Despite a living legacy of ongoing entrepreneurial support, even the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation doesn’t have all the answers, Wendy Guillies told a 600-strong crowd at Wednesday’s ESHIP Summit kickoff in Kansas City.
“We approach our work with a great deal of humility,” said Guillies, Kauffman Foundation president and CEO. “We need to listen and we need to learn.”
Among those on the list of participants for the three-day, sold-out, unconventional conference are entrepreneurs, mayors, community builders, economic development leaders, 1 Million Cups leaders, researchers and educators, she said.
“This entrepreneurial communities work that we do is a perfect example of that,” Guillies told attendees. “We are learning so much from all of you — because you’re the ones out there in the communities, in the trenches every day doing this work.”
Kauffman’s emphasis on being intentional about diversity, inclusion and lowering barriers also was on display Wednesday, she said, noting participants represent 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and 10 other countries.
“Half of you are women, a third of you are individuals of color,” Guillies said. “We have big cities represented, small cities, rural America and everything in between.”
The more diverse perspectives at the table, the stronger and more sustainable the collective work from the ESHIP Summit will be, she said.
The goal: a new economic model for a new economic reality.
“I like to think that the Foundation is helping people to own their own destinies, equipping them with skills and the knowledge and the tools, so they can be self-sufficient and navigate their own choices in life, rather than having life make all the choices for them,” Guillies said.
ESHIP Summit runs through Friday in downtown Kansas City. Events are closed to the public.