The implementation of regional economic development (RED) strategies is difficult. The world is littered with well-intentioned RED strategies gathering dust. One of the difficult things is bringing the public and private sectors together, but also local, community, regional and political interests.
Moving from high-level national or regional strategies to designing actions that will give effect to those strategies can also be fraught with differing interpretations of what is needed and what will work.
It requires an ability to match resources, capacity and capability with responsibility and accountability. It requires committed partners holding the course as debates on priorities and strategies rage. It requires an evidence-based approach.
Not easy things to do as some have vested interests, some are sure that they have the answer or that their idea is the best, some have untested but seemingly good ideas, some are invested in their current projects, and some are driven by their own organisational KPIs and agendas.
But, as a recent chair of the Forum on Cities and Regions in the OECD and colleague Greg Clark said to me, ‘the three rules of economic development are implementation, implementation, implementation’.
Northland now has an Action Plan which has meant we have been through that pain and decided on some projects we can get on with. One thing I have learnt the hard way is that moving from policy to strategy and action is not, and should not be, a linear process. Each can inform the other.
Focussing on getting some action will inevitably throw up strategy and policy questions going forward, that is healthy, but importantly we are no longer stalled by policy and strategy with no idea of what to do.