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Change often begins at the edges. It starts with just one voice — one idea that makes a difference. “Penny on the Edge” champions those who are willing to go first and challenges readers to think differently about how we grow our economies. This means understanding the intersection of entrepreneurship and economic development, along with the need to balance grow-from-within and traditional recruiting strategies. My intention is to provide ideas and support, make you laugh, and sometimes even annoy you as together we drive change from the edges.

Push the easy button: Measuring your ecosystem may be simpler than you think

When contemplating a move to Grand Rapids, I had lunch with Rick Baker, president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. “How do you like living here?” he asked our waitress. “I love it!” she gushed, as she explained all the reasons why she stayed in Grand Rapids. Rick asked the same question several more times that day, and the answer was always the same. These people loved where they lived!

Baby at computer-smallWhat would happen if you gave your community a pop quiz to determine their feelings? Would different industry sectors agree? Would the traditionalists feel the same as the change junkies? Would a waitress share the same love as a company CEO?

There is a great deal of discussion these days about quantitative metrics to measure an entrepreneurship ecosystem. But does it really have to be this difficult? Dan Isenberg, founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Platform at Babson Executive Education, says no. He agrees communities should measure the number of companies that are actually growing, but he’s putting his faith in what he has termed the Scale Up Growth Barometer™ which he describes as the perception of the climate for growth.

The Scale Up Growth Barometer, poses two questions:

1. Is [your region] a good place for growing a business? YES/NO 2. Is [your region] getting better or worse as a place for growing a business? YES/NO

Dan recommends targeting the business community and their perceptions because their perceptions are probably the most indicative.

Only time will tell if this method of measurement is effective, but Dan is positive: “We have piloted this with over 700 people in Milwaukee and Manizales, Colombia, where we have ongoing Scale Up projects, and I am convinced it gets to something real.”

As someone who believes a positive entrepreneurial culture — something you just feel in your gut — is the sustainable glue in entrepreneurship ecosystems, I find this concept of measuring exciting. If you’re willing to try a few pop quizzes in your community, we’d love to hear the results. Just shoot me an email.


Penny Lewandowski
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A thought leader in entrepreneurship and building an entrepreneurial culture, Penny Lewandowski is senior consultant of external relations at the Edward Lowe Foundation. She is a frequent speaker on new ways to think about economic development – especially how a grow-from-within strategy leads to thriving and sustainable economies. To send Penny comments,   click here.

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