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Catching The Knowledge Wave Conference Communique

Catching The Knowledge Wave Conference Communique

INTRODUCTION

In October 2000, The University of Auckland in partnership with the New Zealand Government and supported by business and a broad cross-section of New Zealand society initiated The Catching the Knowledge Wave project.

The project arose from the recognition that New Zealand’s economic performance was inadequate to sustain the quality of life, the quality of public services, and the social cohesion valued by New Zealanders.

Its aims were : -

- To raise New Zealanders’ sights and to encourage the exploration of new ways to create future economic prosperity and social well-being, with emphasis on returning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD economic performance tables and on improving our social, education and innovation performance.

- To spark a broad-based national discussion on how New Zealand can benefit from the pursuit and application of knowledge-based creativity and innovation that is the key to success in the global economy of the 21st century.

- To develop initiatives for change.

- To build national support among political, business, academic, community groups and media for that change.

A pivotal point of the project was The Catching the Knowledge Wave Conference from August 1-3, 2001. This communique outlines the achievements of the project so far and the creation of a new organisation, the Knowledge Wave Trust, to drive the project forward.

THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION

Raising awareness of the issues facing New Zealand was identified as a key goal of the project. A “national conversation’ was initiated to increase awareness of New Zealand’s future economic options, to increase understanding of the components of a knowledge society, and to confirm that such a society would be inclusive, rather than exclusive, with all sectors of society gaining from improved economic performance.

Engaging the national electronic and print media was key to building understanding of the project and the conference and its goals of tangible, practical actions. Efforts to create a “national conversation’ also extended beyond the media outreach to include public programmes involving young New Zealanders, conference speakers, and related forums, which were scheduled before, during and after the conference.

THE CONFERENCE

The Catching the Knowledge Wave Conference from August 1-3, 2001 was co-chaired by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and Dr John Hood, Vice Chancellor of The University of Auckland. The event was made possible through generous sponsorship support from the business community, the Government and the University.

The conference was attended by 450 delegates and addressed by 37 national and international speakers and expatriate New Zealanders. It was charged with identifying, through its working parties, elements of a national strategy to enable New Zealand’s transition to a competitive knowledge society. To engage the wider audience beyond the physical confines of the conference venue, the proceedings were telecast live, with viewers invited to contribute to the discussion via e-mail.

Over the course of the three-day conference, insights were presented from the experience of Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Singapore, Korea, the USA and Taiwan in fostering economic growth. Other speakers highlighted global trends and shared successful innovation strategies, while New Zealanders currently living offshore contributed their perspectives. The conference drew on this deep store of knowledge and experience, and on papers developed by The University of Auckland, Government departments and others to undertake its most important task: to develop recommendations for action that were appropriate for New Zealand - socially, culturally and economically.

A knowledge society involves all sectors and levels of the nation, yet it is frequently misinterpreted as an elitist concept with the benefits limited to a narrow, high technology sector. The conference and its working groups therefore focused on the necessarily broad, inclusive view through five themes: innovation and creativity, entrepreneurship, people and capability, sustainable economic strategies and social dynamism and knowledge opportunities.

Each theme group was charged with developing recommendations for action to enable New Zealand’s transition to a knowledge society. The full recommendations from each theme group are available on the project website, www.knowledgewave.org.nz.

OVERVIEW OF RECOMMENDATIONS

A broad consensus emerged from the conference that improved prosperity for New Zealanders could only be achieved if the country moves on to a higher growth path than has been the case over recent years.

The conference concluded that this path to prosperity should be constructed across 12 linked areas: -

- The creation of a widely shared vision for New Zealand.

- Attitudinal change to celebrate excellence in all fields of endeavour, building a new national self-confidence and national pride.

- The celebration of innovation and creativity in all aspects.

- The development of a superlative highly valued education system.

- The development of research and development capability - including networks and Centres of Excellence.

- The celebration, development and funding of entrepreneurs, both business and social.

- The fostering of collaboration across sectors, disciplines, and professions.

- The development of clusters and the pursuit of industries of appropriate scale in areas of sustainable competitive advantage.

- The development and celebration of talent: recognising the value of creatively reconnecting with New Zealand, New Zealanders who live overseas.

- The streamlining and redefinition of central and local government.

- The establishment of fiscal settings consistent with our economic growth aspirations.

- The creation of innovative societal incentive structures.

ACTION

The Catching the Knowledge Wave Project has already sparked a range of fresh initiatives, created new networks, and strengthened existing relationships.

Among recommendations and new initiatives being implemented: -

- A diaspora network is being established by Stephen Tindall and David Teece to provide a database of New Zealanders in knowledge industries in Northern California. This network will provide links back to New Zealand companies and keep talented expatriates abreast of developments in New Zealand.

- The recommendation to develop a Social Venture Capital fund is under active investigation.

- The conference has given fresh impetus to strategies to “Brand New Zealand” initiatives.

- A proposal for a television series to celebrate the nation’s entrepreneurs is in development.

- The $100m NZ Venture Investment Fund has been launched.

- The introduction of the New Zealand Herald/Business in the Community section in the Business Herald, with articles and a related mentoring service.

- A wide range of support programmes for schools is under development, including the “principals’ toolkit’, mentoring and leadership programmes.

NEXT STEPS - THE KNOWLEDGE WAVE TRUST

The Catching the Knowledge Wave conference voiced aspirations for New Zealand’s future and, in the limited time available, put forward practical recommendations for action.

There is a clear consensus from sponsors and participants that the project should continue, to build on the momentum and commitment established by the conference. A new entity, The Knowledge Wave Trust, is to be created to carry forward the debate and initiatives of the project.

The Trust will operate with a Board of Directors, chaired by Dr Hood, and an Advisory Board drawn from a wide cross-section of New Zealand society. Their roles will be to identify the projects and activities of the Knowledge Wave Project going forward. Representatives of political parties will be invited to participate as observers on the Trust’s Advisory Board.

Its goal will be to act as a broadly based body to stimulate the national conversation that has already begun, to act as a catalyst for action, and to monitor New Zealand’s progress towards becoming a smarter, more successful, more prosperous country. The Trust will work with existing organisations to support and facilitate a wide range of practical activities under the Knowledge Wave umbrella.

Among initiatives under consideration are the further development of a “national balanced scorecard” to benchmark New Zealand’s progress on economic, social, and environmental indicators and the organisation of forums to spur on-going debate, including a symposium to be held next year to discuss progress towards Knowledge Wave recommendations.

Commitments from existing sponsors to establish the Trust have been secured, and an appeal will be made to all New Zealanders who identify with the project’s aims to contribute, through their ideas and practical involvement in new projects and initiatives.


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