The Immediate Goal for Our Fourth Meeting Was: Create the connective tissue or common language to improve referrals, decrease duplication and increase overall effectiveness among our participants who represent leadership a variety of stakeholders in the Phoenix entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Action Steps we took: Discussion on models of entrepreneurial ecosystems and how they apply to our local economy. Participants can label where their organizations fall on the map.
Then we can identify understanding gaps between our participants and find service gaps in our ecosystem that the group can then create initiatives to address.
During this meeting we introduced the 6 pillar model used by Women’s Business Council and had participants started labeling where their organizations fell. Women business owners in the room provided critical feedback on their perception.
- Further discussion on the 6 pillar model to increase understanding.
- Adding the specific challenges that we identified in previous meetings and placing them on the pillar model.
- Individual organizations identify how they specifically address the challenges listed in their pillar.
- Group discussion on where organizations placed themselves on the model.
The 4th meeting of our community collaboration may have been a turning point for our group.
Once again, the room was full stakeholders from across Phoenix’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We had women starting businesses, women running established growing firms, representatives from networking associations, economic development agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Our attendance once again grew, including a record number of registrations and pre-meeting outreach. We had our first facilitator, Stacy Harris with Social Innovation, lead the conversation. Our agenda was a combination of both updates and discussion on the structure or our group and we started work on the internal building blocks that will allow us to take action in our community.
Within the first 90 days we established who we are as an organization. After over 100 one on one meetings, several hundred emails, three meetings of group discussions, extensive research on national best practices and research, we have created a unique organization to meet the needs of our community. We now have a description of who we are, what we want to achieve, a structure for participation and we created a sustainable model to ensure maximum collaboration and the ability to take action.
During the meeting I presented the model and what we have created to date (WhatISEmpoweredPhXX). Now, as a group, everyone is pitching in to refine our language and ensure that the values of our group are woven into every aspect of our organization. If you haven’t seen our description and model, take a look and provide your input.
We also established some communication standards, including regular online communication to keep everyone in the loop, a monthly meeting the second Friday of each month and a unique introduction process to all organizations to practice articulating their economic impact for women business owners.
We have identified 3 major initiatives needed immediately to fill gaps in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Everyone who is part of this initiative already has a lot on their plate. They don’t need more however action does need to be taken when the group identifies critical needs. I (Kristin Slice) and Empowered Lab Communications have stepped up and will be responsible for fundraising and executing the initiatives that the group identifies. We are currently looking for funding to ensure these initiatives will be done effectively and with a caliber needed to create impact.
Discussion during the meeting again reiterated the need for economic impact data that still communicates the values of women business owners and engages all members of the community. The group wants to improve the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating economic impact for women but we need to involve diverse voices in the conversation and communicate how helping women business owners really opens resources to a wider, more diverse, more sustainable stream of entrepreneurs as well.
Finally, we voted on a new NAME! Moving forward we will be called ….drum roll please….Empowered PhXX. Thank you to everyone who submitted names and feedback.We will be using the hashtags #ThisisPhXX #EmpoweredPHXX as well as #PHXX.
The first couple of meetings everyone could feel the excitement of being part to something new. Now we have to get down to business. Now the hard work begins.
There has been a great group of women that have stepped up to help facilitate and the answer to the million dollar question, “How do we move forward?” We looked at national best practices around collaboration, incorporated the feedback from the group and created a plan.
To achieve the goals we have a two prong approach.
Goal Setting for Empowered PhXX Participants
As leaders in our community we have to ask what are WE willing to do first and demonstrate leadership. How can we make small changes to strengthen the efforts within the organizations that each of us lead? Every stakeholder in this group plays a part in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over the last 4 meetings we have introduced new research, best practices and articulated challenges that allow us to be more specific in our efforts to economically empower Phoenix women business owners. Now we have to continue those discussions and start applying that information.
I will start with my own personal examples:
1.) As the program chair for NAWBO Phoenix I select the speakers at our luncheon. For our future programs I am going to select speakers that specifically speak to a research proven challenge that women business owners continue to struggle with.
2.) As a business owner, I am going to share my personal experiences around starting a business with more honesty and authenticity AND be able to articulate the economic impact I create through my business.
As you can see, they don’t have to be clear quantitate goals yet. We just want to start actively applying our discussions to the activities within our organizations. Not only will this strengthen the ability for our organizations to perform but they will also help move our community forward.
Collaboration Among Empowered PhXX Participants
We want our efforts to be a true collaboration between all of the stakeholders in the ecosystem. Previously, “collaboration” in Phoenix has meant: you invite people to my event and I will promote yours. We have to change this dynamic.
The first challenge we are going to tackle in our meetings is to address the internal communications gap between the participants that we have around the table.
We have received similar feedback consistently about the most urgent need of our participants. That feedback can be summarized, pretty simply:
Phoenix Women Business Owners: There are not enough resources.
Economic Developers and Resources: We need more qualified participants.
So as you can see, we have a very clear communications gap. When you add in that there are over 90,000 women business owners and 480 resources and networking groups for women business owners, we know that an actual “lack” is not the problem..
I am proud to say that we have already gotten really positive feedback. By simply attending our meetings people are forging powerful connections with the leaders within the women business owner community and have gained additional exposure to all of the resources that are available.
We know that it is not enough. Other “collaborations” have failed in the past because they rest on meetings as the mechanism to ensure true collaboration.
We have to develop a common language. The reality is you can shake hands and exchange cards and still really never understand how to truly access the support that organization offers business owners. Or women business owners can try and access those resources and run into fundamental challenges that are not being addressed. Until we communicate in an honest way using the same language we can never address these issues.
So that is why we introduced the 6 Pillar Model as a common tool to help all of our stakeholders gain an understanding of how everyone works together and the overall bigger picture. It gives us a common language to start with. Over the next several meetings we will continue to use this model to develop our common language.
Again the goals:
- Increase effective referrals between all the stakeholders in the community to proper resources and networking groups for women business owners.
- Identify gaps that may exist between resources and the challenges women business owners face.
- Give leaders an accurate and powerful resource list to help them increase impact and credibility in their network.
After the meeting I had participants describe these two insights they had during the meeting.
1.) There is a difference between saying that you support this pillar (or aspect of women business owners growth) and having programs and resources that people can actually access. Having women business owners at the same table as the resources, forces the honest conversation of yes but how do I access that support. Which I think could be an incredibly profound question in the future.
2.) The closer you are to the middle of the circle the less likely people are to really understand what you do and provide referrals. Yes, we all have multiple facets to our organizations. If women business owners are your target these group discussions are providing some great feedback on how everyone can further the discourse in our community beyond “we help all women”.
So at our next meeting. Come prepared to answer:
What pillar does your organization fall under?
I encourage you to be specific and honest. Do you currently have specific activities that address that issue or is it part of your mission and maybe it has fallen by the wayside. That is okay! No organization is perfect but we have to have an honest conversation about what resources actual exist out there right now.
That includes women owned businesses! While your presence and feedback is critical I also want you to understand that you play a critical role in our ecosystem, plus most of you also serve as leaders in a variety of organizations. I encourage you to think about how you lead those organizations towards greater impact as well.
If you were not able to join us, where does your organization fall? Take a look at the pillar model, do you think these pillars represent all of the aspects of our ecosystem that need to be addressed?
Join us for our next meeting and be ready to address how you fall into the Pillar Model and what your experience of how OTHER organizations currently support the pillars as well.
December 11th at 8:00am at SkySong ASU. Registration is open. Register Now
Also, we have had some request to push our meeting till 9:00. If you have feedback on that please let me know.
In two weeks, I will be publishing a separate blog about Empowered PhXX and our logistics updates, including our progress on the external initiatives that we are addressing. So keep your eyes open for that blog!