Current coronavirus adversity is also our greatest opportunity to create a more inclusive, sustainable future

There’s no question the breadth, depth and speed of COVID-19′s impact on our society and economy is unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

I’ve been spending hours every day speaking with entrepreneurs dealing with scenarios unimaginable a few months ago. I’ve also engaged black and Latinx leaders discussing the disproportionate losses experienced due to bias, disinvestment, discrimination and systemic racism.

In recent weeks, many have turned to organizing relief efforts for some of our communities’ most vulnerable startups and small businesses. I am grateful for the immediate actions of public, private, philanthropic and institutional leaders, as together we have partnered to launch numerous small business stabilization funds totaling in the millions, deploying meaningful financial resources to hundreds of businesses across Greater Cleveland and northern Ohio.

I’ve also been inspired by the resilience and determination of our entrepreneurial community. Savvy entrepreneurs are doing what they always do in the face of adversity — pivoting, adapting or, when necessary, starting over from scratch.

Eventually, these relief efforts will give way to recovery. And as we begin to prepare, there is an opportunity to make important changes in our priorities which will inform the way we function as a society and economy into the future.

This crisis has highlighted significant weaknesses, which are ripe for change. For example, as we rebuild locally, we must develop new ways to embrace and support the ideas and technologies coming from our region’s startups and research institutions and to do so in a way to ensure these efforts are both equitable and inclusive.

The good news is that our community is committed to working together. Even before COVID-19 struck, hundreds of leaders had already spent the past year collaborating on new efforts to build a more productive, innovation-driven economy equally focused on economic inclusion. This collaboration will help us to be in a much better position to respond to the economic effects of this pandemic.

Nevertheless, there is no question businesses will close as a result of COVID-19. Through collaborative and intentional relief efforts we can mitigate as much pain as possible, but some estimates suggest 25% of small businesses will never reopen their doors. With this in mind, we are starting to focus on the next step — emerging from this adversity as a more inclusive and self-sustaining economy, built to help a broader mix of our fellow citizens make greater progress.

It’s going to require an increasing level of collaboration and partnership for us to realize our new, ambitious goals. From patrons investing directly in our community by supporting local businesses, to public, private, philanthropic and institutional partners collaborating more intentionally to advance our most promising innovations and businesses while driving inclusive economic growth.

We are in a difficult time right now. Yet our adversity provides all of us the opportunity to rise above our current circumstances. If we can continue to find ways to maximize each other’s full capacity, capability and potential, we can make our community, and economy, a meaningfully better place for everyone.