Giving back to the community ~ Manali Debroy

Be gentle. Be kind. Be a giver!

Words that have always been powerful but more so in these times. As a human, our race is genetically programmed to think more rationally and innovatively than another race. With unparalleled reasoning, we humans have also got a power imbibed in us, i.e., to feel an emotion and have the ability to express that. Often, we are looped in our lives so hard that we tend to ignore our surroundings or the impacts on our society. Many of us also think that ‘why is it my responsibility to think about others or any mishaps around me?’ Well, here is where we are wrong. One, anything happening around us is happening because of a reason and we need to tend to it, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been happening around us. Second, we receive so much from our surroundings that the thought of not giving back traps you in an inevitable black hole of self-destruction. Think of a food cycle – a chain of all the activities that lead to food production (plant and animal foods) – the whole process involves us being the giver or the nurturer in return to get back the food that runs our system. Having understood the importance of giving back to the community, the necessity of has been realized now more than ever due to the current pandemic we are in. Let’s try to understand how we can give back to society during this pandemic in our capacity.

As we watch the coronavirus pandemic play out on a global scale, it’s easy to feel helpless. But no matter who you are or what your situation, you can make a difference. With the depth of the pandemic situation worldwide, giving back has taken on a whole new meaning altogether. It’s no longer just about the ‘feel-good’ moments but more about making decisions that will have short as well as long-term impact or a positive change for our collective future. From the corner of a common man, donating as much as we can and volunteering in different activities brings out the giver in us. From the corner of an entrepreneur, financial inclusion by investing in the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) that form the backbone of many economies (especially Asian) not only brings out a well-thought strategy but ultimately gives back to the society. So, in any way being a positive change agent matters a lot now when the future is so dynamic. Let’s look at some broad ways to help ourselves in identifying how we can be the positive change agent in giving back to the community.

Simply start with your immediate circle/ neighbours

A simple call, a video chat, or sometimes just a text message can be of great value to someone who is a victim of this pandemic. The easiest way to give back is by opening the gates of ‘communication’. This may seem like a small gesture but the effect of ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘I missed you buddy. Let’s have a video call sometime soon’ makes a prolonging positive impact on a vulnerable person’s mind.

Donate – with or without spending direct money

While many people are running out of money due to furloughs or job cuts, if you are among the lucky ones who do have funds then consider donating some to an organization that’s trying to make a difference in this pandemic. Examples – donate food to hospital/care centers or to some local organizations which provide meals, shelter, and financial assistance to the needy. You can also help by donating money to the people or the family who are detected COVID positive and are fighting to sustain. There are government-backed public fundraising platforms in every country where you can donate as minimum as $25. Few sites you can browse are – Give Asia, Amnesty, Feeding America. There are many to explore. Give a thought!

But if you are strapped for cash, do not feel any less powerful. You still can donate and contribute. Voluntary assistance in providing any hard-to-find supplies, like hand sanitizers, N95 face masks, disinfectant wipes, etc., would be of invaluable help to caregivers, hospital staff, or any affected person. As the COVID situation continues to intensify, the number of eligible blood donors has dropped. Hence, giving blood will help in bridging the dire shortages some blood banks like Red Cross are facing. Looking for ways to help vulnerable groups in any way will go miles. Simply asking local health care centers in any way you can help them adds value. Like delivering needed supplies, offering rides to the doctor/healthcare staff, or simply write letters and make calls to help those who are isolated.

Large corporations/FinTechs (Start-ups) contribution towards the community – The Big Picture

The COVID-19 pandemic could be a game-changer for digital financial services. Financial inclusion as a result of a surge in digital services growth can also boost economic development. The noticeable increase in smartphone penetration worldwide makes digital reach a dream come true for the underserved sectors, even before the pandemic. 5 out of the top 10 countries with the highest smartphone penetration in the world are located in Asia, which is considered a hotspot for financial inclusion investment. The MSMEs sector like the hawkers, small retail shops, local salons, small vegetable/grocery shops, farmers, etc., generally forms the backbone of a developing country’s GDP growth, especially in Asia. The benefit when large corporates/ Institutional investors put their money in these sectors they help reduce numerous problems – reducing inequality in terms of income, bridging the financial gap for their business needs, reducing unemployment, creating new jobs (as they tend to expand) – in turn, helps a country’s GDP growth to increase year-on-year. Numerous underlying problems are also solved while helping these sectors either by providing basic education or by lending them the right assistance to make their business profitable. The contribution of alternative lending and impact funding has become more than relevant in these times than ever. Helping these businesses and people to co-exist in the pandemic will prove to be a long-term impact on the society, economy, and the investors’ returns as well.

Actions do speak louder than words. And right now, actions of giving, caring, and understanding the situation are what we need to strengthen our communities. This will help us to emerge in a stronger state after the crisis ends. Our actions now will set a pedestal for giving back to the community and redefine how corporates/investors/Financial institutions/FinTechs can create a positive impact on their communities.