Business Resilience

Practitioners’ lessons learned from Covid-19 and recommendations for the future of doing business

Key findings

Resilience matters if treated as more than a buzzword

Inclusive businesses are often defined by resilient business practices

Sharing experiences and investing in relationships is core to staying resilient

Effective public-private partnerships are key to strengthen the resilience of communities

Insightful learning materials have been developed that aim to foster business resilience

Resilience matters if treated as more than a buzzword

While working on this edition of CLUED-iN, it became clear that lots of research exists on resilience. In fact, the term is not new at all. However, as Ndidi Nwuneli of Sahel Consulting points out, “Many studies have overlooked the crucial role that inclusion plays in ensuring that a company can withstand and even thrive in the face of shocks.” To inclusive business owner Nathalie Aldana, who founded Nathalie’s Direct Trade, “Resilience is comparable to the immune system of a human being. If you have a strong immune system, then you won’t get hit hard by a virus. But if you have a weak immune system, you are more vulnerable to being infected.” But what strengthens the immune system of your inclusive business? To Jona Repishti at MIT’s D-Lab, it is clearly focus and agility – both ultimately leading to resilience.

This edition of the online magazine aims to help you increase the resilience of your business. It aims to shed light on the key practical insights that have emerged from Covid-19 thus far that can help you strengthen your approach to doing business, in case you are struggling. We also aim to inspire you through the voices of entrepreneurs and organizations that share first-hand experiences of what they have done to stay resilient. Ultimately, we aim to support you in finding the key areas you can focus on right now to make a real impact and strengthen the immune system of your company.

Inclusive businesses are often defined by resilient business practices

Although they have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a unique business model at their core, many inclusive businesses, especially in sectors such as food, health, energy, finance and education, have demonstrated their resilience and shown that they are well-equipped to address the complexity of human needs that have unfolded during the time of the pandemic.

The short documentary ‘Inclusive Business – Companies As A Force For Good’ highlights the innovative ways in which inclusive business models aim to improve the lives of local communities around the globe. It highlights examples from Kenya and Myanmar. Among others, the film shows how inclusive businesses create triple wins: business are economically profitable and stable; low income communities have better access to services, products and increase their income; and governments have fewer social expenditures. The film was recently awarded the ‘Silver Trophy’ at the 2020 Deauville Green Awards, an international film festival dedicated to the environment and sustainable development.

Inclusive Business: Companies As a Force For Good

© Copyright: GIZ/Susann Tischendorf and We Make Them Wonder GmbH

But what exactly are the portrayed companies and organizations doing to stay resilient in times of Covid-19?
Find their answers below.
Bridge International Academies

“We have developed and implemented the  @home programme on Inclusive Business in response to Covid-19, a 360 learning remote programme designed for low income and low infrastructure communities. Ensuring that children can continue to learn when schools are closed, and that they do not feel that they are outside of the education system is essential. This multichannel, integrated approach leverages many touch points to reach as many parents as possible while achieving as a collection of components many of the core interactions needed to make day after day of learning at home engaging. This is achieved through a programme that includes Audio, Virtual Classrooms, digital self-study packs, learning guides, quizzes, utilises SMS, WhatsAPP, Radio and digital platforms. It is based on the core principles of what drives learning gains for Bridge International Academies in the classroom, but adapted within the constraints of @Home learning. The programme is being used at scale across multiple countries and by governments to support the Sustainable Development Goals during the pandemic. The EdoBEST@home programme was recently profiled by the World Bank.”

Joanna Hindley, Vice President of Communications, Bridge International Academies

Global Distributors Collective
Click here to read Emma Colenbrander's insights


“The Global Distributors Collective (GDC) is a collective of over 160 last mile distributors around the world. Ecobora, portrayed in the film, is a GDC member who is also one of the winners of the GDC’s first innovation challenge in 2019, which crowdsourced innovations from members and provided funding and technical assistance to pilot those ideas.

Covid-19 has presented new challenges for last mile distributors over the past few months. The Global Distributors Collective has focused on helping its members access relief funding and technical assistance to weather the storm, as well as to prepare for a post-Covid-19 world. This has included:

  • launching an innovation challenge for members focused on building resilience in last mile distribution
  • working alongside partners and donors to capitalise a relief funding facility for distributors, and partnering with Crowd Power to help members access matched funding for their crowdfunding campaigns
  • curating and generating resources for members via our Covid-19 resources hub
  • helping members tackle key challenges, including through a virtual workshop series on topics including ‘fundraising in the face of Covid-19’ and ‘pivoting to online sales’
  • giving members access to pro-bono support, including through a partnership with CGAP to provide GDC members with 1:1 technical assistance.”


Emma Colenbrander

Emma Colenbrander, Head of the Global Distributors Collective

Golden Sunland
Click here to read David Chen CY's insights

                                                                                                                                         “For a company dealing with staples, Covid-19 time is a strange period for us. Commercial wise, our rice is flying off the shelves, but uncertainty in Myanmar has created additional stress for the farmers. Farmers already have to deal with unpredictable climate patterns and market manipulation; adding a pandemic to the mix could be catastrophic. Our farmers are protected because of the guaranteed buy-back programme. We hope it mitigated some of the challenges they face with regards to access to the market. The pandemic also called for rapid digitalization and brought more awareness to the importance of the farmers and their contribution to food security.”


David Chen

David Chen CY, Co-Founder & COO Golden Sunland

Vava Coffee
Click here to read Vava Angwenyi's insights

                                                                                                                                         “We have decided to utilize the farm for an organic food production project – The Kisaju-Kipeto Organic Food Project. We have employed youth to run the project and train others on coffee brewing and bread production. We shall soon be launching our Boflo na Kahawa initiative as a way to provide essentials to the local community, such as fresh bread with hot coffee in the cold season. (Boflo is a slang term in Kenya for bread.) We will be experimenting with various pastry using the herbs we are growing on the farm – sage, thyme, garlic and dill. We will also ensure that we reach the local community around us and reduce how far they have to travel to buy bread or get basic food items. We have also been providing maize, kale and other food we are growing on the farm to the community and educating them on handwashing, protective gear, etc. We are also working with our partners like Northstar coffee roasters in the United Kingdom in raising funds to support our farming communities. We currently have a crowdsourcing campaign and would urge our supporters to contribute to this to enable us support producers with extra harvest costs. You can find more information on our recent activities here.”


Vava Angwenyi

Vava Angwenyi, Founder & CEO of Vava Coffee

Myanmar Rice Farmer © Susann Tischendorf

San San Maw, a rice farmer from Labutta, Myanmar. Thanks to the inclusive business model of the company Golden Sunland, she can make her dream come true to provide her daughter with a good education. Her story is part of the above-mentioned short film.

Sharing experiences and investing in relationships is core to staying resilient

Covid-19 has made it very clear how important good relationships are to remaining resilient. That is why we believe storytelling formats like the film above are especially helpful to authentically understand the struggles, inclusive business aspirations, and resilience building solutions of others. In addition, empathic leadership; a close relationship to customers, suppliers, and employees; and strong business and personal networks are essential to staying resilient in times of crisis. Hence, this is the time to further foster existing and new relationships.

Effective public-private partnerships are key to strengthen the of resilience communities

The Covid-19-era presents an opportunity for the private and public sector to join efforts and make inclusive business the ‘new normal’ in doing business, as the example of the French multinational Essilor shows. The company has a wide-spread rural network of vision care providers. It currently uses this network to support governments, especially at the local level, to raise awareness among communities about social distancing, hand washing and keeping safe. Jane Nelson of Harvard Kennedy School points out the crucial importance of effective collaboration among the public and private sector: “I think for those of us who believe in public-private or multi-stakeholder partnerships, the pandemic has demonstrated more than ever just how necessary they are. We’ve talked about stakeholder relationships being important to business resilience. I think public-private partnerships are also crucial to community resilience, national resilience and global resilience.” She adds: “The pandemic has made me realise more than ever that one of the key things companies need to be doing is advocating for effective government, and not trying to get rid of all regulations, avoiding tax payments and minimising the role of government. We need strong, reliable, evidence-based government and public sector leadership.”

Insightful learning materials have been developed that aim to foster business resilience

Practical knowledge sharing materials for entrepreneurs have emerged as a response to Covid-19, among them hands-on toolkits, manuals, and webinars. Take a look at the insightful blog posts of Lisa Göllert and Felix Beideck of iBAN, as well as this in-depth interview with Kaitlin Tait of ygap. In addition to the rich content of this edition of the online magazine, find below key resources on business resilience for further study and practical action. If you know of further insights worth sharing, join the discussion on our social media channels

Additional insights for practitioners
Susann Tischendorf
Susann leads the Communication and Digital Innovation agenda of iBAN. She is an experienced International Development Professional and visual storyteller. Susann led and supported private sector reform projects in Europe, Africa, South America, South East Asia, and South Asia for multilateral organizations, including GIZ GmbH, the United Nations, and the World Bank Group. She is particularly passionate about using visual storytelling to help shed a light on the inspiring work of local communities and global changemakers. Her work has been awarded and exhibited internationally. She recently received the Silver Trophy at the Deauville Green Awards.


Staying resilient during and post Covid-19 – Research findings and resources for entrepreneurs and governments

“Businesses rely on people,” asserts Professor Jane Nelson, Founding Director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School. In this interview, Nelson explains that she sees four key lessons learned for businesses from the…
Susann Tischendorf
Table of contents

graphic summary


A visual summary of the most important learnings when it comes to building resilience for crises in the realm of inclusive business. Learn more about these aspects by reading this eleventh edition of the online magazine on inclusive business! The…


Inclusive Businesses are Inherently Resilient

Nwuneli observed through her work that the companies least affected by Covid-19 have inclusive business models. She suggests two reasons for their resilience. First, inclusive businesses have invested in local sourcing and strong ecosystems. Second, these businesses had developed products and services that meet the needs of the customers at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) – even in crisis.

Ndidi O. Nwuneli

feature story

Telling a story of resilience: Hands-on insights and resources from practitioners

In this CLUED-iN edition we gathered the inspiring stories and insights of practitioners, who shared the lessons learned from Covid-19 that they found to be particularly relevant for companies to stay resilient and shape the future of doing business. The resulting recommendations range from personal advice to practical toolkits, insightful webinar findings, and concrete advice for entrepreneurs and other stakeholders that shape the private sector in countries around the globe, including government.

Susann Tischendorf

Staying resilient during and post Covid-19 – Research findings and resources for entrepreneurs and governments

“Businesses rely on people,” asserts Professor Jane Nelson, Founding Director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School. In this interview, Nelson explains that she sees four key lessons learned for businesses from the current crisis, highlighting a need to focus on technology, leadership, diversity and relationships.

Nathalie's Trade - Perceiving the global need for clearer inclusive businesses models

Nathalie’s Free Trade is a “feel-good-do-good” food brand based in Sweden. In this interview, founder Nathalie Aldana explains how inclusive businesses can help the most vulnerable in times of crisis. She contends that the relationship between the Global North and South needs to be synergetic better than dependent to become resilient.

MIT D-Lab - supporting early stage entrepreneurs in emerging markets to reach Focus, Agility and (then) Resilience

MIT D-Lab is a multidisciplinary programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions to global poverty through education, research and the practice of inclusive innovation. In this interview, Jona Repishti, Social Entrepreneurship Manager at D-Lab MIT, explains why entrepreneurs should use the current crisis for business housekeeping and why Focus and Agility come before Resilience.

From rescuing to reshaping

With the looming thread of Covid-19 spreading to Africa, African development organizations, joined by the international community, came together to discuss plans and actions in virtual meetings. We at iBAN monitored the ongoing debate and provided summaries of insightful webinars on our Covid-19 response page. Now, three months into the crisis, we want to share our impressions of how the crisis evolved from first aid measures to detection of underlying problems and recently to an outlook on future solutions.

Prepare your inclusive business for the next crisis

As a business leader, you could spend countless hours reading through all of the current toolkits and theoretical frameworks on how your business could improve its performance during times of crisis. To help you invest your time effectively, we at iBAN will highlight what we consider the three most important steps out of ygap’s toolkit for your path to increased resilience. The following lessons learned focus on risk preparation, finance tracking and crisis communications.

ygap - guiding social impact ventures to push business resilience

ygap is an international development organization that supports early-stage social impact ventures with locally-led solutions to local problems across Africa, South Asia, the Pacific Islands and Australia. In this interview, Kaitlin Tait, Co-Founder of ygap and Program Director for yher, explains how ygap is focussing on supporting female entrepreneurs during the current crisis and stresses that business resilience soon will be a competitive advantage.