After attending a couple of ESHIP Summits, I’ve noticed something about ecosystem builders — we’re all passionate about helping entrepreneurs in our community and growing our local entrepreneurial ecosystems. That’s a good thing. I’d even say it’s a requirement to be an ecosystem builder.

But there’s something else I’ve noticed. Many, if not most, ecosystem builders tend to be so focused and engaged on their own communities that they fail to look up from their own local work and look around at the field (or what I like to think of as the discipline) of ecosystem building. And that, I think, is unfortunate, and needs to change in order for ecosystem building to grow as an economic development discipline.

Ecosystem builders tend to focus on their local ecosystem (apologies for my amateurish sketch).

At the recent Kauffman Foundation ESHIP Summit, I kept running into people who were unclear about its objectives – to grow and professionalize the discipline of ecosystem building. As stated on the ESHIP Summit overview, the purpose of the ESHIP Summit is clear:

“For ecosystem builders by ecosystem builders. Launched in 2017, the ESHIP Summit is a three-year initiative designed to bring together builders of entrepreneurial ecosystems to help accelerate the emerging field of ecosystem building, by collaboratively creating tools, resources, and knowledge to better support communities that empower the makers, doers, and dreamers in our communities.”

Shifting the mindset from a local ecosystem building focus to one focused on advancing the discipline of ecosystem building is a challenge. But I believe ecosystem builders need to not only focus on their local level ecosystem, but to shift their mindset to the discipline of ecosystem building, at least occasionally.

By also focusing on growing the discipline of ecosystem building, we can have greater impact, both locally and at the field level.

Perhaps counterintuitively, if we stop looking down and focusing on the local level and occasionally look up and look around at our peers to learn from each other, help each other, support each other (Goal 4 – Connected Networks), we can have an even greater impact. We’ll get better at what we do in our local ecosystems, and also collectively move the needle in professionalizing our field and raising global awareness (Goal 6: Universal Support) of ecosystem building as a new economic development model.

ESHIP Summit 2019 is still somewhat fresh in our memories. My impression, from attending the event in person, as well as following social media coverage of the event, is that attendees at ESHIP appreciated the opportunity to convene and connect with other ecosystem builders — to learn, grow, network and make connections. They found value in the experience.

So, my challenge, my call to action is this. You found value in looking up from your local level and connecting at the field level with other ecosystem builders at the ESHIP Summit. Don’t let that be a once a year thing! Stay connected with your fellow ecosystem builders from other communities via email, social media, phone, Zoom or Skype. Take an hour a week to look up and see what’s happening elsewhere in the world of ecosystem building. Share with your peers what’s happening in your ecosystem. Stay engaged and tuned in to your fellow ecosystem builders across the field. How? Here are a few ideas to get started.

Do you have additional ideas on how to engage and connect with ecosystem builders across the field? Please share by commenting.