The Perspective of Cluster Members: Commitment in COs at Various Levels of Development

The last category derived on the basis of the research was the commitment of cluster members into the operations of their COs. Tab. 5.11 shows an overview of the most important forms of commitment derived in the course of the study. It also shows the method of assigning the identified forms of engagement, not just to specific levels of cooperation, but also to specific roles assigned to COs, as well as to specific objectives which particularize these roles in accordance with the achieved level of cluster cooperation.

Table 5.11 Characteristics of the core categories (1, 4-6) and their relationships

Cat. 1. Levels of cooperation

Cat. 4. General roles

Cat. 5. Specific objectives (specific roles)

Cat. 6. Commitment

Level I “Integration at the unit level”

Direct resource supplier

Providing access to information (1.1. Informer)

1 Participation in meetings Participation in events

Broker

Facilitating the exchange of information (1.2. Information exchange platform)

Integrator

Social integration within the CO (1.3. Social integrator)

Level II “Allocation and integration at the process level”

Direct resource supplier

Providing access to resources (II.l. Donor)

  • 2 Participation in subgroups
  • 3 Participation in training

Broker

Facilitating the exchange of resources (11.2. Resource exchange platform)

Integrator

Integration at the process level (II.3. Process integrator)

Level III “Impact on the environment”

Direct resource supplier

Providing access to relevant information from outside the CO (III. 1. Information tube)

  • 4 Participation in meetings with entities from outside the CO
  • 5 Cooperation with other companies with a view to creating more favorable legal and administrative conditions for running a business
  • 6 Cooperation with other companies with a view to adjusting the educational profile in the region to the needs of the companies

Broker

Facilitating the exchange of information with key actors from outside the CO (III.2. Connector with the environment)

Integrator

Participation in the development of the region and the industry (III.3. Lobbyist-visionary)

Level IV “Creation and integration at the organizational level”

Direct resource supplier

Providing access to knowledge and information reserved for trusted partners (IV. 1. Mentor)

  • 7 Participation in project groups and consortia
  • 8 Participation in teams focused on the development of permanent cooperation
  • 9 Launching joint ventures

Broker

Facilitating resource pooling to create common added value (IV.2. Common resource creation platform)

Integrator

Organizational integration (IV.3. Organization integrator)

Source: Authors’ own elaboration

The points below will provide a detailed description of the commitment displayed by the cluster members of the studied COs at each of the identified levels of cooperation.

Commitment at Cooperation Level I

Because integration at the unit level is the first, most fundamental form of cooperation, it did not require a large degree of commitment from its participant, nor did it require personal initiative. At this stage, it was enough to attend the organized meetings and events and be open to making new contacts. Participation in the subsequent higher levels required the direct representatives and their organizations to exert more effort - understood both as the time devoted to CO matters (the perspective of the unit) and using the resources belonging to the company (the perspective of the organization).

The members of the studied COs were much more efficient when they engaged in various activities undertaken within their cluster, as this determined being able to achieve all three of the aforementioned goals: it broadened access to information and considerably facilitated their exchange. As far as the third objective - social integration - is concerned, this was an absolutely essential prerequisite for its full success. As the results of the study have shown, the key to achieving the commitment of cluster members in the operations of the cluster and allowing the members to achieve level I cooperation has been to initiate and organize such activities, which were beneficial with respect to making personal contacts among individuals representing specific institutional partners, with a view to breaking the barrier of anonymity. For that reason, among the activities which contributed to the creation of this level the most often we should point to meetings in the group of representatives of institutional entities belonging to COs (see Tab. 5.12, quotations 1-2, 4-5).

Personal meetings were considered to be important on all four of the identified levels of cooperation in COs, but at level I, they comprised the key activity among the cluster members, allowing for the concurrent realization of all three general objectives set before COs at the level of development under consideration.

At the discussed level, meetings among members took on many forms - from formal meetings (such as general meetings of cluster members, cluster council meetings, meetings of the Board of Management), through networking and topic-centered meetings, during which companies made ties both within the CO and with external entities (e.g. mutual visits in production plants, cooperation exchanges, meetings with members of other COs), to meetings dedicated to social integration (i.e. local integration meetings or outings). COs also enabled their members to take part in various events both in Poland and abroad (including

Specific objectives

Commitment

Selected quotations

Providing access to informa tionFacilit- ating the exchange of information

Participation in general m eeti ngs Participation in profile meetings Participation in events

1 “The meetings provide us with information. [...] I attended a conference not so long ago and I had no idea that one of the member companies produces table counters for IKEA. 1 had no idea such a company exists. In other words, we can reach certain employers and information that otherwise would be inaccessible”. (Bll)

2 “We tried scheduling cluster meetups in specific companies, so that the cluster members could meet and tour the company. When 1 was in my colleagues’ production plants, 1 was able to see their operations and potential. Seeing this personally meant that whenever one of us has a problem, we now know the other have the equipment to solve it, so naturally, we get to know one another”. (Bl)

3 “Internal promotion is an important aspect of our cluster. For instance, we have this event called ICT Day, which takes on a different form each year, but which is organized annually. It was interesting for companies to see their counterparts publicly speak about their success stories. Because that’s living proof that clusters may be more beneficial to their members. Companies may learn more about one another”. (D4)

Social integration within the CO

Participation in general meetings Participation in profile meetings Participation in events

4 “The cluster organizes meetings, mostly meetings, which result in establishing relationships among the members”. (D5)

5 “Our cluster is functioning nicely. It organizes an annual outing near the river Bug, where we do a rundown on our last year of operations. We go over stuff and there is a formal program, but

(Continued)

Specific objectives

Commitment

Selected quotations

first and foremost, we can hold informal talks. [...] Such meetings allow us to develop trust among ourselves”. (A6)

6 “First off, you can have your own table during a panel with catalogs. Second - you can present your own company and show your offer to representatives of other companies. And, of course, you can have off-the-record conversations. When the meetings take place in winter, they have the form of an event which allows for integration - the integration of the entire industry”. (A2)

Source: Authors’ own elaboration industry trade fairs, conferences and seminars, studio visits, economic missions) (see Tab. 5.12, quotations 3, 6).

Such a diverse number of meetings should be approached as a considerable success factor at level I of cooperation, as all of the aforementioned form of meetings contributed to (though to different degrees) the realization of all three objectives set before COs. The meetings led to direct contact among individuals specifically appointed by their home organizations to attend the meetings, which created favorable conditions for mutual integration and establishing relationships (the stronger the relationships, the larger the degree of openness and the easier the flow of information). This has often led to the development of cooperation among some of the members.

As the experiences of the studied COs show, integration at the unit level should be treated as the first, albeit necessary step in the development of COs. However, it should not be artificially accelerated, as the relationships established at this stage form the foundation for further stages of development of COs. What’s more, at each of the stages in the life of a CO, the CO should organize meetings with integration in mind, with a view to making new and maintaining existing contacts within the group. However, the moment the members get to know one another enough to break the barrier of anonymity and distrust, the stage of integration at the unit level should lead to higher levels of cooperation (such as integration at the organizational level). As the observations show, in the longer run, over-saturation of this form of integration and the lack of incentives to develop more advanced forms of cooperation in COs may lead to the dissolution of a given organization. In effect, one cannot allow for this form of social integration to solidify and become the standard (and only) means of cooperating within COs.

 
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