plays the role of integrator, finding the unique profiles of guests for interviews and reaching out to potential partners from various industries, sectors and countries. We are well situated to put together the interview series due to our wide network of experts and connections in the entrepreneurial and academic world. The studio is strategically positioned in the European Union that has a mandate of supporting small business. We are located in one of the best countries for modern entrepreneurship, the Netherlands, and one of the most well-known startup ecosystems, Amsterdam.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
For a company, sponsoring this initiative is a contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). More specifically it falls in the category of supporting education and training, which enables building “a more cohesive society and the transition to a sustainable economic system.” Supporting the Lockdown Economy initiative fits with the OECD definition of RBC as "making a positive contribution to economic, environmental and social progress with a view to achieving sustainable development".
According to the recent findings of the British researchers, we can expect “the post-pandemic period as a one that the thriving businesses are those with strong CSR commitment”. They forecast that “the bond established between the brand and consumer during this crisis era can be more meaningful and lasting than during ‘peaceful’ times”. It is also noted that responsible and prosocial consumption will become the norm, “in the sense that consumers consciously reflect on how to consume and make product/brand choices to be more responsible to themselves, others, the society, and the environment”.
We are officially registered in PADOR and EuropeAid as a co-applicant. We believe there will be grant support available through Next-generation EU for the collaboration we are proposing.
In October 2020 we started a crowdfunding campaign to fund the initiative. Here is what value we can offer a benefactor in return for the contribution: mention them on the episode of the series; a certificate of appreciation mentioning that they contributed to the UN SDG registered initiative; and a possibility to be featured on our site as a partner of Lockdown Economy.
Think Tank Interviews
Massimo Mercuri, the co-founder of Global Think Tank for Sustainable Development AlterContacts.org, uncovers what a think tank actually does and how its experts transformed what they were doing in-person into the online service to keep visibility, keep producing, and keep the momentum. He shares the journey of a one-year-old non-profit from the moment “What do we do now?” to building collaboration with international organizations and universities. He also talks about the importance of a shorter transaction and keeping the long view in mind while taking care of the day-to-day.
We meet Gloria de Leon, the founder of boutique consultancy Ad Hoc that helps leaders to manage change and has been active on the Latin American market since 2007. While the online world was filling up with many “how-to” offers, Gloria and her business partners paused their activity to observe the market. A big advantage was to hear how people from around the world reacted to the crisis and what they were concerned with. That allowed Gloria together with the think tank AlterContacts to spot an opportunity to help decision-makers deal with the post-crisis. Gloria also shares her perspective on the future of facilitation. According to her, the quality of in-person meetings has to improve which will give rise to methodologies such as Lego Serious Play.
We meet Shayonti Chatterji, the founder of Urban Medley, a Sustainable Fashion Brand that supports the Indian handicrafts and artisans by bringing it to conscious consumers of the global market. She shares what it was like to have started a business on the eve of the lockdown when neither the launch plan nor the marketing plan was prepared for the pandemic. In times when the suppliers from developing countries stopped being able to ship their products, and many bigger brands refused to pay them, Urban Medley continuously supports its suppliers in India despite the financial strain it adds to the business. Shayonti speaks about the decisions she had to make to adapt, modify and move on; and how the lockdown showed that we were all connected, whether we wanted it or not.
We meet Fabrizio Faraco, the founder of In Sprint, an Italian based facilitation business, that helps companies achieve success and autonomy. From the start at the beginning of 2019, it has been highly in demand, and Fabrizio was travelling from client to client delivering workshops. The lockdown caught him during the international workshop and suddenly all of the work booked for the next quarter was cancelled. Fabrizio shares that the very next week he had to be with a client in Dubai which allowed him time to reflect, away from the panic of Italy. He and his business partner decided to build an online-based MVP which was well received by the clients. Fabrizio mentions that most businesses are focusing on business as usual, and very few are preparing for new uncertainties, scenarios and making the most of opportunities that come up from the crisis. He shares his perspective on how to understand your business better and how to spot unique opportunities in instability.
We meet Poom Narudee Kristhanin, the CEO and Founder of Eureka Global, a transformation consultancy based in Thailand that has been active in the Asian market since 2006. She shares how the lockdown became a good moment to revisit the company's purpose and what true value it brings to the clients. It gave Poom and her team a chance to focus on the collective strengths each of them has. Despite the majority of the work being postponed to “better times”, they continued being active partnering with various organizations and clients both on pro-bono and business bases to reimagine and rebuild the future together.
We meet Juan Ramon, the Managing Founder of REE, the company of single-origin coffee brands based in Belgium importing from sustainable coffee cooperatives of Mexico. He shares how the sales went down immediately as the restaurants and bars that used to order the coffee closed for the lockdown. But the coffee did not stop growing and the farmers did not stop harvesting. So the business had to continue. That pushed Juan Ramon to move from selling coffee as a commodity to a finished product and to improve the webshop which connects original producers to the individual consumers.
Dannie-Lu Carr, a UK-based coach, consultant, speaker, author and founder of Creative Wavelengths, shares how the unknown has pushed her to be even more creative. The lockdown arrived suddenly just in the middle of the workshop when everyone was asked to leave immediately. She tells how seeing the agenda emptying and all events being “indefinitely postponed” put her on an emotional rollercoaster. Nevertheless, she kept in touch with her clients. Dannie channelled her energy into creating new online programs. One of them, 28 Days of Defiance, was meant to help people overcome the feeling of confusion by offering them a lockdown Truth or Dare.
We meet Nadia Benedetti, a Game Thinking Facilitator and the founder of PlaynBe in Paris. Once the lockdown was announced she had to change focus of her activity from in-person to remote sessions. It took her a month to re-design the workshop's flow to adapt it to virtual collaboration. Her experience where Nadia had managed teams at distance for the last five years came in handy. Unlike many other facilitators whose clients cancelled everything, Nadia delivered about three workshops per week. She noticed that her clients which were international companies had less resistance and an easier time adapting to the remote collaboration, than the local businesses. Once they saw they got real value out of it, they gradually grew used to it.
We meet Rishi Kapal, an India based author of Kites in a Hurricane, a Transitions and Entrepreneurship Specialist, and the Managing Partner of Global Scaleup. He shares a story of a lockdown where the workload increased a lot. With regards to the startup ecosystem, companies in the E-health, Education, Energy, E-commerce, Entertainment and Cybersecurity started to get more attention. So the key milestones had to be achieved much faster than planned. He shares his view on the competition, which over the lockdown has turned into Co-opetition - coordinating, collaborating and helping people at large. On the other front, where he helps professionals to transition from a corporate managerial position to an independent entrepreneur, it has been busy too as many job lines are declining. Rishi’s main recommendations are to create transferable skills and develop resilience to do things with your own hands. He mentions that the key thing that people are looking for in an advisor is whether they really helped anyone and if they did what happened to those people. They want to see real-life use cases.
Bernadett Nagy, who has become a life coach three years ago, shares how she helps men to uncover their real selves and how the lockdown affected her and her clients. Bernadett is based in Barcelona and her practice is fully online. During the lockdown, she lost a few clients, because their attention diverted from inner search to their businesses and financial stability. Despite the slowdown, she used the time to start a video channel to keep awareness about her practice and to create a new program for men with a “Nice Guy” syndrome to help them explore and be who they really are. Now the lockdown is lifted, both men and their wives are asking Bernadett to help them deal with interpersonal challenges that surfaced during the last few months.