6: ECAP Characteristics
“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” - Yogi Berra
Vibrant communities have a vision and goals. These are fundamental components to assist the community on a pathway to success. Successful entrepreneurial communities seek to make the process inclusive of all community members.
Communities with a vision are characterized by:
- Having a strong sense of purpose and identity
- Knowing who they are and who they want to be
- Possessing a strong commitment to the future
- Utilizing the community’s past as a springboard to the future, rather than being bound by it
- Communicating in an open and inclusive manner
- Creating opportunities for all community members
- Supporting innovation, encouraging entrepreneurial thinking, and embracing new enterprises
- Incorporating community sustainability into the vision
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy
Closely connected to the characteristic of community vision is culture of change. Two features of a culture of change are a strong determination to succeed and an inclusive attitude, giving everyone within the community opportunities for involvement. In these communities, people are passionate about the future and therefore, support innovation, embrace new enterprises, and value risk takers.
Communities with a strong culture of change:
- Are open to new ideas and opinions
- Possess a strong commitment to the future
- Know that their priorities are evolving
- Welcome new community members
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
Entrepreneurial community leaders are focused on improving the community’s economic and social well-being. Leaders must be open to new ideas. Each community will approach leadership development differently.
Communities with strong leadership:
- Cooperate to address issues affecting the community’s economic and social well-being
- Act collectively to create positive impact
- Value both youth and adult leadership development
- Identify and nurture potential leaders
- Incorporate innovation and entrepreneurial discussion into leadership training
- Educate leaders on how to build upon strengths and talents in the community
- Recognize and capitalize the specific skills, positions, and interests of community members
“Sense of place is the sixth sense, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together.” -Rebecca Solnit
All communities have characteristics that set them apart from others and make them unique and special. These characteristics help to define a community’s identity and create a “sense of place.” A sense of place is a feeling that a community is distinctive from other places.
The characteristics that create a sense of place:
- Serve as a point of pride
- Help create a sense of history
- Foster a sense of belonging
“This is our history - from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Hoover Dam, to the dredging of our ports and building of our most historic bridges - our American ancestors prioritized growth and investment in our nation's infrastructure.”
– Cory Booker
Entrepreneurial communities have the infrastructure, and access to the capital and credit necessary to build and maintain infrastructure, that makes them an attractive location for businesses to start and grow, and a place where individuals and their families want to live, work and play. Infrastructure provides the basic systems and services that allow a community to function, for the distribution of goods and services, and for businesses to develop and expand their markets. Entrepreneurial communities anticipate and plan for long-range infrastructure needs.
- Has desirable housing for a range of people and income levels
- Has updated and modernized educational opportunities
- Has amenities desired by a range of people and income levels
- Has health care services that provide adequate levels of care
- Has the transportation infrastructure necessary for travel and commerce
- Has the communications infrastructure needed by businesses and community members
“What turns me on about the digital age, what excites me personally, is that you have closed the gap between dreaming and doing.” - Bono
Digital connectivity is necessary for businesses, government, and individuals to complete the economic, civic, and social transactions of everyday life. Entrepreneurial communities make digital connectivity a priority, encouraging broadband connectivity, adoption, and usage.
Communities that are digitally connected:
- Possess adequate telecommunications infrastructure
- Acquire accessible, reliable, up-to-date, and affordable broadband
- Recognize the necessity of digital connectivity in economic development
- Promote technological literacy and access
- Deliver community services and information online
- Recognize the importance of connectivity in their community members’ quality of life
“Good entrepreneurs are community builders, actively involved with their communities, and dedicated to the community’s well being. If you're dedicated to your community, it will be dedicated to you.” –Robert Kiyosaki
Entrepreneurial support systems generate community-wide benefits. These systems have a transformative impact on economic development, by promoting collaboration, improving productivity, and increasing effectiveness. Other outcomes include: increased job creation, development of new businesses, growth of existing businesses, and improved overall quality of life. Entrepreneurial communities work to develop local entrepreneurs and to attract new entrepreneurs.
Components of an entrepreneurial support system:
- Networking and mentoring opportunities
- Educational programs and local knowledge base
- Access to financing and capital
- Recognition and support of entrepreneurial pursuits
- Public policy that encourages innovation and new enterprises
“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” – Marian Wright Edelman
A knowledge-based economy requires a well-educated workforce and the creative capital to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial communities recognize this and provide educational opportunities and chances to build creative capital. Entrepreneurial communities work to develop and attract new businesses, while also spurring innovation with existing businesses through research and design.
Educational opportunities include:
- Entrepreneurship education for youth and adults
- Business management skills
- Workforce education
- Career development
- Business succession education
- STEM education
Communication and the Characteristics
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May
Communication is an essential component of an entrepreneurial community. While not one of the eight characteristics, it is a fundamental part of every one of the characteristics.
If communication is limited during the ECAP process, there will be a lack of wide support and buy in to move any effort forward.
Quality of Life and the Characteristics
“I have realized after all these years that a city that has a good quality of life attracts jobs. People don't want to invest in places if there is no quality of life.” – Jaime Lerner
A high quality of life is a trait that all entrepreneurial communities possess. Although not specifically one of the eight characteristics, the notion of quality of life is intertwined with all of them.
Quality of life refers to the tangible and intangible amenities of the community that shape and benefit the lives of residents. Entrepreneurial communities in the attraction of new community members and the retention of current community members use quality of life to market their community.
Examples of quality of life amenities:
- Employment opportunities that provide a living wage.
- Affordable and appropriate housing
- Safe and secure places to live and operate a business
- Adequate and accessible healthcare
- Quality education
- Available facilities and opportunities for recreation, culture, etc.
- Efficient and effective government