Improve the systematic collection and analysis of evidence
Understanding regional and local needs is currently hampered by the uneven availability of appropriate statistics, analysis and knowledge about local and regional economies. Better tailoring of policy and service programmes to regional and local needs requires deeper understanding and knowledge of the local customer base of entrepreneurs and small businesses. More systematic and rigorous analytical approaches will also be required to demonstrate capacity, understanding and preparedness to develop programmes and projects for EU funds, for example in undertaking ex ante appraisals of regional and local conditions. Greater and regular consultation with appropriate stakeholders, especially intended users and beneficiaries, can enhance strategy and policy effectiveness too and ensure the appropriateness of local institutional structures. Regional and local institutions are currently involved in relatively small scale local survey and evidence collection work to assist local analysis and policy development. Such efforts should ensure consistent use of methodologies and standards to allow longitudinal and comparative research and analysis to proceed from a solid evidence base. Utilisation of existing national level studies and dialogue with the national statistical office to improve the quality and coverage of sub-national statistics is also important.
Enhance co-ordination and integration at the national level
Establish a clear division of labour and distinct spheres of responsibility between the analysis, strategy development, policy design and evaluation role of the Ministries and the operational and delivery functions of the arms-length agencies. For example, the Ministry of Economy should focus upon strategy, policy framework and programme development and more readily and quickly devolve programme delivery to the Agency for Small Business. In addition, the horizontal cross-departmental institutional mechanisms (i.e. task forces, working groups) at the ministerial level already in place in some policy areas should be extended to the entrepreneurship field. Strategy and policy development processes could also be further opened up to dialogue and consultation with relevant user associations and groups such as the Employers’ Association, Chamber of commerce, Chamber of crafts, Association of institutions for enhancing entrepreneurship), trade unions and research institutions. The aim would be to increase dialogue and, understanding and to identify opportunities for co-ordination and integration of activities, especially at the national level.
Incorporate regional and local perspectives into national strategies
Better connection between the aims of national and regional and local strategies can be achieved through the incorporation of regional and local perspectives in national strategies. This process of vertical integration between levels can help to tailor and differentiate policy for different types of regions and localities — helped by the finer grained analysis of regional and local needs from the strengthened evidence base. Where this link is not present a degree of disconnection is evident, for example the national science and technology strategy lacked a regional or local dimension. International good practice suggests the sub-national dimension to science and technology strategy and policy delivery is increasingly important in the creation of effective territorial innovation systems. Practical guides to support the cross-checking of the regional and local dimensions of national strategies and policies — so-called ‘region-proofing’ — are available.
Enhance connection and consistency between the aims and purpose of strategy, policy, programmes and projects
Strategy builds on analysis to set out and justify the aims, objectives and priorities. Policy sets the framework, instruments and measures through which such aims are to be achieved. Programmes are the sets of interconnected projects that will deliver the policy and strategy. More integrated approaches need to be deployed to ensure that connections and consistency are embedded within the policy process in the round. This then provides a means of countering the problems of fragmentation and underpins greater co-ordination and effective policy development and delivery. For example, aims and priorities need clear identification and articulation throughout the policy process. Given Croatia’s stage of economic development, the quantity of new start-up businesses is understandably a concern but issues of quality — for example survival rates, growth potential and innovativeness — need also to be incorporated into the analysis and strategy development. Similarly important is the relative weight in entrepreneurship policy given to participation and the targeting of particular social groups, ownership structures and places.
Achieve a clear and effective balance in the decentralisation of authority and resources
A more effective balance needs to be found between the national centre and regional and local levels in developing and delivering entrepreneurship policies. In a relatively small state such as Croatia the roles and balances between the various levels is critical, particularly since shared responsibilities between levels of government are not clearly defined. In addition, over-burdened central Ministries could devolve more responsibilities and achieve greater levels of effectiveness.
A first practical step could be a review of who does what and at which levels accompanied by reflection on the fundamental questions of what is the appropriate geographical scale at which to design and deliver entrepreneurship policy. The current context may be timely for such an exercise given the ongoing discussions regarding EU regionalisation and the potential establishment of 3 new regional entities at NUTS II level or the further deconcentration of functions to the NUTS II level. Critically, regional and local level institutions have the potential better to understand regional and local level needs and are more able to tailor policy effectively to address them. Disparities in entrepreneurial performance across Croatia suggest the need for differential approaches in addressing the issues.
Improve co-ordination and integration amongst regional and local agencies
Co-ordination and integration between regional and local agencies can be improved but this must not be at the expense of the strengths of local institutional diversity, initiative and innovation. Regional and local institutions should not be subsumed into a universal, ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. Ministry of SEE, Transport and Inrastructure is taking the right approach in seeking to establish minimum framework guidelines on what RDAs should do, their service quality levels and so on but, crucially, it should leave room for regional and local discretion and diversity in specific institutional solutions.
There are several practical suggestions to improve co-ordination. First, utilisation of the ‘single gateway’ or ‘one-stop-shop’ concept may provide a means of enhancing co-ordination. The idea is to establish a single entry point for entrepreneurs and small businesses to access the business support network and be signposted to appropriate services. The concept suggests a single gateway to the wider network of service providers including public, public/private and private bodies. Second, the standardisation and accreditation measures delivered by Association for Small Business to ensure service provider quality and consistency, especially for specialised consultants, should be rolled-out more fully and quickly. This will encourage consolidation and rationalisation within the institutional network as weaker providers will be forced to upgrade to meet appropriate quality standards or withdraw from the market. Third, the good practice knowledge exchange should be developed and built upon amongst the National Association of Institutions for SME Development and the County Development Agencies network.
Introduce more systematic assessment and evaluation of policy interventions
In policies, programmes and instruments, structures appear to be imposed and very few initiatives truly originate in the communities or as a result of the communities’ needs. To inject dynamism into the entrepreneurial system, there must be room for new, private initiatives to emerge. If the present dynamic is not reversed, there is a danger that the new generation of entrepreneurs and support staff will depend systematically on central Government funds for their survival. This is not much better than enriching a system of employment insurance or social assistance. The Government should not become the depository for a series of programmes introduced to deal with potential problems.
International Learning Models