2022 Inclusive Ecosystems
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Knowledge Creation and Research Strategy focuses on supporting projects that generate practical, actionable, and rigorous evidence to inform decision making and create systems changes needed to ensure individuals have the opportunity to achieve economic security, mobility and prosperity. This work supports the goals of strengthening entrepreneurs and communities through more supportive environments, including policies, practices and programs for entrepreneurs.
CONTEXT & FUNDING OPPORTUNITY
At the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, we work toward inclusive prosperity by supporting entrepreneur-focused economic development. This involves helping communities build inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems: communities where individuals — regardless of their race, gender, or geography — can more readily access the resources, supports, and connections necessary to start, sustain, and grow a business. This work has raised important questions and opportunities for research. Entrepreneurial ecosystems exist within, and are shaped by, a broader social context that impacts quality of life for individuals within communities. Historical and contemporary factors — such as structural racism, persistent gender discrimination, and disparate access to education and opportunity — have created and sustained inequities. Understanding how systems and structures shape entrepreneurial ecosystems — and the experiences of individuals who live within them — is vital. A research lens is necessary to better understand questions such as: How is entrepreneurial opportunity shaped by these structures? Who is benefiting from existing entrepreneurial supports, and who is left behind? How can ecosystem participants and leaders shape and maintain communities where entrepreneurial opportunity is truly attainable regardless of race, gender, and geography? What role do entrepreneurs play in their communities, and how do they and their businesses impact community wellbeing and inclusive prosperity? With this funding call, the Foundation aims to bring research attention to valuable on-the-ground work, connect research with practice, and create tangible change in entrepreneurial ecosystems across the Heartland.
The Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems RFP intends to engage researchers and communities in examination of how structural issues shape equity and opportunity in entrepreneurial ecosystems. Specifically, we solicit research projects that explore structures and systems that shape entrepreneurial ecosystems in the four Heartland states — Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. Project teams will be asked to develop research-driven case studies that analyze the structures that comprise equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems, and they will also work with Foundation staff to develop templates and tools for assessing equity in ecosystems. Ultimately, this will provide practical, actionable insights for individuals and community leaders who are working to ensure greater inclusivity in support for entrepreneurs. We invite proposals from teams located within the Heartland region who propose a case study on a community or region within one of the four Heartland states. Community-engaged research teams are required. This 3-year grantmaking initiative has up to $2 million in funding available and is soliciting proposals that demonstrate the intended objectives of this program, including:
- Holistic focus on the systems and structures that shape entrepreneurial ecosystems. In alignment with our Inclusive Prosperity framework, the Foundation aims to deepen understanding of how the systems and structures that shape communities and quality of life also shape entrepreneurial opportunity. Specific areas of interest for this RFP include:
- The role of place and widening geographic inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic — and the attendant rise in remote work — has deeply impacted many Americans’ choices about where to live. Plus, the slowed return of many workers to urban cores has created challenges for entrepreneurs serving those who work in downtown business districts. Meanwhile, suburban communities grapple with auto-centric urban design, the influx of ex-urbanites, and lack the walkability that many firms gravitate toward. How do unevenly distributed assets in urban or rural infrastructure impact entrepreneurial opportunity? How do perceptions of community safety and quality of life indicators for historically underserved individuals impact the geography of business formation? And what are the impacts—on a cultural and community level—of economic growth?
- Equity, diversity and inclusion work, in practice. Increasingly, communities are working to increase representation and support of diverse entrepreneurs. For example, through diversifying civic boards and commissions, offering tailored support for Hispanic, Black, and immigrant entrepreneurs, and targeting start-up capital, communities are rising to meet the needs of historically underserved entrepreneurs. What are we learning about the efficacy of such programs and structures? How are they operating on the ground? Are we creating sustainable structures that positively impact entrepreneurs of color over the long term? How do broader systems of inequity — and pervasive discrimination — affect entrepreneurs of color, even if/as they receive targeted support from municipalities?
- Structures of entrepreneurship and impact on inclusive prosperity. Many entrepreneurs are rethinking the relationship between business and community. For example, through emerging models of employee-ownership and worker cooperatives, insistence on adherence with ethical business measures (such as living wages, ethical purchasing, and fair tax policy), and recognition of ecological and social limits on business growth. What are we learning about the role Heartland entrepreneurs play within their communities? How are entrepreneurs impacting social and ecological contexts within the communities where they start, sustain, and grow their businesses? Are Heartland entrepreneurs developing business models that contribute to inclusive prosperity and community wellbeing — and if so, what are we learning about their journeys?
- Generate practical, actionable, and rigorous evidence around inclusive ecosystem building. Research-driven guidance is needed on how inclusive and equitable Heartland ecosystems can be built and sustained. Successful applicants in this RFP will work with Foundation staff to develop templates, tools, and processes — based on their research findings — to help guide community leaders in this work.
- Community-engaged research. The Foundation aims to accelerate the research-to-practice process through the engagement of communities in research. Proposals are welcomed from project teams of multiple configurations (i.e., jointly-written proposals between researcher and community partners; proposals submitted by PIs at Universities, Colleges, or 501c(3) organizations with named community or researcher partners; 501c(3)-led projects that engage Heartland researchers, etc.), provided the project approach and case study development are research driven.
- Case-study development. Through this RFP, the Foundation aims to support the creation of research-driven case studies of entrepreneurial ecosystem building in the Heartland. This funding call solicits proposals from research teams who are prepared to develop holistic case studies of the community where their research is situated. See Terminology & Resources section (below) for detailed information on how the Foundation approaches case study work.
BUDGET & AWARDS
Applicants may request funding up to $300,000 for projects spanning 36 months. While award amounts for individual projects will vary, we anticipate the average grant size to be $250,000. Applicants should submit a project budget that aligns with the scope of the project, supports proposed activities, and clearly connects those activities with line-item requests. Once finalists have been chosen and grant awards have been made, Kauffman will work with grantees to distribute general operating support to eligible 501c3s who are involved in supporting research activities.
ELIGIBILITY & RESTRICTIONS
This call is open to research teams within the Heartland region—which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Community-engaged research partnerships, in which ESOs or other community organizations are included as active research partners, are required. Collaborations that bring national expertise are welcome, provided that the principal investigator (PI) or Co-PI is located within the Heartland and that the research focus is on a community located within the Heartland region.
Additionally, eligible applicants must meet all the following criteria:
- Located in the United States.
- Funding will only be awarded to PIs who are affiliated with organizations that are either institutes of higher education or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Applicants at for-profit organizations are welcome to apply, but will be required to prove charitable purpose of the activities.
- Capacity and willingness to produce a case study of their community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem that is closely aligned with the format outlined in this RFP (see FAQ section).
- Capacity and willingness to work collaboratively with Foundation staff during the grant period to create actionable templates and guides supporting inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems.
We will not consider funding for:
- Projects not directly aligned with the research goals described in this RFP.
- Administrative add-on fees (I.e., college or university overhead fees).
- Project teams based at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC). Scholars housed at UMKC are encouraged, instead, to apply for funding through the UMKC Entrepreneurship Innovation Grant, which is funded through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation.
- Project expenses lasting longer than 36 months.
Please note — the below dates are subject to change based on the number of applications received. Proposals will be reviewed by Kauffman Foundation associates, leadership, and select third-party advisors with expertise in entrepreneurship research.
- RFP opens: March 16, 2022
- Proposals due: April 29, 2022
- Finalist notified: May 2022
- Grants awarded: June 2022
HOW TO APPLY
The application process will consist of two stages. Interested applicants should first submit their proposals (following proposal guidelines below) through this application.
Semi-finalists will then receive user credentials to the Foundation’s online grants management system, Fluxx, and will be asked to complete brief organizational questions.
PLEASE NOTE: Incomplete or late applications will not be reviewed.
The online application system will ask applicants for organization and primary contact info. In addition, applicants will be asked to address the below questions:
Describe the proposed project, concisely. What system or structure will be explored in this research project? What is the context and/or geographical scope of this project? What about this context makes it a good case study for the proposed question?
Discuss the method and engagement plan. Outline and justify the methodological approach, including a plan to develop the case study. Additionally, projects should clearly outline the methodological approach that will be used to link structural forces and entrepreneurial outcomes. Clearly specify the relationship between any research/community partner(s), and how project responsibilities are divided amongst them. Share plans for ongoing engagement of the community in the research project.
Explain the project’s value. Articulate how you expect this project to contribute to the current body of research on entrepreneurial ecosystems. What is the central research question, and why is this a valuable question to pursue? Why is this methodology the most appropriate one to explore the proposed question?
Outline the research translation plan. Share how you plan to disseminate research results with non-academic audiences. Additionally, discuss how the community will be engaged throughout the project and how research results will be shared with those who participated.
Briefly outline the funding request and estimated timeline. In no more than one paragraph, outline the amount of funding requested and a rough estimation of how the funds will be allocated and support research activities.
Explain the qualifications of team members. Concisely explain the relevant background and experience of applicant(s) and/or key relevant research. In addition, discuss how your team members’ identities and lived experiences have shaped the focus and approach in this project and how this might impact any work with communities and community members who hold different identities and/or have different lived experiences. As much as possible, please refrain from directly naming or identifying the research team to assist in our blind-review process.
Evaluation Metrics: While grantees may choose to track any number of variables or outcomes as they conduct research and draft their case studies, project teams will be asked to formally report on the common outputs and outcomes noted below, which should be customized to fit local context.
Output 1: By (date), (applicant) will have produced a case study on inclusive ecosystems in (community), as measured by documents shared with the Foundation.
Output 2: By (date), (applicant) will have shared research results within the community by (details of presentation), as measured by (attendance records, press release, flier, etc.) shared with the Foundation.
Proposals will be reviewed by internal Kauffman associates who hold expertise in entrepreneurship, as well as associates across education and KC Civic strategy departments. Selected proposals will also be sent to external reviewers for review. Projects chosen as semi-finalists will be evaluated by the program officer and grants administration staff in a final decision meeting. Reviewers will be asked to assess how well each proposal meets the expectations listed below:
- Does the proposed project clearly and directly address one of the systems/structures outlined as a priority in this RFP?
- Are the goals and activities of the proposed project clearly defined and aligned?
- Does the proposed project include the common outputs and outcomes noted above, customized for their individual research project?
- Does the project team outline a plan for research translation (e.g., sharing research findings in actionable ways with non-academic audiences)? And does the project team outline a plan for both engaging with the community throughout the project and sharing research results back to those who participated?
- Does the proposed project involve collecting or disaggregating data in such a way that findings will pinpoint impact and opportunity across various demographic groups? If not, does the proposal articulate why disaggregation isn’t possible?
- Does the project approach take into account how historical and structural drivers of inequality affect the proposed topic? Put another way, does the proposed research engage with/address root causes and systems change?
- Does the project team hold experience and capacity to carry out the proposed work (i.e., have they successfully carried out projects of a similar scope)? Do they accurately assess the staffing/team needs for a project of this size?
- Is the proposed budget realistic, justified, and directly related to the research activities?
- Does the project team demonstrate awareness of how their identities might shape their approach, and/or ability to connect with the communities named or partnered in the research? Additionally, do they articulate a plan to develop feedback loops, review, and connection with those who hold lived experience in the research topic?
- Does the project team present a strong/equitable community/researcher partnership?
Semi-finalists will also be assessed according to strategic fit and alignment with Foundation priorities.
For this RFP, we are instituting double-blind reviews for Stage 1 of the application process. This is an effort to minimize potential bias in reviews and ensure the research proposals are judged fairly.
We ask that you assist us with this effort in the following ways:
- When preparing your answers to the “Proposal Elements” questions, please remove any references to and mentions of the host institution and names and/or affiliations of the project team.
- When speaking to staff capacity, please outline staff’s skills and experiences in a general way without mentioning specific names or institutions.
REPORTING & EVALUTION EXPECTATIONS OF GRANTEES:
Grantees will be expected to provide a yearly progress report and one final report at the conclusion of the project (36 months total). If selected as a finalist, grantees will work with the assigned program officer to establish the appropriate reporting and payment schedule.
In addition, grantees in this portfolio will be expected to collaborate with program officers on the development of practice-oriented tools and templates — based on the findings of their research — to help community leaders across the Heartland embed equity into their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Grantees will also be invited — and encouraged to attend — convenings and public facing forums featuring other Kauffman grantees.
Finalists will also be expected to work collaboratively with their assigned program officer and our Evaluation team to develop a set of grant metrics. These will include the following common metrics that all grantees in this portfolio will be required to report on (see above, under “Proposal Elements”).
TERMINOLOGY & RESOURCES
For the purposes of this RFP, the below discussion of relevant terminology is meant to provide guidance for framing and focus of proposed research projects. The framing provided below is neither exhaustive nor definitive — applicants with different approaches or methodologies are encouraged to submit proposals as well.
The case study methodology is an approach where unique or less accessible phenomena is studied comprehensively, in its natural setting — and where key variables and relationships are observed from multiple perspectives (Tasci, Wei, and Milman 2019:2). Case study methodology is particularly useful in addressing research questions that involve complex contexts where the interplay between relevant variables is not well understood (cf. Tasci et al). Prospective applicants to this RFP are encouraged to see the overviews and guidance provided on this method in the following resources:
Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008). Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and Implementation for Novice Researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 544-559. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2008.1573
Tasci, Asli D.A., Wei Wei, and Ady Milman (1029). Uses and misuses of the case study method. Annals of Tourism Research 82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2019.102815
Feagin, Joe R., Orum, Anthony M., and Gideon Sjoberg, eds. 2016. A Case for the Case Study. UNC Press.
Yin, Robert K. 2017. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods. London: Sage.
The term ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ is a way to describe the social and economic contexts in which current and prospective entrepreneurs start, sustain, and grow their businesses. Scholars typically use this framework to identify and map the supports and resources available to entrepreneurs in a given community — as well as to identify gaps where resources are needed. For example, entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs), community development financial institutions (CDFIs), accelerator and incubator programs, and individual funders are commonly identified as key components of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Successful projects in this RFP will take these ecosystem actors and institutions into account and will also acknowledge and incorporate the broader systems and structures that shape communities and entrepreneurial opportunity within them.
The term ‘community’ is typically used to refer to a group of people who hold shared identity markers, interests, and geographical space. Within this use of the term, ‘communities’ are assumed to hold a number of common ideologies or behaviors, because of the shared identity markers. However, ‘communities’ are oftentimes comprised of individuals with a variety of perspectives and experiences, despite any shared identities or spaces they may hold. Successful proposals in this RFP will address ‘community’ in their research agendas from a perspective that acknowledges the complexity of the term and will deploy fine-grained approaches to understanding and incorporating the diverse perspectives and stakeholders within the communities they partner with.
Community-engaged research can take many forms — it is, more accurately, a lens or approach to research, rather than a strict methodology. In community-engaged research, researchers and community partners collaborate in various ways at any number of points throughout the research process. This can look like defining the ‘problem’ or research agenda, planning the methodology, executing the research, analyzing, and disseminating the results. Conceptualized differently across fields and disciplines, this methodology ranges from in-depth engagement and democratization of the research process (such as within community-based participatory research) to less intensive approaches (such as approaches that only involve community members at the closing stage of research, during intervention development, or the designing of research share-out plans).
Community-engaged or partnered research projects are required in this RFP. Below are examples of various community-engaged approaches that proposed projects might take. Applicants may choose from one of the below approaches or alternatively propose and articulate the value of a different method of engagement or partnership:
- Research question developed in partnership with community partners
- Research agendas with shared duties between academic and practitioner/community partners
- Research projects that explore novel ways of sharing and engaging communities in research findings
- Research projects that explore methods of validating research findings through community engaged listening or other engaged methodologies
- Research projects that explore methods of dissemination and intervention development in collaboration with community partner(s)
ABOUT EWING MARION KAUFFMAN FOUNDATION
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation based in Kansas City, Mo., that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation uses its $3 billion in assets to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with us at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.
Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Senior Program Officer Chhaya Kolavalli directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the content or goals of this RFP.
For applicants having problems with accessing or submitting the application, please reach out to the SurveyMonkey help desk here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
I would like to talk to someone about my idea before submission. Who do I call?
Due to the volume of prospective applicants, our staff will not be available for individual calls. However, we will accept questions related to this RFP and the application process from March 16th – March 23rd, 2022. Responses to these questions will be added to the RFP FAQ once the question period closes. Submit questions to email@example.com.
I am having difficulty submitting my application. Who do I reach out to?
For applicants having problems with accessing or submitting the application, please reach out to the SurveyMonkey help desk here.
I haven’t heard back from the help desk, and the deadline is tomorrow. What should I do?
The Foundation will not accept late submissions or applications submitted outside of the designated systems. Please review the timeline carefully and plan to submit your application materials well before each deadline.
We are a for-profit entity or membership organization. Can we apply for funding?
Yes, but successful applicants will be required to prove charitable purpose of the activities. As a private foundation, the Kauffman Foundation can only provide funding for charitable activities.
I am a PhD student. Can I apply for a grant through the 2022 Inclusive Ecosystems RFP?
2022 Inclusive Ecosystems grants will not be awarded directly to students. We encourage students to reach out to faculty members who may be applying to see how they might be able to take part in the project work. We also encourage faculty members who are applying to identify ways to engage students in the projects they are proposing.
I work in an organization that provides mentoring and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs. We are interested in research, but we don’t have full-time researchers on staff. Can I still apply?
Yes. You are eligible and encouraged to apply. We encourage you to identify opportunities to partner with researchers, as these grants are intended for research projects.
Can I submit research that is currently also under consideration by another funding institution?
Yes. You should disclose previous, current, and potential funders at Stage 1 of the application. The Foundation also will expect full disclosure of funding sources as part of due diligence for full proposals.
I’m an existing grantee. Am I still eligible to apply?
I have an important idea for funding, but it doesn’t fit within the three focus areas you outlined in this RFP.
The Foundation continues to be open to research proposals, so you can still submit your idea for consideration. However, the focus areas identified in this overview document represent our priority research areas for the 2022 cycle, and strategic fit of proposed projects is part of our evaluation criteria.
Will I need to make my code/methods publicly available if my project is funded?
Yes. We will work with PIs to determine the best way to make this information public, while preserving the confidentiality of communities involved in the research.
Who will own the intellectual property (IP) resulting from the grant?
Any work product created by you as the result of this grant will remain your property. The Kauffman Foundation will retain a license for use and distribution in furtherance of the charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purpose of this grant.
Can we apply for renewal/extension of an existing grant with Kauffman Foundation?
Inclusive Ecosystems 2022 funding cannot be used to fund renewal/extension of an existing grant. However, current Kauffman grantees are eligible to apply for funds for new projects/work through this RFP.