Archive for March, 2009

Are YOU a social entrepreneur?

March 19, 2009


Former WA Industry Minister Mal Bryce has introduced us (via Peter Kenyon) to an amazing book on social entrepreneurs entitled “The Power of Unreasonable People” by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. (Harvard Business Press 2008) Sub titled “How social entrepreneurs create markets that change the world.”


The book describes Social Entrepreneurs as people who:


1.     Shrug off ideology and regulation

2.     Focus on practical solutions

3.     Innovate

4.     Do social value creation and SHARE

5.     Jump in without waiting for back-up

6.     Have unwavering beliefs in innate capacity of others

7.     Have dogged determination

8.     Demonstrate real passion for change

9.     Have a great deal to teach change makers in other sectors

10.  Have a healthy impatience (don’t do well in bureaucracies)

Orange stormwater harvesting (BEST PRACTICE)

March 19, 2009

Cockatoo was in the regional city of Orange NSW last month, where the City Council and Brand Orange are doing some smart stuff in wine, food and tourism, similar to Food Barossa.

Orange (pop. 40,000) also looks like achieving first-mover status in terms of harvesting stormwater. It will be trapped around the city, then treated and supplied to local households – they are currently on level 5 water restrictions! The aim is to for stormwater to supply 60 per cent of Orange’s water.

Council looked at a number of options to increase the town’s water supply and found this the most sustainable and affordable. Orange uses 5,000 ML of water a year. The cost of the stormwater system is around $10 million – it involves gross pollutant traps to remove litter and sediments. The water is captured and transferred to storage, where it is tested and then transferred into the main dams.

The feds have just annnounced $200m funding for stormwater infrastructure. Orange is a marvelous model. Contact us for details of the funding!

Clean Energy – Newcastle NSW wins

March 19, 2009

Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, claims Australia has taken a step closer to becoming the clean energy hub of the Asia Pacific with the announcement that Newcastle will house the $20 million national Clean Energy Innovation Centre.

“This centre will assist firms in the clean energy sector to tap into expertise, research and technologies through partner organisations and their networks” he said.

Enterprise Connect is to partner with Newcastle Innovation (commercial arm of Uni of Newcastle), Australian Institute for Commercialisation and WA Sustainable Energy Association to deliver assistance to the SMEs.

P.S. Certain state governments are reportedly dismayed at losing out on this Centre, given that Newcastle is not widely perceived as having the pre-eminent national standing in the clean energy field.

Dealing with the federal government – 10 golden rules

March 19, 2009

Some of our members have sworn off applying for federal grants. They are heartily sick of the level of detail, the pedantry, the paternalism and the delays. But keep an open mind. It depends on your circumstances and needs, and there are 10 golden rules.

No. 1 – Decide on what you want to achieve

Your needs are probably two-fold – wanting to influence federal government policy, or wanting to maximise your access to whatever federal assistance is on offer.


The latter need is understandable given the worldwide trend to localisation in response to globalization. Federal assistance can be the big ticket items (e.g. roads or environment grants, R&D grants) or via the scores of smaller grant programs. They require different approaches.


No. 2 – Be clear and focused

The seats of power are madhouses of paper and agendas. There is extreme pressure at the higher levels of the public service and in ministerial offices. But few of these powerbrokers have any ‘sense of place’ – and they’re wary of considering issues through a local prism in case they’re accused of bias or picking winners.


And Ministers and their staffers don’t want to read a document twice. Submissions must be short and pithy – they want the what, why, where, when, who and how much. They may then read the attachments. In Australia, PM Rudd is working his Ministers hard, and their respective advisers hold enormous sway. They are mostly young, sharp, big-picture and impatient. They also speak 20 to the dozen, and are generally unworldly.


No. 3 – Look at things from the feds’ perspective

Due to the feds’ aversion to things local, in most cases your pitch should be in the context of the feds’ perspective. Canberra, Washington, Paris, London, Brasilia run on strategies, themes and acronyms. Currently it is about dealing with the GFC, ESD and CC (get my drift?), infrastructure spending to avoid a recession, social justice etc. 


Federal seats of power are usually fixated with competitive neutrality issues i.e. its decisions should have a neutral effect on other players. They say it doesn’t wish to intervene in the market or pick winners – rather its role is to address market failure. This Treasury orthodoxy is not always observed e.g. in Australia, the building industry lobby has laid it on thick, and convinced someone in the Treasurer’s Office that ceiling insulation and solar water is worth a $3.9 billion punt. Incredible example of picking winners.


No. 4 – Have a vision, make it sexy and use champions

It’s difficult to get an audience with Ministers these days. First step is to get the attention of the ministerial adviser. Small groups of mayors or council CEOs can sometimes be effective.


 No. 5 – Address the program criteria

With respect to grants, you MUST address the criteria. Grants these days are often assessed by teams of officials who apply a points score against each criterion. To avoid any taint of bias, the evaluation is sometimes referred to external consultants such as PWC. Just like a school exam, you must answer the question. And Ministers rarely buck the Department’s advice. When they do, there is the risk of leaks.


No. 6 – Be selective


Despite the attractive advertisements run about federal programs, some are a waste of time. The success rate for applicants to most federal tourism, water, environmental and regional programs is around 15-20%. For indigenous, community and telecoms programs the figure is perhaps 30%. And for eligibility-based programs such as export grants and R&D assistance, the success rate is around 50%. Programs involving grants of below $10k usually cater to a junior Minister’s ego, and are best left alone – they are concentrated in sports, education, health and the arts. 

No. 7 – Think Partnerships

Our Cockatoo member in the US, Erik Pages ( says to approach politicians more like a partner. Same in Australia. For example, councils here have regular contact with their local federal member, and get involved when a federal minister drops in for a chat, but this not long-term partnering.

Becoming a partner involves regular, targeted interaction with certain MPs and their staffers, inviting them to meetings, asking them to tour or speak at your venues, and taking ownership. If they don’t respond, make it known that you’re not happy. And get your Senators involved too – in Australia, there are 12 per State, so there will be 2-3 whose interests coincide with yours. Senators are also less pressed for time than MHRs.

Effective partnering requires your organisation to provide something of value. As Erik Pages suggests, economic developers have access to constituents and information. So convene regular meetings between local businesses and politicians, and run regular mini-polls of your businesses or civic leaders. Thanks to web survey tools like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang, undertake surveys on topical federal issues or do a State of Region report. This brands your organization and wins attention in your federal capita.

No. 8 – Reduce the risks


Governments are risk averse. The Westminster system is built on an Opposition being there to oppose, criticise and embarrass the incumbents. Just because you think it’s a great idea, don’t assume government agencies will automatically agree. But they often come on board once the risks are seen to be covered. 

It’s nicely explained by a colleague in Far North Queensland. ‘We have found if the project is sexy they come asking to help. We did not have any credibility at first and had a few closed doors (still do). But once there were runs on the board, and outcomes and contracts were changing hands, we were inundated with enthusiastic help from state and federal agencies. Build relationships first around trust and genuine friendship, get business to business meetings, and throw out the bait for government to engage.’

Next month, the remaining golden rules. In the meantime, please ring for a free chat.



The legacy of Black Saturday…laments Silverhawk

March 19, 2009

I was in Kilmore before Christmas, having coffee with Bill Coppinger (Cockatoo member) who heads up the Central Ranges Local Learning & Employment Network. We talked about the region’s opportunities to intelligently plan its economic and social infrastructure, rather than succumb to more urban sprawl.


I then tracked to Whittlesea and Kinglake en route to the more familiar territory of Noojee, Neerim South and Gippsland. It was a spiritual reawakening to experience the forest canopy, the dappled light and prosperous small communities. A whole tapestry of wineries, nurseries and arts and craft businesses have sprung up. 


Black Saturday has changed everything. It was a tragedy at many levels, and the Royal Commission will hopefully set new directions. Our modest contribution is to ponder the longer-term economic ramifications, particularly the impact on investor attractiveness of fire-prone regions across Australia. In this regard, the sheer size of Black Saturday must adversely impact on economic activity in ALL areas surrounded by significant forests, unless he investor perceives there are adequate mitigation measures in place.


But how do you mitigate against a firestorm consuming everything in its path? Victoria is fortunate to have a Premier that understands place and regional Victoria. We will return to this issue next month.

What critical mass is necessary for a cluster?

March 19, 2009


Stu Rosenfeld (Cockatoo member) has a report out very shortly – entitled “Generating Local Wealth, Opportunity, and Sustainability through Rural Clusters” – funded by the Ford Foundation. The topic is extremely interesting given the enquiries we field. As usual, Stu gets to the nub of the issue. Excerpt below.


According to most reasonable measures, requirements for critical mass or scale would seem to rule out almost all clusters in sparsely populated areas. If the criteria are relaxed, then what scale must a cluster have to generate synergies? It may seem surprising that given the large volume of empirical work on agglomeration economies, no one has satisfactorily identified that level of activity that achieves significant economies of scale and synergy among members.


The advantages of agglomeration vary widely by industry, but they also represent a continuum; the larger the scale of demand, the deeper access to specialized services and resources becomes. The critical mass necessary for one type of resource may be less than that for another. A community college may offer specialized programs for a certain cluster, even one lacking sufficient scale, if it can draw students from other regions or industries with overlapping needs. Piedmont Community College in Yanceyville, North Carolina has programs in film and multimedia that draw from the nearby Piedmont Triad and Research Triangle areas.


The number of interdependent enterprises necessary to be considered a cluster depends in part on the size of place and level of market penetration. In less populated areas, smaller numbers of similar companies — such as the 11 houseboat builders around Lake Cumberland, Kentucky that dominate the high-end boat market — constitute a significant local cluster with a very specific product and market. As few as two companies have been designated a recreational transportation equipment cluster in northwest Minnesota. Two large manufacturers employ about 3,200 people in this rural area, use local suppliers, and have a demanding local snowmobiling culture to drive innovation. Thus, for the most part, one knows sufficient critical mass when one sees it or one names it, and a precise definition is not possible—and perhaps not even necessary.


Further, needs for critical mass depend in part on willingness of companies to cooperate. The greater the willingness to cooperate, to intentionally pursue economies of scale, the smaller the numbers of firms needed to have “critical mass.”


Hants, Canada – identical agendas

March 19, 2009

Cockatoo member Tony McLennan (GAIN – Victoria) has forwarded details on ED agendas in Hants (Canada) – 100% compatible with agendas Downunder. Members heading east of Quebec look them up!

 Hants RDA executive director Ryan MacNeil says “We’re running out of land… We need a trained professional…and we offer incomplete community information.”

 However, there are plans to create a joint business directory for the Municipality of West Hants, Hantsport and Windsor websites and to leverage provincial and federal money for investment. The Hants RDA plans a lot more regional promotion by hiring a regional promotion officer and by attending ore international shows to promote the region. Also, there are plans to implement a new workforce action plan and to start building on a new tourism strategy.

 Over the last year, the Hants RDA invested its time in implementing a Hants County Small Business Clinic, an interpretive centre plan and trial construction to help to restore the Cheverie Salt Marshes, organizing the second annual 84th Regiment of Foot Homecoming, starting up the Planters 250th anniversary project, planning a second Festival of Art and helping to find funding $675,000 for the Windsor Day Care. In 2008, the RDA helped to bring out a new Sustainable Fish Farming aquaculture facility to Centre Burlington

‘The Necessary Revolution’ by Peter Senge

March 19, 2009

In this latest book Peter Senge (et al) tackles the question of how individuals and organisations are working together to create a sustainable world.

The book is very refreshing in how it illustrates new approaches being used to create a more sustainable world, and how organisations have moved quickly beyond the words and are now acting with transformative strategies and new forms of collaboration.

Senge tackles the challenges we face as a global society and what we need to look for in future ways of working together. The authors draw from case studies and their previous learning in organisational development and change strategies to apply these systems. One of the key points relates to partnerships between what would normally be seen as ‘non traditional partners’ e.g. the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Coca Cola, focused around conserving water.

They also focus on the key learning capabilities for systemic change, with one being ‘Collaborating Across Boundaries’. On issues such as climate change, energy shortages etc. they state: ‘The imperative to collaborate across boundaries around such issues has been established. Now we just need to learn how to get better at it, quickly. The book is full of ideas and tools that could fit into many organisations and partnering processes, and it reinforces the need for skills development in partnering. Highly recommended.

Contributed by Ian Dixon at Dixon Partnerships (Adelaide)