Accelerating the transformation to a sustainable food economy by strengthening the sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem

Nigel Forrest, Arnim Wiek, Lauren Withycombe Keeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strengthening the sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem (SEE), particularly its support functions for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is increasingly seen as an important means of accelerating the transformation to a sustainable economy. Little is known, however, about how to strengthen SEEs. In this article, we evaluate a series of 16 projects intended to develop SEE functioning to accelerate transformation to a sustainable food economy in the Greater Phoenix Area of Arizona. We use an evaluative framework designed around a set of ten SEE support functions to qualitatively assess the baseline state of the SEE, how projects were executed, the effects of these projects, and the overall changes in the SEE that resulted. The findings indicate all but one projects had positive effects on the SEE (nine weak, six medium). In conjunction with other developments, the projects raised the overall SEE performance from the baseline state of two functions being performed at only minimal level, to six functions being performed minimally, and one at a medium level. Insights gained from comparing results across projects suggest tentative guidelines for future practice, which should be useful for SEE stakeholders, including policy makers, economic development agencies, financial institutions, consultants, and educators, interested in strengthening SEEs. Researchers engaging in studies on strengthening SEEs may benefit from the evaluative framework enabling larger cross-case comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number970265
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
StatePublished - Jan 12 2023


  • entrepreneurial ecosystem functions
  • food economy transformation
  • small business sustainability
  • sustainable business practices
  • sustainable economic development
  • sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems
  • sustainable food economy
  • sustainable food systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Horticulture


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