|Over the last dozen years, I have worked for and with organizations that were building entrepreneurial ecosystems and generally helping individuals pursuing their ambition to launch and grow companies. From my work within the United States, I noticed two institutions that were significantly underappreciated for the work they do to strengthen the U.S. economy; Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and our nation’s Community Colleges.
CDFIs work in low-income communities, urban and rural, by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses. They enable activity of economic potential for people that would otherwise not be served by banks and other commercial lending sources. Especially in rural communities, they are at times the only entity serving the financial product needs of individuals. Their under-the-radar role in economic development is undeniable.
Similarly not top-of-mind is the community college. Unlike our great universities that can be selective in admissions (academically and financially), the community college serves most that apply; with significantly lower academic requirements and financial burden. In addition to being a cost effective hedge for students obtaining transferrable pre-requisite credit hours in furtherance of undergraduate degrees from 4-year institutions, community colleges serve a very practical service of workforce development. They are a community garden version of training, continuing education, and professional development; in contrast to the gated arboretum that are many of our universities.
“If you want to understand the economic landscape in any given community, just ask the president of the local CDFI or community college.”
I have seen these two organizations do remarkable things in service to their communities. For that reason, I am excited to announce a partnership opportunity with the Foundation, to launch an ambitious effort to provide entrepreneurial mindset education to as many North Carolinians as possible.
Working with some of our state’s great CDFIs and Community Colleges, we will be broadly supporting a statewide roll out of the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program (IHEP); an experiential, problem-based program designed to inspire and engage learners in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset while immersing them in entrepreneurial experiences that will enable them to develop creativity and critical thinking, effective problem solving, teamwork, and other entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to succeed regardless of their chosen path.
IHEP is a program I launched whilst at the Kauffman Foundation. It was the product of a two-year analysis and effort to address the gap in MINDSET education; namely, the underlying beliefs and assumptions that drive the behavior of successful entrepreneurs. Within a broad universe of available entrepreneurship education programs, the IHEP could be considered a pre-requisite for most training programs; like, the REAL Entrepreneurship program available throughout NC Community Colleges or Kauffman FastTrac.
As you can imagine, there are many logistics that still need to be worked out. We are currently talking to partners (community colleges and CDFIs) across the state to figure out HOW we will make this program available as broadly as possible. But we also want to hear from YOU, other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystems of North Carolina, to help us empower as many people as possible with an entrepreneurial mindset.
So, if you are interested in supporting this statewide effort, please let us know.
President & CEO
NC IDEA FOUNDATION