Your ideas and insights over the past year have contributed to a more substantial Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook. Thank you. This version – draft 2.0 – incorporates all we learned from you. We hope it provides a framework for people who seek to grow entrepreneurship in their communities, by providing more specific ideas, guidance, and insights on how to create more inclusive, dynamic, and diverse ecosystems.
Over the past year, we conducted hundreds of discovery discussions to understand the needs of entrepreneurs and those who champion entrepreneurs. This work confirmed many ideas in the first draft of this Playbook. More importantly, it gave us deeper insights into the needs of ecosystem builders and the challenges of ecosystem building.
These conversations reaffirmed our commitment to advancing entrepreneurial ecosystems as a model for economic development. That model focuses on how the whole of a community is far greater than the sum of its parts. It means starting with what a community has and connecting the pieces. More than ever, we believe ecosystem building can transform communities of varying sizes, demographic and socioeconomic contexts, and geographies, and create more sustainable economies everywhere.
We also learned, however, that people building ecosystems can’t succeed on their own. The challenges of this work are significant. Doing it well requires a comprehensive approach, including sophisticated research, interlinked networks, collective learning, and institutional support.
Unfortunately, the emerging field of ecosystem building does not yet have all the necessary professional resources in place. We still lack consensus around some core aspects of the work, including shared outcomes, common metrics, proven methods, and key definitions. As a result, a growing number of ecosystem builders struggle with small budgets, overwhelming workloads, and skepticism in their communities. We see troubling levels of burnout among many practitioners.
Going forward, we must properly equip ecosystem builders as professionals to tackle the challenges they face. The Kauffman Foundation can help, but we can’t do it without you. Together, we can assist practitioners and providers to build professional networks; share knowledge, practices, and stories; build new resources; and generate support for ecosystem building nationwide. This is ultimately about lifting you, the individuals doing the work on the ground and in the trenches.
Our approach – empowering the builders of entrepreneurial ecosystems – will drive the ESHIP Summit initiative in coming years. At the annual ESHIP Summits and during the times in between, we will:
- Connect individuals who are building ecosystems;
- Bring in underrepresented, underserved, and underestimated populations;
- Support the sharing of tools, metrics, frameworks, models, and practices and the development of new resources;
- Validate ecosystem building as an approach to economic development; and
- Facilitate easier implementation on the ground in more communities.
Together, we can professionalize the practice of building entrepreneurial ecosystems. We can drive adoption of a new entrepreneur-centric approach to economic development. The effort will take time, and it will require extraordinary collaboration by all of us. And remember, we are still at the beginning. But succeed we must. In the balance are the silent hopes of countless entrepreneurs, yearning to turn their dreams into economic realities and contribute to our shared prosperity.
We are grateful to all of you doing this essential work. We’ve got your backs. And it’s an honor to serve alongside you. Now, let’s get to work!
Vice President, Entrepreneurship
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation