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Watch: "Philip Gaskin, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation" | 2:38

We need to retain our interdependence

Even in times of distress, entrepreneurs will step up to help build community with interdependence as its foundation. A community of new rituals and habits, of well-being, and with the commitment to fair play that invests in all of its people, and especially those who have been left out and left behind.

While we watch people across the world stand with courage and honor to treat and limit the impact of the coronavirus, we feel the weight of this global crisis. The paradox of this pandemic is that while it sends us into isolation, our communities seek to respond by coming together.

Americans have faced global crises before. Our instinct during these times has been to come together, but the coronavirus is fraying the fabric of our unity by putting limits on how we can reach out and support one another. As we take steps to heal, our interconnectedness will comfort us.

Out of many, one

Entrepreneurs in America’s Heartland and from coast to coast are moving with common cause to solve complex problems on behalf of our communities. Their sense of responsibility is sparked by the inexorable force of interdependence between businesses and consumers. They are serving their communities in the same relentless way they serve their customers.

The paradox of this pandemic is that while it sends us into isolation, our communities seek to respond by coming together.

The Latin phrase, e pluribus unum, “out of many, one” is America’s motto and our original call for unity. It reminds us that our commitment to a shared vision of a better future is what makes our independence possible. We never leave our community out of sight. We pull together in times of strife. We take care of one another.  These values of interdependence call us to understand that we’re all in this together.

Yet, after the global crises of the past, the can-do spirit that carried us through those tough times faded. Unfortunately, it has been our nature to retrench and revert to old ways.

We need to change that. This unparalleled event is our unprecedented opportunity to restore our common commitment and embrace interdependence and equitable opportunity as core values of the American ethos. We need to retain the will to take care of each other and awaken to those who are left behind.

Our sense of community, and our responsibility to that community, makes us a great nation. We aspire to own our success, embrace challenges, and realize our hopes and dreams.

When we measure the distance between the American Dream and the American reality, however, we know that not everyone in America has an equal shot to pursue opportunity. Unfortunately, in many communities, unequal opportunity leaves people behind. They face barriers to realizing their full potential because of where they live, their race, gender, ability, or even who they chose to love – and some of these populations will be most impacted from the current pandemic.

We see this firsthand with the work we do in entrepreneurship. New businesses led by women, people of color, or in rural areas face additional barriers to be successful. In the aftermath of this crisis, for all small and new businesses to regain their footing and for our economy to flourish, we will need to make it easier for entrepreneurs everywhere to find their way. That means providing the networks of understanding and communities of support that will help us rebound.

The interdependent mindset of entrepreneurs

From our home in Kansas City, we see communities demonstrating resilience and mutual support for one another in our time of need. This resilience is powered by the creative instincts and energy of entrepreneurs, small business owners, community organizations, and entrepreneurship support organizations that have put pragmatic solutions in place to serve their communities. We are seeing that communities that have existing connected networks are responding more quickly and decisively than those who are working to build those connections for the first time now.

Even in times of distress, entrepreneurs will step up to help build community with interdependence as its foundation. A community of new rituals and habits, of well-being, committed to fair play that invests in all of its people, and especially those who have been left out and left behind.

I have been struck by the inspirational stories of entrepreneurial leaders here in the Heartland, and across the United States, who have taken it upon themselves to confront this complex crisis. We can look across the state to be inspired by folks in the Washington University of St. Louis innovation ecosystem who have stepped up to do what they can to help and serve those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And in Kansas City, established organizations such as AltCap and KCSourceLink have doubled-down in their role to support small businesses, while small businesses such as Rightfully Sewn and The Rieger have pivoted their capabilities to support their community.

Entrepreneurs are hacking new solutions to address the need for ventilators, retooling their businesses to manufacture medical supplies and protective equipment, and are inventing new ways to help us stay connected, work, shop, learn, and worship from home. Entrepreneurs are leaning in. Driven by a sense of pragmatism, they use their know-how to get things done. We owe them a level playing field to get started, survive, and thrive.

Continuing the work for our nation’s makers, doers, and dreamers

This week, Philip Gaskin was appointed Kauffman’s Vice President of Entrepreneurship.

We have all watched the incredible bravery of medical professionals and first responders on the front lines of this battle. They are joined by a courageous workforce making extra efforts to keep us safe, provide food, make deliveries, clean and maintain our streets, and transport us. These are our neighbors. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

As we navigate these times, remember these selfless acts. They are all around us. They move us forward. We can honor these acts by remembering to create a sense of belonging for everyone.

A vision of interdependence

The resilience of our communities is remarkable. We will pick ourselves back up and stem this tide. That is how we do things. This is the call for our entrepreneurial spirit to shape a coordinated effort by the public, nonprofit, and private sections of our community that recognizes the critical need for us to reach out and work together.

We see interdependence when:

  • Mayors reach out to local entrepreneurs to understand their needs.
  • Local chambers, civic groups, and nonprofit organizations adjust their missions to serve those most in need.
  • Entrepreneurs leverage their know-how to address key community problems.
  • We cast a wide net to find new leaders with fresh perspectives.

We know that even in times of distress, entrepreneurs will step up to help build community with interdependence as its foundation. A community of new rituals and habits. A community of well-being. A community committed to fair play that invests in all of its people, and especially those who have been left out and left behind.

Our future based on interdependence, without surrender or retreat, will strengthen our resolve. We will work together in uncommon ways toward common purpose.

Think of the great things we will accomplish when we get through this – and consider the role you will play to make it happen.

Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay together.

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