Why Does ISD Focus On Small Business?
Updated: Nov 5
(Shout out to our friends at the Tin Shack Bakery in Puna, who hung tough during the Kilauea eruption and helped a lot of other people too)
The short answer is because small businesses and non-profits (which are businesses too) are vital for community resilience and development.
Imagine a community without a Main Street. A few houses sited in an area is not a community. It might be a good neighborhood, but it's not self-sustaining. People have to go elsewhere to get groceries, look for jobs, or have a central place to gather.
Likewise, in many low income zip codes, and even low income countries, one of the first things you notice is the lack of services. The nearest gas station charges 20% or more than gas stations in crowded neighborhoods, and the same goes for food and other necessities. In Washington, DC for example, Wards 7 and 8 have four grocery stores combined, while northwest Washington has 14. One of the major differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in terms of how they weather hard times, is that the DR has ten times the economic wherewithal that Haiti has.
Take away the small businesses that a neighborhood has and it can fall into blight or despair. This is not just an urban issue. When people talk about the hollowing out of rural America, one of the reasons is that the small businesses that used to sustain many small towns have closed down.
Small businesses are vital for community economic resilience. Local day care centers give mom and dad the chance to expand their search for jobs. Convenience stores never matter more than after a disaster. Having access to services can make the difference between
deciding to abandon or rebuild your home. They matter not just because of what they can provide or the jobs they create. They matter because they help communities have anchors.
Small businesses contribute to human dignity. There aren't many people anywhere who want to depend on hand-outs and the kindness of strangers. Small businesses create pathways to economic independence.
When you think about communities that are resilient and thriving, a lot of it has to do with the commitment of the residents to value it, invest in it, and be present. Small business checks all of those boxes. That's why ISD focuses on small business as vital for community resilience.