After over two years’ of COVID-19 restrictions, Women on Wings could finally bring together its partners and experts in a 2-days’ CEO SUMMIT on the topic of ‘How to build a resilient business’. On April 22 and 23, 2022, all participants were eager to share their professional experiences during the past two years. Also, they enjoyed interactive exercises which were designed to be more prepared for the future.
Validation of purpose
Fourteen social entrepreneurs, both existing and newly welcomed partners, shared that their most important concern during the pandemic had been looking after their people. Women on Wings’ partners started their business to impact rural people’s lives, and a most important lesson during the pandemic was the validation of purpose. The topic was on how to build a resilient business, but the partners had proven in the past two years to be already quite resilient. Also, they have an intrinsic drive to continue their business, no matter what. Most reached out to their suppliers and buyers, to see how they jointly could continue to provide for their staff and last mile beneficiaries. Some spent personal savings to continue to pay salaries.
Sharing is learning
The two Women on Wings’ experts, Marlies van der Meulen-Sahni and Antoine Miltenburg, shared many tools and insights gained from their own experiences of running a business and working with start-ups during the pandemic. Ronald van het Hof, joint MD at Women on Wings: “Our partners were put to work in several breakout sessions and building a spaghetti tower assignment was to practice the design process that includes thinking, doing, prototyping, and iteration. It was a fun teamwork challenge which also brought out their competitiveness. Our partners really liked working together on assignments. Even those which had to be done individually were discussed in groups. Upon their request we took more time for all to share experiences about how they managed to live through the past two years.” Seeing the importance of sharing experiences, the moderators adjusted their program for the second day, which turned out to be a highly valuable exercise.
Partnerships the way forward
One of the conclusions was that building and maintaining partnerships is extremely important during any crisis. And that partnerships are a two-way thing. Supriya Kapoor, Director Social Enterprise at Women on Wings: “Not only partnerships with suppliers and buyers, but also among our partners we can think of synergies and opportunities for collaboration. We shall follow up on a few concrete ones that were discussed. About one we are quite excited as we had dropped it ourselves a few years ago. The same now coming from our partners, means now is the right time for us to really investigate how we can make it work.”
Not so lonely at the top
Social entrepreneurs usually have limited opportunities that allow them to interact and engage with peers. Women on Wings, through its CEO Summits, its online community platform and other networking opportunities, provides its partners with an opportunity to interact with peers, bounce ideas with them and learn from their personal and professional journeys. Realizing that there is a larger community of people who are doing similar work and facing similar challenges gives them a lot of confidence and strength. It provides them with a feeling of camaraderie. The interactions are inspirational and motivating. It encourages social entrepreneurs to experience a changed outlook whereby they decide not to give up but to persevere. Read more about a recent impact assessment among Women on Wings’ experts and partners which proves the before mentioned.