Update from the field

I wondered if I should name this post “from the airport lounge” but then I realized that I still travel much less than my business partners and some friends.

Seeing that so many of you ask me where I am I thought I will give a quick update.

Since my previoSplit Team Smallus post I have traveled to Split in Croatia to conduct an LED training for a group of local government officials from Bosnia. This was a great event because I had the opportunity to conduct the training with my business partners Frank Waeltring and Christian Schoen. This event was arranged for and funded by GIZ Bosnia and took place during the first week of September.

During this event it again struck me how no matter where we work with Local Economic Development, the main principles and challenges remain the same. The people, the language and also the priorities might be different, but the issues that we are always confronted by is a breakdown in trust between business and local government, fragmentation and confusion between local and national stakeholders, and the tension between bottom up and top down priorities and intervention means.



Immediately after Croatia I traveled to India to assist GIZ India to assist with designing a Private Sector Development Programme. The mission included capacity building of local experts, consultants and policy makers on innovation systems and how this perspective can be used to strengthen cluster, value chain and regional development programmes. I traveled with the GIZ team to Bangalore and Aurangabad to assess the readiness of different clusters to benefit from an innovation systems perspective.

In Delhi, my hotel room overlooked the famous Jantra Mantar astronomy instrument. It is anJantra Mantra heritage site that dates from 1724 that was one of the great astronomy observation posts of the time. I spent a whole Saturday morning looking at the details of this site. I also spent half a day on the Hop on Hop Off Bus in India.

I am looking forward to traveling back to India shortly for an extension on this assignment.

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Shawn Cunningham

I am passionate about how organisations and institutions change in developing and transitioning countries. I essentially work between organisations, communities, industries and experts.

0 thoughts on “Update from the field”

  1. Congratulations on your travels Shawn. While u are there, would you kindly find out for me how these governments work with academia and industry to promote innovations / culture thereof amongst its underserved citizens such as those in rural areas, and peripheries / fringes of the cities where educational opportunities are sparse. I am

    asking this question because the dtoi is concerned with poor participation of these groupings in innovation initiatives such as SPII.
    Kind regards,

    1. Dear Ntokozo,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting on my post. Your comment certainly makes it worthwhile for me to continue sharing my serendipitous journey!

      Like in South Africa, practitioners ask the same questions in India. How do we get academia and industry to work together, and better yet, how do we get them to work together on solving the problems of the marginalized?

      Like in South Africa, in India collaboration between academia and industry is also sometimes seen as an objective in itself, and the same goes for the idea that collaboration should also address the needs of the marginalized.

      To me a better question is to ask “who is best suited to identify, explore and solve the problems facing the poor and the marginalized?”. For almost every problem or constraint facing the marginalized the answer is different. In many cases, the best solutions can be found within the poor communities themselves, it is just fragmented or low scale. In other cases, the innovation needs to happen within the public sector, and indeed, in some cases the problem must be solved by academia and business working together. We must also ask the question “why if these problems have been solved right next door did the solutions not reach scale or spillover?”.

      But business fear to tread where risks are high and returns are uncertain. And academia does not get academic credits for going where the problems have been solved already by their peers elsewhere in the world, or where the answers are clear and only the questions are missing.

      So we still have some questions to ask before we can really answer the question of how and why academia and business should work together. What we know is that when they do work together they often create amazing innovations that neither could have done on their own.

      I would love to discuss this with you over a cup of coffee at some point!

      Best wishes,


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