Collaborators in Equitable Ecosystem Building

Forward Cities is fortunate to have a growing number of funding and ecosystem building partners to help us deepen and expand our work.


Over the past several years,  a group of cross-sector stakeholders in Pittsburgh has worked with the national nonprofit organization Forward Cities to strengthen the region’s equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem.  A central strategy for this work, reinforced by a recent regional equitable economic recovery strategic planning process is the launch of a “guiding organization”.  

Tentatively named the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Alliance (E3 Alliance) of Greater Pittsburgh, the organization will serve as the coordinating body for Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and foster a culture of equity for every entrepreneur. The organization will lead and synchronize a diverse group of stakeholders in the development and implementation of an agreed upon set of strategies aligned with shared outcomes to ensure the long term sustainability of this work in the ecosystem. 

The E3 Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh is now looking for a Director to lead this effort.  

Description of Role:

As the leader of the E3 Alliance, the Director should be a social entrepreneur possessing a relevant professional experience with developing and delivering entrepreneurial support programming, as well as a familiarity with and a passion for fostering action-oriented collaborative networks within the Pittsburgh region.   

The position will be housed within Riverside Center for Innovation (RCI), and will report directly to RCI’s Executive Director and be supported by Forward Cities The Director will work closely with local partners and cross-sector stakeholders in Pittsburgh including entrepreneur support organizations, entrepreneurs, philanthropy, community leaders, local government, economic and community development organizations. The position is funded via philanthropic support from local foundations. 

Job responsibilities include but are not limited to:
  • Serving as a connector in and between various groups of entrepreneur support organizations, entrepreneurial stakeholders, and local entrepreneurs; Supporting the local E3 (Equitable Entrepreneur Ecosystem) Network, a network of Pittsburgh based entrepreneur support organizations  by convening current members, identifying future members, and aligning them around a shared vision and strategy for Pittsburgh’s equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem; 
  • Convene cross-sector community and civic leaders across the city/region to help advance ongoing understanding and support for leveraging the assets and addressing the gaps of the city’s equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem 
  • Serving as lead project manager for all agreed upon deliverables including: engaging and coordinating local partners to support the research and evaluation, strategic planning, and implementation work; Identifying and amplifying important stories emerging from the work in partnership with local media partners; 
  • Building awareness of and support for the work among local and regional partners and stakeholders including fundraising to meet the budget needs of the E3 Alliance and increasing funding support for the broader ESO network;
  • Helping to develop and convene a Steering Committee of diverse stakeholders that acts as a governance advisory board for the E3 Alliance. Emerging lessons learned from the local work for sharing with the broader Forward Cities Community - and bringing promising practice information from the national field back to the Pittsburgh community;
  • Managing the organization’s budget and, once sufficient funds are raised, building the E3 Alliance’s team to manage the functional responsibilities of the organization and deepen/broaden the impact of the E3 Alliance and the broader ecosystem; and
  • Addressing additional needs through entrepreneurial thinking and opportunities as they arise consistent with the mission of advancing inclusive entrepreneurial supports locally and regionally.
  • Build and develop a team within the E3 Alliance as well with collaborative stakeholders partners.  
The ideal candidate is/has:
  • Local to or deeply familiar with the community;
  • Able to maintain and build trust in the community;
  • An experienced ecosystem builder engaged with the local innovation economy and its important contributors;
  • A strong and trusted facilitator - especially across diverse constituencies;
  • A well-organized project manager with demonstrated management experiences, attention to detail, and effective time management skills;
  • An entrepreneurial spirit with experience growing a new venture, and building a team;
  • Demonstrated budget management and fundraising experience;
  • A strong collaborator and strategic thinker; and
  • An ability to learn and model the values which promote vibrant, connected, and inclusive entrepreneurial communities. 
Professional & Academic Qualifications:
  • 10+ years of work experience - with at least 3 years of Director level and/or project management experience.  Relevant experience in entrepreneurship, ecosystem building, project management, and community facilitation
  • Bachelor’s Degree 
  • And/or combination of relevant education and management/executive experience
Reporting Authority

The Director E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh will report directly to the Executive Director of Riverside Center for Innovation.,The E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh will be located within the RCI.  Workspace will be provided at RCI.  Work will include a combination of in-the-office, in-the-field, remote, and may include working with distributed teams.    

Professional Development Support: 

The Director E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh will receive support from the Forward Cities team, including access to shared learning, best practices, as well as:

  • Access to key cross-sector stakeholders and decision-makers within the city to help support the success of the work;
  • A robust network of peers, partners, and supporters locally, regionally, and nationally dedicated to the work of inclusive innovation and economic development in under-connected communities across the national Forward Cities network. 
Salary Range & Benefits

$65,000 - $75,000 depending on education and experience - includes full benefits (PTO, parental leave, group health plan/health insurance stipend, life insurance, telecommunication stipend, and 403(b) plan participation after 90 days with the organization). 

To Apply, Visit Our Application Portal

Forward Cities provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.


Forward Cities is seeking applications for a temporary (six-month) full-time Research Assistant to join our team.

Forward Cities is a national leader in developing and applying research tools that support communities to better understand the inner workings of their entrepreneurial ecosystems. We’ve created a suite of assessment and evaluation tools that have been applied in communities around the country. Most notably, these research tools include the Entrepreneur Support Organization Survey, and the Survey of Entrepreneurs. Evidence gathered through the application of the tools has helped local stakeholders better understand entrepreneurship in their community, including to whom entrepreneurship is inaccessible and what actions need to be taken to enhance equity in entrepreneurial opportunities for underserved communities. 

Start date: November 30, 2020

STATUS: Full-Time Temporary

This position is currently funded for 6 months with the potential for additional funding to extend the temporary position to 12 months. 

REPORTING RELATIONSHIP: Reports to Senior Research Staff




The Research Assistant will primarily support the research team in the deployment of our primary data collection tools, including both the Survey of Entrepreneurs and the Entrepreneur Support Organization Survey, and the production of data visualizations for all of our data sources. The position will also support the preparation of outgoing reports for various audiences including local project funders and key stakeholders, individual Entrepreneur Support Organizations, and public presentation of key indicators in data dashboards.


  • A strong understanding of systemic racism and inequities in the United States
  • A demonstrated commitment to the mission and work of Forward Cities 
  • Highly motivated with a desire to learn
  • Ability to communicate data to internal and public audiences
  • Proficient in Google Suite, specifically Google Docs and Sheets
  • Strong verbal and written skills
  • Bachelor's degree in related field plus 2 years of experience OR Master’s degree in related field
  • Comfortable learning new technology/software for data analysis and visualization
  • Preferred qualifications: research experience, experience with survey administration and management, software: Tableau, Qualtrics


Ability to work independently in a remote work environment


Forward Cities is a national nonprofit equipping communities and regions to grow and sustain more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems.


To be considered for this opportunity, please submit your application, including a cover letter and resume/CV, to the Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr. Stacey Williams using the form linked below. 

Submit your application for the Research Assistant 

Please submit your application by November 10th. The application portal may remain open if we are still taking applications after that time.

by LC Johnson | Dec 30, 2019 | Insight, Solution Series

Editor’s note: This article is part of a larger series called Solution Stories, which aim to tell the story of the work Forward Cities is helping to guide in cities across the country. For additional background on the specific approach taken in communities like Franklin County, please visit the first article in the series found here.

Six successful restaurant and retail entrepreneurs will be matched with a team of high-level consultants and executives from diverse fields and given the tools to uplevel their growing businesses.

No, this isn’t a description of a new reality TV show! It is a description for a new entrepreneurial support pilot program launching in Franklin County, OH in January of 2020.

In January 2019, I became the Director of Community Entrepreneurship for Franklin County, a position created in partnership with Forward Cities—a national learning network dedicated to helping communities and regions grow and sustain more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems—and funded by four local organizations who believe that this work is an important catalyst for our region’s growth.


For many cities, a history of red-lining, unequal development, and decisions to build highways through thriving minority communities contributed in significant ways to disparities in wealth and access to opportunities in our neighborhoods. For me, this hits even closer to home. Franklin County, Ohio is home to the city of Columbus—the fifteenth largest city in the U.S., the capital of Ohio, and one of the most economically segregated cities in the country.

One of the unique things about the work of Forward Cities is the placed-based focus of the entrepreneurial ecosystem-building work. Each community has particular strengths and unique challenges for business owners. Our approach to this work is cognizant that it takes different approaches to different situations, for instance when addressing the unique needs of a historically black community recovering from disinvestment versus a neighborhood teeming with New Americans interested in creating new, local ventures.

We began with the goal to better understand our local entrepreneurial ecosystem through this placed-based lens. We utilized a proprietary research tool, the Forward Cities Neighborhood Inclusion Compass, to analyze Census tracts across Franklin County and to determine which areas hold the greatest potential for entrepreneurial capacity-building pilots that support existing and aspiring business owners from resource-poor neighborhoods. In this process, we celebrated the diversity of different neighborhoods and reviewed a comprehensive snapshot of the local business landscapes, factoring in, among others, the number of small business loans, amount of vacant business establishments and the total jobs created by businesses younger than one year.

From a shortlist of eight neighborhoods, a coalition of entrepreneurs, funders and resource providers with strong community ties selected two: King Lincoln, an inner-city neighborhood with deep history and significance to Columbus’ African American community; and Whitehall, a small suburban municipality in Franklin County located east of Columbus, once a hub for WWII veterans and now a growing community with an emerging entrepreneurial focus.


In May of 2019, we brought together 70 entrepreneurs from these two neighborhoods and surrounding areas. Interactive discussions of participants’ lived experiences and entrepreneurial journeys paired with results from a first round of an entrepreneurial panel survey emerged the following barriers to success that many entrepreneurs have experienced:

  • Few Full-Time Entrepreneurship Pathways – Entrepreneurs struggle to find a path to turn their side-hustle business into a formal, full-time enterprise with enough gross revenue to leave existing jobs.
  • Low Awareness of Ecosystem Resources – Research Forward Cities compiled indicates that entrepreneurs have a lack of both awareness and trust of individuals, organizations, and programmatic resources that could support them start or grow their businesses.
  • Low Financial Literacy – Entrepreneurs are often not equipped with critical financial literacy skills needed for managing and stabilizing personal finances that sets them up for greater success when deciding to launch or grow a business.
  • Little Capital Access – Entrepreneurs of color and/or those with service-based or retail businesses experience difficulties finding and positioning themselves for the capital necessary for seed funding and/or growth.
  • Few Culturally Competent Mentors/Social Capital – There is a lack of qualified, culturally competent (and affordable) business mentors that can impart invaluable insights and strategies with (emerging) business owners.

Armed with this wealth of first-hand information, the local entrepreneurial allies and business owners themselves split up into working groups to think creatively how to best address the identified barriers.


The results of this community-informed process were two pilot programs that will launch in the spring of 2020.

Side Hustles to CEOs

This pilot provides part-time entrepreneurs with a case manager to deeply assess the current state of their business, help develop a plan for moving into full-time entrepreneurship, and provide personalized recommendations and referrals to existing entrepreneurial programs and supports that the entrepreneur may not otherwise be aware of.

Innovation Sprints

The second pilot provides growth-oriented small businesses with an expert site visit and strategic assessment. This entails a curated, half day strategy session focused on one to two current pain points of the business owner’s choice (e.g. marketing, operations or HR) and, at successful completion, a $5,000 cash infusion into the business.

The journey over the last months has illuminated more learning, growth, and community engagement opportunities than we could have ever hoped for. In time, we will look to scale what works, tweak what doesn’t, and continue our path to expanding the opportunity that entrepreneurship brings to a wider swath of Franklin County residents. Stay tuned for updates on the pilots in the coming months.