How collective data and storytelling can lead to lasting impact for underserved entrepreneurs

For the better part of the last decade, our field has greatly evolved. The concept of building networks of support, or what has sometimes been referred to as, forging “entrepreneurial ecosystems”, has been a key focus for many advancing the idea that innovation and entrepreneurship will be the future of not just our recovery- but the necessary inclusive pathway for economic advancement and wealth building for all.

Recently we celebrated a significant milestone with the realization of a new IEDC credential for entrepreneurship-led economic development; the largest investment in collaboratively driven entrepreneurship support from the SBA during my lifetime, and soon the EDA will be contributing additional resources for many local communities as part of the Build Back Better challenge that is about to come online.

Wow – what a pivotal moment!

We are living in an unprecedented period of economic transformation and this is a chance for us all to be thoughtful about how these newly infused funds will be used to benefit underserved small businesses in our local communities, long-term. We must consider how these new support networks can be leveraged to show collective impact and attract sustainable and long-lasting local funding beyond the initial COVID-19 response and cash infusion from our Federal Government. This is the only way communities will be able to make lasting impact and help diverse entrepreneurs and small business owners overcome ongoing systemic barriers to success.

I’d love to see more national and local partners and leaders talk about how their implementations of these new and expanded programs will accelerate local entrepreneur success. The SourceLink℠ team will be monitoring this grand experiment, especially as it concerns the SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program, to understand and communicate successes and challenges. We should all seek to equip Hubs and local leaders with best-in-class lessons learned, and encourage conversations around sustainability, impact and inclusive development that results in positive outcomes for all. Ultimately, our field will be well served to use this program as an opportunity to champion our local makers, doers, dreamers and believers as we all work to create a new economic future through entrepreneurship.

As we begin this exciting journey, our SourceLink team will lead by sharing how several of our partners are rolling out their Community Navigator Pilot Programs; specifically, our amazing partners at the National Urban League, The GRID, Forward Cities, New Bedford SourceLink, and Nexus i90 . SourceLink will be working closely with these groups not just to power their data collection efforts as Hubs, but surrounding this cohort with opportunities to learn from one another on a quarterly basis. We plan to share what we see emerge with you all, our fellow ecosystem builders who are as passionate about this collaborative service delivery model for entrepreneurship development as we are.

At times, we may get into the weeds with tactics, or nerd out on collective impact data, but this is part of the joy of this journey which we are about to embark on. My hope is that you will join us on this adventure; share what you hear and help us celebrate the successes of your hub/spoke networks such that we might all advance entrepreneurship across our country, build our field, and keep this important work going well beyond the two-year SBA grant cycle.

We’re always open to starting a conversation and would welcome your thoughts at [email protected].