Entrepreneurial ecosystems are defined as a set of interdependent actors and factors coordinated in such a way that they enable productive entrepreneurship within a particular territory (Stam and Spigel, 2017). Like many other regions around the United States, Northeast Wisconsin wants to improve employment trends and develop policies geared toward a prosperous economy (Ward & Winters, 2004). The region believes that the model for future economic prosperity changed—the region must adopt a new model that builds a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem (Ward & Winters, 2004). This strategy serves as a catalyst for the development of several public and private entities and efforts that share a mission of supporting entrepreneurs. A primary focus of these entities and efforts is to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem with a number of different economic clusters. This economic cluster strategy receives growing attention in the region via startup accelerators, pitch contests, education initiatives, networking events, workshops, and conferences.
Schools also play a significant role in providing basic and specialized education for our future entrepreneurs. In this vein, this session uses the WorldCafé, a participative method, to explore what role schools play in helping to build Northeast Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The World Café is a creative process for facilitating collaborative dialogue and the sharing of knowledge and ideas to create a living network of conversation and action. In this process a café ambiance is created, in which participants discuss a question or issue in small groups around the café tables.Using large sheets of paper on each table, they capture their thoughts and ideas around topics and questions posted at each table. At regular intervals the participants move to a new table. A table host provides context and summarizes the previous conversation to the new table guests. Thus the proceeding conversations are cross-pollenized with the ideas generated in former conversations with other participants. At the end of the process the main ideas are summarized in a plenary session and follow-up possibilities are discussed. A very useful method is to have participants collaborate in creating a context map from the most important thoughts and ideas.