To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?

We amplify the voice of the innovators and entrepreneurs, of small business and new ventures. All of them. ALL of them. In my world, there’s a great term “liaison-animateur” connectors who are professional, unselfish, enthusiastic, and proactive. Effective ecosystem builders are them? (Cf. Jeff Bennett’s most recent Medium post –as usual he says it better than I!)

What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?

Now more than ever, not letting down the entrepreneurs. We are living through the biggest body blow to new and small firms in a century and we know that innovative new and small firms will lead us out… and we still dither too much. I dither too much. Time to show up and show out.

We have made progress in growing more innovative, entrepreneurial economies and the potential to do so much more is painfully – and delightfully – visible!

What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?

I wear multiple hats – scholar, educator, policy wonk, and connector/champion. I seem to get things done across those ‘hats’ ( but to be honest, there is so much more impact I could be doing… I should be doing.

As a scholar, I’ve rallied good research on ecosystems, especially championing bottom-up studies (in academe, the top-down, institutional focus dominates). Here’s a workshop planned for a big 2020 conference (; will be virtual, so ping me if you want in). I get to evangelize globally by speaking and panels – the Zoom Era has been a blessing. Similarly, as an educator I’ve been blessed to connect with the very best entrepreneurship educators (stay tuned!)

Here in Idaho, I do more and more proactive connecting while mostly failing to make a dent in policy, though I’ve written some well-received commentaries in the Idaho Business Review. Though I’m perhaps proudest of helping Idaho revive its Women Business Center. It’s already a game-changer here.

I do wish that I was more impactful on ESHIP’s Goals and projects. Trying to remedy that with our new friends at the International Council For Small Business. ICSB is architect of the UN’s global small business day – mark your calendars for June 25 & 27!) For 2020 MSME Day, I wrote an essay for the UN on how ESHIP can keep supporting the SDGs []


What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?

Sometimes I think I’m my own biggest hurdle. I need to be more strategic, especially in ESHIP matters. That’s important because I need to do better in living up to my fellow Goal Champions and all these other Unsung Heroes. In the field, the “Sauron” model (one ring to rule them all, top-down/power player ecosystem governance model) remains frustratingly implacable.

What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?

The same.. Sauron is still winning. We ARE gaining, I think. Ecosystem builders are showing their mettle in these crises. Not sure if they are noticed. Heck, why isn’t Kauffman marketing the hell out of these Unsung Heroes, our progress with meetings of the minds, the Ecosystem Builder Hub, and more? (#2 frustration is with my own impatience, lol)

What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?

Crafting amazing narratives that give us a fighting chance against Sauron. Finding great new models of ecosystem governance (love that term, just learned it!) I suspect that as ecosystem research advances – if the scholars can learn what the Hilbert problems are for ecosystem builders, who knows what amazing things we might learn!

What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?

(1) Find ways to reward bold action. We also see this in our own communities. As ecosystem builders, we are new entrants coping with well-entrenched incumbents who are well-motivated to hold their turf. So I was wrong, action isn’t enough…

(2) how do we take action in ways that differentiate the ecosystem builder by being hard to imitate & provide significant new value?

(3) How do we teach our fellow ecosystem builders how to be badass at understanding and managing stakeholders?

How can we support you in your efforts?

Freight cars full of cash? 😉 Support for doing from leaders – whether it’s ESHIP or academics or Idaho civic leaders… goes so, so far. Even a modicum of funding helps. And again whether it’s ESHIP or a community, who gets funded is a powerful signal of legitimacy. Publicity (like this!) is a plus. So many ESHIP friends doing great things that even in their own communities are not getting recognized. Helping the “doers” will help me.

Specifics for my efforts? We have a few good projects that need support and we need you, dear reader! Whether it’s our continuing the “meeting of minds” convenings, doing surveys of ecosystem builders, or any other opportunity that arises.


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