Cover: Roles for City Governments in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Roles for City Governments in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

An Initial Exploration

Published May 18, 2023

by Elsie Harper-Anderson, Kelsey O'Hollaren, Susan M. Gates

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Research Question

  1. What roles do local policymakers play in establishing and supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems in specific cities across the United States?

To enhance the understanding of the role of local government in entrepreneurial ecosystems, RAND researchers reviewed available resources and interviewed local officials from six selected cities from February to April 2022. This research resulted in a description of four key roles local governments play in establishing and supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems: convener and agenda setter, policymaker, regulation navigator, and conduit. Each city approached these roles differently, sometimes working closely with partners or affiliates to fulfill them. Several local government actors undertake these roles, including mayors and their cabinet members, city council members, city administrative departments or offices, and city task forces and working groups.

Key Findings

The role that local governments play in entrepreneurial ecosystems is poorly understood. This exploratory report describes roles that local government actors play in the six cities that were the subject of this study.

  • Those roles can be organized into four categories: convener and agenda setter, policymaker, regulation navigator, and conduit.
  • City governments convene stakeholders from across the city to establish priorities for entrepreneurship and set an agenda for the government and other key ecosystem actors.
  • Informed by insights from convenings, city governments make policies and develop programs that support entrepreneurs in either starting or scaling their business.
  • City governments spend significant resources to aid entrepreneurs in navigating regulations to lower the barriers to running a small business.
  • City governments serve as a conduit for federal, state, and local (nongovernment) funding designed to support entrepreneurship and general economic vitality. In recent years, the massive inflow of COVID-19 stimulus funds dominated these efforts.
  • Several local government actors undertake these roles, including mayors and their cabinet members, city council members, city administrative departments or offices, and city task forces and working groups.

Research conducted by

Funding for this research by the Lowy family. The research was conducted within the RAND Lowy Family Middle-Class Pathways Center within RAND Education and Labor.

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