Community leaders must effectively communicate to the public the importance of entrepreneurship as a community-based strategy for building community wealth. Community leaders must also remember that communication is a two-way street –public input should always be sought when making any decisions that impact the community to ensure public buy-in and participation. Below are some effective strategies for building public awareness of the importance of community entrepreneurship:
- Utilize the media: Newspapers, circulars, community newsletters, public access cable, and public radio can be effective vehicles for raising awareness of entrepreneurship challenges and opportunities, as well as for sharing stories of how and what community-entrepreneurial ventures have worked in other communities and regions.
- Organize a community entrepreneurship seminar or lecture series: Speakers bureaus, Cooperative Extension training programs, and workshops sponsored by business development and community agencies and organizations can build the public’s understanding of the importance of entrepreneurship as a community development strategy. These kinds of workshops can also seed ideas as to how the community can work together to pursue entrepreneurial ventures.
- Implement a community visitation program: Communities can organize a team of community participants to visit other communities to share what works and what doesn’t work in developing community entrepreneurial ventures. Participants in community visitation programs can also provide gentle critique of the other communities’ plans and activities, making community visitation a constructive experience for everyone involved. To see an example of a community visitation program, visit the University of Illinois Extension’s Community Swap Program website at: http://www.communitydevelopment.uiuc.edu/swap/
- Use case studies: Case studies are excellent tools for showing successful and sometimes not so successful ventures by businesses, communities, and organizations. Check the eXtension website for examples of case studies of what other communities have done.
- Develop Information Directories: Universities, agencies, industry, and non-profits often maintain listings of business and economic development resources available throughout their respective region or state.
- Provide hands-on trainings and workshops to community leaders: Cooperative Extension, Manufacturing Extension Programs, Business Incubators, Small Business Development Centers, and other entities, are often willing to sponsor and implement workshops to provide community leaders and business leaders with the skills and tools for strengthening economic opportunities at the community level.
- Hold community action-planning forums: Community forums can be a great way to bring community residents together to discuss future opportunities to strengthen entrepreneurship at the community level. Forums can also be used to develop action plans for pursuing entrepreneurial ventures.
- Incorporate principles of community entrepreneurship into K-12 curriculum: Although adults are often set in their ways, youth tend to be receptive to new ideas and concepts. By introducing youth to principles of entrepreneurship at an early age, they well develop stronger skills and understanding that may help them to start new ventures later in life.
- Invest in existing entrepreneurs: The best messengers to convey the importance of entrepreneurship as a strategy for building community wealth are the entrepreneurs themselves. By providing them with resources to be successful, communities are actually creating good messengers who can draw from real-life experiences to promote entrepreneurship.
- Focus on the successes, but learn from the mistakes: Success stories help invigorate new potential entrepreneurs, but focusing on success without pausing to learn from lessons of what has not worked can backfire. Potential entrepreneurs, although they need moral support, also need to know what they are getting into and ways of averting the potential pitfalls of owning your own business.
Prepared by Charlie French, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension