- Sessions & Learning
Many economic development organizations are actively working on equity and inclusion initiatives, but how do you effectively measure if the work is moving the needle in your community?
I had the opportunity to tackle this question alongside Kimber Lanning from Local First Arizona, Phoenix, AZ, Matt Scheffel from Chmura Economics & Analytics, and Cierra Clymer from REDI Cincinnati, OH, in a panel discussion at the 2023 IEDC Leadership Summit.
Kimber kicked off the session by talking about the metrics they use to track graduates from their impressive Fuerza Local Accelerator program, explaining that 82% of their 2022 graduates expanded their business! Kimber’s bottom line message: Listen to your community.
Cierra then joined the discussion and talked about how one of REDI Cincinnati’s Guiding Pillars is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She stressed the important role partners such as the Women’s Fund and Center for Research & Data have played in supporting this initiative and presented the framework for the regional scorecard, which includes internal metrics (growth, talent, housing, prosperity) and the cities that they intend to use as benchmarks.
Matt presented data on the rising importance of “diversity” and “DEI” in job posting data over the past decade and gave some examples of how measurements of DEI can be best applied.
My take on the topic was from the perspective of equitable entrepreneurship, which I define simply as breaking down barriers to business entry and growth and creating opportunities for anyone with an idea to pursue it.
62% of Americans have a dream business in mind. 41% would start it in six months if they could. But less than 2% actually do.
Source: SBA Survey
I talked about where to find, and how to use data, to identify and analyze the barriers faced by underrepresented businesses and entrepreneurs. The slides are provided below for anyone asking questions like:
- How do we rank on overall indicators of equity?
- Is the rate of business creation equitable?
- Is the distribution of small business loans equitable?
- How are our smallest businesses performing?
I closed the session by stressing that the best data is the data that you collect through business retention and expansion programs or other methods and provided some example metrics for tracking equitable entrepreneurship.
The best part of the session was the discussion that occurred after we finished our presentations. It’s clear that economic developers are not only talking the talk when it comes to DEI, but trying to walk the walk and, in doing that, are actively trying to find ways the best ways to track what’s working and what isn’t.
This is a critically important issue and we’re always on the lookout for best and emerging practices. If you are finding success in tracking your DEI initiatives and would like us to profile the work as a case study in the Navigator, please reach out to me — I’d love to connect!