As I travel around the country--and now the world--I'm starting to see some very interesting and provocative economic shifts--part real, part still potential.
In both rural areas such as Appalachian Ohio and in urban centers such as Accra in Ghana, entrepreneurship is everywhere. it feels like an increasing number of what used to be LOCAL entrepreneurs (having only local markets) are networking to become REGIONAL entrepreneurs serving sets of urban markets around them--often crossing state or national boundaries. This is happening through regional innovation networks that are just starting to emerge. I think we all need to examine these closely and figure out ways to help them form all over the world.
What are regional innovation networks? From the fragmentary evidence we have so far, they seem to consist of
*entrepreneurial networks supported by creative NGOs or non-profits,
*regional catalysts and facilitators who work with those entrepreneurs to develop new regional distribution and marketing vehicles,
*consumers that value and pay for authentic regional services and products,
*a set of innovation and/or commercialization services that enable all types of businesses to move to high-value niches in the market,
*and a culture of innovation--that includes governmental policies that support and encourage regionalism.
Why are regional innovation networks so important? If an artisan in Appalachia or Ghana figures out ways to work with others to get their products to larger, but still close at hand, markets, they will start expanding and creating more jobs. And, by helping entrepreneurs focus on innovative niches, those jobs tend to be higher paying and higher quality.
Has anyone else been seeing signs that regional innovation economies are emerging? How can we weave the networks that are the foundation of such transformation?