In Year 2, we entered the second phase of our discover-design-deliver process. The knowledge we gained during the year of discovery shaped our work at the 2018 ESHIP Summit. At this conference, we focused on designing our collective approach to strengthening the ecosystem building field and advancing a more inclusive approach to the work.
This second ESHIP Summit took place on July 11-13, 2018. 620 leaders in the emerging field of entrepreneurial ecosystem building, from all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and 10 other countries, convened in Kansas City. Many attendees from the 2017 Summit returned, and numerous new faces joined the group. These included more than 120 U.S. mayors and senior city officials from across the United States who were also participating in the 2018 Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship during the same week.
The aim of the second ESHIP Summit was to review the first year of work on discovering the current state of the entrepreneurial ecosystem building field and to launch a new year of work aimed at designing solutions to move the field forward. To guide the 2018 Summit and set an agenda for future work, the Kauffman Foundation synthesized the community's input at the 2017 Summit and beyond to propose seven ESHIP Goals. These ESHIP Goals are a set of collective objectives to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem building field and to help our community prioritize, organize, and collaborate.
Much of the first day of the 2018 ESHIP Summit focused on exploring issues related to the challenge of creating an inclusive Field (ESHIP Goal #1). We heard stories from a wide range of perspectives and focused on how to create solutions that address diversity, equity, and inclusion in the work of entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Change Catalyst, a San Francisco-based organization, designed and led Summit attendees through a series of lively presentations and small group discussions on these important topics.
Summit attendees spent the second day of the 2018 Summit reviewing and refining the seven ESHIP Goals. In addition, they began to explore means to achieve these goals in small working groups. At the Summit, participants proposed 131 potential initiatives to address the ESHIP Goals.
Interested attendees continued their efforts after the end of the 2018 Summit. More than 110 people met regularly in small groups throughout the year. Building on the work that began at the event, they refined the seven ESHIP Goals, explored the numerous proposed initiatives, and designed new initiatives to address one or more of the ESHIP Goals. These individuals are from 42 different states and represent ecosystem builders of all stripes. They participated in more than 71 meetings across 8 working groups to refine the list of initiatives proposed at the 2018 Summit and prioritized that list into 30 key initiatives. They were guided by a group of volunteer ESHIP Goal Champions who were nominated by the ESHIP community for their demonstrated leadership, as well as two community managers who were supported by the Kauffman Foundation.
During the many discussions and debates over the course of the design year, the following themes emerged:
Interest in entrepreneurship and ecosystem building continues to grow.
- More communities are using the words "entrepreneurship" and "ecosystem" in their economic and community development strategies.
- Entrepreneurship is growing in popularity as a core economic development strategy, as communities see that they can go beyond the traditional "attraction and retention" approaches. This tension could be heard most recently in the debates about the Amazon HQ2 site selection process in 2018. A number of prominent voices called on cities to focus on "growing the next Amazon" instead of working to court the internet retailer with a large incentive package.
- More leaders throughout the country are emerging from other sectors – from philanthropy to universities to government – to support entrepreneurs in their communities.
We must build on the foundation of established work in this area – both locally and at the field level.
- There are already a wide range of existing ecosystem building tools and support organizations for ecosystem builders – but they are not always visible to or understood by ecosystem builders.
- We must harness opportunities to integrate the emerging field of ecosystem builders with the work of key institutions, such as universities, economic development groups, foundations, large corporations, and government leaders. This integration will strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems and foster more robust and inclusive community and economic development practices overall.
- As the field develops, it is important to acknowledge and work closely with grassroots leaders and community-driven groups that have been working to build ecosystems in their communities for many years, often with few resources and little support.
Early collaboration between different groups of ecosystem builders and resource providers is already paying dividends.
- Grassroots ecosystem builders and ecosystem builders working in large institutions are starting to find ways to understand each other’s needs and work together better. A number of communities have demonstrated the value created for all when these two groups discover their shared interests and begin to collaborate.
- Over the past year, the benefits of working together and coordinating efforts have become more clear, inspiring many to have greater confidence in the potential benefits of a more robust ecosystem building field.
- Divides between these two groups, however, continue to be identified as the greatest threat to the field.
The ESHIP Goals have been well received by many ecosystem building practitioners and are yielding benefits.
- The draft framework of the ESHIP Goals have offered a common language to coordinate efforts across the field – including different sectors, silos, and geographies.
- We see more shared understanding, a new focus on the essential needs of the ecosystem field, and more collaboration. This is especially true among national resource providers (NRPs) who provide training, support, and funding to ecosystem builders across the emerging field.
The ESHIP Goals have also created some new challenges and difficulties.
- Efforts to achieve these goals involve multiple parties and can become complex and messy at times. They are nested and interrelated, and the work cannot be done in isolation. Furthermore, it will take decades to achieve real results.
- These goals require ecosystem builders to lift their focus from the local level to a broader, field-wide view. Most ecosystem builders concentrate their day-to-day work primarily in their local communities. However, the work developing a professional field and creating consensus around a unified approach for local efforts requires a wider perspective that considers the collective work across many communities. This broader focus opens the door for investments that will pay dividends down the road.
- Scarce resources, uncertainties about the benefits of collaboration, and a lack of trust can make it difficult to bring diverse stakeholders within the ecosystem building community together.
- In any entrepreneurial ecosystem, many efforts will be occurring simultaneously. Some will be collaborative efforts, some will be complementary, and there may be some conflict. Healthy competition is inevitable. We will need to learn to navigate this competition to ensure that it does not diminish our collaboration.
Mass collaboration, collective leadership, and a concern for the greater good are required to achieve the ESHIP Goals.
- We will need the collaboration of many players in the field, including a wide range of local practitioners and organizations that have national and global reach and expertise. Just as a local community must come together to build an ecosystem, so we will need to collaborate on a large scale to build a field collectively.
- We will need leaders who strive to connect with others and to identify long-term solutions for the whole community. We seek those who will look beyond their individual, short-term needs to be willing to address the gaps in the entire system.
At this year’s 2019 ESHIP Summit, we will showcase the community’s work from the design phase of the project: 30+ concrete initiatives that we can work on together to achieve the ESHIP Goals. Participants will provide input on the initiatives and work collaboratively to develop our next steps for the third phase of our discover-design-deliver process: delivering the ESHIP Goals.
Outline goals and initiatives to build a more robust field for ecosystem builders.