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Phases in creating export clusters

As far as network creation/strengthening concerned, the following five inter-related phases can be envisaged:

1) Promotion and motivation phase
2) Strategic planning phase
3) Pilot project phase
4) Strategic projects phase
5) Self management phase

Network: The term ‘network’ refers to a group of firms that co-operate on a joint development project – complementing each other and specializing in order to overcome common problems, achieve collective efficiency and conquer markets beyond their individual reach, and

Cluster: The term ‘cluster’ indicates a sectoral and geographical concentration of enterprises which produce and sell a range of related or complementary products and are, thus, faced with common challenges and opportunities.

1) Promotion and motivation phase
The promotion and motivation phase consists of a set of promotional initiatives that contribute to:
•    the identification of a critical mass of SMEs sharing similar growth constraints,
•    their sensitisation to the benefits of networking, and
•    the emergence of groups and of group leaders.
This is done by organising large and open meetings to introduce the principles of networking and to indicate their possible applications. As a result of this promotional initiative, entrepreneurs group around issues (problems and/or opportunities) that they have in common.

2) Strategic planning phase, which involves the following elements:
•    an analysis of common problems and opportunities,
•    the establishment of a common work plan, and
•    an organisational structure for the group.
An in-depth analysis of the growth constraints of the enterprises and of their causes is required at the beginning of this phase. Furthermore, the definition of group work plans depends upon a consensus being reached with all group members concerning the evaluation criteria to be applied in the short, medium, and long term. During this phase, the group selects its legal status and the rules that govern its internal organisation.

3) Pilot project phase
The strategic planning phase opens the door for the implementation of a pilot project phase through which co-operation starts bearing concrete results to the participating enterprises.

The aim is to generate visible results (although of a short-term nature) in order to engender optimism and trust and to consolidate the network’s willingness for further co-operation. In general, the projects undertaken over this phase are of a commercial and/or promotional kind, such as:
•    joint participation in fairs,
•    joint purchase of raw material,
•    design of a collective catalogue, etc.

4) Strategic projects phase
Pilot projects are expected to give way to strategic projects focused on specialisation and complementation at the production level. Strategic projects commonly involve one or more of the following components:
•    an increase in the degree of specialisation, by process and by product, of the network members,
•    the provision of common facilities also through the creation of new enterprises.

5) Self management phase
The final stage is the self-management phase, which coincides with the group of enterprises gaining greater autonomy and the capability to carry out further joint activities independently.

Source: UNIDO