Many communities have the elements of an ecosystem, but they remain nascent or disconnected. Their networks may be small, siloed, or fragmented. And their cultures may lack vibrancy, trust, and social cohesion.
When such gaps exist, leaders must consider the whole ecosystem and enhance each of its elements. In recent years, these individuals have come to be called "ecosystem builders." Ecosystem builders connect, empower, and collaborate with others to build the whole system. They are system entrepreneurs, working to lift up the whole community to achieve its potential. They play multiple roles, including system architect, champion, advocate, convener, cajoler, traffic cop, air traffic controller, and storyteller.
Ecosystem building is emerging as a new profession at the intersection of economic and community development. Successful ecosystem builders must connect traditional, top-down economic development approaches with the grassroots, bottom-up, community-driven environments in which most entrepreneurs thrive.
Like entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders come in many forms.
Really, anyone can be an ecosystem builder – if they care enough.
An ecosystem builder's job.
Entrepreneurial ecosystems, at their heart, are based on human relationships. Ecosystem builders are creating an invisible infrastructure in their communities to support entrepreneurs. It’s not like traditional infrastructure. It’s not about physical spaces, fancy buildings, pools of capital, or big institutions. Instead, ecosystem builders focus on building consistent, collaborative human engagement. It’s about process, not product. Context, not content. The journey, not the destination.