Free Resources & Strategies for Higher Ed Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building. The C•CUBE Toolkit from UWO & Venn Collaborative sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation

Crafting Custom Conversations for Ecosystem Building: Exploring Formats and Applications

Effective ecosystem building hinges on strategic conversations that leverage diverse problem-solving and decision-making techniques–and reflect the foundational role that conversations have in ecosystem building in the Kauffman Foundation’s vision for Entrepreneurship, a vision that is at the heart of this toolkit. 

The tools section of this website provides conversation guides for a range of topics, each using a framework to guide and support a specific set of conversations, thereby creating the strategic alignment that lays the groundwork for ecosystem building. These frameworks are not intended to be comprehensive however, and these–and other–frameworks can and should be used flexibly to fit your goals and contexts. Adapting and creating your own approaches to these conversations can improve your chances of finding innovative and effective ways to bring people together in ecosystem building. For reference below we have a list frameworks for consideration (including those that have informed the toolkit conversation guides).Please review these for approaches that could be effective in your environment. It’s also important to consider framework and facilitation approaches that you or your partners already use, even if in different contexts from ecosystem building. If these have been effective for that work, consider adapting them for ecosystem building. 

Design Thinking

  • Description: Emphasizes empathy with users to solve complex problems through iterative cycles of prototyping and testing.
  • Application: Develop and refine ecosystem initiatives by deeply understanding stakeholder needs.
  • Learn More: IDEO’s Design Thinking Guide

SWOT Analysis

  • Description: Assesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to inform strategic decisions.
  • Application: Evaluate ecosystem health and strategic positioning.
  • Learn More: MindTools SWOT Analysis

Six Thinking Hats

  • Description: Facilitates parallel thinking to explore issues from diverse perspectives.
  • Application: Encourage inclusive participation in ecosystem strategy development.
  • Learn More: Six Thinking Hats Overview


  • Description: Generates a wide range of ideas to address a specific challenge.
  • Application: Ideate solutions for ecosystem improvement.
  • Learn More: MindTools Brainstorming Techniques

Fishbone Diagram

  • Description: Identifies multiple potential causes of problems to pinpoint root causes.
  • Application: Analyze and solve complex ecosystem challenges.
  • Learn More: ASQ Fishbone Diagram

Pareto Analysis (80/20 Rule)

  • Description: Prioritizes problems to focus on the most impactful solutions.
  • Application: Efficiently allocate resources within the ecosystem.
  • Learn More: MindTools Pareto Analysis

Mind Mapping

  • Description: Visually organizes information to explore connections and generate new ideas.
  • Application: Structure complex ecosystem concepts and brainstorm solutions.
  • Learn More:

Affinity Diagram

  • Description: Organizes ideas and data into natural groupings to identify themes.
  • Application: Synthesize qualitative data from ecosystem research or brainstorming sessions.
  • Learn More: ASQ Affinity Diagram

Nominal Group Technique

  • Description: Structured method for group brainstorming that encourages contributions from everyone.
  • Application: Gather and prioritize ideas in a democratic and efficient manner.
  • Learn More: GroupMap NGT

Delphi Method

  • Description: Collects expert opinions through iterative rounds of questionnaires to reach a consensus.
  • Application: Forecast future ecosystem trends and challenges.
  • Learn More: RAND Delphi Method

Resource Websites for Exploring Multiple Frameworks

There are hundreds of frameworks that could offer inspiration for your ecosystem conversations. Here are some great websites for exploring. 

  • MindTools: Comprehensive resources for management, leadership, and personal effectiveness.
  • LUMA Institute: Techniques for fostering innovation and collaboration.
  • The Primes: Insights into universal patterns of group behavior that can hinder or enhance teamwork.
  • Gamestorming: Creative exercises to facilitate innovation and collaboration.
  • Strategyzer: Known for the Business Model Canvas, Strategyzer provides tools and content to help with business model innovation and strategy.
  • SessionLab: An online platform that offers a vast library of workshop activities and design templates for facilitation, including problem-solving and decision-making exercises.
  • ModelThinkers: Aims to make you smarter, faster by distilling the world’s most useful knowledge into compact and accessible ‘models’.
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