The Public Entrenpreneurship Network model describes dynamic and
loosely bound organizations of public- and private-sector actors
that work together to overcome obstacles to development through
formal and informal interactions. Please choose from the following
options to learn more about the PEN model and the cases that contributed
to its development.
Characteristics of Public Entrepreneurship
Mobility Carsharing Switzerland
Compressed Natural Gas in Switzerland
Solaris Solar Energy Project
of Public Entrepreneurship Networks
The Public Entrepreneurship Network (PEN) model captures
the dynamics of change and the implications for action by
government agencies and other actors interested in sustainable
development. Five key features distinguish public entrepreneurship
A pattern of inter-organizational cooperation
that spans public, private, and civic spheres and develops
Interaction in problem centered networks
Public regarding local initiative
supported by a set of
Specific organizational roles related
Institutional ecology that facilitates
Public entrepreneurship networks combine local initiative
that has a distinctively entrepreneurial character with a
strong orientation to sustainability and other public goals.
This combination arises in part from the variety of organizations
that participate in these networks. Public entrepreneurships
networks are characterized by both the pattern of development
and the key facilitative roles that have to be played for
development to thrive. They include:
Pioneers who recognize opportunity,
seize initiative, and catalyze action by making commitments.
Public venture capitalists who understand
and embrace risk and package financial, social, and human
capital to meet project driven needs.
Superintendents who provide an environment
in which innovation can flourish by fostering the development
of relationships that are sustained through formal and informal
Mediators who build consensus on
goals and direction and bring directed problem-solving to
bear on conflicts that threaten to stall or derail the development
- Stewards of the common good who focus attention on the
common good, maintain standards for responsible behavior, and
facilitate the coalescence of democratic community around programs
Given what is at stake, it is neither
practical nor desirable to rely on private and non-governmental
actors to consistently fill these roles. Yet government
action must not threaten the ecology of relationships
that generates the attention and energy that make
these networks effective. This sets a challenge
for government agencies. Their participation is
essential. Yet efforts to "legislate"
change may disrupt the very patterns of development
they seek to promote. Identifying public entrepreneurship
networks and understanding how they work is only
the first step.
Development of an Alternative Fuel Program
development of the alternative fuel program at SunLine Transit in
the Coachella Valley in Southern California illustrates how technological
development can emerge out of the interaction around concrete problems
and how learning occurs as the organizations involved transform
these problems and reshape the basis for interaction
The SunLine story begins
with an aging fleet of diesel buses that had one of the worst service
records in the U.S. SunLines Board authorized management to
acquire a new fleet of buses and added, While youre
at it, make them alternative fuel.
This transformed the initial problem from poor service to selecting
an alternative fuel technology and involved SunLine with a new set
After deciding on compressed natural gas, SunLine faced two new
problems. They had committed to a technology that they did not know
how to maintain and for which no infrastructure existed. These new
problems shaped the horizon of organizational activity and pushed
SunLine to extend the network of actors to include colleges, original
equipment manufacturers, and the local gas company.
In solving the maintenance problem, SunLine acquired the habit of
innovation and members of the organization began to treat the conversion
to CNG as the first step and ask themselves, Whats next?
The leadership and staff of SunLine soon articulated a new problem,
How can we become a zero-emissions transit company?
SunLine selected hydrogen as their initial answer to this question
and have begun to organize and operate an experimental program in
which they produce hydrogen fuel on-site, using solar energy from
photovoltaic arrays, and operate a variety hydrogen powered vehicles
including a fuel cell bus as part of their regular fleet.
View a poster detailing
the Sunline Public Entrepreneurship Networks: (PDF
Puts Private-Sector Resources To The Public Good
in Zurich, Mobility CarSharing provides its members with access
to automobiles for local trips within most regions throughout Switzerland.
Mobility CarSharing developed during the 1990s through the interaction
of environmental entrepreneurs and public officials concerned with
reducing energy usage throughout Switzerland. Government support
for car sharing organizations developed in response to a 1990 public
referendum that banned the planning of any additional nuclear power
facilities until 2000 and the anticipated potential energy shortages,
In response to this, the Swiss government initiated the Energy 2000
program, which provided limited resources to policies that would
lead to voluntary reductions in energy use.
Rather than administer the Energy 2000 program directly from the
Ministry of Transport and Energy, however, the program designated
specific consultants from the private sector to disperse resources
and manage the development programs. In order to identify what voluntary
policies might reduce energy usage within the transportation sector,
one of these consultants, Ernst Reinhardt, took on the role of superintendent
and formed a forum of companies and public interest groups involved
in transportation issues. In addition to the major automobile importing
associations, the forum included two nascent car sharing organizations,
ShareCom and ATG-AutoTeilet Schweiz based in Lucerne and Zurich,
respectively. These companies had developed during the environmental
movement that occurred throughout Switzerland (and Europe) in the
Through the input of these companies, research into the benefits
of car sharing became one of the forum's first major initiatives.
In 1994, officials contracted the LINK institute to conduct a survey
of former, existing, and potential car sharing users to evaluate
future demand for the service, and investigate the influence of
car sharing on mobility behavior and energy use and potential improvements
to the service to increase use. The studies therefore not only provided
the companies with important marketing information, but also helped
to justify further governmental support of car sharing.
Between 1994 and 1997, the government continued to play a public
venture capitalist role not only by providing small grants to the
companies for specific development initiatives, but also continued
to provide recommendations about how to increase the professionalism
of the services. The government also sought to develop partnerships
between the car sharing companies and existing transit service providers.
Mobility CarSharing therefore developed out of the initiative to
connect car sharing to the transit system. This case provides a
successful example of how governmental actors can shepherd private-sector
resources to serve the common good in a profitable manner.
Commercial Carsharing in America
Zipcar case is an example of a private-sector company attempting
to develop new technology in order to implement an existing green
technology concept. Zipcar is using sound business practice as a
guide towards a success that they hope will be not only profitable,
but beneficial to society as well. In 1999, Antje Danielson (an
environmental science scholar at Harvard) introduced Robin Chase
(an MIT Business School graduate) to the concept of carsharing.
Chase had been eager to start her own business and was lamenting
the need to buy a second car while living in the dense city of Cambridge,
Massachusetts and immediately recognized this as exactly what she
needed on both counts. The company was founded a few months later
with the ambitious goal of "transforming urban transportation"
by making carsharing a mainstream service in America. Their rationale
was that the more cars they take off the road, the more good they
will do. Feeling that only an economically viable service could
achieve this, Zipcar established itself as a for-profit company
with no public sector-investment.
This was a tall task for a concept that was relatively unknown,
and almost completely unimplemented in the United States. To adapt
the carsharing concept to the American marketplace, Zipcar faced
the uphill battle of making fundamental improvements to existing
carsharing models while simultaneously creating a market for a product
that had never before been available. In this endeavor, Zipcar has
developed unique on-line wireless vehicle reservation and tracking
systems that make the carsharing transaction almost effortless.
At the same time, they have marketed the concept using techniques
similar to community outreach programs to reach individual consumers,
institutions, and government agencies, from which Zipcar needs regulatory
and material support.
Throughout Zipcar's history, their choices have been guided by
the original decision to make Zipcar as large as possible. Obtaining
funding and securing government support and regulatory accommodation
have been key obstacles that Zipcar has overcome and is overcoming.
Zipcar has repeatedly encountered public officials who are caught
in the dilemma of "how to support the concept and not individual
companies" At the same time, they have attracted floods of
input and ideas for how to improve and expand their service from
customers, investors, officials, and almost every other type of
interested party imaginable. Zipcar has learned from its experience
that, "The best innovation comes when someone comes to us and
says, 'Wouldn't it be great if you did this!'"
Natural Gas in Switzerland
A Private Company
Expands Alternative Fuel Use in a Public Agency
Efforts to encourage the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as
a transportation fuel in Switzerland, were spearheaded by the Compagnie
Industrielle et Commerciale du Gaz (CICG), who promoted the introduction
of CNG vehicles in two different projects. The first initiative
involved the development of a generic CNG injector aimed at adapting
private cars for CNG use, and the second involved the promotion
of CNG as a fuel for public transportation buses and captive fleets.
The CICG's first project led to a joint research and development
effort with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne,
which produced a new patented injector system now being distributed
by Landi Renzo. The second project led to the adoption of 15 CNG
buses by Transport Lausannois (TL), the company responsible for
public transportation in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. In addition
to these efforts, the CICG has been active in the development of
CNG compression stations.
CICG played the critical role of pioneer in all these projects,
at times sharing the role with local politicians in the city of
Laussanne. These actors worked hard to overcome initial reluctance
of TL, which was due to the extra cost involved in adopting CNG
vehicles and perceptions of poor vehicle performance. Drivers and
the fleet maintenance staff have now embraced the new technology
and consider it both clean and comfortable. The implementation of
CNG buses required training programs and new working procedures
that were a unifying influence for the company. Bus riders also
embraced the new buses because they were cleaner and carried a better
image than the old diesel vehicles. The TL management is hoping
that this new image will further promote the use of public transportation
within the city.
Although CICG was able to achieve local success in Lausanne, they
were not successful in influencing policy makers on the national
scale, due to communication barriers and lack of sufficient drive
at the national level, legislation that would have specifically
addressed natural gas as a fuel for transportation ultimately did
not pass. However, the natural gas injector developed in Switzerland
will be distributed in Italy first due to a more favorable legislation.
Solar Energy Project
Capacity for Deployment of Sustainable Technology
1997, Greenpeace set out to prove a point. They felt that photovoltaic
technology offered a much more immediate potential than was being
realized. The way to break through the stalemate was to take direct
action that would put solar panels on the roofs of homes and offices.
By generating this "action vector" they would also contribute
to making panels cheaper, more accessible, and more prominent in
the minds of consumers.
Greenpeace set the ambitious goal of 20,000 solar panels on Dutch
roofs within two years and commenced building a program to have
the panels manufactured and make them commercially available to
consumers. Much of this is well outside the scope of Greenpeace's
competency; however, strategic alliances with consulting firms Ecofys
and Stork, the Dutch bank Rabobank, the financial services company
De Lage Landen, and the Netherlands Agency for Energy and the Environment.
These relationships were used to help overcome financial, technical,
and bureaucratic challenges that threatened to derail the project.
Greenpeace was not able to reach their original goal of 20,000
solar panels. However, the benefits of this project persist beyond
its end may turn out to be more significant than the panels themselves.
Greenpeace showed that action can push technologies forward. Action
to introduce the technology brought together a network of actors,
connected ideas, resources, and expertise, and contributed to the
development of "social capital." The working relationships
that were formed between previously unrelated actors remain. Additionally,
many lessons were learned about how solar panels can be successfully
marketed and sold that will aid future endeavors, including the
SOL*id project, being conducted by Ecostream to bring solar hot
water systems into broader use.
Changing an Industry
development of Greenfreeze refrigerators would not have occurred
without the pioneering initiative of two doctors working in the
Dortmund Institute of Hygiene in Germany. Motivated by a failure
to find an environmentally-friendly cold storage unit free of HFCs
and HCFCs for their institute, the two doctors began researching
hydrocarbon refrigeration. The potential of hydrocarbon refrigeration
had been ignored by manufacturers because successful results of
such research could not be patented, and would therefore not be
as profitable. The doctors succeeded in producing a viable hydrocarbon
refrigeration model in the early 1990s.
However, their success was just an idea, and the road from that
to worldwide refrigerator sales can be very long. In the path stood
a refrigeration manufacturing industry with heavy investments in
HFC technology and ties to the West German chemical industry. Greenpeace
stepped in to help them along this road, connecting the doctors
with an East German refrigerator manufacturer that was in dire financial
straits and especially receptive to new ideas. Greenpeace then supplied
public venture capital to fund the development of prototype refrigerators.
Safety concerns were surmounted with the help of the German safety
and standards institution Technischer Ueberwachungsverein, which
certified the technology as "safe and tested".
Due to these efforts, Greenfreeze technology has come into mainstream
use with 40 million units sold worldwide in over 100 models by 2000.
This case demonstrates that non-governmental actors can have a vision
or understanding that enables them to better serve as a steward
of the common good than the government. Neither governmental, nor
large industry actors were supportive of the expansion of this technology
until later stages. The doctors pioneering vision was the crucial
catalyst for the Greenfreeze project, and non-governmental actors
may need to offer such vision in similar cases in the future.