Pep-Net and Suppliers: Collision or Collaboration?

12. June 2008 – 19:18 by Julia Glidden

Over the past five years or so, it has been increasingly popular to talk about the value of co-operation between policymakers, academia and business, the emergence of a new collaborative model, the importance of public-private sector partnerships etc….. 

If my experience is anything to go by, however, most of this talk is just this:  TALK.  As a card carrying member of the private sector - albeit one with an academic background - I have found that more often than not practioneers and educators tend to ‘hold their noses and swallow’ when asked to collaborate with business, whilst entreprenuers spend most of their time biting their tongues at the alleged ‘wishy-washiness’ of the policy world. 

It was with some trepidation then that I led the ‘Supplier’ break out session at the Pep-Net launch last May.  Like it or not, a series of pesky questions kept floating in my head:  Do practioneers and not-for-profits really want to hear what business has to say?  Worse still, does business really have anything of value to add?  Can suppliers really benefit from a network like Pep-Net?  Or more scary still, can Pep-Net really benefit from the input of a bunch of money-makers? 

Happily, as you might by now have guessed from the public nature of this posting, I was pleasantly surprised by the ultimate answers to these irksome questions. 

To begin with in response to the question ‘What do Suppliers Expect from Pep-Net?’, I found a range of interesting answers that extended far beyond the simple one:  MONEY.  Instead, my colleagues and I all agreed that Pep-Net brought us tremendous value in terms of sharing experience, collaborating across borders, identifying trusted partners, potentially developing basic standards for software and tools, and, perhaps most interestingly, trend spotting.

When it came the question ‘What role can Suppliers play in Pep-Net?,’ the answers once again extended beyond the obvious to reveal a range of skills and services, including research, contacts, writing, project delivery, and service and software solutions.  Moreover, when asked ‘What are the benefits of Pep-Net to Suppliers?,’ the entrepenuers amongst us tended to focus much more on reputation and visibility than sales per se - with access to language skills and a potential recruitment pool coming in a strong second.

So well done Pep-Net for allaying my fears, welcoming the private sector into the fold and laying the foundation for some genuinely collaborative thinking and work!

Julia Glidden is Managing Director of 21c Consultancy

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