Connected Networks: ESHIP Goal 4

Connected Networks: Foster coordination and collaboration efforts to connect ecosystem builders across networks

In a nutshell: More collaboration within the field will require more communication across our networks.

A number of national resource providers (NRPs) are building strong networks of ecosystem builders, most often organized vertically around core ecosystem functions, such as acceleration, community building, coworking, economic and community development, incubation, investing, or tech transfer. In addition to connecting vertically with peers, ecosystem builders and NPRs need to connect more horizontally – and even diagonally – across the field to leverage the full range of perspectives, insights, and opportunities available.

To create more and better information sharing, relationship building, and real-time partnership formation between the various ecosystem builder networks, we must pave the way with field-wide communication channels and other infrastructure for coordination and collaboration.

Voices from the field

“If there are seven-degrees of separation in other parts of the world, in Alaska there is just one. Although geographically big, in population size it is small and when it comes to entrepreneur ecosystem building, it is really, really small.

There are many organizations working toward the shared goal of growing Alaska’s economy but along with the geographic distances that separate people, there are silos, histories, and cross-purposes that keep people apart.

I think it is fundamentally important to make sure that people have the opportunities to connect through shared events and through strong relationships.” Jacqueline Summers

“Effective networks are a key piece of any successful entrepreneurship ecosystem. They are especially important for cultivating diverse, equitable, and inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems. Often, individual and organizational networks suffer from homophily – the tendency to be connected only to those individuals and organizations we see as similar to ourselves. Homophilic networks are not only ineffective, but they remain stagnant, rely on definitions of trust based on stereotypes and bias, and result in missed opportunities. As ecosystem builders, especially those concerned with diversity, equity, and inclusion, developing effective networks that are broad, dynamic, well connected, and evidence-based allows us to not only meet our individual goals, but to have a greater collective impact.” Heather Metcalf

“In Northeast Wisconsin, we have a lot of separate initiatives happening. This creates natural silos that can do a lot of good within their niche, but we need to make sure everyone is aware of the opportunities for collaboration. In recent years, separate initiatives have made progress and impact, but they missed the opportunity to create density and momentum together. Some aren’t even aware of all the initiatives and groups making a difference in our community. This is an awareness problem above all else. I can’t tell you how many times people I talk to are unaware of all the resources and groups available to help them grow. Awareness is the first problem to solve and something I can help with.” Jacob Miller

“Cross-collaboration and the sharing of best practices and lessons learned among peers is the most effective way to grow the ecosystem building field and impact our respective communities. The word Colmena in our name Colmena66, means beehive. Our work has many similarities with a bee hive – we believe in cross pollination of ideas, knowledge and skills.” Denisse Rodriguez

Goal 4 in the Field

“As part of our STEM to Market (S2M) initiative at the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), we regularly partner with other entrepreneurship support programs and ecosystem builders. We also provide training on effective network development and created the S2M Network Assessment Tool to guide ESOs and ecosystem builders in reflecting on their current networks and taking intentional steps to successfully develop them in ways that support their current and future goals, whether those are around policy, recruitment, outreach, funding, diversity, and more. You can check out the tool on our website here.” Heather Metcalf

“This volunteer-based effort has been ongoing for many years through Digital Fertilizer, but Startup Green Bay is one of the new solutions (we just had our third year) to create more awareness and collaboration across all groups and initiatives in our community. It is a part of Startup Wisconsin, a state-wide effort to advance and develop Wisconsin’s tech and startup ecosystems through unique programming, collaborative partnerships, and networking. Through Startup Green Bay we also hosted events like Meet the Meetups – Northeast Wisconsin, an awareness and networking focused event with over 200 in attendance, to shine a light on all the groups and meetups making a difference in our community. We are currently planning a similar summer event called Tech Bash. At Headway, we also host events for designers and developers with Wisconsin UX and ReactJS Green Bay. Rather than hosting them on separate nights, we are now hosting them on the same night so that designers and developers can network and learn from each other.” Jacob Miller

“To move this goal forward in my community, we have consistently celebrated Resource Network Meetups. Here we build trust among all the organizations, promote cross collaboration, sharing of ideas and challenges. Thanks to these meetups, we were able to co-design the resource railway Tu Camino Empresarial and one for the agriculture industry – Tu Camino AgroEmpresarial. We’re excited to learn of various projects that have emerged from side conversations in our Meetups. This video shows what happens.

We’ve been able to build on top of this by doing regional events that bring together entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations. Tu Camino Empresarial Tour brought together over 200 entrepreneurs that connected with over 25 ESOs. Learn what  happened here.

These regional events led to the biggest entrepreneurship education event in Puerto Rico – the Boricua  Entrepreneur Fest. More than 1,000 entrepreneurs participated in over 30 workshops. Over 60 ESOs came together in our beehive where entrepreneurs received one on one orientations. Watch what happened here. Denisse Rodriguez

Learn more & connect

People can learn more about S2M at https://www.stemtomarket.org and AWIS at https://www.awis.org. In addition to trainings on effective network development, our S2M initiative also offers an accelerator program for STEM trained women, an investor education program called Intentional Investing, a program for technology transfer offices called Conscious Commercialization, and a suite of research and evaluation services for ecosystem builders and entrepreneurship support organizations.

People can learn more about getting involved with the Startup community in Northeast Wisconsin by contacting Jacob directly via jacob@headway.io or find out about future Startup Green Bay events by signing up here.

The Boricua Entrepreneur Fest (BE Fest) is the perfect event for people outside Puerto Rico to connect with our entrepreneurship ecosystem. Come visit us, be a mentor, a speaker, offer a workshop, meet startups to invest in. We had to postpone our March 2020 edition but we hope we can come together again in the future. Until then, we’re working on an online version where we’ll deploy the education entrepreneurs need to weather the Covid-19 crisis and its impact in their business.

Anika Horn

Anika Horn is an ecosystem builder for social change, social enterprise advisor and storyteller. She is on a mission to equip ecosystem builders with the insights, resources and community to lead fulfilling lives and purpose-driven careers. Learn more about her work at SocialVenturers.com and AnikaHorn.com.

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