How we survived 2020: unlearning and relearning
2020 was a unique calamity. The global economy entered its worst downturn in generations and lockdowns put countries at a standstill. To help cushion the blow, we had to get creative and more resilient than we have ever been before in order to survive the adverse effects.
In this article, we share with you our story on how we managed to stay afloat and tried to achieve growth despite everything.
When the government announced a nationwide lockdown in March, we went into panic. It would be our first time to work remotely, without supervision. The most important question was, “How are we going to effectively manage the team and make sure client work is delivered on time?”
As soon as we had figured out something, we soon were faced with another challenge. We lost a number of clients that were struggling to take their businesses/ organisations online. They too were starting to prioritize.
The timing couldn’t have been worse.
We had only just re-opened the Elevate program, running our first cohort of the year but that had to be halted. There were many uncertainties on how long the lockdown would last and the impact on our bottom line which would in turn affect the Elevate program.
With many doubts, we folded up our work stations, took with us our work tools, and opened ourselves up to unlearning and relearning.
So, here are some of the strategies we used that helped us survive in 2020.
Having a cause behind what we do
Our mission to end youth unemployment in our lifetime remains central to why we do business. We are not in business for the sake of business.
Consequently, many people around the world are drawn to us because of this so, despite the fact that many were prioritizing money allocation, we still got support from communities and individuals to invest in Elevate Virtual Classes and keep our students from sliding back into unproductivity and worthless work.
Embracing digital platforms
One of the driving forces of 2020 was going digital. Working from home has always been an option for us but just like many teams around the world, working in the same space always yields better results and faster turnaround times.
The nation-wide lockdown meant working remotely using digital work tools like Asana and Slack to track task implementation and ease communication between team members.
Being a digital driven agency, knowing what platforms to use and use them to our advantage enabled us to quickly adapt and keep serving our clients.
Working with young people
This definitely served as a bonus. Working with young people is advantageous because they are tech-savvy and easy to train.
When COVID hit, organisations like churches had to adapt to “online church”– a concept rather strange and all too new to navigate by many churches here in Uganda. The need for already trained young talent in digital design to cover poster needs for social media arose. They didn’t have the resources nor the time and space to train someone right from the basics. They needed people who were already qualified.
One of our alumnus benefited greatly from this change. Watch her story here.
“A global disruption requires a global response”
Remaining Customer Centric
Our environment was changing but it was an even more drastic change for some of our key clients. The lockdown paused challenges on how to continue executing projects on the ground and call for COVID19 Emergency relief funds without proper digital tools in place.
So, we developed frameworks for sharing resources and knowledge during the crisis that could enable our clients continue building stronger brands despite the situation.
The Go Digital Grant
Taking into account the changing environment, we ran a grant to offer digital solutions to small nonprofits and social enterprises across Africa so they could move their offices online like the rest of the world.
Webinars on Strategic & Business Development
We kickstarted a series of webinars to run through the year offering knowledge and resources to help small nonprofits make sense of the changing environment and adjust accordingly.
If you missed it, catch it again here and share with colleagues and friends.
The ability to adapt and pivot quickly, and our willingness to scale beyond local networks has greatly contributed to the survival of era92, and not just in the pandemic.
We continue to seek partnerships with companies across Africa and Europe where we interest them to start a project that can help increase their sales or donations. The profits from this work help us train and employ young adults in Uganda. Global partnerships have greatly aided in achieving milestones against our mission to end youth unemployment in Uganda.
Lessons we learned in 2020
Cultivating a stronger network
We realized we need to double the number of people in our network because this year proved to us that the more people you have behind the movement, the easier it is to get out of sticky situations with issues like resources, funding, and finding meaningful employment for young people.
Developing a standard set of solutions and cultivating a stronger network ahead of the next pandemic or global crisis will be crucial to end the youth unemployment crisis. This may seem evident, but if we do not preemptively develop this network, it will be much more challenging to do so when another serious disruption occurs.
Technology is not a disruption if you stay on top of it
“One takeaway that I would tell all small sized businesses and nonprofits, regardless of size, regardless of size of donations, is try to embrace operating in the digital world as much as possible lest you lose out on sales and donations.” Trinity Nsabaanye, Chief Job Creator, era92.
“Have a well-designed website, be consistent with branding, and tell your story every chance you get. These social media platforms are free- imagine how much harder it would be if we started paying to access them?”
Cheers to a better 2021! To more partnerships and reaching more young people knee deep in unemployment.