On September 21st 2016, the Innovation Institute, in concert with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development released a request for proposals for the creation of an entrepreneur mentorship Knowledge Sharing Network. The Knowledge Sharing Network will aim to better connect, engage, and cultivate the community of mentoring and related entrepreneurship support organizations across Massachusetts. As the level of activity around supporting entrepreneurs with mentoring and related services has increased across the state, the opportunity has grown for more practitioners and leaders on the ground to learn from each other, share resources, and collaborate around their programs to collectively strengthen entrepreneurship ecosystems statewide.
The idea for the Knowledge Sharing Network is based on several findings from the Institute’s work in mentoring. In 2015, the Innovation Institute interviewed a selection of collaborative workspace operators for the Special Analysis Section of its 2015/2016 Annual Index of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy. These interviews reinforced what the Institute had already heard from the field - that mentoring is viewed as a critical element of supporting entrepreneurs and is an activity that operators would like to pursue if they are not already doing so. In May 2016, the Innovation Institute convened an experts’ gathering of economic development practitioners from across the state who have successfully implemented at least one round of mentoring-related programming. They shared perspectives on the value of sharing ideas, competencies and resources among mentoring organizations, a strategy they viewed as key to increasing effectiveness and impact for entrepreneurs.
A clear takeaway from these engagements was that the ability to share knowledge and experience among mentoring organizations was both a critical value-add and a still under-utilized resource. The purpose of a new Knowledge Sharing Network is to address this unmet opportunity and advance the practice of entrepreneur mentoring in the Commonwealth.