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Mackellar, J 2004, 'How networks foster innovation : a case study of a regional festival', MBus thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright J Mackellar 2004


Special events have long been regarded as a means to develop regional economies and communities. Traditional assessment of events emphasises economic, environmental and social analysis with little regard to the development of businesses participating in the event. While it is acknowledged that businesses may develop products and services through a number of strategies, it is suggested that this may also occur through effective networks which are able to foster innovation. This study utilises network analysis to identify and examine the inter-organisational coordination between businesses resulting from the development of a regional festival. From this analysis the study also aims to identify types of innovations that occur as a result of participation in the event. Finally, the study aims to discover how and why innovations occur as a result of being involved in a festival network.

Using the Northern Rivers Herb Festival, in Lismore, Australia, the study utilises multiple case studies to identify and examine the inter-organisational network structure that developed as a result of the event. It then identifies numerous types of innovations that have occurred throughout the community as a result of that network. Innovation theory has identified networks as a vital component of innovation development. This study examines that link within the context of a regional festival and identifies some of the characteristics and processes of this network through which networks foster innovation.

The implications of the findings of this study suggest that event stakeholders and organisers can utilise network analysis as a tool to examine the relationships within their own festival network. Further, the use of network analysis allows examination of the network’s capacity to innovate. Both structural and relational characteristics of the network were examined, with both elements displaying characteristics that can be managed to foster innovation. These include maximising the density, durability and weak ties of the network to involve the right types of actors and maintain functional communications with them.A network perspective provides a useful tool for analysing both social and economic relations within the festival network. This is a new perspective, but one that suits the festival context well. Network analysis provides a way of analysing certain outcomes of the festival, where this study has focussed on innovation. However, the adoption of a network perspective for analysis of other aspects of event management also has great potential.