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With a $484,000 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Center for Customized Research and Services at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh will develop an open-source digital toolkit for higher education entrepreneurship.

Jeffrey Sachse

The 18-month project, led by Jeff Sachse, director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS), begins in October in partnership with Venn Collaborative, a national organization providing consulting, professional development and community building for organizations engaged in economic development.

The toolkit will include examples and best practices in university-based and entrepreneur-led economic development and partnership building.

“It is more important now than ever to develop tools, including case studies, how-to guides and connections to accelerators, funders, incubators and other community stakeholders, to make entrepreneurship more accessible to all. The experience of the past few years have demonstrated that small businesses are at the heart of resilience in our communities,” Sachse said.

In designing and developing the toolkit, UWO and Venn Collaborative will convene organizations, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders nationwide for a series of listening sessions to be held in conjunction with meetings of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, and University Economic Development Association.

Several other virtual and in-person designing sessions will follow. The project also will engage an advisory board of industry and university experts. The toolkit will be launched on the UWO CCRS website in late 2023.

“Universities are entrepreneurial by nature. We build programs and produce world-class talent and innovations. Extending this work into building entrepreneurs and new businesses is a relatively new endeavor but is central to our DNA,” Sachse said.

Jim Woodell, founder of Venn Collaborative, said helping organizations partner and scale up will make a difference in their communities.

“A particularly rewarding potential outcome of this toolkit is helping regions solve problems—the kinds of problems that are best tackled together with the spirit of innovation that an equitable entrepreneurial mindset brings,” Woodell said.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Missouri, works with entrepreneurs and their communities to achieve financial stability, upward mobility and economic prosperity for all people, regardless of their race, gender or geography.

CCRS at UWO provides consulting, research, surveying and training throughout Wisconsin, helping drive regional economic development and innovation for a wide range of industries.

Learn more online about the project and subscribe to a mailing list for project updates and engagement opportunities.