Editor’s note: Thom Ruhe is CEO of the NC IDEA Foundation.

DURHAM – Over the last several months, I have had the good fortune to serve on a couple of worthwhile efforts to identify better economic development priorities in response to these unprecedented times. These activities include the Small Business Task Force organized by the advocacy and research arm of the NC Rural Center and the Council on Competitiveness, National Commission Working Group, for Unleashing the Future of Work and Entrepreneurship. These efforts align well with the work we do at NC IDEA, and I like to think we can contribute to these efforts as much as we benefit from them.

One thing that is clear and consistent with these working groups, supporting inclusive economic growth, that is equitable and specific to the needs of diverse communities, requires many participating organizations. In our vernacular, these groups are called ECOSYSTEM Partners.

Approximately four years ago, NC IDEA launched a bold new ECOSYSTEM Partner Program to increase the capacity of entrepreneur support organizations. To date, we have funded over three dozen groups across the state in support of their efforts to help people realize their full entrepreneurial potential.

Last week, our third iteration of the ECOSYSTEM grant program closed applications, after receiving 60+ submissions. Clearly, there is great need AND great organizations tackling those challenges head on. Our only frustration in this work is that, once again, the requests have greatly exceeded our capacity (alone) to support. As we now do the hard work of vetting and ranking, I already know that far too many worthy efforts will go unfunded. Nevertheless, we will persevere and do what we can – with what we have.

Continuing our work towards greater impact, we recently opened an additional ECOSYSTEM grant application, with awards to be made under the charter and direction of the NC Black Entrepreneurship Council. Interested groups working specifically to advance the state’s Black Entrepreneurship Community may wish to consider applying here.

As NC IDEA looks to expand our capacity to better support more entrepreneurial endeavors and strengthen the state’s startup ecosystem, we value the insight and opinion of the community we continue to serve. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts, we can include you in our feasibility study currently underway. Please email me at truhe@ncidea.org if you would be willing to participate in a confidential interview being conducted by our partners at Convergent Nonprofit Solutions.