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Meet the 2020 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge grantees

The 2020 Knowledge Challenge produced a portfolio of grants that seek to answer questions based on real-world problems facing entrepreneurs and their communities. An emphasis throughout the portfolio includes grants for programs and projects that advance knowledge about entrepreneurship and economic mobility, and support an inclusive pipeline of entrepreneurship researchers.

The Knowledge Challenge is a biannual program that invites proposals for research activities aimed at improving our basic understanding of entrepreneurs and the levers, tools, and methods that can advance entrepreneurship in the United States. The Knowledge Challenge is open to proposers conducting research in universities and academic institutions, laboratories, companies, nonprofit organizations, and as individuals. The goal of the Knowledge Challenge is to produce tangible insights for entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship program and policy design, ecosystem leaders, and researchers.

“The topic areas under this Knowledge Challenge address different elements of the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic opportunity,” Sameeksha Desai, director of knowledge creation and research in Entrepreneurship, said. “We look forward to learn from the research collaborations that can shed light on this nexus, as well as to a more inclusive research pipeline that will continue to push us forward. The range of methods, disciplines, and depth of community focus in these grants is especially exciting. As we are reeling from the effects of COVID-19, we need research that informs our way forward to a resilient economic system that serves everyone.”

The portfolios of grants sourced from the Knowledge Challenge reflects the problem-based grantmaking approach in our new Research strategy.

Two areas of focus for the 2020 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge

Research-Practice Collaboration | Insights gleaned from these projects will address knowledge gaps across the field and internally through:

  • Entrepreneur Support and Resources: A multitude of resources are available to help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges of starting and running a business. To guide the future strategic direction of Entrepreneurship and our broader network, research in this area will generate knowledge on the effectiveness of these resources in a comprehensive way.
  • Employment, Talent Pipeline, & Development: New approaches to understanding, measuring, and influencing economic activity are necessary to keep up with the changing nature of the economy, the labor market, and new technologies. Projects in this focus area address how entrepreneurs should think about building the capacity of their employees in context of a digital world.
  • Local Ecosystem Conditions for Entrepreneurship: Research in this area will assist with benchmarking, establishing baselines, and identifying potential programs and policies at the local level that can be used by other communities.
  • Entrepreneurship, Equality, & Mobility: Research in this space will help us understand the potential of entrepreneurship to shape these dynamics directly and indirectly, as well as which conditions and policies can affect these relationships.

Inclusion in Entrepreneurship Research | These projects or programs pilot approaches to improve access to opportunities and improve inclusion in the entrepreneurship research pipeline itself.

Here are the 21 projects that are being funded:

Research-Practice Collaboration

  • Clark University | Support to study the creation of a predevelopment fund for Puerto Rico and provide training to staff at community development corporations.
  • Cleveland State University Foundation | Support to study access to resources by underserved entrepreneurs of color and test actionable policies.
  • Cornell University | Support to study how the gig economy affects entry into entrepreneurship, young firm growth, and their sources of capital.
  • The New School | Support to study how the rise of online commerce has impacted the viability of offline retail entrepreneurial activity.
  • Ohio State University | Support to study the impact of entrepreneurship training on refugees’ entrepreneurial behavior and economic, social, and mental well-being.
  • Reinvestment Fund, Inc. | Support to measure and quantify the contributions that concentrations of small businesses have on sustaining and strengthening the social wellbeing of a community.
  • University of Utah | Support to study how the background of entrepreneurs and inventors shape the types of products and services offered.
  • Washington University in St. Louis | Support to document and explore the specific challenges and solutions of early stage Black and Latinx entrepreneurs.

Inclusion in Entrepreneurship Research

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College | Support to develop a curriculum that exposes undergraduate students to diverse methods and trains them to study entrepreneurship ecosystems in their communities.
  • New York University | Support to develop mentorship, networks, and convenings that support the pipeline of researchers studying racial equity in technology entrepreneurship.
  • North Carolina Central University | Provide support for student and faculty pipeline opportunities to study racial equity in entrepreneurship.
  • Old Dominion University | Support for research and programs exploring barriers faced by transitional entrepreneurs.
  • Stillman College | Support to increase the diversity of research methods and approaches on Black technology ecosystems.

Meet the student grantees:

  • Michael Lotspeich (with Charlie Tolbert, Baylor University) | Support for research on entrepreneurship outcomes of military veterans in rural entrepreneurship ecosystems.
  • Ihsan Beezer | Support for research on how early-stage firms leverage government contracting and how this affects future activities of the firm.
  • Melody Chang | Support for research that analyzes the process and effectiveness of matching between entrepreneurs and competitive entrepreneurship support programs.
  • Tara Carr-Lemke | Support for research examining the effect of local immigration policies and environment on immigrant entrepreneurship.
  • Robert Hill | Support for research on how program design of post-incarceration programming affects post-incarceration entrepreneurship outcomes.
  • Saran Nurse | Support for research on how gentrification affects business owner outcomes and survival.
  • Manav Raj | Support for research on the effect of platforms on local business ecosystems for the restaurant industry.
  • Yun Ha Cho, William Reuben Hurst, and Diana Jue-Rajasingh (with Derek Harmon, University of Michigan) | Support to study how entrepreneurs balance religious and cultural identity with business identity.