Engage, Engage, Engage!Currently, South Mountain Community College is participating in the Entrepreneurial College in Action Community of Practice with NACCE, The Coleman Foundation, and ten other colleges funded through the grant competition. Our project focuses on the first action step of NACCE’s Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge: Create or expand internal teams dedicated to entrepreneurship. To do this, we used Coleman funding to create an Entrepreneurship Advisory Council, which has developed a process to manage and provide venture funds to students to start micro-ventures after completing two prerequisite courses.
As South Mountain continues the path of the entrepreneurial college, I am continually reminded of the need and opportunity for engagement and looking for new “talent” and fresh ideas for your internal and external teams. Actually ‘reminded’ is a bit too mild. More like whack-on-the-side-of-the-head/right-cross-to-the-jaw. Ow!
To paraphrase the old cliché; there is no ‘I’ in entrepreneur. We are required, requested and presented with occasions for teamwork, collaboration, co-working, and engagement at all levels. Three engagements I continually see as important and valuable can be seen as concentric circles within the campus and surrounding community:
Engage the Community – yes, engaging the local entrepreneurs, small business owners, and those who want to be is both obvious and exciting. However, I try to look further and deeper. Phoenix, AZ, where South Mountain College is located, is very fortunate to have many others to engage in the entrepreneurial workspace: state and municipal government agencies involved in workforce development and economic gardening; SBDC, SBA, and others offering services, many free or low cost; incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces seem to be growing and opening weekly; and sister colleges and universities are competing and collaborating to push out both pedagogy and practical assistance.
Engage the College – as academic entrepreneurs, we follow the same path as any entrepreneur; try, fail, learn, grow, and fail again. Acceptance of failure and the learning that comes from it is sometimes not easy but necessary. I’m amazed and excited to engage with supportive colleagues across the entire campus who share their learning of trying and failing: from philosophy to counseling, student services to facilities. Yes, even the facilities folks are in the game and I’m glad! After all, who makes your campus work and look awesome? Engage to thank them and listen, you will likely be astounded by the lessons they bring forth.
Engage the Students – the last because the most important. The reason we exist. The heart and soul. The butts in the seat who pay tuition. Those we want to inspire and are inspired by. I’m so glad for the many opportunities to engage our students. The stories, the passion, the uncertainty, and the determination make it always worthwhile. I’m excited every time a student engages me to talk about their business or business idea.
Engagement is like a scavenger hunt; you never quite know what will turn up but always fun! When you are inclusive, you will gain best ideas and entrepreneurial thinking from often overlooked places. Having a diverse set of stakeholders at the table and driving conversations about your entrepreneurial programming helps ensure relevancy of your activities and resources to your community. Additionally, when you have all of the players in your community identified, you can start to leverage each other’s resources, bringing even more to the table than what you start with. Whom have you engaged today and what treasure have you found?NACCE/Coleman ECIA Community of Practice
Director, Community Entrepreneurship Center
South Mountain Community College