Civic entrepreneurship: How schools can be both Market Makers and Service Providers

The concept of civic entrepreneurship, which I recently encountered reading Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, strikes me as useful for educational entrepreneurs and particularly useful for a school like the REAL School which will seek to teach and foster student entrepreneurship.

Goldsmith’s recently published a book, The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good, explores the concept of “civic entrepreneurship.” Goldsmith cites Douglas Henton’s earlier work on civic entrepreneurship for a definition (Henton’s company, Collaborative Economics supports regional development of civic entrepreneurship):

Doug Henton describes civic entrepreneurship as helping communities develop and organize their economic assets and build productive, resilient relationships across the public, private, and civil sectors. To Henton, the term “combines two important American traditions: entrepreneurship—the spirit of enterprise, and civic virtue—the spirit of community.

This description is pretty accurate to how I think about where the work of school design, planning, and creation falls in economic terms. School creators of any kind (including home schooling parents) are certainly educational entrepreneurs, but civic entrepreneurship implies a kind of public work and building of community that is not present in the design or execution of all or even many schools.

As I have written in previous discussions of school planning and design, schools are enormous community investments and they have the potential serve as centers of intergenerational community interaction, social service, leadership development, and perhaps most importantly, they have the potential to teach students themselves to be civic entrepreneurs.

Goldsmith distinguishes between two agents of civic entrepreneurship, Market Makers and Service Providers. He explains:

We consider market makers to be those organizations or principles that catalyze change and create the conditions for broad community solutions…Service providers engage in civic entrepreneurship as champions of a particular innovation, driving its design or identification as well as its adoption across a delivery system.

My guess is that school designers fall into the latter category as does the work of the students we hope to teach to be civic entrepreneurs at the REAL School, but the active civic development work of a school in a community over time falls into the former. We believe strongly that schools can be Market Makers.

Finally, Goldsmith offers a really interesting (and naturally, quite complex) model of the “social production system in a typical community.” It would make a great teaching tool in a civics classroom and it is a useful tool for school planners or leaders to employ as a lens for thinking about and investing in community change:

"The above diagram represents the book’s theory of change. The actors in the two outside circles—both service providers on the right and market makers on the left—can catalyze change among all the actors by employing one or more of the strategies depicted in the inner circle."


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