Best Practices

Five Tips for SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program Awardees

Published Nov 15, 2021 by Rob Williams

resized pexels-valentin-antonucci-691637


Congratulations to all the grantees awarded funds to participate in the SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program. You are embarking on work that is critical to building back inclusive and more resilient communities. We are excited to see so many in our SourceLink℠ network become hubs and/or spokes, and eager for this program roll out as it mirrors our own philosophy of building collaborative networks of entrepreneurship and small business owner support.

At SourceLink, we have been providing organizations receiving federal funding with best practices around building inclusive ecosystems of support. Additionally, we have a customer relationship management system called SourceLink Pro to track and easily report economic impact. With Pro, our partners have been able to comply with SBA EDMIS-NG requirements, meet HUD requirements, and even streamline complex EDA Build to Scale (formerly Regional Innovation Strategies i6 Challenge) reporting

Although the SBA has indicated that EDMIS will not be the standard used, it is important that hubs develop a standardized process for administrative ease so that everyone can focus on the important work of supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Here are our five key tips to guide how you develop your model.

  1. Hire and/or Assign a Hub Data Navigator – someone who will be able to set protocols and put procedures in place with all the Spokes. As part of this process, they should immediately audit and inventory what each Spoke can collect, cross check this with guidance from the SBA and work with Spokes to fill gaps that may exist.

  2. Related to the first key tip, assign a Key Data Navigator at each Spoke to help with Spoke staff questions and support and who can provide ongoing training. As a Hub, you do not want to be responsible for supporting 50 employees of various organizations; rather, you should aim to build a network of experts that you regularly bring together to discuss requirements and be the first line of support for each of the respective Spokes. They will also serve as the key points of communication for the Hub Data Support Navigator to interface with and disseminate information that will likely change before the end of the year.

  3. Research and Select a Trusted Technology Partner to accelerate your data collection, compliance, and reporting requirements. This partner should be able to securely collect data you gather from each Spoke organization, and report in a streamlined way to the SBA.  Some questions to consider:
    • How do we avoid client duplication?
    • How will, and in what format, will client data come in?
    • In what format, and how, will client data be aggregated and reported?
    • Who will manage compliance; are there systems in-place to validate the data?
    • What is the frequency of information coming in? Will there be a lag in collection that may impact SBA reporting?
    • Do we have a process that will afford real-time reporting across custom dates and/or only generate impact quarterly?

  4. Keep channels of communication open and frequent with SBA staff. Remember, they are managing one of the largest SBA grant programs ever created(!) to support entrepreneurs. Having your Hub Data Navigator build a close and trusted relationship with your SBA point of contact, your Spokes, and technology vendor (if applicable), will be a MUST and will serve you well through this two-year grant cycle.

  5. Don’t do it Alone! Reach out to your fellow Hubs to find out how they are approaching this work. Contact our SourceLink team to talk through your challenges or concerns. We are here to help.

If you have questions about metrics and measurement or would like to learn more about SourceLink Pro feel free to contact Dara Macan, dmacan@joinsourcelink.com or schedule a time to connect.


SourceLink Rob Williams

Rob Williams is the director of SourceLink where he puts the “serve” in customer service, always available as support to SourceLink clients who are often the unsung entrepreneurial champions in their communities.