The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook (Draft 1.0)


Welcome to the first draft of the Kauffman Foundation's Ecosystem Building Playbook. We invite you to connect, converse and collaborate with your community members and other commenters throughout the site—creatively and boldly—to develop and design new knowledge, strategies and tools that will help move our entrepreneurial communities forward. Our goal is to create a simple, understandable, shareable guide for those who seek to foster entrepreneurship in their communities.

The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook - Kauffman Foundation

This playbook provides a general framework based on years of research and experience. However, it still needs validation from real practitioners in the field, practical stories of what has worked and what hasn't, and your own expert insights. We look forward to receiving your ideas.

Entrepreneurship is not just about building companies. It's about giving individuals the means to take charge of their economic destinies. This means more today than ever, in this era of disruptive change and when many people feel the system is tilted against them.

That's why we seek to empower the makers, the doers, the dreamers. Our mission is to help them succeed and thrive, to eliminate barriers in their way. And we do that at scale by building entrepreneurial communities or "ecosystems." That's how we will make our neighborhoods stronger, grow our economy sustainably and lift up millions of lives for the better.

We're pleased you're joining us on this mission. Please share your stories, insights and feedback in the comments throughout by clicking the small gray dialogue box next to a paragraph. You will help support other ecosystem builders and shape future iterations of this guide.

The ecosystem builder's Declaration of Interdependence.


We believe that there is a need for a new model for inclusive economic development, one that takes into account the whole system.

We know that to build these complex yet accessible systems, we must act in interdependent, inclusive and equitable ways.

We understand that these living systems evolve in complex ways, and that without collectively-held intent, they cannot grow to their full natural potential.

We recognize that to surface this collectively-held intent, there is a new emerging role, profession and community of practice that is required—that of the ecosystem builder.

We are mindful that as an emerging field, these ideas will be new to many people. We must practice grace, humility and empathy as we work with each other to evolve these new ways of thinking.

We embrace that we are a large group of leaders and catalysts with diverse backgrounds, skills, experiences, expertise, motivations and visions for the future.

We are encouraged that in a world of increasing complexity, it is the inclusion of these diverse perspectives that will allow us to innovate, design and deliver sustainable solutions for our ever-evolving communities.

We, as a community of practice, are here to support the development of 1) each other; 2) each others' communities; and 3) the principles, culture, tools and metrics necessary to infuse entrepreneurship more deeply into our economics.

We acknowledge that change is difficult and requires sacrifice, and that growing healthy ecosystems often requires balancing the maximization of short-term outputs against a need to work with a long-term view. These challenges are essential—and important—to our success.

We pledge to pursue this vision together—to ensure that the makers, the doers and the dreamers from all demographics of society have the opportunity to change their circumstances and to have a positive influence on themselves and the world.

Your feedback matters.


Our founder, Ewing Kauffman, believed that everyone has a fundamental right to turn an idea into an economic reality. It doesn't matter who people are or where they are from. Everyone should face zero barriers in the way.

We live those beliefs every day at the Kauffman Foundation. That's why we're calling on every entrepreneur—and everyone who fights for entrepreneurs—to help clear the path for the makers, the doers, the dreamers.

The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook - Kauffman Foundation

We can't succeed without you. We know you are there, fighting in the trenches, taking actions big and small, day in and day out, whether anyone notices or not. Everything you share throughout this playbook will help other entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders across the country better foster a collaborative culture for entrepreneurship, as well as inform the next iteration of this guide.

Thank you for everything you do. Know that you are making a real difference.