Promoting a culture of innovation in the national security community.
Inspire, connect, and empower people by convening events, forging partnerships, and delivering tangible solutions to promote a culture of innovation in the U.S. national security community.
The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) is a national nonprofit that convenes events, forges partnerships, and delivers tangible solutions in order to promote a culture of innovation in national security. The seeds were planted in 2012 with the publication of The Military Needs More Disruptive Thinkers in the Small Wars Journal by Ben Kohlmann. This call to arms started DEF on the path to inspiring, connecting, and empowering a “virtuous insurgency” that challenges the status quo and fights for innovation within bureaucracy.
Originally identifying as “disruptive thinkers,” a like-minded tribe of junior Service members quickly came together after the article’s publication through virtual asynchronous interactions, leveraging Twitter and other social media platforms to facilitate critical discourse. Essays and commentary covered topics like the state of affairs in Village Stability Operations, Air Force social media practices, and even implications of military culture for innovation more broadly. Eventually, the ideas and momentum could no longer be contained virtually: a crew of enterprising members in this new grassroots movement determined to meet in person and see what happened.
Planned online and supported by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, DEF2013 was announced in much the same way as previous discussions: with a blog post. This three-day weekend conference solidified the need for continued action and saw over one hundred participants come together on their own dime and time, ready to share ideas, dig through lessons learned, and attack problems with counterparts who all saw the same pressing need: to innovate, and quickly.
DEF incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2015. Today, thousands of members across the country form a diverse and uniquely broad network, spanning all ranks and services, sectors and professions. This community continues to flesh out the most pressing issues of the day in non-traditional ways. Across its many chapters (called Agoras), events are held near weekly throughout the year, to include annual renditions of the original national conference. Like a much-needed connective tissue, DEF continues to grow and promote collaboration and innovation across defense, science, and technology communities.