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Linking and Leveraging Assets in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems to Address Challenges and Crises

Ecosystems in Action: Practices from the Field

Key Practice

When a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic hits local communities, inequalities are magnified. Organizations have the power to pool their resources to meet these challenges. Linking and leveraging assets across organizations in an entrepreneurial ecosystem is a practice that can be used to help communities and businesses adapt to complex challenges and crises. Using the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach, a community can identify its existing strengths and assets to leverage what it already possesses to work together to create change. Assets can be associations, institutions, connections, staff, individual talents, and place-based assets such as land, buildings, office space, cultural heritage, and public spaces. They could also include skills, strengths, property, money, relationships, expertise, green spaces, time, and more. All individuals, communities, and organizations have assets of some kind. By working together to combine and connect these resources, communities can create an impact that one organization could not make alone.

As communities face long-term challenges such as wealth inequality, housing shortages, racial equity, climate disruption, etc., this practice is a way of working that can extend well beyond times of crisis. According to Strategic Doing – a process for agile collaboration and ecosystem building – learning how to work creatively with assets is core to collaboration. This is because it is through combining assets in unique ways that we create new opportunities. Linking and leveraging assets across many organizations can contribute to strengthening a community’s ability to adapt – both when there is a crisis, and when there isn’t.

About This Brief

This brief tells the story of how organizations in two communities – Cook County, IL and Mesa, AZ – worked together to link and leverage assets across the entrepreneurial ecosystem to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Already active in entrepreneurial support work, Next Street in Chicago and CO+HOOTS in Phoenix saw the need created by the pandemic and realized that they alone could not meet the needs. Each organization worked with their communities to develop cross-sector collaborative projects that aligned public and private assets to help entrepreneurs adjust to and navigate a harsh climate when the economy went into freefall in 2020.

By identifying and addressing systemic gaps and barriers to knit a more cohesive environment and a more intentional support network, the entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) highlighted here illuminate the collective strength that can come when organizations work together to ensure coordinated use of collective assets and strengths to better serve the community.

Highlights of their efforts to link and leverage community assets were:

  • The ability to leverage existing relationships, develop partnerships across networks, and build trust across multiple stakeholders so that everyone has a sense of common purpose and feels comfortable sharing the assets they have to offer.
  • The power of working together to increase accessibility to resources by ensuring existing assets are visible through marketing, shared messaging, and communications.
  • Working to collectively identify gaps in the ecosystem, create shared goals, and connect assets (such as capital, knowledge, and services). Doing this can:
    • Reduce siloed or redundant efforts.
    • Improve the pace, scale, and quality of support across the ecosystem to meet entrepreneurs needs more effectively and efficiently.
    • Lay the groundwork for future collaboration.
    • Help an ecosystem learn how to work together to address community-wide challenges in times of ongoing change.

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Linking & Leveraging Assets: Part I

Next Street and the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery: Small Business Assistance Program

Founded in 2005, Next Street is a mission-driven firm that mobilizes capital, customers, and capabilities for small businesses and entrepreneurs that have been systematically under-resourced. In 2018, its Chicago-based office worked in collaboration with the Community Reinvestment Fund, USA to conduct an entrepreneurial ecosystem assessment. The assessment process spanned two years and engaged over 45 stakeholders from across the ecosystem, including business support organizations, government organizations, business owners themselves, and the philanthropic community. This engagement built trust across organizations in the ecosystem, creating greater awareness of the community’s assets, and importantly, established close connections with the entrepreneurial community in many of Chicago’s historically under-resourced areas. These relationships helped create a clear understanding of the barriers faced by business owners across the city.

Conducting the assessment and establishing relationships in the community resulted in two significant outcomes that affected how the community responded to the COVID-19 crisis. First, the 2019 publication of a report titled “Assessing Chicago’s Small Business Ecosystem” created greater awareness of the assets across the ecosystem, the disparities related to access to capital, the critical support services, and challenges related to navigating those services. Second, it led to the creation of the Chicago Inclusive Growth Coalition in 2020, which works to improve support for small business owners in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods to increase equitable and inclusive growth.

“We came to this work as an anti-racist organization, and that’s important for the COVID-19 environment,” said Charisse Conanan Johnson, managing partner with Next Street. “We had done this ecosystem assessment, which examined questions such as, ‘How do we assess a particular environment or the small businesses?’ ‘Who are they, what do they need, where are their gaps in the ecosystem?’ Because when you combine that with what’s happening and some of the racial injustice that we’re seeing, we want to agitate at a systems level.”

Identifying the Pandemic’s Challenges

As the pandemic took hold, entrepreneurs across the country were forced to quickly adapt their businesses to the changing environment. An overall lack of clarity around the government’s pandemic response made it difficult for business owners and resource providers to navigate a quickly changing landscape.  To start addressing this in Chicago, Next Street’s leaders convened an open meeting of stakeholders in the ecosystem before the end of March 2020. The group talked about the state of small businesses, the most pressing concerns, assets their organizations could offer, existing programs that were addressing needs created by the pandemic, and – most importantly – where the gaps in support were.

Capital needs immediately came up as Americans were reducing spending and the U.S. Federal Government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was just rolling out. After the initial wave of loans in spring of 2020, the group knew that businesses were going to struggle with lingering debt. Grants seemed like an important missing piece to make funding more accessible to smaller businesses that were having a hard time accessing PPP and other forms of funding.

But the needs went beyond just funding. “Advice was actually the number one request that we heard,” said Katie Johnson, director at Next Street. “Folks felt like there was sort of a word salad out there of acronyms like PPP and EIDL, and they really needed help navigating that landscape.”

We had a hypothesis that, when you pair capital with advice, that could bring powerful solutions to small businesses. It takes folks to provide the capital. You couldn’t do that with silos, and we thought it was more effective to pool all the resources and pool the money, because at the time it [COVID] was happening, every individual was going to philanthropy and saying, ‘I need money.’ But the power that we have in Chicago – and in a couple other markets – is the power of the collective.

— Charisse Conanan Johnson
Managing Partner, Next Street

Next Street’s previous work with local funders had given its leaders a key insight: Just throwing money at problems wouldn’t help. Obtaining funding was critical, but they also needed business advising and coaching to help their businesses pivot and gain access to the different capital programs. A new approach was needed. Aligning, combining, and coordinating organizational assets and resources across the ecosystem was crucial to increase entrepreneurs’ ability to stay afloat.

Addressing Challenges by Linking, Leveraging, and Making Assets Visible

By early April, Next Street could see that a coordinated effort was needed to bring together the capacity of the entire ecosystem to help businesses tackle these challenges. The existing connections across the local philanthropic, civic, and entrepreneurial sectors proved to be essential. After that initial ecosystem stakeholder meeting in March, Next Street began to work with a small cohort of collaborators to design what would eventually become the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery: Small Business Assistance program. The program had two components:

  1. Disbursing a grant fund.
  2. Providing technical business assistance to entrepreneurs across the county via group webinars and one-on-one video coaching calls.

At the same time, Next Street and other members of the Chicago Inclusive Growth Coalition  were watching emerging dynamics as a result of COVID-19. They recognized that while all small businesses needed help, business owners from traditionally disenfranchised populations were likely to be disproportionately affected. Their review of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources indicated that while 25% of businesses in Illinois are concentrated in industries most immediately impacted by COVID-19, there were differences when the data were sorted by race and gender: 42% of Black-owned businesses, 39% of Asian-owned businesses, and 31% of women-owned businesses were concentrated in industries most impacted by COVID-19. They saw the same trends locally, and realized that individuals and groups who were already facing barriers within the community would need additional support.

The group intentionally started the technical assistance portion of the program with five community-based organizations that had established relationships with business owners of color and women across the region – Acción Chicago, Chicago Trend, Chicago Urban League, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Development Center. Together with Next Street, these five began outreach to other ESOs in the county to see if they would be willing to add their services to the program. Next Street compiled a database of what specific assets and support each organization could offer so that they could be matched with the needs of entrepreneurs when the program launched.

The list of partners soon grew to over 35 and contained a large set of assets including coaching and mentoring skills, technical assistance, cultural competence within diverse communities, fluency in multiple languages, trusted relationships with specific communities, marketing support, staff time, etc. In addition, Next Street contributed assets like coordination and program management expertise, partnership management, community organizing and movement building aptitude, and ability to measure impact and report results to donors and partners.

The reason we wanted to go the collaborative route is because we felt that we had this mantra of, ‘We’re better together.’ We felt that we should pool our resources in order to truly get more resources by way of capital.

— Katie Johnson
Director, Next Street

The Chicago Community Trust and organizations like it used assets of influence, power, leadership, funds, and thought leadership to bring additional organizations and funders to the grant portion of the program. For example, when officials from Cook County learned about the collaborative approach for developing the technical assistance program, they expressed a strong interest in learning how this could help suburban Cook County businesses access the same level of coaching services as Chicago businesses. In addition, the county had COVID-19 relief funds it needed to deploy, and officials were intrigued by the grant-making strategy utilized by the cohort. Cook County became involved in the effort and provided a core asset – the main funds for the grant program – which then helped attract additional philanthropic dollars from groups such as the MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and the Polk Brothers Foundation. Cook County also helped brand the initiative and supercharge the effort by bringing additional assets like program and marketing expertise, deep networks across the county, and resources to publicize the program.

In addition to linking assets to create a program to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, program organizers also prepared for how area business owners would access the resources – including how to make access to available resources as user-friendly as possible. To manage what they expected to be a high demand, the group developed a shared intake process to review the needs of entrepreneurs and match them with the support assets offered by the various partners. To participate, entrepreneurs signed up for Cook County COVID-19: Small Business Recovery program via an online portal, and were paired with local support organizations that could best serve their needs, business type, and context.

In addition to marketing tools, the group also relied on relationships with entrepreneurs and with one another to help promote the program and make sure entrepreneurs knew how to access the intake system. “We found that leveraging our diverse network of experienced partners helped us reach businesses that were most in need. Sharing tools increased efficiency and the amount of time each organization can spend with entrepreneurs,” Conanan Johnson said. “We already had a high level of trust with the stakeholders because we had been working with them in the 24 months prior.”

In all, the three dozen partner organizations linked and leveraged their assets to provide outreach and offer technical assistance and coaching to businesses across Cook County. In addition to time spent coaching business owners, staff time to coordinate the overall program was an important asset. Two staff from Cook County worked part-time to support the program’s design and marketing strategy. The Chicago Community Trust provided thought leadership to the core program team. Finally, six employees from Next Street worked part-time on program coordination and impact reporting, leading business development and the creation of new assets like the shared intake system and outreach tools for partners to use. In the end, linking and leveraging the assets of participating organizations created an initiative that was a large-scale effort none of the organizations could have achieved alone.

Tracking Progress

To help measure impact, the group developed a robust set of metrics to track the progress of the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery: Small Business Assistance program. Metrics focused on the number of businesses served, business satisfaction, business performance changes, access to capital, learning and development, and utilization of ecosystem services, which are outlined in detail in their regular performance reports. When including impact metrics that applied across the ecosystem, Next Street adapted the CIGC Standard Outcomes and Recommended Metrics to their own needs. CIGC are six shared impact standards created by the Chicago Inclusive Growth Coalition that support ESOs in promoting inclusive economic growth among underserved and disinvested areas in Chicago. Next Street also leveraged its national experiences in other markets outside Cook County to constantly pressure-test its assumptions, ensuring that the Cook County Program learned from other markets, and to used national best practices in tracking outcomes.

Outcomes

As of June 2021, the program was ongoing and the group was in the process of conducting a survey of program participants. As a result, many of the longitudinal metrics – such as business survival rates – were not yet available. During February 2021, the group reported that the initiative had:

  • Raised $19.1 million for grant funding and technical assistance support.
  • Disbursed $16.9 million to 1,690 businesses.
  • Received 3,646 applications from small businesses for business advising support.
  • Reported that more than 60% of grant and advising recipients were people of color and more than 45% were women (almost double those of other state-wide granting programs).
  • Received repeat funding from Cook County to continue in 2021.

In addition, beneficial secondary outcomes across the ecosystems were identified:

  • Increased learning across the ecosystem. Partners now regularly share best practices in entrepreneurial support, learn from each other how to improve their efforts, and have applied lessons from this work into their own programs.
  • Shared intake tools, webinar platform, and financial reporting tools are now used by many of the partners in their own organizations. Not only has this improved coordination and enhanced services across the ecosystem, it has also opened up conversations about establishing shared standards in quality of services provided.
Linking & Leveraging Assets: Part II

CO+HOOTS and the Mesa CARES Small Business Technical Assistance Program

Jenny Poon opened CO+HOOTS in 2010 as a coworking location, but it gradually became more than a place where people work individually at their laptops. Over the years, the business evolved into a collaborative space where entrepreneurs could network, learn important information about the entrepreneurial ecosystem, explore business opportunities, and more.

CO+HOOTS coworking space
Photo: CO+HOOTS

“We started building this community of entrepreneurs,” Poon said. “And then one day in 2013, I looked around our space and I realized we were working with about 150 businesses. I was like, ‘This is great. We’ve filled our space three times over. We’ve had to move so many times because we keep growing.’”

Through her work, Poon became more acquainted with a diversity of entrepreneurs and resource providers, developing a large network of local businesses and resources across the greater Phoenix area. In working with these entrepreneurs, she realized that many of them needed advice in launching their businesses.

She began creating in-person, educational events at her workspace, but soon realized that this wasn’t helping people who couldn’t get to her physical location. So she began to develop an online platform that featured webinars, videos, and other materials to help entrepreneurs take advantage of the resources her team was accumulating.

This established CO+HOOTS as an entry point for information and assistance in the small business community. Poon began distributing their educational offerings through local libraries, and traction was growing – and then the pandemic began.

Identifying the Pandemic’s Challenges

The pandemic crashed down during what had been a promising period of growth for CO+HOOTS. The business had been generating positive momentum, growing its base and building its platform of instructional videos, webinars, and other resources for entrepreneurs. Then the COVID-19 shutdown in the Phoenix area closed the physical coworking space and stopped their primary income stream.

“Suddenly our coworking space just stopped,” Poon recalled. “It took us two months before it started to really sink in that this wasn’t going to be a fast process for us to recover as a state, as a city, or as a community.”

In response to the pandemic, representatives from other cities near Phoenix began reaching out to smaller businesses to try to help them – but it was clear they were in unfamiliar territory. Poon connected with local governments in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, and Mesa, when she came to realize that cities were redirecting staff members to call business owners to learn what businesses needed. “I was thinking, ‘We know what they need help with.’” Poon and CO+HOOTS had been working with local small businesses for a decade, had a rich network and extensive database of local small business owners and resources, and a deep understanding of what was needed – even more so as a fellow entrepreneur. The more Poon thought about it, the more she realized that the cities needed a way to coordinate their assistance, visibility into what entrepreneurial support resources existed across the ecosystem, and an effective way to reach entrepreneurs in need.

Addressing Challenges by Linking, Leveraging, and Making Assets Visible

Poon and the team at CO+HOOTS saw a clear opportunity to help. CO+HOOTS had an existing platform, HUUB that was intended to collect resources and information for the local entrepreneurial community. They realized the tool could be used more broadly, to help area cities streamline their assistance efforts, aggregate resources, and enable business owners to access support and resources without having to be fully dependent on municipal efforts.

By partnering with the city of Mesa, we aim to improve the resiliency of the business community that is the backbone of Mesa while creating efficiencies for the city. We are excited and prepared to take our decade of experience in incubating entrepreneur communities and be of service in this critical time.

— Jenny Poon
Founder and CEO, CO+HOOTS

Poon first demonstrated the platform to city officials in Mesa, who immediately realized its usefulness. The city formed a small team to work with CO+HOOTS to develop the first pilot of the platform called the Mesa HUUB. This pilot would then become part of the city’s larger Mesa CARES Technical Assistance Program and Resource Center that was launched in March 2020. As part of the Mesa CARES program, Mesa HUUB was designed as a business resource platform that offered a centralized location to find funding opportunities, access consulting and technical assistance sessions, locate educational resources including live webinars and training, and to connect with other entrepreneurs across the city.

During this initial phase, the city of Mesa and CO+HOOTS linked and leveraged some of their respective assets to create the Mesa HUUB. The city of Mesa brought its assets of government leadership and the ability to helm the larger effort. They also contributed other assets such as promotion, outreach, funding, case management support, networks, and grant funding. For its part, the CO+HOOTS team brought technical expertise, the HUUB platform software, streamlined data management, extensive relationships in the area, case management, community management, and experience in building community.

Starting in May 2020, Mesa city officials and CO+HOOTS gathered insights into the needs of the community and small businesses through surveys and discussions with entrepreneurs. Based on these responses and with a better understanding of the needs, they started rallying organizations and individuals across the city who had assets to share. In all, more than 50 community organizations and leaders contributed assets in three categories: 

  • Resources. Those who could contribute articles, fact-sheets, information, case studies, one-pagers, instructional or training videos, webinars, etc.
  • Knowledge and services. Those who could share expertise, lead a webinar, teach a training session or program, offer business consulting services, provide technical assistance, etc. Computer literacy, for example, was needed to help business owners improve computer skills or move into e-commerce.
  • Relationships, trust, and community engagement. Those who had existing relationships with and could engage appropriately with underrepresented groups in the community and had the ability and trust to advocate on their behalf (affinity groups, minority chambers of commerce, etc.).

All the organizations and assets were vital to the effort, with relationship assets particularly valuable in being able to reach all parts of the community. “We know that communities of color have a history of distrust of government, and that government has consistently had trouble reaching communities of color. We knew the only way to reach businesses run by people of color is to work through trusted networks,” Poon said. The Asian Chamber of Commerce, for example, took responsibility for reaching the Asian community, and the two organizations that focus on native Spanish speaking business owners – East Valley Hispanic Chamber and Chicano Por La Causa (CPLC) – ran technical assistance specifically for Spanish speakers and Hispanic business owners.

The CO+HOOTS and the Mesa CARES team saw the opportunity for this initiative to become a trusted source of information for small businesses. Because of the existing cultural divide and mistrust of government, many entrepreneurs were hesitant to engage with government programs. But CO+HOOTS had already earned the confidence of the local entrepreneurs across the ecosystem over many years of working with minority-owned small businesses. This trust – along with a new collection of assets – gave the Mesa CARES team the credibility to set out to inform local entrepreneurs about the platform and the new initiative.

With our digital platform, cities and community partners can now provide a faster response to small business owners in need and help cities to do more, no matter where they are.

— Jenny Poon
Founder and CEO, CO+HOOTS

Assets were collected, catalogued, organized, and made available on Mesa HUUB, which became a robust platform offering business owners a central access point for educational resources, coaching and technical assistance, information on grants and funding programs, and more. In addition to being a central access point, the platform served other purposes, as well. It functioned a matchmaker between entrepreneurs and the offerings of the community partner organizations and leaders. Entrepreneurs could select the resources and support they needed; opt to receive notifications about grant opportunities, live webinars, and general COVID-19 updates relevant to the business community; and provide feedback to program organizers and about the HUUB platform itself. The platform also tracked what resources and support were requested, providing real-time feedback to the Mesa CARES team about what was needed and how to offer more tailored support.

In short, it was a community effort by more than 50 partners to coordinate and share assets and resources, and to adapt an online platform to meet the needs of entrepreneurs during the crisis. CO+HOOTS redirected six members of its staff to develop the platform, organize content, and onboard new partners to the platform. The city of Mesa deployed an economic development professional and outreach specialist to coordinate with the city funding efforts, do promotion and outreach, and help track progress with Mesa HUUB. In addition, each of the 50+ partner organizations offered their time to the educational events and technical support services which made the Mesa HUUB truly something bigger than anyone could have done alone. “There were a lot of different programs, and then there were also partnerships with ethnic chambers to get more minority-owned businesses involved,” Poon said. “There was a huge collaborative effort, which was difficult and messy, but also incredible.”

As for what’s next, CO+HOOTS and Poon intend to take their platform to other cities, and during the time of this publication had started implementation in at least two additional communities in the greater Phoenix area.

“I think every city should have this if they don’t already,” she says. “It’s something that we, as a community, had been asking for, for a long time, and trying to figure out how to do. We just never saw our own individual organization as the one that would be responsible for it. And so when this came about, I was like, ‘Oh, like this completely fulfills all of the things we wanted to scale.’ We wanted to be able to have a large impact. We wanted to hit all of the different businesses. And we wanted to do it in collaboration with other organizations. And we have.”

Tracking Progress

The Mesa CARES and CO+HOOTS team tracked the following metrics in real time through the Mesa HUUB platform analytics:

  • General sentiment: Change in attitude over time.
  • Trust in government (1-10 score).
  • Understanding government resources (1-10 score).
  • Monthly platform visits.
  • Most visited resources.
  • Number of consulting hours.
  • Business operation outcomes: job creation, lowered expenses, improved revenues.
  • Categories of consulting requested.

Outcomes

Many results from the program metrics and details on the real-time analytics the platform provided for the city are outlined in the MESA Cares & HUUB Case Study. However, a few of the topline results from the Mesa HUUB include:

  • In the city of Mesa, 72% of businesses saw improved business operations in the first month, up from 68%. Half of these business were women-owned, and half were owned by people of color.
  • Reduced administrative reporting and tracking by an average of 30 hours a week.
  • The platform was able to produce real-time data for the city, allowing it to track needs, demographics, and usage related to programs and resources, as well as monitor increased trust and reputation-building between the city and the business/entrepreneur community due to engagement through the HUUB platform.
  • Building on the momentum from the Mesa HUUB, the platform expanded to the cities of Phoenix and Gilbert. Overall, the platform currently serves more than 1,000 businesses in Arizona, and businesses are engaging with resources at an average of four times per week.
Linking & Leveraging Assets

Main Takeaways

Designing for Equity and Inclusion

We targeted people of color in this instance because, when the first round of COVID-19 funding came out, those people who were left out in terms of securing those SBA loans were Black-, Brown-, and women-owned businesses. So we want to right that by creating a platform in a fund structure that bridges that disappointment and discouragement many of those business owners felt when they applied and were shut out of SBA. Historically, only 5% of SBA lending goes to Black-owned businesses and only 9% goes to Latinx-owned businesses, which is appalling.

Charisse Conanan Johnson
Managing Partner, Next Street

Both the Mesa CARES Small Business Technical Assistance Program and the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery: Small Business Assistance Program had an explicit focus on equity and inclusion that shaped their response to COVID-19. As the outcomes show, both programs were able to reach women and minority business owners. In Chicago, 60% of grant and advising recipients were people of color and more than 45% were women. In Mesa, 50% of businesses that were served by the platform were owned by women and 50% by people of color.

These are a few specific actions that drove the outcomes and informed their approach to linking and leveraging assets:

➔ Bringing resources and support together with inclusion and accessibility in mind.

To ensure that resources would reach under-invested communities, the groups adapted communication styles and outreach methods. For example, additional bilingual services were provided for business owners whose primary language was not English. Business owners without an online presence were able to access support for using computers and creating websites and e-commerce options. And business-owner preferences and skills were tailored to by offering communications via text, email, or phone calls.

➔ Working with partners who were representative of – and had deep relationships in – local communities to create onramps to their programs.

Both initiatives leveraged the relationships and cultural competence of partners who were embedded in under-resourced communities as core assets to the program. This let the people with the trusted relationships lead the work and outreach within their communities and ensured that entrepreneurs had confidence in the resources being offered.

➔ Focusing unabashedly on demographics and communities who were historically – and are currently – under-supported and under-invested.

Each initiative made clear performance indicators and goals, along with the appropriate budget allocations for funding and outreach with women and people of color who-own businesses, to engage with and disrupt the systemic dynamics of where resources flowed and who received them.

Recommendations

Next Street and CO+HOOTS offer these recommendations to increase visibility and sharing of assets across an entrepreneurial ecosystem:

➔ Be adaptive and build on past assets or learnings where possible.

It is not always necessary to invent something new. For instance, Next Street’s process was much more efficient because, “We have been through hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and we cataloged what we learned from them through our solution centers and applied that to COVID-19,” Conanan Johnson said. Next Street had used a shared intake tool in those instances, so its starting point was further along than if the group was beginning anew.

➔ Intentionally build relationships before you need them.

In both of these stories, Next Street and CO+HOOTS used existing relationships, networks, and trust built over years. Many of the relationships were already established, which facilitated quick action in a crisis. Take time to build relationships with leaders and colleagues at other organizations in the local ecosystem – don’t wait for the next crisis to start.

➔ Find champions in the ecosystem, whether on the funding or provider side.

Champions will help draw people to important efforts and improve outcomes as a community works to engage multiple stakeholders, share diverse assets, and deploy them more efficiently.

➔ Start small, whether that’s with initial financial goals or building partnerships with a list of stakeholders.

A modest start can help create a stronger foundation. This solid base can then facilitate collaboration with a wide range of partners and build trust to enable people to feel comfortable to share their assets and resources.

➔ From the perspective of Asset Based Community Development, everyone has an asset or something valuable to offer.

Be intentional about lifting up the strengths and offerings of all partners – it demonstrates humility in knowing that the creative combination of our assets can yield results no one could have previously imagined.

➔ Learn to embrace the opportunity within a crisis, because it helps build trust more quickly by reducing barriers to work together.

During these times, people create less friction around working together, act with less hesitation, and are willing to get started immediately on things that might ordinarily take months or years. Working together is where real trust is built and removing barriers to working together can have a huge return on investment down the line when increased trust allows for a more rapid response, deeper collaboration, and greater ease with sharing and combining resources. Once the worst of the crisis is over, foster the trust, social capital, and collaborative muscle that has been built, and continue to nurture it.

Resources

Link & Leverage Assets

Cook County COVID-19 Recovery: Small Business Assistance

Mesa CARES Small Business Technical Assistance Program & Mesa HUUB platform


Ecosystems in Action: Practices from the Field

Ecosystems in Action: Practices from the Field

The Ecosystem in Action briefs share practical and instructional examples of entrepreneurial ecosystem building. The series is designed for and informed by practitioners, to help one another build skills and add ideas and tools to their ecosystem building repertoire.