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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Snelling

7 Goals for Sustainable Innovation Ecosystems

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

We must solve for 7 ESHIP Goals…

These seven goals will serve as the foundation for our collective action and build the tenants of the ecosystem building field. Goal 1: Inclusive Field Ensure ecosystem builders with diverse perspectives lead our field. Goal 2: Collaborative Culture Cultivate a culture of trust and collaboration within our field. Goal 3: Shared Vision Establish shared outcomes and a common lexicon for our work. Goal 4: Connected Networks Foster coordination and collaboration efforts to connect ecosystem builders across networks. Goal 5: Practical Metrics and Methods Identify and develop better metrics and methods for ecosystem building. Goal 6: Universal Support Expand external stakeholder understanding of and support for ecosystem building. Goal 7: Sustainable Work Develop professional recognition and resources for ecosystem builders. …by working together. Achieving these goals will strengthen our profession and accelerate its adoption in more communities – removing more barriers for entrepreneurs throughout the world. The ESHIP community has identified some proposed initiatives that can help solve for the ESHIP Goals. These prioritized initiatives represent concrete steps we can work on together.


Goal 1: Inclusive Field

Ensure ecosystem builders with diverse perspectives lead our field. Ecosystem builders have a unique opportunity to reverse the growing wealth gap in our country, and to cultivate and integrate approaches that more effectively remove barriers for significant portions of our population. As professional change agents, system thinkers, and resource providers, ecosystem builders are well positioned to see the hidden structural barriers that perpetuate disconnection, segregation, and isolation – and to remove them.

However, we need diverse voices to lead us toward understanding and removing barriers for all entrepreneurs. Our leadership must include ecosystem builders from all walks of life, all parts of communities, and all kinds of regions, both nationally and globally. In order to empower and create equitable access for entrepreneurs who have been systemically excluded, ecosystem building must also include intentional efforts to level the playing field, to honor the need for belonging within entrepreneurial communities, and to have the (sometimes) hard conversations required for meaningful and lasting change.

Only with a diverse group of leaders can we develop and distribute the insights and effective practices that are needed to support more entrepreneurs with a wide range of perspectives and to help more ecosystem builders lead inclusive change efforts in their own organizations and communities. With a truly open and inclusive ecosystem building field, we can model the change we want to see in the world, disrupt the status quo, and help build a resilient and cohesive economic system that allows us all to realize our full potential. Goal 1: Initiatives Prioritized by the community 1.1 Diverse NRP Leadership – Support the network of ESHIP national resource providers (NRPs) in ensuring that their leadership and boards are intentionally diverse and inclusive. 1.2 Ecosystem Builders Speakers Bureau – Create a diverse and inclusive database of speakers from across the ecosystem building field. 1.3 Ecosystem Builder Fellowship – Develop a cohort fellowship program for ecosystem builders who come from groups that are often underrepresented in entrepreneurship. National Resource Providers (NRPs): Organizations that provide training, support programs, and funding to entrepreneurial ecosystem builders across the U.S. and beyond.


Goal 2: Collaborative Culture

Cultivate a culture of trust and collaboration within our field. 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. Goal 2: Initiatives Prioritized by the community 2.1 Regional ESHIP Summits – Create a toolkit to support regional events that are similar to the ESHIP Summit and that bring ecosystem builders together to encourage regional collaboration. The toolkit may include best practices, templates, and funding models, among other tools. 2.2 Field Ambassador Training Program – Start a program that identifies, trains, and enables individuals to link their communities to the global ecosystem building field. 2.3 Training and Tools for Building Collaborative Culture – Develop training programs and toolkits for ecosystem builders to learn better ways to foster a collaborative culture in their work.


Goal 3: Shared Vision

Establish shared outcomes and a common lexicon for our work. As practitioners of ecosystem builders, we are developing a new profession. In this endeavor, many of us are creating new concepts and vocabulary and discovering new applications and possibilities for our work. While we share similar aspirations to help entrepreneurs, we often find collaboration with each other challenging because our desired outcomes and our terminologies are nuanced and different. Even key terms, such as “entrepreneur,” “early-stage,” “small business,” and “ecosystem building,” have different meanings for different people and organizations within our field.

Strong collaboration will require alignment on our desired outcomes for ecosystem building and a common terminology for this work. We must build consensus on these cornerstones of our profession to facilitate communication and collaboration within the field and make ecosystem building practices more accessible to the broader community. Goal 3: Initiatives Prioritized by the community 3.1 Field-Wide Mission, Vision, Values, and Outcomes – Create and build alignment around these foundational aspects of the emerging field. 3.2 Living Dictionary for the Field – Build and curate a living dictionary of common terminology and definitions used across the field to encourage broader consensus and adoption. 3.3 Universal Ecosystem Builder Pledge – Develop a unifying pledge that includes core tenets of the emerging field and can be adopted widely. 3.4 Updated Wikipedia Entries – Collectively contribute to, and build consensus around, key aspects of our field to update the Wikipedia entry on “entrepreneurial ecosystem.” Create Wikipedia entries for “entrepreneurial ecosystem building” and “entrepreneurial ecosystem builder,” as well.


Goal 4: Connected Networks

Foster coordination and collaboration efforts to connect ecosystem builders across networks.

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. Goal 4: initiatives Prioritized by the community 4.1 Ecosystem Building Toolkit – Create an open access directory of resources to support those building entrepreneurial ecosystems that is available to the entire field. 4.2 Ecosystem Building Events Calendar – Develop a common and shared calendar of educational conferences, events, and trainings related to ecosystem building. 4.3 New Communication Channels – Create new forums – such as journals, meetups, newsletters, online platforms, podcasts, publications, story sharing channels, and working groups – to increase communication across and between ecosystem builders and their many networks. 4.4 Ecosystem Building Storytelling Clearinghouse – Initiate an online, crowdsourced clearinghouse for ecosystem building stories and information sharing. (This initiative also has applications across all ESHIP Goals.) 4.5 NRP Network – Create a robust network of national and global resource providers for ecosystem builders to encourage coordination, collaboration, and communication. 4.6 Field Governing or Standards Bodies – Establish one or more intermediary organizations to develop shared governance approaches and standards for the field of ecosystem building.


Goal 5: Practical Metrics and Methods

Identify and develop better metrics and methods for ecosystem building. There are many metrics and methods in use in entrepreneurial ecosystem building, but they are not all widely adopted. In fact, many approaches are still emerging. Identifying effective practices for ecosystem building requires robust data, rigorous analysis, and room for experimentation. The ecosystem building process can be nonlinear and multidimensional, and there is a need for measurements that are responsive to complexity and change.

To advance metrics and methods for this field, we need more dialogue and stronger feedback loops between researchers and ecosystem builders. Collaborative research focused on developing the field of ecosystem building would allow the field to identify the principles and practices that are most effective for fostering successful entrepreneurship. Goal 5: Initiatives Prioritized by the community 5.1 Metrics Community of Practice – Create peer learning opportunities and a catalog of knowledge to help further identify, explore, and develop new metrics for measuring ecosystem health effectively. 5.2 Repository of Ecosystem Building Practices and Case Studies – Develop an accessible repository of ecosystem building practices, processes, and case studies. 5.3 Ecosystem Research Conference – Hold a regular conference to bring together and foster collaboration between practitioners and researchers interested in measuring and tracking entrepreneurial ecosystems.