In the past few weeks, the global environment has changed dramatically. Businesses and lives are being disrupted in an unprecedented manner and scale. Uncertainty and fear about the weeks and months ahead is being felt around the world. This is especially true in the frontier markets we serve where overall “life margins” are thinner and government safety nets are sparse at best.
As we respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Sinapis is committed to charting new paths for best supporting these entrepreneurs who are building Kingdom businesses. Various actions have been taken to serve our staff and trainers, current and prospective students, alumni, and the broader faith-driven entrepreneur ecosystem.
With staff and trainers, we moved early to put into place measures to protect their health. Work and training schedules were staggered, and internet connectivity has been supplied for staff so they can work from home. When the government stay-at-home mandates were later established, our new working rhythms had already adjusted.
Perhaps the most important early action our staff took was personally contacting many of our entrepreneurs, both those currently in courses and alumni. The common response has been genuine appreciation for the effort and concern to reach out. These conversations have been helpful to us as we fine tune what resources to provide during this season.
The biggest disruption caused by COVID-19 has been with current and new students. Courses, which had always been delivered in person, were suspended. In Nairobi, for example, five separate classes were put on hold. Plans for new course launches have also been delayed. However, we are rapidly retooling to conduct these courses online through a combination of instructional videos, virtual exercises, live Zoom sessions, and ongoing curated forums. One of the silver linings of the crisis is the rapid progress we are making on our longer-term goal of a hybrid in-person/ digital delivery model.
In a similar manner, our plans for building a more vibrant alumni community are being accelerated. Last week we held our first virtual live alumni event, featuring Dave Conway, an experienced entrepreneur and Kingdom business leader from the U.S. The topic was ‘Innovating During Times of Economic Hardship.’ The success of this event helped validate the opportunity of using digital tools to strengthen our alumni community. A new digital platform, live webcasts, and forums for discussion will also be provided to offer entrepreneurs practical ideas on adapting to the new business environment.
Another area of encouragement has been increasing collaboration within the broader faith-driven entrepreneur ecosystem in East Africa. Both local and international organizations are collectively exploring how to facilitate a greater flow of financial and other assistance to those Kingdom businesses who have clear missional impact, solid business fundamentals, and strong transformational impact. The shared desire to more intentionally work together to further the flourishing of the Kingdom business ecosystem is not new, but the current situation is catalyzing action.
Despite the challenges and uncertainty, we are grateful to serve amazing entrepreneurs who are creating companies that bless the lives of those around them. We are confident that the lessons that we are learning through this will bear fruit for years to come.