The coronavirus is putting global economies under strains. To recover from this health, social and economic crisis, we need to turn to a more inclusive society. Thanks to its incentives, Vollar offers a solution to support those affected by the crisis.
Social entrepreneurs, and the social economy more broadly, can offer solutions when markets and governments fail to meet the needs of the population. Those failures are even more apparent in times of crisis like now. As the World Economic Forum states, the coronavirus “is exposing the systemic inequalities of our global economic system, and threatening progress towards equality and the advancement of human rights.” According to the latest OECD economic outlook, the coronavirus pandemic will result, by the end of 2021, in a loss of income that exceeds “that of any previous recession over the last 100 years outside wartime, with dire and long-lasting consequences for people, firms and governments.” The unemployment rate “is projected to be at the highest level for twenty-five years.” Unsurprisingly, younger and lower-skilled workers will be the ones to experience the most difficulties, “with attendant risks of many people becoming trapped in joblessness for an extended period.” To lessen the economic impact and promote long-term sustainable growth, the OECD urgently calls for a rise of public investment in digital and green technologies. The organisation also underlines the need for enhanced vocational education and training programmes “to create opportunities for all, facilitate possible job reallocation (…) and prevent the erosion of human capital.”
How can Vollar help?
Social entrepreneurship has different interpretations. In the anglo-saxon understanding, there are two main schools of thoughts: the “commercial” approach and the “innovative” approach. According to the first one, a commercial activity can be used to support a social mission, regardless of the lucrative or non-lucrative nature of the business. There is however an ongoing debate about this, as the Gordon Institute of Business Science underlines. To some people, to make money out of social services is wrong. Others see profit as an incentive to “focus on impact as, without quality service delivery, the organisation doesn’t have customers, and consequently no income.” The second school of thought focuses on the impact and innovative ways of entrepreneurs to find solutions to social issues. A famous example of this school of thought is Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka. Ashoka is an organisation that supports young social entrepreneurs worldwide. The idea behind this project is that “the most powerful force for good in the world is a social entrepreneur: a person driven by an innovative idea that can help correct an entrenched global problem.” Those schools of thoughts are not mutually exclusive. They are often combined, using market resources and innovative ideas to pursue social impact.
This is where Vollar stands. Vollar is a social startup dedicated to reducing economic disparities in disadvantaged communities. One of our missions is to restore access to training to people in need. As we already pointed out in previous articles (see here and here), the short-term need to put food on the table prevails the long-term need to acquire new skills, which would, in turn, offer better paying-jobs and thus reduce the risks of hunger at the end of the month. Vollar puts an end to this impossible dilemma. We partner with organisations and allow them to turn a part of their training budget into monetary incentives (“Vollars”) for participants to complete their program while earning an extra source of income. Using Vollars to reward participation can also help organisations drastically increase their impact for little to no additional cost. For example, a Vollar customer converted their education programs’ catering budget into Vollar rewards, which resulted in their program graduation rate doubling. The additional benefit of our incentives is that they can only be redeemed in small local businesses. This way, it empowers an entire community, from individuals willing to learn, to business owners who become more profitable. As Jacques Attali, founder of Positive Planet, pointed out during the Recovery Summit, charity is not a solution: we need to train people so that they can start their business and create wealth in their communities.
Supporting training is just one of our missions. Our digital technology can be used to incentivise all sorts of empowering behaviour to improve the quality of life in disadvantaged communities. After our six-month pilot in Kylemore, Vollar participants recall feeling more involved in their community. It triggered a sense of belonging. Studies show that communities where people feel they belong are more lively and secure because people look after each other. When people experience a strong sense of community, their health and mental health is also better. Surely, those are all issues that can be improved in South Africa.