This post was written by Charles Ross, InBIA’s President & CEO, for the Ecosystem Building Leadership Project.

What are the traits of a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem builder?  This was a question several of my colleagues pondered when exploring the possibility of an efficient and innovative learning infrastructure for entrepreneurship ecosystem builders. A few weeks ago, Tiffany Henry shared the work of a small team of practitioners, in support of the Ecosystem Building Leadership Project, which focused on the essential traits that differentiate between good and great entrepreneurship ecosystem builders. Check out Tiffany’s blog here 

In addition to identifying the essential traits of an effective entrepreneurship ecosystem builder, this project team is also surveying the field to understand the relative importance of each trait. From this work, several traits have emerged as “must-haves.” Earlier this week, Karl LaPan, shared reflections on one such trait, being a strategic connector, and today I would like to share my thoughts on another must-have trait, being community-focused.

What does it mean to be community-focused? The EBLP project team defined a community-focused entrepreneurship ecosystem builder as a practitioner who helps people, focuses on others (people and organizations), builds stronger communities, orchestrates connections, and brings people together. To “unpack” this definition and reflect upon the question, I was drawn to the book, Community: the Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block.  Here is what I learned:

  • Real change requires a group of people, communities, who trust each other and choose to cooperate for a larger purpose
  • Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness by providing structures for belonging
  • The role of leaders in community building is focused on three main tasks:
    • Creating a context that nurtures an alternative future, one based on gifts, generosity, accountability, and commitment
    • Initiating and convening conversations that shift people’s experiences, with an intentional focus on how we convene and the power of effective questioning
    • Listening and paying attention

I believe this is an excellent model for the work that is needed in communities across the globe to advance the practice of entrepreneurship ecosystem building. For most of our communities, entrepreneurship ecosystem building is a different way of thinking and doing that promises a future in which all entrepreneurs are equitably connected to the people and resources needed for success. To realize this future, the effective entrepreneurship ecosystem builder is tasked with bringing together a diversity of organizational leaders and individuals, shifting mindsets, and receiving commitments. In most cases, there is no hierarchy or formal authority to leverage and the fundamentals of community building are essential tools for creating the future that we desire. If you haven’t had a chance to read Peter Block’s book, I highly recommend it. 

Also, if you want to learn more about the EBLP and other projects to advance the field of entrepreneurship ecosystem building, please find more information here and join our online community.