By David Kraus

From its very inception, CO.STARTERS’ mission has been to help local grassroots leaders become more effective in their work for their communities. As we’ve pursued this mission, we’ve had the privilege to cultivate and foster an incredible community of like-minded individuals and organizations dedicated to improving their communities through entrepreneurship. Although we initially started as a nine-week program, we’ve slowing been evolving as an organization to be much more. Listening to the needs of our community and the shift in the national conversation from economic development to “ecosystems,” we need to recognize the uniqueness of each community and help ensure that every community gets what it needs to help starters thrive.

In our March community call, founder Enoch Elwell shared his vision of where we are headed.

Through his work across the country with a variety of organizations, he’s seen a theme of dissatisfaction with traditional economic development. In fact,  an apparent divide has arisen between traditional institutions and emerging grassroots leaders. This rift seems to originate in a misguided belief that traditional economic development, which Enoch summarized as “business launched, jobs created,” is the only answer. While this model may have proved effective in a general sense, it’s missing the bigger picture of people helped and communities healthy.

Due to the enormous growth of the CO.STARTERS community, we sit in a unique position—a bridge between grassroots, placemaking initiatives and traditional institutions. As such,CO.STARTERS provides the perfect test bed for innovation in how we think about entrepreneurial ecosystems.

As we move forward, we will grow in a few ways.

First, through a partnership with the Kauffman Foundation, we are working to identify the best resources from across the country. Our plan is to curate the best tools out there for supporting ecosystems and share them with our CO.STARTERS community.

Additionally, CO.STARTERS is seeking to accelerate our product development with new tools to address gaps identified by our communities. We’ll not only create our own programs and tools, but also work to help others share their proven tools more effectively.

Finally, though this idea is in the conceptual stage, CO.STARTERS is looking to play a more defined role in facilitating idea-sharing across communities. We want to act as a catalyst for the spread of your great ideas and successes.

Though these steps are only the beginning, we know that growth will take time. However, we are excited about the potential role CO.STARTERS will play in the helping shape the national conversation regarding entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic development.