Last month, we convened the InBIA community to exchange best practices during the 3rd annual e.Builders Forum. The event featured workshops and robust discussions, and attendees were engaged in both gathering resources and brainstorming solutions throughout. Read on to find out more about the event and my top takeaways.
The e.Builders Forum was originally created in 2017 to:
- Explore strategic topics that are critical to the success of entrepreneurship centers;
- Enable the development of meaningful professional relationships; and
- Elevate best practices in leveraging entrepreneurship to catalyze community revitalization; especially for communities recovering from economic dislocations.
Designed for Practitioners
With these objectives in mind, the e.Builders Forum was designed to provide an immersive and highly interactive experience driven by the needs of its participants and the experiences of local practitioners. The e.Builders Forum is quickly becoming one of my favorite InBIA events and this year’s forum did not disappoint.
Held in Niagara Falls, New York, and hosted by InBIA member, the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, and the Council of the Great Lakes Region Great Lakes, this e.Builders Forum included 17 dynamic sessions and several community-building activities.
The sessions, half-day workshops and peer-to-peer roundtable discussions covered a full spectrum of issues faced by practitioners seeking to launch, grow, and sustain entrepreneurship centers within healthy and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The community-building activities, which, included tours of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, “dine arounds,” and a fantastic tour of the Niagara Falls, provided additional time for experience sharing and authentic relationship building.
As I reflect on the many learnings shared at the forum, I am struck by the enormous opportunity to transform emerging communities across the United States through entrepreneurship. Many of the forum’s discussions centered on the role that entrepreneurship center professionals can and should play in facilitating such transformations.
We need great storytellers
Many discussions highlighted the importance of telling the “story” of entrepreneurship centers. These stories need to appeal to both the “head” and the “heart” and will play critical roles in attracting key resources and partnerships necessary for success.
- Best practice: Shape your story from your customer’s perspective. Maintain a relentless focus on what your organization uniquely brings to your entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Collective action will be increasingly important
Several of the funders for entrepreneurship centers seek to optimize their investments by encouraging collective action at the community/city/regional levels. Enablers for collective action include, among others, transparency, authenticity, mutual respect, and trust-building. Increasingly, entrepreneurship centers will be measured and differentiated by their ability to master competencies that support collective action.
- Best practice: Find opportunities (client referrals, cross-promotion, advisory board service, collaborative projects, etc.) to build trust with other players within your entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Optimizing the community-enhancing benefits of entrepreneurship will require diverse, equitable and inclusive ecosystems
Similar to past e.Builders Forums, the discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion were enlightening. The opportunity to revitalize our communities via entrepreneurship is exciting, however, data shows that there is much work to do if we want to enable such prosperity across all stakeholders. There was a consensus among the attendees that each community’s journey towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem is more like a marathon than a sprint.
- Best practice: Being inclusive doesn’t stop at the end of your workday. Highly effective practitioners leverage opportunities to increase cultural competencies and expand networks in both their professional and personal lives.
Thanks to all who shared their experiences and insights. We look forward to expanding our horizons and reconnecting at our 34th annual International Conference on Business Incubation (ICBI34) this March 28 – April 1 in Boston, Massachusetts. Please visit the ICBI34 website to see what we have planned so far.