Wednesday, June 18, 2014
As an Economic Development Consultant I have had the opportunity to see many different communities across Canada and interact with some really great people. That being said, there is one comment I often hear that is somewhat misleading – "Well you must know that, you are the expert…”
Yes, in many respects I am an expert in several areas related to Economic and Community Development and I always do my best to ensure the communities I work with get the best guidance and advice. Yet, often the "you are the expert” comment is related to a very specific community issue or local historical fact. The truth is that while we consultants are knowledgeable in this field: we are not the experts on your community, you are!
Though it may sound strange for a consultant to tell their clients that they are the experts, in reality nobody knows the community better. Often times, when beginning a new project there is a misconception that consultants have the silver bullet solution or that they have access to a magical black box of answers. In truth, the most successful projects heavily involve the client (often Economic Development Officer) and consultant working closely together with the community’s economic stakeholders. The consultant can provide a fresh set of eyes and a wealth of knowledge and experience, particularly in process, while the client can provide local knowledge, connections and facilitate strong two-way communication. Neither is effective on its own and both are required for a truly successful project.
Taking this approach one step further, it is critical that the EDO (or the local resource) be the face of the majority of economic and community development projects – especially strategies. The community needs to see the EDO as the leader of the project, as the expert and the one who will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of any actions that arise. The consultant is active behind the scenes helping to facilitate the relationship between the community and Economic Development office. The more engaged the EDO is in the project and in the community, the more impressive the results, and hopefully, the more successful in implementation.
In my own experience, I have worked with various clients who have been engaged in the community and project at differing levels. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than working with a client who is engaged both in their community and in their projects. Consultants have a definite role to play through the process as a guide and as a resource but the client (EDO) should never underestimate the value of their contribution to the success of a project.
So next time the question "Who is the Real Expert?” is asked, remember you are the true expert when it comes to matters affecting your local economy, local businesses and your local community – I am just here to facilitate success.