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Barbara Santamaria
Apr 15, 2020
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Zalando teams up with Ashoka to support Covid-19 projects

Translated by
Barbara Santamaria
Apr 15, 2020

Zalando and non-profit organisation Ashoka have joined forces to help accelerate solutions to the coronavirus crisis. The project will run from April to October 2020 to address both short and long-term effects of the pandemic.

Kate Heiny, Director of Sustainability at Zalando - Zalando

“People in Europe are facing many challenges. That is why we have chosen to launch this partnership. Zalando and Ashoka want to be part of the solution and help Europeans fight the outbreak,” Kate Heiny, director of sustainability at Zalando, told FashionNetwork.com.

Ashoka, a network of social entrepreneurs, first teamed up with Zalando in 2016. The international organisation is dedicated to identifying and supporting social projects to build a global community of changemakers.

“We have a global network of nearly 4,000 social entrepreneurs and innovators addressing the world’s most pressing problems. We want to make sure we don't just solve social problems by tackling symptoms, we want to address their root cause. The Zalando partnership is a great opportunity, because both Zalando and Ashoka believe in finding the root cause to drive systemic change. That’s what we want to do to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” said Marie Ringler, director of Ashoka Europe, in an interview with FashionNetwork.com.

As a response to the global health crisis, Ashoka and Zalando will recruit 20 social entrepreneurs and projects targeting issues related to Covid-19. The chosen projects will receive additional support from Zalando as well as assistance to scale their solutions globally.

“At Zalando, we have a variety of skills and resources that can help selected companies expand their solutions. This could include legal advice or marketing support, depending on the individual needs of each project,” Kate Heiny explained.

The e-tailer said it will also share how these projects are tackling Covid-19 issues on its social media accounts to inspire further positive change. 

“This partnership is great because the projects can be repurposed to tackle different challenges during the crisis. It’s also interesting that the solutions can be reproduced anywhere in Europe, and then across borders,” Kate Heiny continued.

Developed specifically to address the current outbreak is Coronavirus Makers, one of Ashoka’s newest members. Founded in Spain, the company builds life-saving equipment through open-source innovation, inviting designers, software specialists and makers to help make prototypes and print 3-D designs at home. Over 10,000 Spanish makers have already joined the initiative to produce masks, ventilators and modular partitions for hospitals.

Marie Ringler, Director of Ashoka Europe - Stephan Rauch

The partnership has been designed to take place in two phases, according to Ringler. In the first phase, priority will be given to projects tackling all sorts of emergency challenges such as the shortage of face masks. The second phase will focus on ideas addressing the social and economic impact of the pandemic, including the expected surge in unemployment. 

“We don't have a lot of time, so we want to make sure that we support the projects with the greatest potential. We are going to be very selective, choosing projects that can inspire people. Anyone can contribute to this emergency effort,” Marie Ringler concluded.

Ashoka and Zalando first joined forces during the refugee crisis in 2016 with the organisation of Hello Festival in Berlin. The event brought together international problem-solvers and local experts to collaborate on the design of multiple solutions for refugees, such as access to free online university education and the transformation of refugee shelters into sustainable and innovative ecosystems.

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