After such a challenging year, we asked our affiliates at our December Quarterly Conversation to identify and prioritize what they’d like to accomplish in 2021. We then discussed their plans for achieving their goals at our March Quarterly Conversation.
Identifying gaps, objectives and resources
SourceLink® emailed each affiliate a “Make a Plan: Take Action” worksheet a few weeks before meeting. Participants were asked to define the biggest gap in their entrepreneurial ecosystem, define their objectives and then jot down six things that would move them closer to their goal.
Zoom breakout rooms were created for the March meeting to address the most common goals:
- Engaging with your resource partners
- Working with private sector businesses
- Getting the word out/market outreach
- COVID recovery planning
- Incorporating diversity and inclusion in all activities
- Growing your SourceLink organization and the evolving roles of your team members
Affiliates could choose to participate in the group that most met their needs, and facilitators provided guidance for prioritizing action steps, setting milestones and listing mechanisms to measure success.
Sharing good ideas
Best practices for getting the word out were shared by Shelby Newsome from Sandhills Entrepreneurship Engagement Network (SEEN), who sends a social media toolkit to resource partners, allowing them to engage entrepreneurs about the network and bring exposure to their services. Jamie Bright from SourceLink Nebraska encourages affiliates to seek out libraries in their communities to promote and use the platform, especially because they serve as one of the key entry points for entrepreneurs who are just at the idea stage.
Before the meeting, Sandy Bishop outlined a few ideas about marketing Nicolet College’s new project, The GRID, and came to the discussion with a couple of questions about how to identify their target audience. With help from the group, she came away with an entire plan. “Things just clicked!” she said.
To achieve the goal of incorporating diversity and inclusion, Charolette Harris from the Business Development & Entrepreneurship Center of the Urban League of Cincinnati described how they create specific cohort and mentoring programs. The African American Business Development Program (AABDP) is an intensive six-month program designed for African American business owners who want to build sustainable and scalable companies, and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council of Ohio River Valley (ORV-WBC) assists women business owners build business relationships with major corporations and governmental agencies as well as with each other.
Growing their SourceLink organization is a goal for both veteran and new affiliates alike. Several groups discussed the idea of engaging community navigators to extend the reach of their SourceLink organization, especially across a large geographic area. Community navigators can also increase resource partner engagement and outreach to entrepreneurs! KCSourceLink, MOSourceLink and SEEN engage part-time contract employees to fill those roles.
Incorporating for-profit providers into the network of nonprofit service providers is a frequent challenge shared by affiliates. This group discussed developing sponsorship programs to help fund their organizations and engaging private-sector businesses to provide early-stage capital for entrepreneurs.
While affiliates continue working on identifying and filling gaps in their entrepreneurial ecosystems, some agree it’s difficult moving from individual entrepreneur support organizations to a collaborative, community-based model. Alexces Bartley from MOSourceLink suggested adding additional conversations with a deeper focus on how to involve resource partners in the process of identifying and filling gaps and solving problems in the ecosystem.
Quarterly Conversations are an exclusive benefit for affiliate members that take place in March, June, September and December. Each quarter the agenda includes topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network builders and is an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another. For more information contact Dara Macan at firstname.lastname@example.org.