Large Pieces, Cemented in Place

At the behest of Sandy Peardon, Dan James and I met with Sam Punnett of FAD Research this afternoon.

Sam is a “interactive media researcher” from Toronto (he calls it “the city”) and he’s been engaged by ITAP to “develop a broadly consultative 3-year growth strategy for the New Media Sector” on Prince Edward Island (read the RFP here).

As a rule, I avoid any exercise that has “broadly consultative 3-year growth strategy” in its description, but Sandy dangled the carrot of an opportunity to “bring your ‘grassroots growth rather than a large grandiose public initiatives’ perspective to him” and, heck, who am I to turn down a chance like that.

Initial signs were not good, as Sam used the words “space” about half a dozen times in the first five minutes (“new media space,” “digital space,” and so on). Consultants use the word “space” to refer to “an area of economic activity” in the same that hipsters use “joint” to refer to “marijuana-packed cigarette” — it makes them sound all cool and with-it and from San Jose.

Things improved markedly, however, as the meeting progressed: Sam seemed to grok the “organic network of loosely coupled operators” model of the economy that we tried to spin (and that I tried to describe here), and seemed willing and able to accurately reflect our approach back to his minders. Which is a lot more than the usual “ah, your answers didn’t fit the model so we had to leave them out” approach the previous researchers have taken.

While I’m still a strong advocate of “leave the economy alone and it will figure itself out on its own” approach to economic development, I think Dan and I managed to send back some useful feedback, the central element of which was the suggestion that what the industry needs, more than “3-year growth strategies,” monolithic technology infrastructure and IT sweatshops imported from away, is a support network more akin to crop scouts than chess players. Those making decisions about the industry should participate in the life of the industry — get out in the fields, smell the earth, talk to the farmers, so to speak. Rather than trying to sculpt great visions out of nothing.

Sam is here until the end of next week, and he’s open to meeting with anyone who’s got ideas about, well, the development of a “3-year growth strategy for the New Media Sector.” He’s a good listener, and it might be worth your while to take 30 minutes and tell him where you’re at and what you’re doing. Here’s his contact information.