Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Lockdown Economy

Think Tank AlterContacts (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    To help small businesses and self-employed professionals overcome the challenges of the pandemic and reactivate the economy, in June 2020 we launched the Lockdown Economy, a volunteer-driven socio-economic and educational movement. It is fully nonprofit and grassroots with zero budget. It is organized and coordinated by an NGO: AlterContacts, the Think Tank for Sustainable Development. All the activities are done by a team of volunteers in 25+ countries. It is recognized as "Accelerated Action for risk mitigation and recovery effort during the COVID-19 crisis" by the United Nations (SDGAction36773). It was featured in the UN DESA Information Brief to all member states.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    We use innovation practices to implement and scale: design thinking, agile, weekly scrum boards, standups, minimalist approach and lean, 100% cloud-based. Everything is fully digital which allows it to be remote, safe for health and green. Every process required to implement this SDG practice is accurately documented in numerous Step-by-step guides. They get developed as the project grows. We test and update them regularly. This SDG practice is easily scalable and has a step-by-step guide on how to set it up in new geography. It takes from 3 to 6 weeks to launch it locally. It is available in 30+ countries and in 17 languages through the involvement of local volunteers. The think tank plays the role of an integrator, connecting schools, universities. It facilitates social innovation involving partners from a wide network of experts in the entrepreneurial and academic world. Monitoring: We evaluate the progress on a weekly basis, making necessary changes. We assess what next milestone needs to be reached to contribute to the final goal: helping small business owners worldwide. And how we can formalize positive spill-overs. Adaptability: We regularly collect feedback from the participants (small business owners, students, teachers, partners involved) both through written form, informal in-depth interviews and recorded video interviews. That allows us to continuously adapt the system, be flexible and allow this SDG practice to evolve naturally and be replicated in many more countries. This initiative is grassroots: we started it with our own savings and we are all volunteers. In-kind contribution: 2 full-time volunteer-coordinators; 90+ part-time volunteers; over 10 university teachers; 300 students.


    SDG8: Small business owners learn from each other experiences, challenges and success of dealing with the crisis. 270+ video-interviews from 30+ countries on 5 continents in 17 languages. 220 articles. SDG9, SDG17: Entrepreneurs get ideas and find opportunities that are emerging from the pandemic. Over 35 000 people reached. We won Gold in the Women World Awards 2020 as "Hero of the Year: Helping Others During COVID-19" for helping over 8000 entrepreneurs to get ideas on how to save their businesses. SDG4: University students have a chance to learn from and connect with real businesses to kickstart their career. 3 university projects completed, preparing 300 students for the new economy. SDG5: 70% of all participants are women. SDG10: Volunteers grow with us: close the digital divide; collaborate with international virtual teams; prepare research; find jobs. 90+ volunteers trained and 15 already got a new job thanks to the skills gained on the project.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    It is a 100% volunteer project: Volunteers are driven by a passion to contribute to the SDGs. The retribution is in the form of mentoring and personal development, professional exposure and career advice. We respect the local conditions and languages through having volunteers and partners in the countries of operation. We are completely grassroots and do not receive any financing. Despite the absence of a budget, that means that we can be highly adaptable in how we organize the work and accommodate new positive spill-overs in an effective and timely manner. 100% remote, health-safe.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The practice contributes to six SDGs (4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 17) and enables their implementation in all countries involved. In less than 5 months from launching, this SDG practice was scaled and replicated to 30 countries in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia in 17 languages. It is fully remote and safe for people involved: not a single km travelled; it is done from home; zero physical contact. Every process of this practice is accurately documented in numerous step-by-step guides. They are shared with each volunteer and partner organizations to assure consistency, fast implementation and active contribution to SDGs locally. We give volunteers, partners and beneficiaries - templates, certificates, and instructions on how to spread the word about their participation and encourage others to contribute to this SDG practice. We keep them up to date on their contribution to SDGs and engaged through a newsletter and social media.

    Other sources of information

    Lockdown Economy on the UN Partnerships for SDGs platform Official website of the Lockdown Economy TED talk about Lockdown Economy “Behind every small business, there is a story” from 5 March 2021 Epoka University about Lockdown Economy… “Don’t be a bystander: How to save small businesses in Europe”

    COVID-19 Impact

    The COVID-19 was the reason why we started this SDG practice in June 2020 to help small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the struggles of the pandemic. We designed the practice to respond to the challenges, minimize risks and increase social resilience by addressing the resourcefulness of this group of our society. From the start, it has been 100% remote. The UN recognized our project as a COVID-19 response, mitigation and recovery initiative. Through sharing the inspiring stories of how small businesses are inventing new ways and taking responsibility for others despite their own hardships, we aim to motivate entrepreneurs around the world to build a better, more equal, diverse and sustainable future together.

    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 June 2020 (start date)
    31 December 2021 (date of completion)
    Think Tank AlterContacts
    Other beneficiaries

    Beneficiaries: 1) Small business owners and self-employed professionals (50% of the productive population of the World); 2) Entrepreneurs; 3) University students 4) Volunteers (recent graduates, full-time mothers and unemployed professionals) Partners: universities, schools, research institutes, NGOs.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Julia, Lockdown Economy