Saturday 23 July 2005

Using a conversation cafe to kick start an ICT industry network

Yesterday I spent the morning helping the Illawarra Regional Development Board (IRDB) to facilitate a half-day workshop to kick-start an information and communications technology (ICT) industry cluster/network in the Illawarra (we have in mind something like the successful clusters in the Hunter and Central Coast regions of New South Wales, Australia). This has been on the local and state political agenda for a while, but yesterday was about moving from talking to action. About 35 people attended the workshop held at Wollongong Council, half representing the local ICT industry and the remainder from various local and state organisations.

I used a conversation cafe for the first half of the workshop that asked them to discuss three key questions about the cluster or network that they wanted to see created. With an emergent technique like this you can never be sure of exactly what the outcome will be, but the benefit is that it is difficult for one view or person to dominate the discussion. However feedback about the process was positive and it helped the group focus on the immediate goals of the network and next steps. In the meantime I'll be continuing to work with the IRDB to put together funding applications that will be used to resource the development of the network.

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