Archive for May, 2010

US collaboration in indigenous arts

May 25, 2010

 Cockatoo member Stu Rosenfeld continues his sterling work to connect us via his CraftNet Sketches.

He informs us that the Ford Foundation has announced a new ten-year, $100 million program to support art spaces. Ford will fund art groups across the USA to create new art spaces and launch programs in new or renovated facilities. In Phase 1, grants of up to $100k are for planning facilities that support artistically innovative and culturally diverse projects to strengthen relationships between artists and communities. 

 Ford also will fund seminars related to sustaining art centers and affordable housing for artists.  “We believe that this investment in arts infrastructure will advance the well being of our communities, because artists and art spaces play a significant role in boosting local economies.”

 This has strong resonance in regional Australia. We’ve recently prepared a business plan for Central Darling Shire for a Creative Arts Centre in Wilcannia. It’s patently clear that Australian aborigines have deep-seated creative skills – borne out by studies by Regional Arts NSW which make a point about the need for back-up support for Indigenous arts groups e.g. advice on the financial, marketing, purchasing, governance aspects of running businesses.

The problem is that Indigenous people are not experienced in business and corporate governance. This was stressed in the report ‘Open for Business: Developing Indigenous enterprises in Australia (2008).’ [1] (Enterprise Connect hasn’t quite latched onto this need yet. – Editor)

[1] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

Creativity as theme in North Carolina

May 25, 2010

 North Carolina’s Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) has chosen Creativity as its theme to mark the 25th anniversary of its annual Emerging Issues Forum—it attracted 1,200 participants.

The Institute is a North Carolina think tank founded by former Governor Jim Hunt and housed at North Carolina State University. Gov. Hunt declared that creativity is one of the most important topics the Institute has ever addressed. The conference kicked off with a 20/20 session where 20 North Carolinians were given one minute each to discuss their creative visions for the state (nice idea!!). What followed was a diverse program meant to stimulate conversation among participants about the role of creativity in their state.

 As a follow-on to the conference, communities across the state are hosting communitywide conversations on how to create and strengthen environments in which creativity thrives. The North Carolina Dept. of Commerce updated the analysis of the state’s creative economy, and found that it comprises 5.5% of the state’s employment (293,000 jobs).

IEI has an online “collaboration platform” on which users can contribute to virtual conversations on North Carolina’s creative potential ( For presentations etc. go to

Disruptive Technologies

May 25, 2010

In recent months, The Economist has been pushing the line that developing economies are on the cusp of developing technologies that will disrupt the ‘natural order of things.’ A thought-provoking rejoinder came from CA-Oxonian – worthy of wide readership.

Making good products for less money is going to be a winning strategy by whoever implements it successfully, and this has always been true. It is not clear, however, that the disruptive potential of emerging markets is really as obvious as this series of articles suggests. For a start, there are enormous structural barriers to success in India – horrible infrastructure, lack of decent management, widespread cultural acceptance of things always not working, and the desire always to say “yes” when very often the people saying “yes” have little idea what they are saying “yes” to.

The tangle of state and private enterprise may look beguiling during times of economic crisis but in better times the many shortcomings of this model will become evident everywhere from Russia to Brazil, as poor initial investment decisions are compounded by throwing yet more money after bad. Mass diversification will tend to promote management complexity and an overall reduction in top management focus on essentials.

In short, there are no magic answers in the world of business and in general things turn out over the long run to be quite different from how they seemed at first glance.

While major Western corporations are taking advantage of relatively low labor rates in countries like India, it is also true that for the most part they are offshoring less critical parts of the business – and they generally have to supply much of their own infrastructure in order to function reliably. The developed world – and the USA in particular – desperately needs to become less profligate with resources, but that does not automatically mean that mastery of the game passes now to countries such as India. It is easy to thrive when consumer expectations are very low (as they are in India, China, and elsewhere) but much harder to thrive once consumers’ expectations rise above the basics.

Today, the Tata Nano is a great cheap little car; tomorrow it will be regarded as an unacceptable death-trap. As emerging market consumers become increasingly spoiled it is probable that western companies will regain the competitive advantages they currently forgo in such markets. Equally, emerging market companies will see their cost advantage eroded by the need to cater for more sophisticated tastes with more sophisticated (and expensive) products. So we’re most probably not going to see any kind of revolution, merely evolution along reasonably predictable lines.

Europe’s shame

May 25, 2010

The EU is launching a public debate on agricultural policy, with a view to policy changes by 2013. It says the current policies face “major challenges” from climate change, food availability and resource pressures.

The EU says its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) seeks to guarantee farmers a reasonable standard of living, ensure sufficient food at fair prices, and preserve Europe’s rural heritage.

BUT the reality is that the CAP accounts for 40% of the EU’s budget – it was almost 50% a couple of years back. It is arguably the world’s greatest industry subsidy scheme in terms of cost (€55bn a year) and duration (53 years!) and impact on other nations. By artificially inflating costs, it’s been a major factor in the worldwide rise in food prices and has seriously damaged trade and consigned many developing nations to subsistence production. 

Regrettably a recent EU survey shows 6/10 Europeans continue to support for it. Go to

Malaysia’s entrepreurial efforts

May 25, 2010

Malaysia’s relatively high entrepreneurialism is reflected in ranking on the Legatum Prosperity Index: 28th out of 104 economies. And the World Bank ranks it 23rd out of 183 economies in the ease of doing business.

A report by the Mansfield Foundation refers to the support mechanisms for entrepreneurs in Malaysia, including physical infrastructure, business advisory services and access to capital. Also, the ‘New Economic Model’ for Malaysia has made entrepreneurship the key driver for the next 10 years.  But Malaysia’s entrepreneurial impact hasn’t been maximized. The CEO of Warisan Global explains that “there is a strong intent by the government to create entrepreneurs – but some of these initiatives are also our weaknesses – they create a dependent mentality and tend to smother the hunger in entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurs also point to the need to produce highly competent graduates, the risk adversity of the small venture capital sector, and government protection of certain industries via regulatory requirements e.g. Astro has the sole satellite TV license and severely curtails entrepreneurship and access to the best services.

Contributed by Jonathan Ortmans, Public Forum Institute (Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship, USA)

Sunrise Program

May 25, 2010

 The biggest constraint in getting trade and investment deals underway is the inertia among SMEs and the development agencies that support them. This is not due to a lack of interest – the inertia stems from:

  • The time and resources in finding true business collaborators.
  • Not knowing who to talk to. The critical knowledge is often embedded in people and networks that are not immediately known.
  • The difficulty in finding partners with a similar mindset, and with integrity. 
  • The lack of quality time to brainstorm opportunities face-to-face with such parties.
  • The complexity of legal, tax and governance issues in the other country.

 These problems are amplified at the sub-regional level where interaction with big business is irregular, and where the connectivity channels are not as developed as in the major cities. This is where industry networks and clusters come into their own. The Cockatoo Network has many members at the regional level, and we want to engage YOU in this Program.

 We believe that the Program will work best at the industry level – accordingly we have developed a first-cut classification – Aquaculture, Agriculture, Automotive, Aviation, Biotechnology, Chemicals and plastics, Clean Energy, Clothing-Footwear-Leather, Creative Industries, Defence, Engineering, Environment, Healthcare, ICT, Oil and Gas, Logistics, Marine, Mining Technology and Geology, Food and Beverages, Metal Fabrication, Paper & Paper Products, Services,  Telecommunications, Timber and timber products.

 We are looking to identify for networks and clusters across national borders to trade intellectual property, manufacturing processes, products and services. If you can appreciate our goals, please email us ASAP. We have people in the USA, Australia, NZ, Germany, Bangladesh and France currently thinking through how best to proceed. We might convene a workshop in coming months.

 We’d love to hear from Cockatoo members:

  • involved in clusters or networks that fit the bill.
  • looking to do joint research across borders.
  • with ideas of how we might attract funding from government.
  • with an interest in attending a workshop to progress the concepts.
  • With any bright ideas!


Pacific Islands challenge

May 25, 2010

The Free Trade Agreement between Australia, NZ and Pacific Island nations is moving ahead, but not without some angst. Known as PACER Plus, the FTA has drawn criticism. For example, Adam Wolfenden (self-styled critic of the FTA) says that PACER Plus was less about economic development and “more about getting Australian and New Zealand services to invest in the Pacific.”

Wolfenden goes on to say ‘If the development interest of the Pacific is at the heart of the intentions of Australia and New Zealand, like they continually say it is, why must it look like a free trade agreement? The global economic crisis as well as others like the food and climate crisis have shown the failure of the free market. The Pacific so far has been somewhat slow to embrace the neo-liberal ideology and given the global crises it would seem like the time to start exploring other options.”

Well we know the free market isn’t perfect, but surely getting A-NZ companies to invest in the Pacific is the ONLY way to go! We have started talks with the Australian Government (DFAT) to shape some initiatives. In this regard, Wolfenden’s concerns are a useful reference point. Anyone interested in these talks should contact us at

Beerenberg – the triggers were Premier Bannon and the Sunday Mail

May 25, 2010

We recently came across an article about Grant Paech, the founder of Beerenberg Jams (Hahndorf, South Australia) and the secrets of his success. “In these early days the jam was made on the kitchen stove and sold in pots from roadside stalls and at local markets. The success of the jam led to the planting of other crops and the introduction of new varieties of jam, followed by condiments and sauces.”

 “By the early 1980s Beerenberg had established a reputation for quality and full-flavoured natural products. In 1985, the company entered a new stage when it began producing small glass jars of jam for Qantas, which had previously used imported products. After the success of this venture, the mini jars were introduced in luxury Australian hotels, where the farm-style quality of the jams was an immediate hit.”

“Buoyed by the growing reputation of his products, Grant Paech then focused on luxury hotels overseas. Beerenberg products are now on the breakfast trays of 300 of the best hotels in the Asia-Pacific region.”

 But we have the Good Oil on the whole story – because 5-6 years ago we interviewed Grant, a lovely, genuine bloke. The trigger was then SA Premier Bannon flying Qantas first-class to London. He didn’t believe the English jams on the breakfast tray measured up to the Beerenberg product. On his return home, he told a Sunday Mail journo who ran it in an article.

 The days and weeks went by as the journo waited for Grant to ring him. Finally the journo gave up and rang Grant asking “Well, what are you going to do about it?”  Grant was stirred into action, and approached  ACI Glass for a price quote for the supply of small jars. The price was very high because Grant could not  provide any assurance of a long-term supply contract. So Grant then met with Qantas’ SA manager who took up the cudgels, and the rest is history.

 Huge lesson for all us. Every idea needs a trigger, and then persistent follow-up.


Chemistry + Collaboration

May 25, 2010

Richard Goyder, CEO of Wesfarmers, was asked in a recent interview with BOSS magazine how he gets the other CEOs within the Wesfarmers empire to collaborate. His answer was illuminating.

“That’s hard because if you make people accountable, they run their businesses. If I tell Ian McLeod (CEO, Coles) he’s got to collaborate with John Gillam (CEO, Bunnings) and Launa Inman (CEO, Target), I reckon I’ve got zero chance of that happening. But if Launa, John and Ian get their people who are looking at shipping from China to collaborate, then we’ll get collaboration around that.”

“There is another way of getting it…Two weeks ago, I took the leadership team up to Shepparton to look at some work the Indigenous Enterprise Program was doing. We’re looking at what we can do in terms of employing more indigenous people through Wesfarmers. What came out of that drive – three hours up and three hours back – was this wonderful interaction between the CEOs of the business. They started conversing. We weren’t on a roadshow, they weren’t trying to tell their stories, they were talking about something quite different. It was the best piece of chemistry I’ve had from that team in the last couple of years. There was a lesson in that for me.”

(Doug Henton, Collaborative Economics (USA) coined the wonderfully apt term ‘enlightened self-interest’ to describe how to tap collaborative instincts, such as the China shipping example above – Editor).

Brick art murals

May 25, 2010

 A few months back we observed Austral Bricks’ latest innovation – a 10 square metre mural of Michael Jackson, made from 6,000 glazed bricks. Absolutely well done. It has now been replaced by one of President Obama, adjacent to the M7 Freeway in western Sydney.

 Well, it’s one thing to revere our American mates, what about our locals? Besides, Australians know little about their history, regional Australia lacks decent integrated tourism product, and most small towns don’t have a point of difference. A high-quality brick mural of Henry Lawson would make a statement in Grenfell, his place of birth. Likewise, Banjo Patterson in Binalong. And Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in the Blue Mountains, Mary McKillop in Penola, Robert Menzies in Jeparit, John Curtin in Creswick, Pro Hart in Broken Hill, Errol Flynn in Hobart. Gee, for ex-bureaucrats, we do get excited sometimes!

 Angles for Cockatoo members

  • We are working with Austral Bricks to develop concepts – the cost is very reasonable and these murals have great potential to lift the overall tourism product to new levels.
  • Work with us to find programs and sponsors to share the cost.