As Black History Month progresses, we take the opportunity to recognize and honor the contribution of Black Americans to building the culture and economy of the United States.
Our work as a nonprofit organization focuses on improving lives and livelihoods in communities around the world. Our corporate partners are increasingly looking closer to home to make an impact for communities of color in the United States. As companies look to contribute to the growth of the Black entrepreneur economy, leaders continue to evaluate how their global procurement plans and staff skill sets can not only be repurposed but also given more explicit purpose to support the development of this driver of employment and the overall economy.
When approaching the issues that Black entrepreneurs face and how best to serve those individuals, we considered the answers to many questions about the structural barriers that have existed for centuries in the United States. The question that our Global Pro Bono service considered most was: how much bigger could the US economy be if Black Americans were given the same opportunities for mentorship, funding, education, and employment as white Americans?
According to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) report “The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success“ from 2016, nearly 600,000 jobs would be created in Black communities, especially if the many single proprietorships among Black enterprises were able to hire one employee, and the size of the U.S. GDP would increase by $55 billion.
Pro Bono as Economic Reconciliation
Through Global Pro Bono, Pyxera Global has consistently created partnerships between our corporate partners and nonprofit community development, economic empowerment, and social service organizations that work on scale with communities of color. However, after the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of the racial justice movement in the United States, more of our partner companies looked to also provide direct business support to individual minority-owned businesses in places where their employees work and live.
In the context of the conversation surrounding reparations or “economic reconciliation,“ SAP employees are working to create more opportunities for Black founders through various efforts. The Pro Bono for Economic Equity (PBEE) program, implemented by SAP and Pyxera Global, provides Black-owned businesses with a team of SAP employees dedicated to working with the business owner over the course of 6 weeks through pro bono consulting to solve substantive business challenges or take advantage of new opportunities. The deliverables of this program help accelerate these businesses to the next level, with ripple effects going beyond the time that the clients and pro bono consultants spend collaborating together. One business owner, Lundyn Carter of Laine London, expressed that “this program is what economic equity REALLY looks like. Racial equity is inextricably linked to economic opportunity, and SAP really doubled down on their commitment to serve those who are underrepresented.”
This program is what economic equity REALLY looks like. Racial equity is inextricably linked to economic opportunity, and SAP really doubled down on their commitment to serve those who are underrepresented.Lundyn Carter, Laine London
Participants of the program are also encouraged to think about future professional and personal purchasing decisions through the lens of social procurement or buying from diverse suppliers. Program alumni businesses and business aggregating platforms like Official Black Wall Street in the United States or Wakuda in the United Kingdom that feature Black-owned enterprises and have participated in the PBEE program also offer participants with logical routes to buy from Black entrepreneurs. Other SAP employees have committed to mentoring young people of color interested in entering the technology field, an industry with a chronic lack of diversity. One SAP employee expressed how they had already been mentoring a Black intern within the company for 10 weeks and would continue that relationship, while another wrote that “as a result of this program, I decided to sign up in the global mentoring program to meet people from across the company and understand if and how I can help them.”
Expanding Effective Programs for Black Business Support
After her experience in the PBEE program, Rejoice Jones, CEO of Vower, wrote that she “would love to see this model transferred and taught to other influential Fortune 500/100 companies. This program has the potential to fill institutional voids and close equity gaps extensively, but it must be done with the same passion and intention.”
In an interview with the business technology news website ZDNet, another PBEE alumna, Dr. Christine Izuakor of Cyber Popup, said that “a lot of programs don’t move as quickly and don’t have as much passion and intent that this team we were connected to had. And even just the momentum we started off with was an inspiration to me, and I think pushed me to work with the team even more closely. So, by the time we got to the end of the program, I had so many good deliverables, strategies, and insights.”
When we consider solutions to racial and economic inequality in the United States and around the world, we must build in that same urgency, passion, and intentionality to improve the livelihoods of communities and willingness to partner in new and innovative ways. The Pro Bono for Economic Equity program is doing one part to address those disparities and create success for systemically under-resourced businesses.