Mesopartner Summer Academy 2017

The role of meso organisations in Territorial Economic Development

The annual Summer Academy of Mesopartner has become an important international capacity-building event on Territorial Economic Development for economic development practitioners around the world. It is designed for experienced professionals involved in designing, implementing and facilitating economic development processes and building team capacity. The 2017 event will be held in Berlin, Germany, from 3 to 7 July.

Territories are becoming more and more central to economic development efforts. Developing countries are facing many challenges and increasing change, especially beyond major cities and towns. Globalisation has increased the mobility of goods, people and ideas. At the same time, tacit knowledge and local learning are becoming more important, as they create a dynamic locational advantage.

At the Summer Academy, participants are introduced to Mesopartner’s approach to Territorial Economic Development (TED), which brings together experiences and instruments from Local and Regional Economic Development (LED/LRED), Bottom Up Industrial Policy, Innovation Systems, Complexity Thinking and Market System Development.

At the Summer Academy 2017, the specific emphasis will be on emergence and adaptation of meso organisations and their central role in the TED process. These organisations aim to promote the private sector, address persistent market underperformance, and promote territorial and sectoral competitiveness. The event will look at the organisational development in such organisations to enable them to identify trends and patterns in development processes, form partnerships or alliances and improve understanding through participatory processes. It will discuss the role of development programmes and their role in territorial development processes and what they can do to help meso organisations become more dynamic, strategic and responsive.

The Summer Academy 2017 will draw on more than a decade of Mesopartner's experience in the field of economic development around the world. This experience will be enhanced by bringing in insights from the on-going involvement of Mesopartner in research activities that look at cutting edge thinking in economic development, complexity thinking and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty.

Learning outcomes for experienced development practitioners:

  1. Gain updated knowledge on processes, instruments and approaches used in Territorial Economic Development.
  2. Understand how territorial economies evolve, the importance of self-discovery processes by local stakeholders and the centrality of adaptive meso organisations in this evolutionary process.
  3. Be able to assess the responsiveness, role and performance of organisations involved in territorial development processes.
  4. Be able to explore ways to improve the performance, strategic position and functions of development organisations and other market actors, both in governance and in process instruments.
  5. Know how to better leverage widely used frameworks and concepts, such as value chains, clusters, or market systems to identify opportunities for organisational change and economic development in territories.
  6. Learn about ways to assist stakeholders to improve their self-awareness, build trust and enhance the local dialogue about development opportunities.
  7. Gain exposure to how participatory methods can be used to not only diagnose industries, organisations and institutions, but to design integrated programmes that combine top-down and bottom-up approaches.
  8. Distinguish how complex issues in local economies can be explored, how complicated issues can be sequenced and addressed, and how portfolios of interventions can be managed.

Who should attend

The programme is dense and is aimed at development practitioners with deep and diverse experience in working on private sector development using different instruments and approaches such as Value Chain Development, Clusters Development, Local and Regional Economic Development, or Market Systems Development. This programme will be especially relevant for experienced professionals working on strengthening development organisations, backstopping teams in the field or those practitioners involved in improving the economic dynamics and economic performance of regions, industries or clusters.

Strengthening meso organisations

The performance of territorial economies depends on a number of factors, including the dynamism of the private sector, macro-economic framework conditions and the disposition of the society for economic change. Besides these factors, meso organisations play a central role in the process of improving economic performance. The dynamics, diversity and adaptability of these organisations are critical in improving the competitiveness of a territory. In donor-funded economic development, the development programme is generally put in the role of the driver of change. Mesopartner has been advocating that territorial meso organisations need to take the role of being the central driving actors that enable economic change. Development programmes need to support and strengthen them.

To find opportunities for improvement, or to address binding constraints, these organisations typically must work with other stakeholders, conduct all kinds of diagnostic processes, and formulate improvement processes over the short, medium and longer term. At the same time, these organisations play an important role in advocating for policy change and shape public sector strategies. Very often these organisations must balance the requirements of firms, with the priorities of policy makers or funders.

Meso organisations often struggle to learn and adapt in order to respond to the continuously changing economic environment. This could be because of the way they are managed, evaluated or resourced, or because they are trying to do too much (or too little).

While firms find it harder to detect trends or shifts in the context, economic development practitioners are often able to work with and experience the reality of different public organisations, policy makers and different kinds of enterprises. Through this exposure to multiple perspectives, development practitioners have a unique insight, but often struggle to translate their insight into meaningful change. Also, they are often frustrated by the lack of instruments available to support decision makers, experts and networks in and around these organisations to explore creative ideas, new forms of collaboration or alternative arrangements.

The Summer Academy 2017 will introduce ways to strengthen the capacity of meso organisations from a Territorial Economic Development perspective, how their performance can be better measured, and how their impact on the economy can be improved. This will include exploring how their leadership can be developed and strengthened and how technical experts can become more effective. Well-functioning meso organisations address pervasive patterns of underperformance, non-competitiveness and inflexibility in the performance of all kinds of enterprises, sectors and locations.

A second important perspective that will be introduced is to look beyond major cities and capitals in developing countries. While many developing countries do have well-managed or responsive organisations in major centres, many development organisations face challenges with scale, focus and adaptability of organisations in smaller communities or in secondary regions.

Read more on the Mesopartner Summer Academy programme.