Editor’s note: Thom Ruhe is CEO of the NC IDEA Foundation, an economic development and entrepreneurship focused group in Durham.

DURHAM – When we wrapped up our statewide entrepreneurship ecosystem summit last November, we said we would focus on “Ecosysteming” in 2020; inclusive economic development with entrepreneurship. Specifically, we intend to highlight diverse groups and individuals, with the willingness, knowledge, time and resources to help people realize their full entrepreneurial potential in North Carolina.

Leading up to this year’s Summit, we intend to host quarterly gatherings around the state to focus on specific topics, with the groups and resources that are doing the work of ecosysteming. These roundtable sessions will help inform the final agenda and lineup for the 2020 Summit to be held November 16-17; location TBD.

First up will be a roundtable on rural place-based entrepreneurship practices. We will discuss IF, when and how to incubate, accelerate or co-work. We will share lessons and activities from around the state on how our Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties are thinking about and working on advancing entrepreneurial opportunity in their communities, thereby stemming the tide of brain drain and declining economic prospects. This will be a day packed with discussion, hard questions, coffee and lunch. More information can be found here.

These quarterly roundtables will be limited (by application) to manageable numbers of folks to optimize engaged discussion and facilitation.

Our Q2 roundtable will be organized on the topic of regional assets for entrepreneurs. North Carolina has the good fortune to have many incredibly valuable and publicly available programs and resources to help individuals advance their ideas of high economic potential. But far too many of these resources boast clients from other states, while someone one county over is unaware of their existence. We intend to change that.

Our third and final roundtable (sometime in Q3) before the November Summit will focus on how the state’s philanthropic community might work together to economically empower individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset. From Upward Mobility to ending cycles of poverty, entrepreneurship can help many people improve their prospects while transforming their communities. We hope to convene forward thinking organizations that would consider ways to support ambitious partnerships that can apply new thinking to old problems.

These sessions will help us define the organizations, the topics and the individuals that we will assemble for this year’s statewide entrepreneurship ecosystem summit. As I said in my closing statement at the 2019 Summit, the hard work now starts to figure out what we need to do to help people realize their full entrepreneurial potential.