Can startups save the American Dream? This is the central question and title of a report that makes the case that they can. The report shares a series of action and impact focused ideas to improve the middle class through policy involving the entrepreneurial community.

Entrepreneurs play a key role in innovation ecosystems and Smart Cities that support better economic and learning opportunities. The comprehensive issue of reinvigorating Americans to learn and apply skills to create and find jobs requires solutions that involves business, government and non-profits. Leaders from all three of these sectors gathered in Washington D.C. (a Smart City) at the Halcyon House to celebrate the release of the report.

Headlined by Steve Case, AOL co-founder and CEO of Revolution, and Carly Fiorina, former Hewlet-Packard CEO, attendees collaborated on the report’s five ideas:

1. Unlock Capital for Main Street Entrepreneurs

Update and reauthorize the Community Reinvestment Act and increasing Community Development Financial Institution investments for small businesses to access capital supports.

2. Accelerate Impact Investing Through Program Related Investments (PRIs)

Revise regulations governing PRIs and expand their awareness of among foundations and entrepreneurs to accelerate impact investing. (See Boosting Impact, a Getting Smart report on impact investing in education.)

3. Build a Regulatory Roadmap

Help new businesses navigate the regulatory landscape with a “Roadmap” and pressure regulators to provide better customer service and encourage competition among city leaders.

4. Empower the Next Generation of Entrepreneurial Leaders

Create a national entrepreneurial competition for K-12 students to increase entrepreneurial thinking and interest as they navigate their career path.

5. Equip Civic Leaders to Build Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Provide playbooks for civic leaders to build vibrant entrepreneurial clusters.

In the vein of DECA’s competitive events, a national entrepreneurial competition for students at the K-12 level would support promoting entrepreneurship education, which Gene Coulson suggests should be taught to every student, every year. Empowering entrepreneurial leadership in schools further aligns with Coulson’s assertion that keeping young minds open for alternative ways of thinking and allowing innovative ideas to spark and grow can support in creating an entrepreneurial culture.

Building entrepreneurial ecosystems requires functioning innovation ecosystems and education innovation clusters. Buy in from civic leaders, community knowledge and attention to how business plays a part in creating innovation ecosystems points back to empowering the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.

Like we discussed at the Gigabit City Summit, education’s role in building ecosystems with an emphasis on economic development requires support from city leadership. Fertile ground for innovation, building networks fast, increasing the likelihood of positive collisions, and encouraging risk taking and abundance mentality also contributes to flourishing of entrepreneurial ecosystems. A playbook for leaders would need to include examples, resources, and strategies that include these elements.

The report was spearheaded by the Miller Center’s Milstein Symposium Commission on Entrepreneurship and Middle-Class Jobs and partnership, and in partnership with the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

The event at the Halcyon House also featured the inauguration of the 2015 Halcyon Incubator Fellows. Three education social entrepreneurs are included in this year’s fellows:

  • David Dewane from LibriiVenture focused on modernizing the international public library model by implementing low-cost digital and physical offerings and utilizing local partnership to increase awareness.
  • Amelia Frieman from Student Learning Exchange (SLE). Founder of the exploratory learning community that facilitates cultural exchanges in postsecondary institutions with undergraduates in cultural and linguistic awareness.
  • Mariama Kabia from MemunatuEmpowering 10 million young women in West Africa by closing gender literacy gaps through a community-drive classroom publication.

Watch the inauguration from the Future of Entrepreneurship event:

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