To know your ecosystem and to be able to mobilise the relevant actors for the proper functioning of your company or innovative initiative is key, especially when it comes to sectors with great potential, such as the tourism and/or blue economy.
Although the term “ecosystem” has always been more closely linked to the natural environment, recently it has also been consolidated in relation to the social and business sector, especially according to those professionals who relate to each other in a more collaborative approach.
As such, and referring to a “ecosystem approach” as a framework for discovering the benefits of interacting with other companies, individual professionals or other relevant stakeholders, identifying potential collaborators, and networking to build and maintain meaningful relationships for mutual learning and exploitation, the main aims of this Bite Size piece are:
- Understand what a “ecosystem” is within Blue-C approach
- Learn to identify win-win situations for you and others
- Learn more on networking: why and how
IDENTIFY YOUR ECOSYSTEM
By using the term ecosystem we refer to all those actors, agents, organisations, professionals or individuals in a given sector or community that, by working collaboratively or sharing valuable resources with each other, foster the sustainable development of the community and the creation of wealth and opportunities for it.
Why is the ecosystem relevant when it comes to developing business opportunities related to tourism or building more resilient collaborative coastal communities?
Because, as it is well known, there is strength in numbers and two heads are better than one, so having the knowledge and tools to network and work closely with other relevant actors will be very useful to boost your business, develop new ideas for innovation or entrepreneurship or make a positive impact on your community in social and/or economic terms.
To learn more on it, have a look at Mobilizing Your Community: Who You Need To Mobilize and How To Do It
Knowing your ecosystem will allow you to more easily identify people to network with, but keep in mind that there are also people outside your direct ecosystem who could be very relevant.
Potential benefits of purposefully mobilising your ecosystem
- Gives you the opportunity to establish relationships based on common interests with other stakeholders, seeking to fulfil specific objectives and facilitating the creation of a collaborative environment open to co-creation, co-working and co-design that generate value to the community and deliver innovation.
- By sharing your ideas, projects or goals with others around you, it is possible that these professionals, companies or individuals will provide you with the knowledge or connections you need to develop your initiative or create new opportunities for the growth of the sector in your community.
- Mutual learning is truly beneficial and enriching for both parties, and this boosts the resilience of companies and professionals in the sector, who are better able to adapt to changes in the environment and work together to overcome shortcomings or take advantage of opportunities that may arise.
- Collaborating with your ecosystem facilitates the search for new opportunities and enables the creation of long-term working relationships under a win-win approach.
- Another potential benefit of mobilising your ecosystem will be accessing additional funding resources for your initiative. You can learn more on it on our “Crowdfunding” Bite Size.
To gain more in-depth knowledge on why ecosystem are essential to any business success, we recommend you to go through: The CEO Imperative: How mastering ecosystems transforms performance | EY Slovakia
How to mobilise your ecosystem effectively: ROADMAP
- Think about the specificities of your initiative – what are your objectives and what are your needs?
- Carefully reflect about the characteristics of your community in terms of peer companies, competitors, suppliers, customers, but also the local community at large, policy makers, etc. In other words, think about the different stakeholder groups that may be involved in or benefit from your activity, and think about how to incorporate them into the process so that they can provide valuable feedback.
- Establish a strategic action plan to get you going.
- Think dialogically – keep in mind that interaction with others is done through continuous conversational processes and, through these interactions, individuals and entities have the ability to shape their realities, and to modify them according to their joint priorities and interests. It is also through conservation that the meaning of collaboration with others is constructed, so it is recommended that you pay special attention to the use of the words you use, the non-verbal community, your active listening skills, …
- Establish a mutually beneficial relationship based on respect and trust. In order to achieve this, you must interact (for instance, through networking) and develop relationships based on a clear understanding of each other’s challenges, issues, problems, and priorities. Discuss your shared motivations for working together, the other party’s reasons for being involved, and your expectations for the project’s goals, objectives, and accountability. Clarity is essential in this situation since without it, your teamwork won’t provide the desired results.
In any case, the first step to mobilise your ecosystem and establish a collaborative process of co-creation and/or co-design with its members is to get to know these actors around you. For this, networking is key.
It is the method that allows you to develop lasting professional relationships, and networking can be defined as “the activity of meeting people who might be useful to know, especially in your job. It is an exchange of information, knowledge and ideas between people who share a common profession or a special interest, usually in an informal social setting. Networking often begins with a single point on common ground”, (according to Investopedia).
Have a look at the following video on a collaborative network in California – which may be taken as an example on what the Blue-C project aims to create in European coastal communities – to learn more on why collaborating with other is key for the support of the blue economy sector: The MPA Collaborative Network
You may already have established solid professional relationships with other entities, professionals or individuals in your community, in which case, great! However, we recommend considering networking as an ongoing activity that is fundamental for business innovation and the generation of new opportunities within the blue economy sector, so expanding your networking network can bring you numerous benefits, and facilitate collaborative processes and mutual learning.
On the other hand, if you need a guide to getting started in networking, then take a look at the following sections, which you may find useful.
TIPS & TRICKS for effective networking
- Regardless of their history or the actions of their clients or beneficiaries, networking is a conscious effort and a natural activity for all professionals.
- Try to establish a relationship with the other person by finding a point of commonality. This could be an acquaintance, an ex-colleague, a shared hobby or interest, or shared qualities or difficulties with your clients or beneficiaries. Simple information, like the fact that you both own pets, can be quite beneficial. Social media and the Internet are useful tools for learning more about others, but remember you don’t have to alter your personality to fit it.
- Investigate new and diverse networks. Seek out individuals or groups who do not share your professional interests. Joining more inclusive networks that attract a diverse group of professionals can lead to unexpected connections and fascinating rewards. A excellent strategy is to increase the number of connections
- Do not let a promising and new connection you created go by; follow up by message or email.
- Give back. A natural tendency is to approach people in your network with a request for a favour or information, and less to offer this to them. Introduce your colleagues and allow yourself to be introduced to your connection’s colleagues. However, keep in mind that anyone to whom you provide assistance, knowledge, or a favour will feel deeply grateful and will probably want to repay you in kind. This is how networks flourish.
Watch the following to learn more on how to add value to your connections: Professional Networking: How To Add Value to Your Connections
Other (relevant) networking opportunities
- Digital Networking – of course, networking opportunities can take different forms and, in this increasingly digitised world, there are also a multitude of digital networking events for SMEs, entrepreneurs, particular economic sectors, etc. that can bring value to you. Bear in mind that attending some of them may involve some financial outlay, but on the other hand you can access them more easily from anywhere, without being limited by the particular conditions of your community or areas of activity (especially limiting when it is a niche activity, as some sectors of the blue economy can still be today).
Moreover, in this sense, social networks are also playing an increasingly fundamental role when it comes to meeting other professional profiles of interest. Through social media, especially through specialised platforms such as LinkedIn, you can connect with people from different places and backgrounds. You can also join different groups on these social media and start interacting. Remember that an active member of a group is bound to receive more invitations to connect with others, and expand your own network.
- Create your own networking event – if you don’t know where to start or your community/region doesn’t have networking opportunities that are interesting for your idea or initiative, then we suggest you start mobilising!
To do this, start by deciding what the purpose of the event is and identifying potential participants from different sectors or areas of activity, as a variety of professional and personal profiles will add richness to the meeting and create more synergies for future collaboration.
Next, you will need to think about the logistics of the meeting – especially if it is a physical event – and don’t forget to send out invitations and a follow-up well in advance!
Other elements to consider are:
- Doodle poll can be a great tool for you to explore time and date options that are suitable and convenient for the participants.
- If you go for a face-to-face event, you might want to take into consideration things such as food and drinks, which require a bigger investment.
- You can also invite other peer(s) to jump in and co-host the event with you. This collaboration process will make preparation easier, and you will be able to reach even more audiences. On that note it is important to communicate honestly with your colleagues on what your aims and ideas are, but also actively listen to theirs!
More on this here: 7 Steps for Planning a Kick-Ass Networking Event
With regard to tourism and hospitality, which often represent an important part of the GDP of coastal countries in Europe (especially those located in the Mediterranean), it is very common that there are specialised business organisations at local, regional and national level that represent SMEs in the sector and organise activities aimed at mobilising the ecosystem and promoting professional synergies.
It is also interesting in this sector when customers and tourists, as well as the local community, are actively involved.
Creative tourism has set out to achieve several global sustainable development goals, adding value to the different tourism segments related to the blue economy, from sun and beach to cultural and gastronomic tourism, including premium tourism.
As is the case in the tourism and hospitality sector, which is generally closely related to leisure and sports activities, the mobilisation of local, regional or national ecosystems to launch new products/services/initiatives is quite common.
For example, to create a more complete leisure tourism activity, a coastal hotel and a water sports company (e.g. sailing, jet skiing, etc.), can collaborate together to develop experience packs for their clients and, at the same time, organise a monthly trash collection day on the beaches with the local community to keep the environment clean. This creates a win-win situation for both companies, but also for the general public, which enriches the resilience of the coastal community in question.
In this regard, at the international level, you can draw inspiration from the case of the company Adidas, which has been working for several years in the care of the oceans, collecting different plastics from the sea and then using this plastic in their products. A movement that is important for the care of our oceans and the different sporting practices in it, and a movement that represents a strong commitment to create a possessive impact in coastal communities. You can have a look at a initiative here: Adidas x Parley – A Mission For Our Oceans
With the growing interest of international economies in renewable energies, networking events are being held to learn about all the utilities of blue energies, especially dedicated to the Mediterranean Ocean. These energies are related to wind and tidal energy.
For example, the city of Aberdeen (Scotland) is a world centre of the blue energy industry, which is a great asset for the city.
Also, CLANER or Sea of Innovation Cantabria Cluster (both in Spain) are great examples of networking nets from which to take up inspiration on how to mobilise and collaborate within the blue economy energy sector.
Watch the following video to understand a bit more how networking and collaboration might have a positive impact on the fishery sector within your community: Networking Marine Reserves: A proven strategy for vibrant oceans and healthy coastal communities
Also, you can learn more on the importance of ecosystem approach in fishery management and aquaculture here: The sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture
Also, the previous video makes an important point on how collaborating coastal communities can work together to protect their maritime species and make a positive impact in the resilience of the entire ecosystem: ocean, fish and people and companies.
There are many examples that can fall into this category of “support services”, so a wide variety of stakeholders, companies, professionals and civil society organisations can be considered as potential agents of change in creating more actively engaged and resilient communities in terms of blue economy opportunities.
In terms of finding networks or networking events that may be relevant to your initiative or idea, you can search online for professional networks at the local or regional level in different sectors of activities related to the blue economy and the exploitation of its opportunities.
It is likely that if you are located in a small city or town there is not yet a networking network or a long history of events, so it is advisable to start by locating regional or national examples to participate in or learn from.
- EnvironSmart Natura
- Mar Interior: un océano de oportunidades en el interior de Galicia
- Donegal Local Enterprise Office [LEO]
- Grow Remote: Training and Skills Development Across Sectors
- Fáilte Ireland
- BIM – Bord Iascaigh Mhara
- Blue Growth
- Holwerd aan Zee
- 🇪🇺 Enterprise Europe Network – Blue Economy
- Friday Networking with Paulo Veiga (Minister of Maritime Economy, Cape Verde)
- Three key actions to protect the blue economy
- Webinar: Blue economy business ecosystem
- Networked Economy Explained
- Chapter 2. Building resilience in the tourism ecosystem | OECD Tourism Trends and Policies 2022
- 7 African Startups to Receive $385k to Develop Solutions for the Blue Economy
- What Is a Business Ecosystem and How Does It Work?
- Learn to Love Networking
- Barcelona Blue Economy
- How to Professionally Network as a Small Business Owner
- How to Organise a Networking Event – Eventbrite Blog