Using the E3 Scorecard to Create Equitable & Productive ESO Ecosystems

This blog post is a summary of the AtA 2021 session, “Assessing Ecosystems: An Introduction to the E3 Scorecard” hosted by Fay Horwitt and Brett Brenton of Forward Cities.

The E3 Scorecard is an assessment tool created by the Forward Cities team aimed at measuring the health and equity of any given entrepreneur support organization (ESO) ecosystem. The name “E3” stands for Equity for Every Entrepreneur. The tool has been used across the world to provide communities with tangible action steps for increasing equity and entrepreneurial engagement.

After many years working with ESOs, Forward Cities realized that organizations that were healthy individually were reaching their growth ceilings when broader ecosystems weren’t functioning efficiently or equitably. Their research showed that equity was particularly hard to achieve in isolation due to systemic barriers to opportunity and funding. In order for women, people of color, and other minorites to thrive as entrepreneurs, healthy ecosystems needed to rise up to support them.

Thus, the E3 scorecard was born.

The scorecard helps individuals assess four main areas of a thriving ecosystem. Each of these four areas is then subcategorized into two sections.

People

Who are the key players in your regional ecosystem?

  • talent pipeline and mentors
  • champions and ecosystem builders

Programs

What events and convenings are hosted to bring together organizations within the ecosystem

  • Onramps and pathways
  • Intersections and conversations

Networks

What government and funding sources are available to the ecosystem?

  • policy and supports
  • capital and real estate

Narratives

How is data interpreted and what stories are being told about the ecosystem

  • metrics and learning
  • Identity and storytelling

After an organization (or many organizations that make up an ecosystem) completes the E3 scorecard, leaders will be able to see where the ecosystem needs help. Research has shown that networks and narratives consistently rank as the weakest areas of most ecosystems. This is often the result of siloed local governments, discriminatory policies, and lack of robust data. However, the E3 Scorecard makes these ecosystem gaps readily apparent, which can lead to quick and effective systems change. 

Finally, some participants ask why equity isn’t one of the four major areas of the E3 Scorecard. Forward Cities has an answer to that. They’ve discovered that equity occurs only when all parts of the ecosystem work together as a whole. Like a natural ecosystem like a forest or ocean, entrepreneur ecosystems are living, holistic entities. Our communities will be served best when we harness the incredible potential of our people, programs, networks, and narratives.

To learn more about the free E3 scorecard, take a self-assessment, and contact Forward Cities for a results debrief, visit their website here.