Innovation Ecosystem Workshops

A local innovation ecosystem is a place-based community of interacting people and organizations engaged in producing innovation and supporting processes of innovation, along with the infrastructure and enabling environment that allow them to create, adopt, and spread better ways of doing things.


The Local Innovation Research Group at MIT D-Lab has developed a framework for understanding local innovation ecosystems, which we use across our programs as a sense-making and action-planning tool for local ecosystem changemakers. The framework and visual model help us orient and facilitate conversations among local innovators, entrepreneurs and their supporters on the current realities and opportunities for future development within their local systems of innovation and entrepreneurship support.

Innovation Ecosystem Workshops

Innovation Ecosystem Workshops are one-, two-, or three-day events  that bring together diverse groups of key stakeholders working in a specific geographic location to develop strategies for effective collective action in support of local innovators, entrepreneurs, networks, and communities.  

Participants can include university programs, makerspaces, accelerators and incubator programs, and other intermediaries, government officials, leaders from NGOs, and corporate partners, as well as the social entrepreneurs and local innovators themselves. 

Over the course of an innovation ecosystem workshop, participants work in mixed teams to enunciate shared visions for the future of the ecosystem; diagram and analyze the existing ecosystem to identify patterns of strengths and gaps; explore the advantages, challenges, and possibilities of collective action; co-generate and evaluate ideas for possible new initiatives and collaborations; and build foundational connections and collaborative structures to support their continued work together to strengthen the ecosystem.

Though takeaways vary by workshop and by person, participants have reported leaving innovation ecosystem workshops with:

  • A better understanding of local innovation ecosystems, including what components and roles are necessary for an ecosystem to thrive

  • Helpful examples of successful ecosystem strengthening initiatives from similar contexts 

  • A map of key actors, resources, and initiatives in the innovation ecosystem, including what each actor can offer to others and what support they would like to receive 

  • Access to participatory design tools for community workshops

  • New connections to key actors in their innovation ecosystem

After an Innovation Ecosystem Workshop

Innovation Ecosystem Workshops are just one part of a process that takes time, energy and resources. To ensure that a workshop fulfills its potential to improve connectivity and establish pathways for collective action, it is critical to engage actors in the months after a workshop to ensure they have reason, venue, and ability to continue meeting, as well as a common platform for sharing materials and connections. 

We ran our first Innovation Ecosystem Workshop in December 2017, and we continue to refine the content and collect data from previous participants in order to refine the design and better understand the long-term impacts. 

Past Innovation Ecosystem Workshops

More on Local Innovation Ecosystems



Elizabeth Hoffecker, Research Scientist, Local Innovation & Development

Molly W. Rubenstein, Innovation Ecosystems Manager