NEO Collegiate Entrepreneurship Landscape Assessment

Phase 2 Summary

Last fall, Burton D. Morgan Foundation shared a summary of Phase 1 of our Northeast Ohio collegiate entrepreneurship landscape assessment: work we conducted with guidance from Chris Thompson of Civic Collaboration Consultants. Phase 1 captured more than 140 voices across Northeast Ohio, including those of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and program partners. All these individuals are in some way connected to the collegiate entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem and we believe their perspectives were critical in painting an inclusive and representative picture of the ecosystem’s needs.

The Phase 1 summary post offered a glimpse into our anticipated next steps, indicating a need for further exploration around Regional and Capacity themes. Phase 2 of this work, which commenced earlier this year, is focused on just that: envisioning possible regional coordination models and examining how current shared resources and collaboratives operate within the ecosystem. Fundamental to this is the idea of a central coordinating entity to assume administrative oversight for regionwide initiatives, resources, and programming.

For Phase 2, we continue working with a subset of the Phase 1 audience: primarily, the faculty and staff most directly engaged in current regional collaboratives. To conduct this work, we have retained The Osgood Group (TOG), a Cleveland-based management consulting firm that helps nonprofit organizations, private schools, public sector clients, and socially-focused businesses improve performance, effectiveness, and sustainability.

With sincere thanks and appreciation to TOG for their guidance, and to our collegiate partners who have offered their time and perspectives thus far, we are pleased to present this status update on Phase 2 progress to-date:

Entity Partner Interviews: TOG conducted interviews with representatives of the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium, JumpStart Higher Education Collaboration Council, and the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund. These “Entity Partners” represent existing regional collaboratives, all of which may be transformed by the outcomes of Phase 2, so it was important to gather their perspectives and input on Phase 2 up front.

Comparative Model Analysis: TOG and the Foundation compiled a list of organizations to examine as comparable models for the envisioned central coordinating entity. TOG conducted a deep-dive analysis of these organizations that covered leadership and governance models, legal structures, staffing structures, operating budgets, membership models, programming, measurement and evaluation methods, and more.

Key Features and Functions Blueprint: a preliminary outline of key features and functions of the central regional entity was developed. A core function of the entity would be coordination and oversight of regional programming, resources, and initiatives that surfaced throughout Phase 1 and the comparative model analysis. These include regionwide convenings to facilitate networking and inter-institutional learning; a shared mentorship network; legal and capital resources; a website to serve as a knowledge and resource hub with an ecosystem events calendar; professional development offerings; pathways connecting to the youth and adult ecosystems; award and recognition initiatives; and ecosystem-wide goals and outcomes. 

Facilitated Group Session: the above work occurred in just a little over a month, and by the end of March, we were ready to bring the larger group of our stakeholders together. TOG facilitated this virtual convening, which provided a recap of Phase 1 findings; an overview of the Phase 2 vision, process, and work to-date; and in-depth conversations around the vision and design of the central regional entity. This session resulted in important learnings, including broad support for the concept of a central regional entity with the need to further define key features and functions; aspirations for the central regional entity to serve as a convenor, connector, resource and information hub, and storyteller; a desire to leverage and re-position existing regional collaboratives (the Entity Partners) rather than create an entirely new entity; and the importance of identifying diverse funding sources for the entity. Other insights surfaced around the session design, format, and audience participation, allowing us to take a step back and reconsider how to best engage the group moving forward.

Pause: as TOG and the Foundation considered the feedback from the facilitated group session, we took a brief pause throughout the month of April to revise our process and project plan.

Advisory Group: to engage our stakeholders more effectively, we assembled a small Advisory Group to work with us between larger group engagements to inform optimal design and format of those touchpoints. Our goal is to provide a platform where all institutions feel comfortable voicing their opinions and perspectives to help design a central regional entity that represents and is accessible to all institutions. The Advisory Group can offer firsthand perspective on the best ways to do this.

Discussions are currently underway with the Advisory Group, and we value their guidance in determining our next steps. Phase 2 is anticipated to conclude in late 2021. We look forward to continuing to provide progress updates in the meantime.