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Economic Development

If you’re on LinkedIn and connected with anyone from the Waikato, chances are you would have seen at least one post around the Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency – now called Te Waka and the summit held last week.

Far from the collection of “Hamiltoncentric” corporates I feared would make up the majority of invitees, Dallas and his team did a fantastic job ensuring a good cross section of people attended. What was even more pleasing was the almost automatic view that economic development revolves around people and our communities. It was definitely a case of ‘ensuring no one was left behind’.

On the second day we were asked to, initially by ourselves, identify some strategies for growing the Waikato economy.

With the vocal support for people and the environment, my mind instantly went to my favourite topic – using business as a resource that we can use to grow and support our both our economy and our communities.

The doing good / having a purpose appeals to Gen Y and Z, Govt is now starting to look at capacity building in the social enterprise space and the unsustainable levels of charities in New Zealand all point to the fact that the time has come to change our thinking.

Charities and social enterprise are an internal resource we can use for economic growth, and the changing view of our business leaders means that doing good is no longer just a by-product (if that).

With all of this in mind, my ideas for stimulating the local economy are:

  • Let’s fast track capability and capacity within businesses with authentic social goals.
  • Invest to move many of our multitude of charities into productive social enterprise
  •  Inform and support successful businesses to grow a new generation of Gallagher’s, Perry’s and DV Bryant

Specific action points I personally would love to see happen are:

  1. Employ champions to promote and support this plan
  2. Take the existing resources for training our business leaders and put it on steroids. CELF (Community and Enterprise Leadership Foundation) is a good example. If we subsidised the fees, access would increase – and let’s take it to the regions as well.
  3. Arrange purposeful networking -> includes business, local Govt, charities and social enterprise – we need to learn from each other. Imagine how powerful it would be for business leaders to hear the passion when social entrepreneurs share their stories. Coffee and discussing growth issues like cashflow, informal education and peer support.
  4. Coordinate and promote impact investment. Funders are there but struggle to find purposeful businesses that are investment ready.
  5. Engage mentors. Work with organisations like Business Mentors to develop and identify ideal mentors for this work. Varied skills are required including transitioning from a charity model, how to engage corporate directors on this journey, how to get investment ready, how to start up a social enterprise. We need to increase the width of mentor skills available
  6. Proactively support the establishment of capacity builders like Impact Hubs, not forgetting of course other resources like Community Waikato.

These are only quick notes but I wanted to get them down and shared. This has been my message for a while but I believe that it’s important enough to keep repeating.

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