A growing number of studies on regional economic development emphasize the importance of relational assets within an area. These assets include networks of individuals and organizations with high levels of trust, mutually beneficial relationships and norms that nurture creativity and innovation. These social networks help create learning regions with the ability to experiment, innovate and adapt to changing circumstances.
Networks and collaboration are also commonly observed where different stakeholders have come together to effectively manage natural resources. Networks among individuals and organizations from both within and outside an area can assist in natural resource management by facilitating the generation, acquisition and sharing of different types of knowledge and information. Social networks can also help people to commit to common rules and assist in mobilizing and allocating resources.
The goal of this action research project is to explore the nature of development networks in the St. Anthony - Port au Choix Rural Secretariat Region (tip of the Northern Peninsula). It will examine the contribution that network relationships make to development and the role that network leaders can have in enhancing regional development processes and outcomes. The project will focus on efforts that address natural resources, tourism and education/research sectors as identified local priorities.
The project will explore the following questions:
1) What is the nature and extent of development linkages and networks on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula, including both local and external ties?
2) How have interactions within these networks contributed to local and regional development initiatives and outcomes?
3) How can development networks and their contributions to development be further enhanced through network analysis and facilitation (networking weaving)?
The research team is first carrying out surveys and interviews with individuals inside and outside of the region who have been involved with the sectors of interest and/or who have been involved with development initiatives on the tip of the Northern Peninsula. Once information has been gathered, results will be analyzed using social network analysis software to see which people/organizations emerge as being central to the network.
Responses will also be analyzed to see how these local networks can be used to build relationships between different sectors and between different communities to support the region. Workshops are also planned, which will inform local leaders about their possible functions as 'network weavers' and discuss ways in which they can be involved in building networks in their region.