2020 Changed Everything— Here’s How We Used the Crises to Build Back Better.

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

From the initial onset of the COVID crisis and resulting recession, our team has been focused on what we can do to build back better. We know that environmental degradation, inequalities, and injustices grow during and after recessions, and the worsening climate, racial, and democratic crises we saw in 2020 reinforced that our work – and that of our communities and partners – has never been more important. 

On account of our global platform and partnerships, we knew that we were in a position to provide extra support to our global community to first support recovery efforts while also investing in long-term reimagination. As our already lean team took on even more responsibilities to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of our stakeholders, we were continuously energized and inspired by the way our community of Fellows and Social Enterprises also chose to rise to the challenge of reimagining a more just, equitable, and sustainable new normal.

My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.


Supporting Individuals

One of the first things we noticed was a growing interest from professionals around the world looking to make a bigger impact with their careers. We welcomed nearly 100 new Global Fellows this year, representing our largest and most diverse cohorts to date. Even amidst a pivot to virtual programming to keep the Fellowship safe, accessible, and more affordable during a pandemic, our Fellows continued to show up with courage, vulnerability, and a deep-seated commitment to affecting positive change. In combination with our other programs, over the last 12 months, we have supported over 200 organizations with over $5 Million worth of pro bono consulting, training, and mentoring.

Image of LinkedIn post

Despite the pandemic, a record amount of Global Fellows have pivoted careers for greater impact, started new world-positive jobs, launched social enterprises, given a TEDx Talk, brought human-centered thinking to arenas like public policy, nonprofits, and embedded more sustainable thinking within the corporate sector.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.


Our team is constantly challenging ourselves to use the biggest levers we have available to accelerate the progress of a more impactful, global social enterprise movement that employs more people in world-positive jobs and brings sustainable and equitable thinking to all sectors. As both consumers and employees demanded more responsible business practices from the private sector, we saw an opportunity to help social enterprises grow while also making the corporate sector more sustainable.

Empowering Social Enterprises

In partnership with SAP, leading impact investors, and social enterprise thought-leaders, we launched S-GRID — the Sustainable Growth of Revenues for International Development program — to help social enterprises build revenue partnerships with the corporate sector to become more integrated into global value chains. Social enterprises from six continents have joined SGRID, like Voiceitt which was just featured in Forbes, Phoenix Space which is advancing STEM education in the Middle East, and Seabin which is removing plastic from the oceans. The World Economic Forum even featured our program in its latest report on social enterprise resiliency.

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.

Steve Jobs

Improving Corporations

We also worked with corporations directly to embed more sustainable thinking within the sector. Through our CSR strategy practice, we spoke to and/or led training for teams at Cloudera, Timberland, PayPal, Microsoft, SAP, and more. In addition to these training sessions, we also provided in-depth support to a number of companies looking to scale their social impact initiatives, like Avanade, where we helped design and develop a new community of “Citizenship Champions” across over 20 locations who went on to mobilize over ten thousand hours of volunteering and COVID-response support, like helping nonprofits move to virtual collaboration and education platforms.

While some of our partners elected to pause their CSR work during COVID, others doubled-down and our partnerships grew. As one example, our partnership in the Microsoft MySkills program transitioned to virtual only skills-based training, mentoring, and coaching. While the in-person aspect was missed, this community of amazing pro bono volunteers turned limitations into opportunities, with one person alone leading training of over 4,000 startup and SMB workers across the African continent – a level of scale only achievable on account of the rapid move to virtual. Many of our other partners also committed to sustain their initiatives while also using time to help redesign programs to be more impactful in the future. Impressively, most have adopted a very human-centered approach to this process enabling us to have a variety of interviews, observation sessions, and more to help ensure these programs are being designed in partnership with those we are aiming to serve, and being done so in a way to support rebuilding efforts and a more sustainable future.

A new partner to MovingWorlds, PayPal, provided secondment opportunities to employees to deploy human capital to support its network of PayPal Gives nonprofit partners, as well as social enterprises through the MovingWorlds community. While there have been some great partnerships that came out of the 2020 crises, this is also an unfortunate amount of greenwashing and we’ve been using our platform to call out some of these shameless efforts and to build the case for more effective corporate social responsibility efforts. Amidst it all, we embarked on an ambitious research project to document what will happen to the CSR profession as a result of this crisis, and we will be sharing insights from that soon! (If you want to be added to the distribution list on this, complete this form).

Taking Care of Our Team

As the scope of our work continues to grow to best support the evolving needs of our stakeholders, we are also growing and evolving internally. This year we added three new team members and two amazing senior advisors with a focus on increasing the quality and efficiency of our programs, expanding our educational arm to provide more relevant learning and community aspects for all stakeholders, and conducting research and partnership-building efforts to help create more connections for our Fellows and social enterprises.

We also know that the crises of this past year exact a mental toll on a sector that is already recognized for having increased stress. As much as we have invested to support all our stakeholders, we have also invested to improve our own operations, too, including building a culture of wellbeing to ensure that our team members are able to bring their whole selves to work and feel supported in the work they are doing to support others. 

If the disruptive crises of this past year have a silver lining, it is that we have seen how quickly we can make drastic changes in our lives. A more just, equitable, and sustainable economy feels more possible than ever – and the stakes have never been higher.

Planning for 2021

In 2021, we look forward to continuing to build on this momentum with the support of our incredible global community of changemakers like you. We are making big plans to better support professionals looking to create more impact in their careers, social enterprises looking to scale through partnerships, and corporations looking to integrate equity and sustainability by engaging and educating their employees.

Get involved by applying to our Institute, or if you are a social enterprise by applying to the S-GRID program