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--> 2 The Knowledge Assessment Methodology Knowledge Assessment is based on a venture capital model, and involves some role-playing both by the foreign visitors and the local participants. The visitors act as the agents of hypothetical venture capitalists with a potential interest in investing in the local economy. The local participants act as consultants and possible partners anxious to help the investors find the most promising areas in which to invest. They also want to direct the attention of the investors to areas where there may be a perceived weakness in the economy or in the knowledge available so that remedies can be taken that would encourage investment. In later phases, local participants play the roles of stakeholders in the enterprises selected by the investors and help them prepare business plans. In each case, of course, the object is not to select enterprises for real investment but to use this method as a vehicle for exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the local knowledge economy. The methodology itself has its strengths and weaknesses. Its strength is that it is relatively rapid and low cost. It draws on the knowledge of insiders through strategic questioning by expert outsiders. Its weakness is that the information generated is no better than what is offered by participants (and understood and digested by the visitors), and superficiality, bias, or wishful thinking is a risk. It is not an exact science, but a practical method of eliciting the knowledge possessed and often not explicitly recognized by the local stakeholders. Knowledge Assessment has three stages. The first is a general baseline inventory of the knowledge infrastructure and knowledge-related services, called in this case the provincial knowledge system. The "investors' agents" wish to understand the environment for knowledge-based enterprise in the local economy.
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--> They choose for their sources the most knowledgeable individuals in several sectors, and interview them in depth in a focus group setting. At the end of the first stage, the investors' agents identify certain areas that are promising for investment. In the second stage, the virtual case studies, the investors get more specific, and begin to prepare business plans for the several selected "vanguard enterprises." The foreign participants are international experts who are familiar with the technologies and with world standards and wish to test local conditions and possibilities against them to find out what changes might be required in order to make the "ventures" successful. The knowledge-based vanguard enterprises are chosen in sectors of comparative advantage and areas related to the jurisdiction's development goals. Vanguard enterprises are hypothetical enterprises advanced in the use of knowledge but not yet present in the jurisdiction; they are selected for their usefulness as a vehicle to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the local knowledge economy. The small number of international experts versed in best practice in each vanguard enterprise work with local experts who play the role of stakeholders to draft a business plan for each hypothetical vanguard enterprise, and in this way they can identify the impediments to the creation and success of real enterprises that are similar to the hypothesized enterprises. For each case study the international experts then prepare a report describing the impediments identified and making recommendations for overcoming them. The Knowledge Assessment Committee uses the reports of the several case studies to prepare a set of recommendations that would enable the success of knowledge-based enterprises in general, and particularly in the chosen areas. However, whether or not to promote the actual creation of the vanguard enterprises is not among the recommendations. No market research will have been done (except to ascertain whether market research can be done); so far these are only hypothetical examples used as vehicles to help understand the knowledge economy. In the third stage, the recommendations are reviewed and critically examined through interviews with key local officials and experts not involved in the virtual case studies before inclusion in the report to government and sponsors. The final Knowledge Assessment report identifies some core competencies of the jurisdiction and recommends actions and interventions aimed at eliminating barriers to full exploitation of these competencies and the creation and building of knowledge-based enterprises based on them. The recommendations are addressed to government, the private sector, the educational sector, and the communities; there are recommendations with short and long term effects. The long term recommendations aim to improve the level of knowledge and capability in the jurisdiction. The short to medium term recommendations try to take advantage of existing core competencies and forward-looking technologies to reduce barriers to knowledge-based enterprise creation.
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