Executive Summary

Network Action Plan

Objective of the Action

The purpose of this Action is the establishment of a Network for Tourism Promotion and Development Topics. The goals of the Action include the creation of a suitable Support Infrastructure for the Network Members as well as Project promotion and publicity.

The Partner Network goals include:

•        Formation of a tourism product identity for the Area of Intervention.

•        Design and guidance of the stakeholders towards the direction of creating an integrated touristic product.

•        Lengthening of the touristic period.

•        Cultivating of touristic consciousness within the local society and complete activation of the tourism stakeholders.

GENERAL INFORMATION ON NETWORKS

BASIC INFORMATION ON NETWORKS

The term business “networks” refers to partnerships between at least three enterprises, aiming to implement complex activities which none of them would be able to implement by itself, lacking the necessary technical expertise or resources (capital, time, available human resources) required.

Companies participating in company networks enter joint contracts in order to implement predefined actions with specific deadlines from the very beginning. These company networks embed various characteristics and can appear in the form of subcontracting, strategic alliances and technical know-how transfer.

A physical network is “born” through the initiative of a company which takes on a –commonly accepted- leading role. A successful network can evolve into a social chapter and into a cluster, progressively cultivating the elements of partnership.

There are two major forms of cooperation: networks and partnerships. Due to prerequisites set by European Funding Programs, the partnership forms is chosen in many cases. Partnerships may occur from existing networks, but sometimes, networks may be created by partnerships.

Networking is a system of principles and actions based on new forms of collaborative actions and interventions. A broader potential is formed for dealing with society’s social and financial needs which are not covered by atomic, uncoordinated and disjoint actions.

In this sense, networking requires the creation of bonds between groups and/or people, aiming to achieve various benefits, which result from the cooperation between them, as well as from the creation of economies of scale.

Furthermore, networking allows for jointly dealing with the financial cost, which would burden each and every interested party. Also, networking allows cooperating parties to better advance their positions or requests. Finally, networking may refer to either direct cooperation between people, teams and parties, or even direct communication, for example via electronic linking.

NETWORK PURPOSE AND CHARACTERISTICS

Networks are characterized by:

• Common Strategy: The network members must have a common strategic goal. In business networks, the goals include the viability and profitability of the individual company, as well as dealing with competition.

  • Basic skills: Each company participating in a network adds something to the end result depending on what it does best.

• Clear-cut agreement: The agreement might be a formal and strict contract, an informal verbal agreement, or anything in between.

• Trust: Trust is a basic prerequisite for cooperation. Specifically, companies must be certain that any activities or actions taken are within the boundaries of common interest, while at the same time are not contrast to the individual interest.

• Technology: Technological evolution allows for the immediate transfer of information between companies and drastically reduce the time and effort of transactions, allowing individual companies to act as one.

Network establishment usually aims to:

  • Coordinating politics and actions implemented by the various parties and stakeholders on a local level so that overlaps and multiple implementations of projects and services are avoided.
  • Communication, knowledge and dissemination of information between members.
  • Allow for better representation and participation of beneficiaries in the decision-making process.
  • Participation and substantial involvement in the design process of the “higher”  jurisdictional levels (regional, national) and influencing the central level.

 The local or geographical limitation of the Network may be a result of other factors than simply jurisdictional criteria, such as:

  • The target area geography (position, infrastructure, accessibility).
  • The target area historical and social characteristics.
  • The target area economy.
  • The coordinator-partner reach and capabilities.

MEMBERS AND COOPERATION TYPES

Entities participating in Networks might include:

  • Local, district and regional authorities or their representative bodies.
  • National authorities through their local representatives.
  • Competent government bodies in development and employment subjects.
  • Private companies.
  • Syndicates.
  • Non-government and non-profit organizations.
  • Chambers and professional bodies.
  • Educational institutes as well as research and technology institutes, which may perform development and employment research or support transferring technical know-how.

The types of entities able to participate in a network cannot be predefined. Nevertheless, as a basic principle, participants must be knowledgeable in the subject, have specialization, sufficiency and will. As for the number of participants, this will result through two ambiguous criteria: representation depth on one hand, and manageability of size on the other.

The cooperation type in a network may take the form of an informal or formal cooperation. Each of these types has its own advantages and disadvantages. Many successful partnerships usually enter some type of specific form and every partner member enters in some cooperation agreement under which the purpose, goals and types of cooperation are shaped.

Furthermore, the financial restrains and responsibilities undertaken by members are set, regarding the products and services to be created through the Network. Nevertheless, the decision regarding the form of cooperation depends on a series of factors such as: the type of interventions undertaken by the Network, the conditions for financing the actions, the existence of cooperation conditions in the area, etc.

Some issues that should not be neglected during the selection of a specific form of cooperation include:

  • Costing for designing, negotiating, monitoring and applying the agreement requirements and conditions.
  • Flexibility capability regarding the project goals as well as amendment or addition capability in case some parameters change.
  • Commitment on the agreed points.
  • Foreseeing processes for settling differences and conflicts between members. 

BASIC NETWORKIKG PRINCIPLES

The Network operation methodology is mainly based on bidirectional communication. For the operation to be effective, the Network goals must be completely safe and conform to completely clear and specific needs.

Both Greek and international experience shows that the following principles play an important role in designing a network of Entities:

  • Down-Up approach. The Network goals are based on team needs – local and regional goals.
  • Service design and development according to the local markets needs and particularities.
  • Safeguarding that everybody actively participates in the action design, implementation and development.
  • Staged approach. The result is achieved in steps, prioritized according to effectiveness and having set dates.
  • Action feedback and redefinition. When the designed action does not achieve the desired results, it is brought under discussion and redesign.
  • Processing alternative approaches. When the process is halted due to problems, then alternative plans and problem solutions are deployed.
  • Re-enforcing initiatives of local character. It is important to pay special attention to the local society needs (or the local groups directly profiting from the creation of the Network), a fact that will mark the Network plans and actions.
  • Process design, organization and standardization. The Network is established for a specific goal and purpose. In order to achieve this goal, a Coordinating Committee is formed and the goal descriptions, time schedule, methodology of approach and work groups are put in writing. Furthermore, the communication framework for members is developed, a description is made regarding the Network actions, as well as the tools intended to be used.
  • Application of differentiated activation and action mechanisms depending on the goals and purposes. Most times, potential network members are approached separately, persistently, developing incentives for their participation at the same time, as well as giving particular emphasis to the attempt to highlight the importance of the networking, cooperation and common actions. 

Network Methods

The methods applied by the Network aim in choosing members, safeguarding proper function, advancing the complementing of actions, assuring proper use of financial resources, as well as taking care of spreading the Network results and informing the public. They include:

Communication

The tools used for attracting institutions and people to the Network include contacting by phone, letters and/or electronic correspondence, personal meetings, creation and use of informational and documentation material regarding the Network goals, creation of participation incentives (e.g. positive publicity of institutions, growth of their human resources, collaborations etc.), transferring technical know-how and exchanging valuable experiences and knowledge.

Definition of goals

The active involvement and action of the Network members during its operation can only be certain if the members learn and understand the importance of goals and the part each member may play in achieving them. For that reason, the Network must have the following at its disposal:

  • A base text, which may be the Network memorandum, a declaration, a private contract, etc.
  • Documentation material regarding the goals, including elements such as: a record of the present situation with qualitative and quantitative information, legal issues, information and reports issued by Observatories.
  • A collaboration protocol, signed by the Network members.
  • Inter-member communication tools which may include: using the phone, correspondence, fax, mailing lists, forums, extranets, intranets, etc.
  • A Network operation methodology, which may take various forms according to its purpose.

Scheduling

Networks are based on the common agreement amongst member stakeholders to set common goals and assume common actions. For this purpose, common goals and actions must be clearly stated.

The Network operation plan is one of the basic tools, including action schedules and results. Clarity is crucial, so as not to create false expectations to the members, public or potential Network sponsors. The action schedules must accurately describe the foreseen expenses and the assignment of managers for each action.

Furthermore, it is essential that teams or members are assigned for accepting actions and activities, i.e. Network members which will have the responsibility to verify the correctness of Network actions, within the legal framework and with reasonable cost.

FACTORS ASSURING EFFECTIVENESS

Through the analysis of a series of case studies regarding networking actions developed in Greece and abroad, a few conclusions were drawn, as well as general principles, which can be applied in developing networks within the Greek reality:

  • Networks are usually initiatives born of one or more basic needs.
  • It is necessary to develop a proper culture based on clear relationships of mutual trust and cooperation.
  • It is a prerequisite to develop an Action Program with complete character and specific strategy, so as to achieve the networking actions. Declaring clear targets and collective action methods for achieving this is the basis on which they must rely on.
  • In most cases, the existence of an intermediate Network supporter plays a crucial part to succeeding in all stages, from preparatory activities advancing the concept, to building and starting operations.
  • Networks can have an open character but must have specific evaluation criteria for new members.
  • Creating a clear-cut organizational structure amplifies its effective operation, but such should not necessarily be strict. Creating relationships characterized by trust and cooperation is the top-most requirement, creating a formal structure is secondary.
  • Financing networks through aid grants is what drives their creation. Private financing though is a basic prerequisite for their continuity.

Implementing “soft” actions with a horizontal character (shared publicity, participation in exhibits, brochures, etc.) can become the Network’s experimental operation stage. Through these actions, members learn to cooperate and evolve relationships based on proper communication and trust.

NETWORKING BENEFITS

Business Networking, other than being a means for communication, is also means for managing and dealing with local problems, as well as exchanging information and technical know-how, supporting shared actions, doing parallel activities for an action, spreading Network ideas and results.

What is more, networking may act as a mechanism for sensitizing and putting pressure in dealing with hard cases, having multiplied effects. A well-structured network can:

  • Ease exchanging experiences, opinions and solutions, helping construct a more whole and complete approach on issues.
  • Ease spreading Good Practices, bringing forward strategies and advancing entrepreneurship.
  • Protect from overlaps and ensure a more rational resource management.
  • Ensure multiplication of positive actions and spreading the operational results of structures.
  • Ease the more effective advancement of structure services in local societies and markets.
  • Assist in constructing a common voice for the network members communicating.
  • Effectively advance collaborations in both formal and informal form.
  • Ensure a steady collaboration framework amongst bodies, a fact that upgrades their qualitative and quantitative intervention and the advancement of positive actions towards local level entrepreneurship.

An effective networking design offers the following in both local and regional levels:

  • Maximizing utilization of social and financial resources in a local, regional, national and European level.
  • Amplifying the effectiveness of prevention and problem-dealing mechanisms through coordinated and complementing informational and consulting actions.

NETWORK OPERATIONAL ACTION PLAN

NETWORK OPERATION

During the network operation phase, issues arise that relate to the internal Network environment, as well as its actions with respect to its recipients (services and products offered by the Network). Indices like the percentage of active bodies amongst the Network participants, the user-recipient rate regarding those utilizing the Network, and issues like Network cooperation with other networks and other levels of programming, and at the same time Network personnel, resources and tools, are being investigated and analyzed during this phase.

An Action Program is composed during this phase, aiming to focus the network operations on actual needs. As for local matters, the same applies as with networking, mentioned above. Other relevant issues deal with the percentage of eligible recipients relevant to its compatibility, at the period applicable, with other plans (district, national), its thematic range, and so on.

Interest is focused on the following parameters:

  • Body activation.
  • Network recipients.
  • Personnel, resources and finances.
  • Infrastructure and tools utilized by the Network.
  • Action Program.
  • Collaborations, recognition, ensuring support.
  • Availability of requirements and methodology regarding the planning of actions at a local level.
  • Acquiring resources.
  • Schedule.
  • Program monitoring and evaluation methods – conclusions.
  • Structures or people having assumed the responsibility for the monitoring and evaluation task.

The main relevant conclusions are respective to the following:

  • The Network’s purpose of operation, local development of tourism, must be based on strategy and the action program: The cooperating bodies should compose a unified strategy and action program so as to implement the Network’s goals. The action program should be composed by the Network and should ensure that, within its scope, every partner has a specific role to assume and a specific “share” in its success. Also, in order to ensure the plan’s support (political and financial), this must be connected and related to the European, national or district planning cycle (assuming there is one).
  • The Action Program must focus on the sum of stakeholders which perform tourism activities:The business aspect of tourism (businesses, investments etc.) usually make up most of the interest (action-wise). Nevertheless, in order to achieve local development in the tourism sector, requirements must be equally studied from the aspect of employment search (employers, businesses), as well as the provider aspect (workers in the tourism sector, suppliers etc.), directly offering services or products. Therefore, the Action Program must, among other things, include actions towards the better organization and operation of tourism accommodation, actions regarding their personnel, as well as for informational purposes – informing the indirect tourism stakeholders.
  • The methodology applied for composing Action Programs must focus on the local market needs: Without overlooking the requirement, local programming must be able to be included in the programming cycle on a European, national and regional level, though the methodology applied should focus on the area requirements and bring forward the crucial matters that concern it. As such, even from the phase of present situation analysis, the prerequisite exists that the most important problems of the area regarding the tourism market should be examined in depth.

Expected results

In general, as based on the strategic goals defined, the total effect of the networking actions to the whole area’s tourism sector is identified in the following points:

  • The area’s clear direction of the tourism sector.
  • Informing – training the direct and indirect stakeholders dealing with tourism.
  • Improving the business operation cycle through quality improvement.
  • Advancing innovation as means to improve business competitiveness.
  • Increasing employment.
  • Introducing technical know-how from the Italian side and vice-versa.

Crucial Success Factors

Crucial success factors in networking bodies include:

  • Member commitment for systematic, collective effort, identifying the following main points:
  • Applying a clear organizational structure and way of operation
  • Focusing effort to deal with specific problems businesses face and creating common direction and goals.
  • Emphasizing on the correct message definition for the multiplying effects brought over by partnership.
  • Mentioning specific successful examples.

Applying a clear organizational structure and management methods beforehand, can significantly assist networks to follow clear rules and cooperation methods from the beginning, so that no problems arise due to lack of understanding.

Provisioning a central management body and regional – independent control bodies, elected by the majority of the members, greatly ensures the following:

  • Common acceptance.
  • Transparency in all operation levels.
  • Greatest possible flexibility.
    • Network character

International practice and experience does not show a network being more effective by having a specific number of members, while no specific standards and comparative indices have been issued.

What is apparent is that the more open the Network character, i.e. the more members it has, the more it is characterized by extroversion, the more synergies, effectiveness and technical know-how it has amongst its members.

  • Network Durability & Viability

There’s always the danger of atony and bodies abandoning efforts, precisely because of the lack of visible achievement of specific results. For that reason, the coordinator has the responsibility to clearly explain that the results could possibly be long-term, during the preparative actions as well as the whole Network activation period, and that they will start becoming visible after a reasonable time period. 

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