Without intentional and strategic collaboration across support organizations, entrepreneurial ecosystems will not meet their full potential for incubation of new ideas and inclusive innovation. Such a collaborative atmosphere may not come naturally as support organizations compete for resources to support their own business model. Encouragement can come from investors who require collaboration for grant funding and stories about how an ecosystem that strives for interconnectivity and resource sharing can best support the development of an environment to support inclusive innovation.
Evaluators from outside the ecosystem are particularly well suited to evaluate the dynamic relationships between support organizations. Though local providers have a better view of the landscape and politics of support organizations in their community, they are part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem web, making it difficult to evaluate objectively without slipping into preconceived notions and resisting self-serving conclusions. Drawing from the social sciences, research techniques such as social network analysis can provide both a baseline assessment of connectivity and trust between organizations as well as metrics to evaluate change over time in entrepreneurial ecosystems.
At Forward Cities, we are working to build on the success of previous measures to create a comprehensive yet concise evaluation of the inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. Here are some examples of the questions we are hoping to answer through these evaluations:
- What are the most well-known support organizations in the city?
- What organizations are considered to be the most helpful by entrepreneurs?
- What organizations are most trusted by entrepreneurs?
- Do organizations serve a diverse population of entrepreneurs?
- What organizations work together to support entrepreneurs by providing referrals to others?
- Do some organizations have a better record of building trust within the ecosystem than others?
- Are there gaps in services provided by organizations within the local ecosystem?
- What additional services do entrepreneurs need to be successful?
- Do ecosystems with stronger connections between support organizations generate more successful entrepreneurs?
While metrics illustrating equitable rates of entrepreneurship are the primary outcome of a successful, inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, there are many steps along the way that are also worthy of measurement and evaluation. By way of competition over resources to fund their support organizations, strategic collaboration across organizations does not always occur naturally. To remedy this, intentional efforts to measure, document, and financially reward effective and efficient efforts for collaboration across organizations will be necessary. Without a focused approach to encourage collaboration across organizations to support inclusive innovation, we risk investments in support organizations and systems that replicate and perpetuate the unequal distribution of resources.
Resources and Suggested Readings
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook Draft 3.0 (2019)
Harper-Anderson, E. (2018). Intersections of Partnership and Leadership in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Comparing Three US Regions. Economic Development Quarterly, 32(2), 119-134.
Varda, D. (2011).“Data-Driven Management Strategies in Public Health Collaboratives”, Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 17(2), 122-132.