The Need for Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Saturday, April, 11, 2020 by Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy

The Need for Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Saturday, April, 11, 2020 by Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy

During this near society reversal set in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the rare opportunity to realign ourselves with what is essential. Currently, American society is an idea often defined by innovation, efficiency, exchange. In times like this, we need an evolution of the ideas that structure our world. So the question for us centers on how we can create an America which adds care, kindness, and humanity to the mix.

Following an interesting conversation with my seat neighbor on a flight home about three months ago, I was left captivated. After rotating through the normal flow of flight conversation, the woman next to me spoke more deeply about her struggles accessing affordable technology that could help her exist in a world made exclusively for the typically-abled. This woman was recently disabled after a horse-back riding accident. A strikingly grave incident that changed her body and her reality forever. This woman shared her struggles, and our conversation ended with my attempt to optimistically add that potential new technologies could assist her in maneuvering through a world that was made without her in mind.

If only this conversation had been a couple of weeks later, I might have more wisely placed my words. This woman’s abilities put her in the “high-risk” category on a typical day. Now add a pandemic. Every public service announcement seems to be repeating the need for social distancing and frequent hand washing. However, how is this woman supposed to social distance when she needs someone to help her out of bed? The simple answer is that she can not.

This one example makes me wonder who else our system has once again forgotten. We know to protect the elderly, those who are differently-abled, and those who are immunocompromised. However, we have forgotten to research and provide the necessary insight with these people on how they can protect themselves. We need to move beyond the advice of staying home and canceling non-essential events to start innovating for those who must go to their doctor’s appointment and those who struggle to wash their hands regularly. These people’s realities are not easy, not ever, and certainly not now, so where are the solutions.

As our government barely manages to provide aid for those contaminated and those who risk contamination every day to uphold the nation, the answers will not be found in the public sector. Therefore we must ask whether the private sector can genuinely care for the American population as it needs.

As an advocate for small and medium-sized enterprises, I have long studied the capabilities of the working population. As we continue to wait for officials, I believe that it is only right that capable entrepreneurs and tech teams stand up to help provide solutions for the American population and continue in a way that allows for the technologies created today to prevent the next pandemic from advancing tomorrow. I recognize this request as possible as we have already seen products be released that help maintain the lives of high-risk populations.

For those with limited mobility and those who can not risk contamination through social contact, delivery apps are available to provide for basic and essential needs. There are also Task Experts who work through a two-sided marketplace that connects Task Seekers (that needing assistance) with Task Providers (those ready to help). Allowing people to outsource small jobs to nearby community members, this promotes connection, independence, and economic flow. Additionally, the sharing economy holds the potential to fill in significant gaps in access to care. For example, the minimalist movement benefits those in and out of the high-risk group as it relies on the help of local workers, thus stimulating the economy, reducing costs, and avoiding long travel and possible contamination. Additionally, the transportation sector can implement a transportation movement by taking advantage of the available vehicles that are suitable for those who need safe, contamination-free, handicap accessible transportation.

As we have already seen, businesses take precautions to help these groups without the aid of Washington or the Trump administration; I encourage us to look to the examples that grocery stores have shown us. By setting aside senior hours at the grocery stores and managing distance requirements, they have proven that this new reality is possible. We must accept it for what it is and progress from there. Entrepreneurship moves fast. The ship in the word represents opportunity. Let’s capture this moment in time, this opportunity. By doing what we are capable of creating, we can create a new reality that is made for and involves everyone’s needs. It seems about time to get started.