What is risk analysis?
We have decided to use the term “risk” to capture this balance between vulnerability and elasticity, while “risk analysis” is used for the assessment of where you are situated between the two. There are a number of factors that influence a network’s risk. In the following we will emphasize two of these. Network participants may have varying degrees of dependency on each other, and knowledge sharing happens to a varying degree too. Great dependency means there will be close connections between the collaborating parties, e.g. they have to deliver on time, otherwise the collaboration will fall apart. And when a high degree of knowledge sharing is present, the interaction between the parties may be complicated and it is difficult to obtain full overview. This process is illustrated in Figure 3.
In the lower left corner of the figure, there will not be much development in the network, since its members neither collaborate nor share knowledge. The participants may change their conduct if they are forced to, but will fall back into the old patterns immediately as soon as the pressure is off (“elastic adaptation”). In the upper right area, everyone commits fully, which in a way should be a good thing, but may turn out to be risky due to greater vulnerability. If things go wrong, all will fall. The upper left area of the figure is all talk; no real collaboration emerges. In the lower right area, there is apparent collaboration and tight connections, but the collaboration underperforms because little knowledge is shared. We imagine that the ideal is located somewhere in the middle of the figure, where the participants balance collaboration, knowledge sharing and preservation of distinctive characteristics. This is indicated by rectangles and a circle in the middle of the figure. The dotted circles indicate that “best location” may vary from one network to the next, and also that the network will move up and down along the diagonal axis in order to find its balance point. Falling outside this axis will lead to a waste of resources and inefficient collaboration in the network.
How can the tool be used?
The participants in a network may have varying degrees of dependency on each other, and varying degrees of knowledge sharing. Great dependency means there will be close connections between the collaborating parties, e.g. that they have to deliver on time, otherwise the collaboration will fall apart. And when a high degree of knowledge sharing is present, the interaction between the parties may be complicated, making it difficult to have full overview of it.
In the lower left area of figure 3, the network will not develop much, since the participants neither collaborate nor share knowledge. In this case, the participants believe that it is safer to keep going like before, since they then will be independent and can steer their own courses. But this may be a false sense of security. For instance, once the network is confronted with external forces of change, you will have to emerge from your shell and make yourself more vulnerable (move upwards in figure 3) to be able to handle the forces of change in a positive manner. On the other hand, it is not necessarily much better to end up too far to the right in figure 3. Here all participants commit fully, which may turn out to be risky due to greater vulnerability. If things go wrong, all will fall. The upper left area of the figure is characterized by a lot of talk but no real collaboration emerges. The network management may in these cases feel that they are carrying long sticks extending in all directions, as it is hard to keep a steady course. And in the lower right area, there is apparent collaboration and tight connections, but things do not go too well because of a lack of knowledge sharing. We imagine that the ideal is located somewhere in the middle of the figure, where the participants balance collaboration, knowledge sharing and preservation of distinctive characteristics. This is indicated by rectangles and a circle in the middle of the figure. The dotted circles indicate that “best location” may vary from one network to the next, and also that the network will move up and down along the diagonal axis in order to find its balance point.
The four stations of the Network in the Valley allow monitoring of the main pests and diseases affecting cherry and apple trees, so that it is possible to adjust and minimize the number of phytosanitary treatments. Also, the system incorporates the emission of alerts by frost, and the calculation of the irrigation needs of the crops. This and other initiatives place producers in Caderechas Valley as a reference for sustainable agriculture. This system of warnings of pests and diseases is classified as good practice since it has been a pilot project that has been able to be exported later to other regions.
LESSONS TO LEARN:
– The members of this association, in most cases have no knowledge of innovation. But, in spite of this, the firmly believe in the collaboration with technology centers, universities and other companies as an essential issue to establish innovation though network’s activities. On the other hand, the support of foundations and public entities is also necessary so that this innovation can be developed. Without such external support, implementations as explained above would not be possible.
– The union of different stakeholders that make up the network together with the search for external help has made possible to obtain a product beneficial to all. Without the network, it would not have been possible to develop the project and obtain the warning station, whereby the producers of the valley can count on a priori data to face with advantage to diseases and plagues of their fruit trees
– Support plans for rural areas are essential for the development of innovation in these regions. Rural regions depend on knowledge generated in universities and research centers in order to innovate; In addition, for this knowledge to be transferred to these regions, the support of public entities is necessary; All this makes the collaboration (triple helix) is essential.
Based on the model in figure 3, we have tried to position the examined VRI2 networks (see figure 4). The location of the networks is based on our interpretation of the condition of each single network, which cannot be exact because we rely on given data at interviews and found through other documents.
We assess the Jostedalen Business Network to be well balanced on the whole. It is evident that the flow of knowledge from the outside into the network has been improved through network collaboration. Knowledge is shared internally and new knowledge is received from external stakeholders. There is a certain competition present, which we can see in the work around developing product packages, where everyone wants to have “all” their own products in “all packages”. They all want to preserve their distinctive characteristics but collaborate well in the network as well.
Energy Region Sogn og Fjordane (ESF) is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, from businesses and from the public sector. This is a new network, and our perception is that no real collaboration has been achieved. There is a low degree of formal collaboration and little knowledge sharing. As a network they have remained in a position with many divergences, the manager of the network probably has a tough job trying to “keep the sticks” together. The members have maintained a safe “status quo” but have not been able to develop the association. This is one of the obstacles for new networks when they start out. It is an art to establish joint activities that strengthen knowledge sharing and collaboration. When examining the members, we see some have had a certain degree of collaboration with some other members, but there is a lack of long-term collaborative relationships to build on. This makes it challenging to start collaborating. Business stakeholders are also competitors to an extent and may be skeptical of each other and of the network, and how the network can contribute to developing their own results. Our experience is that there is a need to establish joint projects with parts of the membership pursuing concrete objectives that will be effective for the businesses. Since this is a relatively new network but with a great potential, these may be just difficulties of initial phase and therefore patience may be necessary.
IT Forum Sogn og Fjordane is a very complex network, or rather a network of networks. Our approach has been to start from the top of the network, and this is the perspective we have viewed it from. The network was established in 1995. The way this network has been organized makes it a robust one, where vulnerability is balanced out through knowledge sharing and collaboration on specific projects. We find that there is little attention on competition and preserving distinctive characteristics among members; everybody has joined the network to work towards a common good. There are many participants, and it’s not always easy for everyone to grasp the ideas behind IT Forum. We see this as development potential for strengthening the network further. The history of IT Forum still shows evidence that the network can stick together and act when faced with both challenges and opportunities.
Likewise, the Fruit and Berries Network in Sogn og Fjordane has a long history that demonstrates their ability to turn around and handle forces of change without leaving themselves vulnerable or making short-lived changes. This network is based on collaboration around a long-term programme which helps secure the basic structure of the industry. It is still noticeable that at the beginning of the Bama project, back in 2001, both network and industry were more vulnerable than they are today. The quality of fruit produced in the county gave reason for discontent. If nothing had been done, both stakeholders in the network and the industry as a whole, would have been more vulnerable than they actually were in 2014.