Understanding Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Measurement Part 4: Strategic Reporting

This four-part series addresses why tracking and measuring the activity of your entrepreneurial ecosystem is crucial to its long-term sustainability and the economic success of your community. Part 1 of this series covers why measurement is important, Part 2 discusses what to measure, Part 3 provided insights into how to measure, and Part 4 delves into how to report your data to a diverse set of stakeholders. 

Part 4: Strategic Reporting: Effectively Communicating Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Metrics to Stakeholders 

As an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, reporting measurable results is one of your critical responsibilities. Communicating these metrics is not merely a task of data dissemination; rather, it requires the nuanced art of storytelling if you wish to engage and persuade your stakeholders.  

According to Maria Meyers, associate vice chancellor and executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center, successful storytelling requires a deep understanding of four key elements: (1) the audience, (2) your objective, (3) a message that resonates, and (4) appropriate delivery methods. Further, she notes, you must deliver your message multiple times. 

“You need to keep repeating yourself,” she stresses. “If you repeat your message for 18 months, the first person you told will finally hear you. So, figuring out what your story is and understanding that you’re going to need to repeat it for a while is very important.” 

Key Elements of Storytelling 

How do you tell a compelling story? Let’s revisit in more detail the four elements of storytelling Meyers says are key to making data relatable and fostering a deeper connection with your audience. 

1. Who’s the audience? Understanding the audience is the first step in crafting your narrative. The entrepreneurial ecosystem comprises diverse stakeholders, each with unique perspectives and interests. 

  • Treetops. Influential community leaders who can drive significant changes and support the ecosystem. 
  • Grassroots. The on-the-ground ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs who are directly involved in the day-to-day activities of the ecosystem. 
  • Funders. A broad category that includes local, state, and federal agencies, as well as private corporations and foundations. 

Each audience segment requires a tailored approach to ensure the message is relevant and engaging. 

2. What’s the objective? Identifying the objective of your report is crucial. Are you aiming to secure more funding, influence policy changes, or perhaps foster stronger engagement among resource partner organizations? Your objective will shape the narrative and determine the focus of your reporting.  

3. What’s the message? Tom Chapman, founder and principal of Chapman and Company and a longtime ecosystem builder emphasizes that once you’ve collected your data, “the question then becomes: What do you want to say to effectuate change with the data?”  

Clarity, conciseness, and repetition are key in communication. Determine the core message you want to convey and ensure it is consistently echoed throughout your reporting. As Meyers cautioned, it will take time for your message to be fully absorbed by your audience, so patience and persistence are vital. 

4. What’s the right delivery method? The choice of delivery method (see sidebar) can significantly impact the effectiveness of your communication. Whether it’s digital dashboards, comprehensive reports, or interactive engagement sessions, selecting the right platform is essential for connecting with your audience. 

Consider, for example, the delivery methods that might resonate with the following groups of stakeholders.  

Treetops. Reports might emphasize the ecosystem’s impact on regional economic development and innovation, presented in high-level briefings or executive summaries. These reports are designed to be succinct and straightforward, focusing on key metrics such as the state of capital, resource effectiveness, and the overall awareness of entrepreneurship within as well as outside the community. 

Grassroots. At the grassroots level, the strategy shifts to more direct and personal engagement methods. Social media, community networking, and physical presence in community spaces become vital tools for connecting with entrepreneurs. This approach acknowledges the continuous influx of new entrepreneurs into the ecosystem, which demands persistent outreach and visibility in spaces frequented by potential and existing entrepreneurs. The goal here is to ensure that every entrepreneur finds the right resource at the right time, emphasizing the importance of accessibility and relevance in ecosystem support. 

Moreover, the practice of sharing data with grassroots participants before higher-level stakeholders, is emphasized by Michael Carmona, senior director of MOSourceLink, because it ensures that those who contribute to the ecosystem’s success have a say in its narrative and future direction: 

“It is important to deliver data down [to the audience the data was extracted from] before delivering it up,” Carmona said. “This is a new practice that is being promoted, as it seeks to empower the folks involved in the data collection rather than extracting from them. In so many cases, we work to gather data and then report up to those who have contracted us (grantors, corporations, etc.), but we rarely allow the audience the opportunity to look at the data and plan for making decisions for themselves.” 

Funders. Tailored reports highlighting the return on investment and success stories can be effective, especially when seeking continued or increased funding. In many cases, funders will have their own forms they will require you to use to report the data you’ve collected. 

Storytelling Best Practices 

Once you begin to craft your story, keep these important elements of strategic storytelling in mind: 

  • Context. Deliver your data within the broader context of the entrepreneurial journey. Highlight milestones, challenges that were overcome, and the impact on the ecosystem. 
  • Human Element. Incorporate real-life anecdotes and success stories to give the data a human touch, making it relatable and even inspiring for stakeholders. 
  • Cause and Effect. Clearly articulate the cause-and-effect relationships between ecosystem initiatives and the measured outcomes, providing a roadmap for future strategic decisions. 
  • Regular Updates. Provide periodic reports to keep stakeholders informed of progress and changes. 
  • Feedback Mechanisms. Encourage stakeholders to provide feedback on reports so you can improve your future communications with them. 

A Tale of Two Cities’ Entrepreneurial Ecosystems 

In Kansas City, and Rochester, New York, ecosystem builders used data to tell stories that garnered support for plugging specific gaps in their entrepreneurial ecosystems. 

We Create KC. In Kansas City, UMKC’s Maria Meyers’ approach to addressing a diverse audience of stakeholders is an excellent example of effective customized storytelling. The “We Create KC” series of reports provides a comprehensive overview of the critical facets of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem without overwhelming the target stakeholder with excessive detail. 

For instance, the “We Create Capital” report in Kansas City highlighted not just the scarcity of capital but the lack of connections among entrepreneurs and investors. What was the result when this story was told and shared through the “We Create Capital” report? Strategic interventions that significantly improved capital flow within Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Meyers noted that despite their simplicity, “the jobs, capital, and corporate engagement reports and dashboards show how universities, investors, entrepreneurs, service providers, and community leaders collaborate to drive Kansas City towards a future that’s not only stronger and brighter but also more inclusive.” 

The printed “We Create KC” reports as well as dashboards created from them are accessible via the KCSourceLink website. 

The Resource Partner Enhancement Program. Meanwhile, in Rochester, New York, the data told yet another story: The resource partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem often faced the same challenges as the small businesses they served, hindering their ability to fully support those businesses. 

“We learned that entrepreneur support organizations have many of the same problems that small businesses have, including staffing and resource constraints, which impeded their ability to sustainably support small business growth,” said Dr. Lomax R. Campbell, now the founder and CEO of Third Eye Network, LLC and the interim CEO of REDCO, Nexus i90. “It also contributed to challenges like siloing and lack of clear pathways to support goal attainment.” 

As a result, the Resource Partner Enhancement Program (RPEP) was launched. It made $1.5 million in grants available to six entrepreneur support organizations and six organizational coaches to provide small businesses with case management support over 24 months. The organizations and coaches helped businesses identify funding and training opportunities, provided technical assistance, and offered business owners access to other resources that helped them expand their businesses and provide jobs that would grow the local economy. 

“The idea was to invest in the people who help people. It was as simple as that,” said Campbell. 

The End. Or a New Beginning? 

Strategic reporting in entrepreneurial ecosystems is an art form that requires a deep understanding of the audience, a clear objective, a compelling message, and the selection of appropriate delivery methods.  

By incorporating real-world examples and using innovative approaches to data selection and reporting, ecosystem builders can craft narratives that resonate with diverse stakeholders, driving engagement and fostering a thriving entrepreneurial community. When you use a narrative that tells a story, the reporting of ecosystem metrics can transcend mere numbers to become a powerful tool for change and growth within your entrepreneurial community. 


Using the tips in the primary article, ecosystem builders can choose a delivery method and craft a narrative that not only informs but also addresses the specific needs of diverse stakeholders and inspires and mobilizes them.  

Comprehensive Data Visualization 

Stakeholders appreciate seeing data presented in a clear and visually appealing manner. Using data visualization tools allows you to effectively communicate complex metrics. Charts, graphs, and infographics can distill information into easily digestible insights and convey key information succinctly.  

Customized Reports for Stakeholder Segments 

Tailoring reports to the specific needs and interests of different stakeholder segments is crucial for effective communication. Sophisticated stakeholders may have diverse priorities, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not resonate with every audience. 

Interactive Dashboards 

Interactive dashboards offer stakeholders the opportunity to explore and manipulate data in real-time, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement. These dashboards can be hosted online, allowing stakeholders to access the latest metrics at their convenience. 

Thought Leadership Publications 

Publishing thought leadership articles or white papers is an avenue for ecosystem builders to position themselves as industry leaders and share insights with a broader audience. This approach not only communicates metrics but also contributes to the leadership of the ecosystem. 

Stakeholder Engagement Sessions 

Conducting stakeholder engagement sessions, such as webinars or roundtable discussions, offers a platform for direct interaction. This format allows ecosystem builders to not only present metrics but also address questions, gather feedback, and foster a collaborative environment.