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Supporting small businesses to move forward

At last, it’s time for moving forward. 2020 is almost – mercifully – behind us. The challenges of this year will certainly not disappear at the stroke of midnight, but it does provide the opportunity to think about new directions. One of the Strategic Doing maxims is “don’t fix old systems; design what’s next.” That advice has never felt more timely – under the weight of the pandemic, the failure of old systems has revealed a tremendously vulnerable set of communities, institutions, and even nations. So what exactly is next? As we begin to look toward 2021, one imperative is crystal clear: supporting small businesses as we emerge from COVID-world, and nurturing new enterprises moving forward.

The number of businesses lost in the pandemic is staggering, and recovery will not be as simple as unlocking the doors of the shop, restaurant or office. Indeed, there are undoubtedly many more casualties to come before local economies come back to full operation.

The Agile Strategy Lab podcast focused on this topic last week in a conversation with New Mexico State University’s Lauren Goldstein. Lauren’s been involved with a number of groups supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs and has important lessons to share. Of particular note, her perspective is shaped by work in a quite diverse array of settings. Her first Strategic Doing efforts were with ICorps, a national effort funded by the National Science Foundatiom. ICorps targets university-developed innovation, helping teams that may include faculty and graduate students to move toward commercialization. While important, those kinds of ventures aren’t the bread-and-butter of small business startups in most communities. Here too, Lauren’s work provided insight –  she used the discipline in places very different from the university settings, including rural and Native American communities. As we get ready for 2021, we’re eager to explore the use of Strategic Doing to spur entrepreneurship in all kinds of places.

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Liz Nilsen