Collaborative Culture. Cultivate a culture of trust and collaboration within our field

In a nutshell: As ecosystem builders, we know that innovation thrives in a culture built on trust, and People + Culture = Everything.

Cultural divides, however, are already emerging within our field. These divides begin with concerns about resource scarcity and lead to skepticism and disconnection, preventing us from working together to advance stronger ecosystem building practices. We must see beyond our own ideas, organizations, sectors, and communities. And we need to reach out to support and partner with others who share our dedication to helping entrepreneurs.

Together, we can expand the ecosystem building community, foster more trust, create open dialogue, and share resources. These efforts will establish a more collaborative culture throughout the field – they will help us all break down silos, achieve our shared goals, and remove more barriers facing entrepreneurs.

Voices from the field

“”[F]or me, it’s really about the most basic building block of any effective ecosystem: trust. More important than funding or brilliant ideas, trust is absolutely critical to build and sustain any real collaboration. In systems where the majority of the decision makers and those who control investments are not representative of the communities being supported, trusting relationships are hard to build. For ecosystems to be effective, we should all be working to ensure that people from the communities being supported are making decisions and controlling investments. Most importantly, it’s our responsibility to make sure that those leaders are identified and supported. Further, it’s the ecosystem builder’s obligation to invest in the cultivation and development of leadership coming from the community.

When people in the community see themselves leading the work that supports them, they begin to trust that they are being treated fairly, that they matter to the system and that have something valuable to contribute to it. This is the power of “fairness.” Ensuring ecosystem builders with diverse perspectives lead our field is important because inclusion is fair and fairness is critical to ecosystems success.” Henry Rael

“Cultivating a collaborative culture is important to me because if you have a solid foundation of trust and collaboration, then I see no limit to the potential of what can be built on top of that.” Melanie Lenci

“Sometimes strong conviction in ones’ own ideas can make it hard to fully appreciate what others have to offer. Being willing to listen as well as lead is important when working collaboratively to strengthen the entrepreneurial community.

Along with listening, confidence and resilience, we need to foster the important values of vulnerability and cooperation in order to be successful. Healthy competition pushes people to work hard and strive toward lofty goals but taken too far, it puts individuals and groups against one another and into a mindset of scarcity rather than one of abundance.” Jacqueline Summers.

“Collaborative culture, along with its paired companion, Autonomous culture, are among the two most important driving goals in how we transform and improve our societal response to climate change. Clinical Psychologists have been studying human behavior change processes, and have published 100’s of thousands of peer-reviewed research papers on this topic. This research is proving what we’ve known in our guts our entire lives, and helping us to focus on the importance of what we already know: People, in a macro-scale like culture, are less likely to change when being conversed to in an advice-giving, persuasive, or confrontational manner. Instead, they are more likely to change when conversed with in a genuinely collaborative way, and in a way that genuinely enhances autonomy.” Vince Schutt

“Collaboration has always been my go-to method for tackling any challenge or problem that has come my way and part of it comes from realizing that we as humans cannot know and/or experience everything in the short time we have on this planet. But what we can do is leverage the experiences and knowledge of our community members to work together to make progress in our field. I think we’re fortunate to be living in a society with members of such diverse backgrounds, interests and experiences. A collaborative culture is a trademark of a healthy ecosystem – an ecosystem where members feel passionate, safe and excited to contribute to the growth of the community and share their ideas and opinions on how to make their community even better.” Harshita Girase

Goal 2 in the Field

“I’ve been ecosystem building way longer than I was aware I was doing it, so one of the ways I’m currently able to contribute to cultivating a culture of trust and collaboration in the field is by serving as an example and sharing my story so others can relate to and possibly learn from it. Taking the leap to start Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs™ and introduce Entrepreneur Story Time™ events to Santa Fe two years ago on my own dime was partly a means for me to do some things I love – organizing events, visiting new venues, bringing people together and hearing entrepreneur stories – as well as a means for me to showcase and prove my value in a new-to-me community where showing and doing has much more value than emailing out a resume. Fast forward through two unbelievably blissful years of being in the mix while growing Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs reputation and community enthusiasm, and I now have a solid career working in a project and consulting capacity where I regularly get to bring ecosystem partners together to create wow-worthy outcomes.” Melanie Lenci

“I’m certainly a creative, Stubborn Radical Optimist and I found the field of entrepreneurial ecosystem building after I helped start a successful startup, left, and subsequently joined the University of Alaska Anchorage Business Enterprise Institute. On a whim, I volunteered for the Anchorage Startup Weekend, and then the Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint and was hooked. I found I loved the creative, cross-pollination of ideas and prototyping and then in succession I volunteered for Volt 49, the Innovation Dash, the first Alaska Angel Conference, and Alaska Startup Weeks. I’ve really reaped a huge benefit through supporting these events; I’ve been repaid through creative inspiration, exposure to new ideas, education, and numerous connections and new relationships.

After actively supporting, in 2018 I co-founded and launched Health TIE. Health TIE (Testbed for Innovative Enterprises) is a healthcare disruption hub and is designed as a neutral place for healthcare change-makers to gather and actively prototype solutions. Health TIE highlights opportunities, catalyzes ideas and achieves greater healthcare efficiency and equitable access through providing events, funding pilot projects, and making connections.” Jacqueline Summers

“My work with is to democratize access to these types of communication skills. We offer free trainings in Toronto, free virtual trainings for anyone to attend. We also receive many requests for workshops from different groups. Communities need to have access to new communications skills workshops and the practice of those skills is what we do.” Vince Schutt

“When your company or initiative is bleeding cash and energy, a collaborative community can help sustain you. One of the values we have at ActivateNM is transformation + cooperation. It is not just about collaboration but real transformation of the entrepreneurs. When entrepreneurs grow their capacity with others, their ventures will grow with them.” Dan Heron

“Currently, I’m working to get more of the “younger” members of the community (i.e. college students, new graduates) involved so that they can share ideas on how they’d like to shape their community. I just started a group on our community Slack team to get some community members to come together once a month to build some momentum. Once there is enough involvement, the goal is to get this group of young professionals to define what they can share with/gain from the community and use their skills and talents to collaborate on community-led projects.” Harshita Girase

What’s next?

“It can be scary to try something new and reach across boundaries, but it means you have to be both strong and vulnerable. It is through being collaborative, trusting and vulnerable we are able to give time, resources, credit, and ideas without carefully eyeing the scales. Trusting and collaborating with others within the Alaska entrepreneurial ecosystem means many trees will be planted and many future Alaskan entrepreneurs will enjoy the shade.” Jacqueline Summers

Learn more & connect

To follow Melanie’s story, subscribe to KAE’s mailing list at and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @kickassentrepreneurs. And if you’re in Santa Fe, be sure to come see her at one of her Entrepreneur Story Time events the 1st Thursday of every month!

“We welcome contact from any of your readers to write us at to set up a time and explore what it would be like to convene these experiential skills development workshops with your church, community, workplace, clubs etc.”

Connect with Dan Heron via Activate NM. He’s always looking for local startup teams that have new companies/products they are trying to grow. Solopreneurs are welcome as well!

If you are a young professional or college student living in the Buffalo area (or know someone who does) who is passionate about community engagement and interested in helping transform our ecosystem, please reach out to Harshita on

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 and