Lesson 8: Remember to build in some downtime for participants to meet informally
There’s a famous line about being too busy fighting with alligators to be able to get on with draining the swamp. It’s a problem we see TRADEIT SME clients struggling with all of the time. It’s one of the important things we are here to help with - creating opportunities to discover new technologies and enable the process of acquiring those that are relevant to you.
To achieve this, we have run a successful series of Brokerage events across Europe, bringing together food industry specialists, researchers and, most importantly, small food producers.
Brokerage events are a well proven way of ensuring that you get time with people you might struggle to find in other circumstances. Over the six events, in four different countries, 712 people took part in 627 separate meetings. These meetings have resulted in co-operations and the acquisition of technology that is already changing businesses and increasing employment.
The technologies we are transferring as a direct result of the meetings are not the only benefit. Along with the formal meetings we created many opportunities for informal networking, allowing producers from nine different countries to meet each other, exchange knowledge, problems and best practice. Language was only a temporary barrier in Potsdam, when Bakers were able to sink their arms together into dough and bake, and when meat producers gathered over Pinchos and wine in Logrono another level of understanding was achieved. TRADEIT network members were always on hand to find or provide translation where needed and a number of profitable co-operations have sprung up from the conversations that started in more relaxed surroundings.
We asked the participants what they thought of their experience after each event and below are some of the things they told us:
“I really liked meeting producers from different countries and sharing information.” Dermot, Ireland, Baker.
“The best part was the time when you get the possibility to talk afterwards with people who were giving their speeches.” Sami, Finland, Meat Producer.
“Knowing the kind of problem that Carnicas companies have was very good.” Javier, Spain, Meat Producer.
“It was a chance to take a step back and look at your work and business in different ways. It helps me to come back and contribute more when solutions are required in various aspects of the business.” JP, Ireland, Dairy.
“It was good, time to have some unexpected talks, which in any case intend to be the best ones.” Volker, Germany, Baker.
Time and again the participants told us that they got more than just the interactions from the events. For a short time they were able to step outside their businesses and reflect on the conversations they have had with their Hub Advisors. After worrying that they could not afford the time away from their business, most were quick to join the queue to attend another meeting. There are additional partnerships, co-operations and technology transfers springing up across Europe that owe little to the technological content and much to the atmosphere and conversations that we were able to inspire. Added to the directly organised co-operations they make the events very successful indeed.
So what is the first take away message from Brokerage? It’s not just about the formal exchanges and the knowledge gained from the process. We know that peers from the same industry can directly relate to the challenges and frustrations of a particular context; practitioner’s share knowledge in a way that can be as beneficial, if not more so, than most other sources of support or intervention.