Deep Conversations Can Change The Future Of Inclusive Entrepreneurship
25 April 2018 - Impact Hub

We’ve just completed week 7 in Impact Hub Seattle’s Communities for Change program. This program is hosted simultaneously in several Impact Hubs and is a joint effort with the Presencing Institute, read more herehere and here. Here’s a sample of what the program took us through over the past few weeks: listening exercises, journaling, a visit to local communities (with our participants from MercyCorpsHacknationAfrican Women Business AllianceEl Centro de la Raza, and What’s Next Washington), a session where we built new systems with play-doh, and finally into prototyping.

In Seattle, we are focused on ‘inclusive entrepreneurship’. Why? Well, economic success is built on the courage, passion, and persistence of local entrepreneurs who create the small businesses that generate opportunity, jobs, money, and power in our neighborhoods and communities. But systemic bias, poverty, and social and economic isolation make it significantly harder to foster local business ownership in communities of color. The impact is dramatic and devastating—according to research from the Case Foundation, without these barriers, we’d have 1 million more minority-owned businesses in the United States, and nearly 10 million more jobs.

Over the past few weeks, we learned how complex this challenge really is. We noticed our tendency to go in and want to ‘fix’ things, how we often only listen to what we already know, and how overwhelming our social challenges can be –  but above all we learned how powerful and enriching it is to have deeper conversations than we usually have. That’s when you notice there’s a different approach to solving problems – and the ability to do that is present in all of us.

The trick is, how do you build prototypes for inclusive entrepreneurship from that understanding? That’s what we’re doing in weeks 7 and 8 of our program. We asked ourselves, ‘what is coming up for me right now?’ and ‘where do I want to take it from here?’ and quickly identified that we have several themes in common to work on. These included youth, storytelling and empowerment, foundation & facilitation, bridging, community building and community action. Notice how these ideas could contribute to existing approaches to support entrepreneurs: teaching how to write a business plan, hosting a pitch competition, or exploring funding opportunities.

A system that inherently does not provide equal opportunity to all does not change overnight and is not something you plan for and implement – because we don’t know what the solution will be. Prototyping essentially takes us one step in the right direction by putting something tangible out there that helps us to keep learning. Our week 8 will take us there: what tangible experiment can we make up that will help us test our assumptions about how this system changes?