Cluster Development - Training Workshops

Why has this training programme been developed?

Active cluster development requires hands-on facilitation. This facilitation is preferably delivered by trained facilitators who are geographically close to the cluster’s stakeholders; sustainable cluster interventions need to be driven from within the community. 

In response to this need, Cluster Navigators have developed a series of interactive cluster training workshops. These workshops introduce the process of cluster development and equip cluster facilitators with the necessary skills to nurture their local clusters. 

These training workshops are based on a systematic Five Phase, Twelve Step process that has been developed though hand’s on cluster support to a wide range of clusters in many different environments. Over 2,000 people from five continents have been trained in the ‘Five Phases, Twelve Steps’ cluster development process.  

Who is the training focused on?

The prime audience is cluster facilitators. The facilitator is the person who takes the lead in driving the local clustering agenda, providing a neutral corner to bring together in an effective team the cluster’s stakeholders. Cluster facilitators are often allied with an economic development agency, a local education or technology provider, or an industry association/chamber of commerce. They are ideally based within the community, rather than an outsider occasionally visiting. Facilitators may well have other development roles within their community.

What do good facilitators have in common?

Successful facilitators have particularly strong networking skills and are comfortable in drawing together the diverse range of stakeholders within a cluster to establish collaborative agendas. Such facilitators can be complemented with analytic skills and specific capabilities for handling cluster workshops.

Facilitators may come from within the cluster they are working with and are therefore able to draw on a wide range of contacts. Alternatively, they have the skills to quickly establish connections and to earn private sector credibility through performance. An effective facilitator is able to empower others, rather than be stranded with all the ‘to do’ lists. 

Who sponsors cluster training workshops?

The lead sponsor is usually a publicly funded organisation. These have included multilateral development agencies, national economic development agencies and local agencies. These agencies, and their development agendas, come from a wide range of perspectives:

  • Upgrading international competitiveness;
  • Business retention and expansion;
  • Technology transfer;
  • Innovation systems;
  • SME development;
  • Urban and rural development;
  • Investment attraction; locking in MNCs
  • Poverty alleviation, job creation; and the
  • Engagement of disadvantaged communities in the local economy 

Why do a wide range of public organisations take such initiatives?

The common ground between these different perspectives is the realisation that clusters form the foundation of a modern economy, and that public-private partnerships which are focused at the cluster level offer a fertile ground for the prioritisation of development agendas, and early action. 

What are the ‘Five Phases, Twelve Steps’ of cluster development?

Drawing on our experience from around the world and with a wide range of clusters, we have refined a Five Stage, Twelve Step cluster development process. This process provides the framework for each of our training workshops.

Phase Steps

A. Process Initiation
1. Introducing the relevance of a clustering approach
2. Identifying and prioritising local clusters

B. Building the Base
3. Initial cluster analysis
4. Building the leadership group, the cluster's governance

C. Creating Momentum
5. Establishing the preferred future
6. Initial strategy
7. Short term, tactical agenda

D. Extending the Base
8. Formalising & launching
9. In-depth analysis, benchmarking

E. Sustaining Momentum
10. Long term, strategic agenda
11. Linking the cluster
12. Measurement & evaluation

In our cluster training workshops we take participants through each of these steps. The Cluster Development Handbook can be offered as a key take-away and comprehensively describes each of these steps. 

What’s the objective of the training courses?

Cluster Navigator’s approach is to ensure that trained facilitators are in place to drive local cluster programmes. These cluster training workshops help regions in generating local jobs, in attracting investment and becoming more competitive in the global marketplace.
These interactive workshops are: 

  • Centred on Cluster Navigator’s ‘Five Phases, Twelve Steps’ cluster development approach;
  • Highly interactive, very hands-on , with a ‘learning by doing’ approach, focused on capacity building at the local level; 
  • Centred on appropriate examples with real-world case discussions that draw on Cluster Navigators’ extensive international experiences;
  • Expose the ‘green lights and red lights’ of clustering;
  • A cost-effective means to engage in the world of clustering, and to further local clustering agendas. 

Who will get more value-added from this program?

Cluster Navigator’s training workshops are focussed on those yet to engage with clusters and people with hands on cluster development experience. Attendees also include policy developers and others in a support role.  Interaction during the training workshops is enhanced by having a range of local participants from different organisations. These could include:

  • Government economic development professionals: national, state/provincial/regional and local 
  • Economic development offices; Business retention and expansion agencies; Investment attraction specialists
  • Private sector leaders, Business Association and Chamber of Commerce officials
  • Trade union officials
  • Local providers of training, education (both tertiary and secondary), and technology services.
  • Independent consultants
  • Cluster facilitators/managers 

Are there different course options?

Each course is tailored to suit, with half day, one day, two day, three day and five day options available.  The program is customised, and can cover a range of collaborative tools. The two and three day programmes provide an opportunity to simulate the cluster development process for a number of selected clusters. The clusters are selected from those that course participants are familiar with. The five day programmes provide opportunities for local teams to work together in developing their region’s cluster engagement strategy, cumulating with a presentation on their proposed approach on the final day.

What are the learning outcomes?

Participants will gain the skills and confidence needed to:

  • Identify and prioritise their region’s clusters. 
  • Implement an interactive, collaborative strategy development process by involving key leaders from business, government, education and civic life.  
  • Mobilise business leaders in the implementation of action initiatives that directly address regional competitiveness challenges. 

Where have these training courses been offered?

Full training workshops have been presented on five continents and in 17 countries: Australia, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Mauritius, Sweden, South Africa, Tanzania, Trinidad, Uganda, UK and USA.  
Many of these countries have had repeat training workshops in a number of localities.
In addition, introductory workshops/presentations have been held in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Norway, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

And in what languages?

English is the language used for all workshops and supported when necessary with simultaneous translation and/or slide decks in the local language. The frequent small group discussions held during the workshops are conducted in the local language with an English (or translated) report back. Clients have translated Cluster Navigators’ manuals and slide decks into a number of languages. 

How many participants?

The workshops are highly interactive, and work well with 25-30 participants, seated in small groups. This size group allows adequate time for discussion and the addressing of individual issues.

What’s an ideal location?

The two, three and five day workshops are ideally run at a conference type facility on the outskirts of a capital city or main centre, with residential facilities available. Participants are seated at tables in small groups. No breakout rooms are needed.

Should we include other speakers?

In addition to active participation by the host organisation, many training workshops have included opening presentations/after dinner contributions from Ministers, Heads of Government Agencies, Mayors, university leaders, and senior business people. 

What are the take-aways from the workshop?

The cornerstone take-away is the learning-by-doing, offering the opportunity to relate international best practices in cluster development to the local situation.   The two, three and five day programs provide many opportunities to interact with the presenter, and with colleagues.

In addition, a cluster development handbook is made available to each workshop participant. This includes:

  • A comprehensive Cluster Development Manual (this manual has been translated into a number of languages);
  • A copy of all PowerPoint slide decks, usually comprising some 400 slides (again, these have also been translated by clients into a number of languages).

With the three and five day training modules, a cluster case study is emailed to all attendees the week before the workshop as required background reading. This case study is tailored to suit the country and the participants.

What is a ‘Cluster Week’?

A two or three day cluster training workshop is often part of a broader ‘Cluster Week’ that includes a range of other activities. These activities have included meetings with Ministers and presentations to business audiences, universities and others to introduce the concept of active clustering and to position the cluster facilitators. Presentations have also been held with industry associations/cluster groups, as part of introducing the cluster development agenda. When the necessary preliminary work has been undertaken, workshops with cluster groups are held to start identifying the forward agenda.