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In my city: Antonio Gonzalez, Madrid

In June 2020 Andrew Beattie spoke with Antonio Gonzalez, CEO of Impact Hub Madrid, to chat about how the pandemic might affect the social business network in Spain and what he has learned during the public health crisis. 
Published —
08.10.20
Writer —
Movement —

 

When we look back on this moment in years to come, will it mark a turning point in the relationship between business and society? What should that relationship look like in the future? 

Totally. The Covid-19 has highlighted areas of the economy and productive activity considered as minor or marginal like the care economy, the production and consumption of local food, the local industry, the need to activate the fabric of self-employed and micro-SMEs that support our country, and also solidarity, donation and the philanthropy that comes to assume responsibilities when other mechanisms disappear. 

Hopefully, we will consider this year as the one in which all businesses focus on creating social impact.

By ‘impact’ we mean an emerging model of economic development that, in addition to producing economic benefit, centers its attention on people and the planet. It will be the only possible model in the future. 

The relationships in the future should be oriented towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, avoiding models that demonstrate inefficiency or even negative impact on society.

How will Covid-19 shape the future of work?

Uncertainty and complexity have settled in our lives and in our reality. And once again, work is one of the keys in this process of global transformation of society and of the human being.

In this post-Covid scenario we are going to navigate in a very hard situation of destruction of jobs and companies with a transfer of new opportunities that is the key. 

All social actors have a responsibility to support and facilitate a new business network that is born from this situation. Recovery speed is tied to our possibility to create conditions for it to flourish faster.

The keys that will energise the future of work are:

  • Flexibility will be the norm at work. Blended environments (multiple physicals and digital environments), distributed, diverse and multipurpose teams

 

  • The search for meaning and purpose in which we spend the greatest number of hours in our lives

 

  • People first: putting the focus on people is unquestionable and it’s a basic message that we have been spreading for years from the world of social entrepreneurship and impact economy

 

  • Collaboration within communities as an ideal environment to build meaningful relationships, essential to face complexity

 

  • Telework and real work-life balance

 

  • Digital transition. Digitisation of the company normalising digital meetings and remote work resources, team and project management.

 

Is the pandemic accelerating workplace processes in terms of remote working, collaboration and digitalisation?

Sure! As I was saying. We have faced one of the greatest telework experiments in history. But it has been in unsuitable conditions since we have had to do it without preparation, without schedules, without being able to choose to leave the house. 

We believe that conventional office use will coexist with remote work, whether at home or in coworking spaces, and memberships will be adapted to the needs and peculiarities of each organisation and professional. Everything points to teleworking and coworking growing and complementing each other.

We anticipate the following multidimensional workspace behaviours: we will only go to corporate headquarters from time to time to align, generate elements of identity with our projects, and we will increasingly work at mixed spaces to reduce mobility, so that you do not have to go across the city to go to work. In coworking spaces, nearby your home, you will connect with an efficient work environment and find additional services.

Is there a silver lining? Has society responded to this moral test by putting people before profit in a way that it didn’t with the test of climate change and inequality?

In this context, we have seen a great deal of solidarity in the population and organisations and we have witnessed events hard to believe (a complete locking down, extraordinary financial support measures, etc.) In a sudden, both people and nature have been put first. What the summits of the world governments have not been able to undertake, a collective behaviour of the whole of society has achieved in a few weeks.

During the confinement, we created a programme to help our network of entrepreneurs and SME called Impact Care, to advise on fundraising and management, and we gave our community a digital platform space to co-share free resources to help others continue their activity and connect.

The Covid-19 has made more people aware of the need for companies to be socially and environmentally oriented and also it has shown that everything is mutual reliance: economic and financial systems affect nature and people, and vice versa. 

Hopefully, social and environmental impact will get as relevant as financial returns for any business. 

Has business support during this time displaced the role of public services? Whose responsibility is it to look after communities right now? Can legislators and the public sector learn from the business response, or is it the other way around?

Businesses and the so-called third sector have supported the role of social public services when they were overwhelmed. Impact Hub Madrid has joined several initiatives that seek to promote a sustainable and inclusive economic and social model behind Covid-19, and that include volunteers from different actors and entities covering unattended gaps.

What the public sector should learn from the private organisations response is to improve and gain agility to react to this fast-changing world. Also, it is essential to establish alliances between different actors, who participate in the vision and commit to action. That’s what Impact Hub is expert at.  As an example, we can point to a hackathon to arise social innovation to cope with the virus. It was a public initiative from the Community of Madrid in collaboration with Impact Hub Madrid. We lead the whole innovation process, making a debut in the online format. 

What have been the lesser-publicised challenges of this crisis for businesses? Have you faced any difficulties that you feel are unique to your work?

The lesser-publicised challenges are probably those linked to smaller professionals such as entrepreneurs, freelancers and SMEs. Those who are starting and those who are too small to be able to diversify their businesses, have faced the need to keep on communicating their value proposition in order to be visible (and not disappear) within this situation.

Our particular challenge is to maintain our community connected. Our claim ‘experience collaboration’ is the way of saying how important it is to live and work in a context of people willing to cooperate. So how could he maintain our members in contact when everyone was isolated at home?

We created an online webpage to help our coworkers in the distance and invite them to keep on discovering the power to work in the community. Covid-19 has removed the current system. Instead of remaining still in the face of uncertainty, we must seize the opportunities that arise to drive sustainable development. And we must do it together. 

What have you personally learnt from this crisis? Have you experienced any business/personal changes for the better?

This situation has led to analysis and reflection, and also has fostered emerging behaviours that can contribute to solutions for the future.

Firstly, community care, awareness of interdependence and the need to build a network of responsible, inclusive and supportive relationships. Secondly, the importance of a local economy, real and resistant. This implies avoiding false myths on which our economic model is based and looking for alternatives based on innovation and support for entrepreneurship.

In the third place, the transformation of our work environments and labor relations, towards meaningful, flexible and connected work. Many changes in our lives will undergo changes as a result of this experience, but possibly the most important will be the relationship with our ways of working and models of organisation. These trends were slowly emerging and they are going to undergo a dizzying acceleration in view of the collective experiment in behavioural change that we are witnessing.

 

This interview is part of a series of interviews conducted as part of our ongoing partnership with the Good Business Festival – https://thegoodbusinessfestival.com/journal. A section from this interview appeared in Issue 2 of the journal. 


Read more at
https://thegoodbusinessfestival.com/journal/the-snapshot-how-has-the-national-response-to-covid-19-affected-business-in-your-community/