With people, services, investment, and political power draining away to the city, how are rural towns to thrive? In part, by fostering the entrepreneurial energy and imagination of the people who choose to stay. That's the job of what the Sirolli Institute calls an Enterprise Facilitator: a skillful go-between who, through a local Resource Board, puts entrepreneurs in touch with people and agencies that can help resolve problems of production, marketing, or financial management.
In southwest Ontario, a coalition of credit unions, community futures development corporations, and other local agencies agreed to experiment with Enterprise Facilitation at a new, regional level. Over 2½ years, the Community EFFORT served over 200 businesses, enhancing the many services already available to entrepreneurs in a mixture of rural and urban areas.
Scale posed a real problem. To cover project costs, EFFORT had to recruit a very dispersed and diverse group of sponsors, each with interests and constituents for the project to serve - demonstrably. This stretched the ability of Enterprise Facilitator and Resource Board to provide personal, specific assistance. EFFORT co-ordinators had to work hard to show that some outcomes are valuable, if not readily measurable.
An independent evaluation confirmed EFFORT's value in the eyes of the Trillium Foundation, however. EFFORT shall now be scaled up into a 4-year project encompassing more territory and issuing in co-operative and social enterprises, as well as regular businesses.