Level III “Impact on the Environment”

Another identified level of cooperation was termed “Impact on the environment”. The main objectives of actions undertaken at this level was to enable the cluster members to influence the external environment of their organizations (see Tab. 5.4, quotations 1-2), which in principle was designed to bring about specific effects with a scope which would not be limited only to those entities which were directly engaged.

This translated to the existence of a certain group of cluster companies which united in their dealings with external institutions and worked on behalf of and in the interest of those entities, which did not themselves participate in such actions - both the remaining, less active (in this regard) cluster members, as well as companies without cluster membership. As the study has shown, by taking care of their usually egoistic interests (resulting from the need to fulfill their own, particular objectives), individuals could at the same time work for the benefit of other companies, provided that they shared common objectives, which resulted from, e.g. shared geographical location or industry affiliation. This pertained to the development of external factors which comprised the closer of further environment of cluster companies, which exhibited similarities in the way they approached entities representing the same (or similar) economic industries or functioning in a similar location. In this way - thanks to the commitment of their members - COs have become the spokesperson for certain interests of a broader group of market entities. From the perspective of small and medium-sized enterprises, banding together with other entities considerably raised the opportunity of fulfilling one’s objectives. Single companies did not have enough bargaining power in the market, which meant that the only solution enabling them to push their own (though congruent) ideas was to combine forces. By giving their mandate to a larger organization operating on their behalf, they have become an important (collective) partner with respect to other market institutions. The more numerous the members of the organization, the larger its bargaining power with respect to external institutions. Furthermore, despite the fact that COs de facto represented the interests of a specific group of stakeholders, they were not treated as commercial entities. They did not operate for their own benefit, but expressed the interest of third parties, trying to work for their benefit. Because they were rid of the commercial aura, but nonetheless were “the voice of many”. COs were relatively free to operate independently, which helped them in making contacts in their environment.

In the studied COs, the largest effort was made with a view to creating more favorable legal and administrative conditions for running a business, as well as creating an educational profile more tailored to the expectations of the labor market. One example of the first of the mentioned

General objectives and cooperation markers

Selected quotations

Gaining impact on the external environment of the organization

1 “We function for the benefit of the environment. One essential role of the cluster is the fact that it may push certain ideas to the next level, while single companies do not have such clout. It’s easier for a cluster to arrange a meeting with a cabinet minister”. (C2)

2 “However, the cluster’s strategy was also to build an opinion-making center. In fact, both regional and national authorities expect clusters to be a sort of collective partner. Because today, it’s hard to speak with each company separately. That’s where the idea of creating key clusters came from - in order to focus attention, so that a single entity would represent dozens of others”. (DIO)

Activities (collective)

3 “Competitors meet in order to work together with a view to stimulating their industry and planning collective actions. Together, we try to strive to reach for bigger things”. (Dl)

4 “The way I see it, a cluster should be a lobby group on behalf of companies from the industry, which will push through certain laws. Just like craft guilds and chambers of industry”. (B9)

Goals (collective)

5 “This is, after all, an industry-focused cluster, so it was apparent from the get go that it’s meant to solve industry-specific problems in the region. The inherent motivation of the people who are working on the cluster to this day was the possibility to build something different, being able to exert their influence, learn from others, discuss problems in a constructive way, which wasn’t harmful to any of us, plus build relations with additional units, such as scientific institutions and the university”. (D4)

6 “Arriving at a state which would translate to the creation of a center for training welders would be a great objective for the industry, an important one. Or a center for training machine tools operators - that would be a good common goal for companies from the cluster”. (B5)

Interests (individual)

7 “The most engaged participants genuinely participate in shaping cluster policies, for instance the creation of smart specializations, key projects [...] If we have an smart specialization and we have to choose horizontal projects, or those which have additional points, it is not the cluster which receives the projects, but particular companies. The company says which project will be horizontal for the cluster, which means that the

General objectives and cooperation markers

Selected quotations

company raises its own chances for realizing its own business strategy. When it’s in this core, it has bigger clout”. (Dl)

8 “There are such initiatives, meetings in workgroups with a view to creating key smart specializations. [...] I think that within our cluster, we managed to reach a compromise where on the one hand, the companies which play an active role and devote their time to develop smart specializations may feel safe that they will benefit, and, on the other hand, the effects are general enough that even those companies which have no idea about the existence of the cluster itself will be able to benefit from the smart specializations”. (D7)

Source: Authors’ own elaboration

activities of cluster members is mating attempts at influencing specific institutions and organizations with respect to their decisions, which impact the industries in which the lobbying companies operate. If such influence turned out to be efficient, that is, the given external institution or organization acted in accordance with the expectations formulated by the committed group of companies, all economic entities fulfilling certain criteria (e.g. industry affiliation, geographical location, or company size) benefited therefrom.

The second of the underlined areas which became the point of interest of cluster members cooperating at level III was the labor market and the educational sector. In this case, the companies’ activities primarily focused on modeling the educational offer available in a given region (by, e.g. profiling educational programs in accordance with the companies’ expectations), as well as channeling trends present on the local labor market to service the needs of the local entrepreneurs (by, e.g. constructing courses and training programs for unemployed people with the participation of local job agencies). Regardless of the area which became the target of the actions of the cooperating (at level III) group of cluster members, the number of entities benefiting from the effects of the said actions was larger than the number of people (or institutions) directly engaged in such actions.

When analyzing particular features manifesting themselves in the studies of the three levels of cooperation discussed thus far, one may notice the growing significance of a “collective” attitude, which also entails the gradual departure from attitudes which may be classified under “individual” categories (see Tab. 5.4, quotations 3-8).

At the third level of cooperation, the “character of undertaken actions” (see Tab. 5.4, quotations 3-4) and the “goals of institutional members” (see Tab. 5.4, quotations 5-6) were defined as “collective”. Only the “interests of institutional members” still reflected an “individual” orientation (see Tab. 5.4, quotations 7-8). Assuming cooperation at a level which requires the active cooperation of two (or a larger number of) cluster members, one cannot consider the “character of actions” undertaken in the course of specific acts of shared action to be anything other than “collective”. The “collective” nature of actions is a prerequisite for existing cooperation within a given cluster subgroup of companies to be considered to be of higher caliber than in the case of the fundamental level (or more advanced than “Integration at the unit level”). Nevertheless, such a character of actions has already emerged at cooperation level II, which has been discussed above (“Allocation and integration at the process level”). What is new at level III of the development of cooperation in COs is - in comparison with the two previous levels - the modification of the “goals of institutional members”, which are now “collective”. This means that the direct motivations of companies cooperating at this level no longer only pertain to specific entities themselves, but have begun to take account of their broader network, which also includes companies operating outside of the cluster. In effect, it can be said that at the level of cooperation in question, companies cease to treat their cooperative actions and the effects resulting therefrom through a “1 -* 1” lens (a situation in which the effects of a given pool of actions were only available to the entities engaging in those actions) in favor of a “1 -> outlook (cases in which actions undertaken by a single entity bring about effects available to multiple entities - even ones which did not in any way contribute to performing the actions in question). The “interests of institutional members”, however, remain unchanged - they should still be identified as “individual” in nature, as despite the commitment, undertaken actions, and the goals which stood at their source were collective in nature, they nonetheless resulted from the “individually” determined interests of such entities. Undertaking cooperative activities by companies at level III resulted from the urge to realize their particular interests by engaging companies in the form of, e.g. designing support programs for the entire industry (by including the industry in a national or regional smart specialization) or the providing easier access to employees with the proper skill set from the local labor market (thanks to the targeted modeling of the educational system, as well as courses and vocational training). Such individual interests are easier to pursue when they become collective objectives for a select group of companies.

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