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How COVID-19 Sparked Innovative Entrepreneurship on the Pan-European Scale More than 2,000 ideas were proposed during the Hackathon #EUvsVirus. Now you can help to bring them to life.

By Julia Skupchenko Edited by Jason Fell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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During the last week of April, the European Commission under the patronage of Mariya Gabriel hosted an online pan-European Hackathon #EUvsVirus. It brought together more than 20,000 enthusiastic participants: entrepreneurs, researchers, civil societies, big businesses and the government. In a course of 48 hours, registered teams had to come up with innovative solutions that can be implemented immediately to fight the spread of the COVID-19 and its negative impacts on our society.

There were six main topics: Health & Life, Business Continuity, Social & Political Cohesion, Remote Working & Education, Digital Finance, and Other. Within them, there were 37 challenge tracks devoted to a smaller pocket of those key topics. At. the end of the Hackathon weekend there were more than 2,000 unique projects submitted.

As a think tank for sustainable development composed of self-employed experts, we saw it as a great opportunity to come up with an idea that could help empower entrepreneurship in the time of crisis and propose it to the EU government.

According to the reports of the United Nations, International Labour Organization and OECD, self-employed people and freelancers are one of the groups that are affected the most by the slowdown of the economy and the quarantine. There are over 32 million self-employed professionals in Europe. But there is no policy covering their unemployment or sick leave. Their savings at the beginning of the lockdown were estimated to last two to three months on average. That means that soon they might be at risk of poverty.

Due to the quarantine and economic recession, the majority of the freelance offerings became irrelevant. Regular clients from industries, such as tourism, events, restaurants, called things off and it is unlikely to change soon. So there is simply not enough demand to allow 15 percent of the highly skilled European population to earn money to cover their food, rent, medicines, and provide for their families.

With the right support we can turn things around.

It is true that many businesses do not require freelance services anymore because their own business model is taking a hit. But how about governmental and public offices that are swamped with incoming information and requests due to the pandemic? They do not have enough people employed to process them timely.

What we could do is introduce the process where instead of a complex hiring procedure the governments use existing platforms for freelancers and outsource that extra work to self-employed professionals. That will balance out the situation of increased workload in public offices and diminished demand for freelancers.

To implement this idea, all we need is one government agency to do the pilot with, one existing digital platform for freelance work, and one supply chain partner in food and household goods. You can find out more about the way it can be done in our proposal. If you like to collaborate with us, I encourage you to reach out to me.

Take action.

The Pan-EU Hackathon #EUvsVirus was a truly unique event that brought over 20 thousand people closer together in fighting the pandemic and gave everyone a chance to take an action, to try and help. Now it's time to take it from the Hackathon into real life.

The jury had a tough time choosing only 117 best projects. These will be taken forward with the support of the European Commission. What about the rest of them?

I have looked through many on the tracks of Business Continuity and Remote Work. There is so much creative thinking and innovation! Some solutions have been developed and launched during the weekend, so they are ready to use. It's remarkable that they are all tackling the problems we are experiencing right now as entrepreneurs.

Going forward you too can make a difference. I invite you to browse through the submissions, watch the pitch-videos, use the solutions they already built, and reach out to teams that you want to collaborate with beyond the Hackathon.

Julia Skupchenko

Head of SDG Partnerships and Reporting

Julia Skupchenko is an award-winning entrepreneur and sustainability leader with over a decade of experience in the field. She is the co-founder of the Think Tank AlterContacts, leading SDG Acceleration Actions recognized by the United Nations and awarded by the European Parliament.
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