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Two months since coronavirus (COVID-19) first made headlines, over 110,000 people in more than 100 countries have been diagnosed with the virus, and thousands of deaths have been reported. Described as a “once-in-a-century pathogen”, the virus has wiped $50 billion off global exports in February alone.
In the last few months, how have our members responded in such unexpected, black swan events? Here are three ways in which the social investment community has responded to the outbreak in Greater China.
1. Delivered Early, Proactive Response to Local Communities
Being connected to local communities and partner networks has enabled influential wealth-holders to be nimble and responsive in times of crisis.
In the wake of the virus outbreak in China, more than a dozen philanthropic organisations were seen on the frontline, supporting medical personnel by coordinating donations from China and overseas or providing necessary supplies. For example, One Foundation built a nationwide response mechanism, delivering surgical masks, goggles, alcohol sanitizer, and other medical supplies to over 800 hospitals in Hubei province. China Beijing United Foundation sourced and purchased 20,000 protective suits from overseas and delivered to 200 hospitals in Hubei Province where the outbreak has hit the most. CapitaLand also set up a philanthropic healthcare fund with US$1.43 million to provide medical supplies to hospitals in China.
Along with donating masks to hospitals and vulnerable groups, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust launched the “COVID-19 Emergency Fund” to support NGOs that focus on local communities. It has also pledged two rounds of immediate funding to provide vulnerable groups, including those under the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, with non-perishable food, personal hygiene and household cleansing products. Together with other community relief initiatives, the total committed funding support adds up to HK$196 million (US$25 million).
2. Partnered with Public and Private Sectors for Coordinated Action
Wealth-holders have considerable convening power and this can be leveraged in emergency situations to facilitate collaboration and coordination with policymakers, the private sector, nonprofits and other community organisations.
Within a month of the first case, Narada Foundation, One Foundation and other partners initiated the China NGO Consortium for COVID-19 to share information and coordinate actions to support fighting the coronavirus. Non-Profit Incubator also initiated an alliance with other NGOs to design and implement a post-disaster community rebuilding plan. These initiatives have not only created a ripple effect on the health care system and the social sector, but also established themselves as cornerstones to support government initiatives in times of great need.
Unsurprisingly, the wide use of technology enhanced our members’ capacity to involve multiple stakeholders effectively. SEE Foundation expanded the function of its air-quality monitoring app – Blue Map – to share updates on the outbreak. Others helped to build online health platforms that offer medical consultation to patients under home-quarantine. These technologies have improved the sector’s productivity and encouraged public participation.
On the other hand, schools are migrating to online teaching to cope with school closure. Many families, however, who are already struggling with adequate access to broadband internet connections, will face a sudden increase in mobile data bills. In view of this, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust approached mobile carriers to offer data plans at cost for underprivileged students. Free mobile SIM cards were also distributed through school networks, with the help of the government and NGOs. In orchestrating large-scale solutions for public good, such public-private partnerships demonstrate the multi-faceted power of philanthropy.
3. Developed Structures for Long-term Resilience on Local and Regional Levels
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the economy from all angles, including consumption declines and possible investment retraction. Enterprises, especially small and medium-sized ones, are under enormous pressure.
To address their needs effectively, China Social Enterprise and Investment Forum (CSEIF) and CreditEase have initiated surveys to pinpoint the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). On a similar thread, Shunde Foundation for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is directing RMB 200 million (US$ 28.57 million) grants to support micro-enterprises affected by the nationwide suspension of business activities, while PWC China has developed a set of guidelines to help enterprises assess COVID-19’s implications and create coping strategies.
In addition to addressing immediate needs, prudent AVPN members are looking towards the future to address potential upcoming challenges and to mitigate post-outbreak challenges. The Beijing Pro Bono Foundation, for example, has initiated a volunteer program to provide post-disaster psychological aid to support frontline workers as well as those affected by the stringent containment measures. Looking further into the future, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged US$100 million towards improving detection, isolation and treatment efforts, with US$60 million going towards vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.
As the virus spreads around the world, more and more members of the AVPN network are adapting their social investment strategies to respond to the crisis. Find out where the opportunities are or share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.