Resources, Small Business, and Community Organizations

Smaller community development organizations, social entrepreneurs or sustainability-focused entities are used to environments where resources are limited. They are used to bootstrapping and lean operations. They are familiar with uncertainty and soft funding. And YET. And yet, this time ahead may be exceptional in terms of scarcity and uncertainty. As our work continues, including our project focused on Central Appalachia, we’ll consider resources, research, or ideas that can help. Here are some that come to our attention this week:
    • Small businesses may have it exceptionally rough, now, and in the weeks and months to come. A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business asked small businesses about how long they can continue to operate under current conditions. About half of small employers anticipated surviving for no more than two months, and about one-third felt they could stay in business for 3-6 months.
    • Your enterprise, organization or project may need help, but you also have resources to help – including you, your team, your expertise. And this might be a time to consider how to serve your community and advance the good in new and different ways.
    • Here is one such example from Everytable, a social enterprise whose mission includes offering healthy and affordable food in low and moderate income communities in California Based in Los Angeles, the organization is shifting its operations to emphasize even more take-home and carryout options in accessible ways during the Coronavirus outbreak.
    • The Appalachian Regional Commission developed a guidebook for strengthening economic resilience. The guidebook offers tips and tools for practitioners and may be useful for other regions facing economic challenge or crisis. There are a number of findings from case studies including a focus on building community for the long-term. That might include such roles and activities as “Creating ongoing, neutral spaces for the community to gather across sectors and for all community members to feel valued, welcomed, and heard.”
    • Similarly, the National Association of Counties offers a guidebook for county leaders on ways to bolster economic resilience. The case study examples are varied and the report concludes that, “To bolster economic resilience in the face of change, it has become increasingly important for counties to think creatively about their local and regional strengths and how to translate those assets into economic growth.” To think creatively about new opportunities is an imperative for economic resilience. Those organizations and change leaders already operating creatively can be examples for their communities, and beyond.
    • Consider helping your community establish or enhance a mutual aid group. These are ad-hoc groups of volunteers who sign up to help each other, and their neighborhood, town or city as well. This might entail helping to deliver supplies or run errands. As Sigal Samuel describes in Vox, mutual aid has a long history and the Coronavirus crisis has led to hundreds of such groups emerging across the US and the world. Nextdoor also offers a way to connect neighbors with needs to neighbors willing to help.
    • For rural places, recovery may be a long haul. A 2019 piece by Mark and Julia Haggerty in the Daily Yonder offers some thoughts on rural community resilience. Among other insights, the authors cite research suggesting “….that the quality of local institutions (from local government offices to organized community groups) makes a difference in times of crisis”. Organized community groups, local businesses, social entrepreneurs may all be part of the recovery leadership.
    • The ABCD Institute offers a resource page with news and ideas on Resources & Inspiration for Unleashing Abundance & Community in Times of Crisis.
    • A recent blog post from Farnham Street considers the value of remaining open to possibilities and new directions in uncertain times like the days to come. I don’t love the coined term here of “optionality”, but the thoughts on preparing for the unknown are well worth considering.
    • And, just maybe, there are some silver linings to the current crisis. The work and travel not happening may be hurting companies and airlines, but providing healing care to the planet. The BBC reported that emissions have fallen by 25% in China and coal use by 40% at the countries largest power plants.
      Transportation constitutes 23% of global carbon emissions and air travel has been curtailed across the globe. In fall of 2019, a CityLab commentary by Henry Wismayer asked whether travelers were literally “loving the world to death.” Wismayer wrote how, “… anyone in a half-sane society would choose this moment to stop going on far-flung vacations”.
      It may be that this lull in emissions-production will generate a leap in activity once restrictions ease, but it also may be that this temporary reduction will prompt a reconsideration of priorities. Perhaps more people and institutions will come away with a sense that it actually is possible to re-localize, to shift, to reduce some of our most pollution and emissions-causing activities in significant ways.