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Ecosystem development: what’s the magic ingredient?

Do you know the magic ingredient for healthy ecosystem development?

As Strategic Doing efforts grow, they leave the realm of individual projects and the work begins to take on the shape of a ecosystem – an interconnected set of people, organizations, policies, sometimes even buildings – all aiming at a transformed organization, community or region. The Strategic Doing approach still serves as the operating system for transformation, but things begin to look a bit different. For starters – where are the edges of that ecosystem? Those boundaries seem very blurry, and might extend far away geographically.

Like the biological systems on which the concept is based, ecosystems need all kinds of assets for health. In nature, those might be sunlight, water sources, soil nutrients, and a balance of species all along the food chain. What will your ecosystem need? Some needs may be obvious, others will not emerge until you’ve been working together for a while. But to return to the nature example, there’s one critical component missing: oxygen. Unless you work on space exploration with NASA, it probably escaped your notice.

Is there an equivalent for our ecosystem work? Yes, and it can be equally invisible. Yet, when ecosystem efforts fail, its absence is probably a key factor. It’s “culture” – that set of beliefs, attitudes, and customs that distinguish an organization or a community/region. Some organizational or regional cultures set us up for success, while others make for hard sledding. Fortunately, Strategic Doing is a set of skills and ways of working together that can either accelerate efforts in a welcoming culture – or can begin to re-set culture so that the ecosystem work can make progress.

In this week’s podcast episode, Andy Stoll from the Kauffman Foundation talks about entrepreneurial ecosystem development, the role that culture plays, and the value of Strategic Doing in building strong entrepreneurial ecosystems. AS we begin to look past the pandemic and contemplate re-building ecosystems, a healthy culture of collaboration can help us tackle the task.

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Liz Nilsen