COVID-19 has been confirmed in every country where CEED operates a center. The first to confirm the virus was North Macedonia on February 26th, and Tanzania declared its first official case on March 16th, 2020. “Our members are in crisis mode,” said CEED Macedonia Program Officer, Biljana Ramljak, “it’s now or never to show them what CEED is really about.”
A Global Response for Local Impact
CEED lived through the global financial crisis of 2007-08, but this is the first international health crisis that has impacted every CEED Center. It became immediately clear to the CEED Global Team that this would require a Global Response as many CEED entrepreneurs struggled with the same questions in very different contexts.
The global team held a ‘townhall’ meeting for all CEED Staff designed to check-in on the physical and mental health of CEED Staffers and to set into motion a response plan. This plan involved a three-prong approach:
Identify the needs of entrepreneurs
Provide local resources to address these needs
Leverage CEED’s global network
CEED staff took this opportunity to share what they have been doing to help entrepreneurs in their community. CEED Slovenia’s Global Director Andrej Solinc shared, “For [CEED Slovenia], we were going into our biggest event season, we had over 100 CEEDers RSVP for an event a few days away when the government banned all events over 50 people.”
The Center pivoted quickly and hosted its first electronic Leadership Talk (e-LT) through a combination of Zoom and Facebook. Over 100 members tuned in to listen to Maria Anselmi, the Group Data Director at Bisnode, share her experience with setting up systems and processes and developing soft leadership skills.
Andrej continued, “For us, it was about more than moving physical events to a virtual platform. Our entrepreneurs need practical solutions yesterday, and they are counting on us to be a dependable resource for those solutions.”
Identifying the Needs of Entrepreneurs
During CEED’s Global townhall, CEED Global Vice-President, Barbara Bregar Mrzlikar, emphasized that, “It’s human nature to want to skip to the solutions, but we need to make sure that we have identified the problem first.”
The first step for CEED to identify the problems facing our entrepreneurs was to establish a Global Peer Group for CEED Program Managers, using CEED’s peer methodology to source and co-create solutions from CEED Staff.
During the first session, Jovan Madjovski, CEED Global Vice President discussed the importance of not canceling CEED’s peer groups and instead moving them to virtual platforms. “People need to connect right now. When I connected with other entrepreneurs, I felt better. We shared our stories and there weren’t any clear solutions yet, but I just felt better.”
To better understand the most urgent problems their entrepreneurs were facing, CEED Morocco sent a survey to their entrepreneurs asking which topics they are most interested in learning about related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most requested topics were:
- COVID-19 impact: summaries of new financial laws, and a comprehensive update on taxes deadlines and extensions, and state-defined benefits for entrepreneurs
- External and internal communication during times of crisis ( clients, banks, partners, employees)
- Guides to Remote work: useful tools, and team management techniques
- Financial management: good financial management during times of crisis
- How to adapt my business model to face the COVID-19 worldwide crisis
These topics resonated with what program managers in other CEED Centers were hearing. While CEED Morocco is in the process of organizing webinars for CEED’s Francophone audience, the CEED Global Team will take the lead on creating a virtual series called, Global Leaders Talk: Leading through Change, for the broader CEED audience and beyond.
Providing Local Resources
In addition to the Global Leaders series, each CEED center has adapted to meet the needs of their local entrepreneurs.
CEED Slovenia created the CEED Sharebox Facebook group, which over 200 entrepreneurs have joined. CEED Sharebox was created to encourage entrepreneurs to talk, exchange opinions and search for solutions or voice different views on the same problem. The group is open to both CEED entrepreneurs and those outside the network because according to Andrej, “this is a moment where CEED needs to step up and support the broader entrepreneur ecosystem in Slovenia.”
In addition, CEED Slovenia’s previously scheduled Leaders Talk, the namesake of CEED’s Global Leaders Talk series, have all moved to virtual events. They also created ‘Ask me anything’ virtual events where CEED Slovenia mentors answered questions from members. The high demand for this event led to the creation of ‘CEED SOS’ a shared inbox where entrepreneurs can ask any question and are guaranteed a response within 24 hours. This inbox was originally designed to provide guidance specific to Slovenian entrepreneurs about the quickly evolving tax and legal regulations in the country, but has expanded to cover a wider variety of topics.
Similarly, CEED Macedonia has moved to virtual peer groups and will host its first event open to the broader Macedonian entrepreneur community on ‘the Legal Aspects of Emergency and Crisis’ on April 7th. Macedonian entrepreneurs can learn more and register here.
CEED Tunisia also created a Facebook group linking their entrepreneurs in 14 regions where they are inviting entrepreneurs to ask questions that need to be answered. Local experts will then record video responses to the questions and post to the Facebook group. They have also launched a secondary platform where entrepreneurs can fill supply chain gaps and connect with Tunisian entrepreneurs outside their region.
CEED Tanzania, which now operates in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, and Morogoro is leveraging their WhatsApp community group now more than ever and will be moving to virtual meetings via Zoom. In the words of Center Director Atiba Alia, “there’s a lot of information out there, but unfortunately, not all of it is credible. CEED Tanzania hopes to play a role in making sure we share relevant and vetted information with our community.”
Leveraging CEED’s Global Network to Lead through Change
The Global Leaders Talk series aims to synergize the efforts of our centers, synthesize information, and virtually support our community at a time where they are physically isolated from their peers. The first speaker will be Jeff Hoffman on April 8th at 15:00 CET, to register, click here.
CEED’s LinkedIn Page will serve as the central location for CEED’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, be sure to follow it here.