CUBE – Colleges & Universities Building Ecosystems: A Toolkit


Tools, strategies, resources, and connections to help higher education build thriving equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems.



With support of the Kauffman Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and Venn Collaborative are engaged in a project to identify, collect, and share practices that will support and increase colleges and universities’ ability to help their communities thrive by building equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems. The result of this work will be a freely available, open-source digital toolkit for stakeholders and practitioners at higher education institutions


Although initiatives for economic development—at the local, regional, or national level exist, many do not tap the potential of higher education institutions to be strategic partners in building a strong and effective network of organizations: an ecosystem. At the same time, programs within higher education institutions are often siloed and don’t necessarily work reciprocally within the institution, or with their regional partners, be they economic developers, entrepreneurial support organizations, business assistance programs or others. Connecting these groups and closing the gaps through strategies and practices brings the possibility of
developing much more successful—and equitable—entrepreneurial economic development ecosystems. Starting the conversations that will lead to collecting and sharing ideas, building relationships, and ultimately helping regions, is what is needed, and this toolkit aims to provide the tools and resources to do just that.

idella kangas contributing to toolkit design workshop
toolkit design workshop participants having a conversation


The project team in engaged in a “discover, design, and deliver process,” and is working with a group of national dissemination partners and an advisory board. In the discover stage, we conducted listening sessions, stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and reviewed the literature on ecosystem building. The ‘discovery’ work culminated in a design workshop, held in May 2023 at TitleTown Tech in Green Bay, WI, where participants piloted potential toolkit design concepts and content elements. We are now producing the toolkit, which will be piloted at partner meetings and available to the public in early 2024, housed here and also distributed through community and other offerings through partners around the country.


The project leads are the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Services and Venn Collaborative. Key partners include the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), the University Economic Development Association (UEDA), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The project is funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. 

Project Funder

Project Partners

Advisory Board

We have assembled a national advisory board for the toolkit project. The eight members gathered have been nominated by their peers as experts in entrepreneurial support and higher education leadership. They bring a diversity of experience and insight to the project that will be invaluable in helping us understand the challenges that our institutions and their partners face and in identifying the solutions to overcome them.