Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2022
The aim of this book was to map the similarities and differences in the practice of L&RED across England, Australia, the US and Northern Ireland. We found that while organisations from different nations often share objectives, strategies and types of partner, it is possible to identify distinctive institutional architectures in each. The emphasis given to the needs of businesses, partnership building, technology transfer and the relationship with governments, varies appreciably. One of the achievements of this book has been its capacity to quantify this difference through the use of measures of an organisation's behaviour, values and perceptions. We have been able to use a common set of indicators to assess what is important in each nation, why it is important and how L&RED organisations relate to other agencies.
Understanding differences in local and regional economic development
Through this book we have been able to show that there is considerable commonality across the four nations in the number of types of partners L&RED agencies work with, as well as convergence in the number of objectives, capacity building and business service activities undertaken by these bodies (Table 8.1). To a certain degree this convergence was anticipated: organisations were selected for inclusion in the survey because their engagement with their local economy was perceived to conform to current understandings of L&RED. However, our definition of an L&RED organisation is a little broader than those of other studies. Halkier and Danson (1998, p 27), for example, suggest that it is possible to identify three broad criteria that denote an RDA: organisationally it is in a semi-autonomous position with respect to its political sponsors; strategically it supports endogenous growth through ‘soft’ policy instruments; and these agencies implement L&RED through the integrated application of a range of policy instruments. Many of our respondent organisations conform to these criteria, but the US respondents were perhaps more concerned with industrial recruitment and infrastructure provision, and less focused on endogenous development, than Halkier and Danson (1998) would allow. The main difference between our organisations and those in some other studies, however, is the inclusion of the economic development activities of local government in all four countries, as well as the inclusion of a number of organisations that are structurally independent of all three levels of government.