Publication Details

This paper was originally published as Collins, R, Leadership, network facilitation and regional development: critical reflection as a tool for insight???, Proceedings of The Lord of the Regions: Myths, Magic and Mix of Regional Development, 29th Conference of Australian and New Zealand Regional Science Association International Incorporated, Manukau, New Zealand, September 2005.


In his keynote address at the ANZRSAI Conference 2005, Professor Blakely challenged regional scientists to use their “ideal position to forge these [separate disciplines informing regional science] into a disciplinary understanding that operates across disciplines”. In doing so the forces at work in the myths, magic and mix of regional innovation are necessarily viewed as interdependent components. The component to be focussed upon here is leadership, especially where it assists in developing networks and “knowdes” in the web of the development of the knowledge economy. Such a critical perspective encourages a consideration of the work of practitioners in regional development from the perspective of the theory/practice interface and an examination of the intersection of leaders and leadership with the regional community process. There seem to be parallels in the way leaders interact with their communities and, in the case of regional development (and community engagement), no clear understanding of how inspirational activities and events occur though there are many exhortations to create clever networks and groups. How do the players come together? What is the rich detail and how does it fit with theory? Using notions of reflective practice developed by and from the work of Schon, this paper explores the leadership process in development of an event in a region. The event is significant for bringing together players in a way not achieved before. The paper is a critical reflection considering the event from the perspective of a player in the process, the roles played, and development of plans. In doing so the paper accesses grainy detail that provides insight while at the same time using available data to augment the lens. This is not a study of a concrete reality, nor simply an interpretation of the symbolic reality, but a critical reflection upon an event, its creation and success. The event under scrutiny is not a new one in the practice of regional development: a business expo for Shoalhaven region on the southern coast of New South Wales, Australia. For this event, local initiative has: harnessed the business expo with a careers expo; rolled in a joint campus of TAFE and University; and, gathered input from a wider range of players in the regional net of organisations than has been seen before in Shoalhaven. Naming the event ‘Shoalhaven on Show’ is a significant positioning in regard to regional capability building and branding.