Creativity and Cross-Sector Collaboration in a Pandemic
By Patrick Brandt, Co-founder, Get Shift Done and President, Shiftsmart
It was after the Friday, March 13th press conference when the federal government declared a State of Emergency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, that I had an “aha” moment during a conversation with a friend of mine, Anurag Jain, who is very active in the Dallas business and philanthropic communities. I distinctly remember the following 24 hours of brainstorming and mapping out what we needed to do to make it happen.
Hit with a confluence of societal challenges, among them an alarming rate of hospitality workers being furloughed from work, an increase in demand for hunger relief, and a sudden shortage of volunteers in the food banks, all due to the fear of the COVID-19 crisis, we saw an opportunity to leverage our resources to make an impact.
My company, Shiftsmart, is a labor platform for the modern workforce, namely shift workers. Given our visibility into labor trends across 20+ countries in a variety of industries, we were seeing first-hand the fast growing trend of displaced workforce of hospitality and foodservice employees (hotels, restaurants, school catering, etc.). Among his many roles, Anurag is an entrepreneur, an investor in my company, and most relevant in this effort, the Board Chairman of North Texas Food Bank. He was presciently seeing a looming crisis with both inventory levels and available volunteers for the food bank’s existing and growing needs. Anurag and I have both worked on several start-ups in our careers, but we didn’t know this was going to be the fastest growing one of our careers.
Ideas are born of necessity.
The North Texas Food Bank had an urgent need to move food through their supply chain and distribute to a growing population of families in need. Shiftsmart had a database of experienced and recently displaced foodservice employees and an app to register workers, schedule shifts and process payments. Thus was born the Get Shift Done initiative. Since that Sunday, our burgeoning project has provided, packaged, distributed, delivered and/or served more than 18 million meals. More than 11,000 hospitality workers who have lost their paychecks have registered to work nearly 200,000 shifts among 70+ charitable organizations in 11 cities.
Admittedly, I haven’t had much free time in the ensuing three months. We have expanded and scaled our model nationally, partnered with financial supporters, and initiated a fund to provide seed money to new participating cities. When I have a rare moment to reflect, I think about the providence of that Sunday afternoon conversation with Anurag. The collaboration across profit and non-profit organizations, the incredible faith our early funders placed in our vision, and the intense focus on just moving to answer the need were all undeniable factors in the success of this project.
As entreprenuers, we often get accused of taking that leap without the organizational over-thinking. We had no time for strategic planning, goal setting, operations, and writing marketing plans. We each saw a need, an idea for a solution, and the rest was left to collaboration. Entrepreneurs are generally communicative, motivated to succeed, open to risk and action oriented. These ingredients were most certainly integral to our recipe for success. Otherwise, we may never have gotten started, and in this case, we went from idea to impact in just 4 days with our very first shift working at North Texas Food Bank on March 19th.
Cross-sector collaboration and partnership will be the silver lining of our current pandemic.
The ability to develop workable solutions by leveraging motivation, relationships and knowledge is imperative to the future of all organizations. The Get Shift Done model of channeling resources in a different and creative way to serve communities in need can be applied to countless situations in all four sectors of our economy. Just as our communities are inter-dependent, so too are the solutions to our problems. Contact us at getshiftdone.org if you’d like to help Get Shift Done.