Social enterprises are known for their flexibility in responding to market gaps and community needs. Their nimble nature allows them to pivot quickly and reprioritize or redistribute resources. Here are a few examples of innovation among social enterprises that we have noticed in the COVID19 pandemic:
Everytable, a social enterprise that addresses food deserts by using a centralized kitchen to provide healthy, affordable meals in communities with little food access, has pivoted to pick up and to-go meals, home deliveries, and is making donations of food to food pantries and homeless shelters. Additionally they have launched a helpline to connect people with organizations that are providing food access or food relief. A full profile of their response is available in here.
Many distilleries and breweries have shifted their production lines to hand sanitizer to meet the surge in community needs and to utilize their inventory of ethanol or other alcohol-based products. A number of the companies involved are partnering directly with local governments and health systems to offer the hand sanitizers at cost or for free. You can find a summary of efforts by local small brands as well as larger national brands here.
American fashion brands have been hit by the quarantine with textile factories shuttering as non-essential businesses. However, several have pivoted to begin producing masks, cloth face coverings, and gowns for health care workers. Again, this repurposes the talent and inventory already in existence, while meeting the need for additional personal protective equipment for both health care workers and citizens. You can read more about how fashion companies have adjusted here and this profile of Christian Siriano’s response.
Drone technology has experienced many starts and stops since initially launching but monitoring public health in a non-invasive, constant manner is one way Draganfly, a Canadian technology company, is rethinking its technology. Previously, their drones were used after disasters to find bodies trapped under debris and for non-contact heart and respiratory monitoring in neonates. Today, they are experimenting with the addition of a thermal camera to take temperature readings and a gesture sensor to read for coughing and sneezing. The drones are being tested for deployment in high density population areas to help monitor signs of the virus before it spreads.
Social isolation demands are particularly challenging for already vulnerable populations, such as elderly individuals that live in institutionalized or community settings. K4Connect, which already worked in the smart product for senior living space has pivoted to focus on increasing communication between residents and their family members as well as with health care workers. From enhanced video calling, and resident check ins to virtual experiences, they are shifting their technology platform to serve during this time of isolation.
Other areas we are seeing innovation and social enterprise to support community needs are in contact tracing, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality. Have you come across any companies that have meaningfully pivoted their operations to address response and relief efforts because of the pandemic? Let us know @StarfishMarta.
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