By Karina Fernandez-Stark
It is vital for countries to understand the global value chains (GVCs) of their key industries in order to integrate in the international economy. It can be crucial to development and improved competitiveness. Many policymakers are not familiar with GVC analysis and are also unaware about the dynamics of the global economy, including global demand and supply, lead firms that dominate the chain and the possibilities for industry upgrading. The Duke Global Value Chains Center has been at the forefront in advancing knowledge around GVCs. I’m fortunate to be part of the Duke CGGC teaching team that shares such insights and has seen first-hand the value that participants can glean.
My colleague Gary Gereffi, Director of the Duke GVC Center, and I were in Barbados last month to lead a workshop for 28 government officials from different country agencies. This workshop was sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS). The following is a snapshot about what the five-day training workshop entails and why knowledge of GVCs can be a game-changer.
The day began with a press conference and an opening ceremony. I was pleasantly surprised when the Minister of Industries, the Honourable Donville O. Inniss, referred to the GVC Primer publication that Gary and I authored! The United States Ambassador to Barbados, Linda Taglialatela, also made some opening remarks. The ceremony set a nice tone for the workshop. It was important for participants to hear the enthusiasm for our work from such high-ranking officials.
Following this, we began our workshop with introductions and setting of expectations. Gary, with his great knowledge of the global economy’s history, set the stage for the week by sharing the evolution of the GVC framework as a way to map the globalization phenomena. I then shared an introduction to GVC analysis with many examples from different countries and numerous industries.
Our workshops are highly interactive. We teach basic concepts, provide examples and then participants need to apply what they learn to their own context. For us as instructors, it was interesting to learn that participants had never been involved in such a hands-on workshop. In addition, Gary and I learned about the participants’ challenges and opportunities in Barbados: what were their constraints as a small island in the Caribbean and their key strengths.
From a teaching perspective, the topics we covered included an introduction to value chain mapping and an overview of the geographic scope of GVCs.
For me, though, the best part about the second day was putting teams together based on key potential sectors for the Barbadian economy. The teams were assembled according to participants’ expertise in these key areas: cassava flour, rum, cruise ship tourism, tourism linked to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in agriculture and creative sectors, and medical tourism. At the end of each day, the teams applied all the knowledge learned into their selected sectors. Using white boards, they were able to make the GVC diagrams and draw lines connecting activities on the chain. They also focused on the global geography of their industry, identifying importers and exporters from around the world.
They had never analyzed their key industries at a global level, but rather focused primarily on Barbados. Even on this first day of team assignments, it was exciting to see their enthusiasm as they began to understand the main players in their industry from around the world.
The third day centered on two critical concepts for GVC analysis:
- Governance: identifying the lead firms that dictate how chains are organized
- Upgrading: showing how countries have added value in different sectors across the economy.
As an assignment, the teams had to identify the lead firms in their industries — an exercise they had never done previously. It was particularly useful for them to identify companies that set the rules and control the entire chain, even if they might be located far away.
During day 3, we also focused on the insertion of SMEs in GVCs. This was of great interest because we highlighted real examples of successes and failures from other countries. This led to a robust dialogue as participants shared their challenges and opportunities in Barbados. It is always rewarding as an instructor to provide insights that leads to a conversation in which participants learn from each other, and we learn as well!
The main emphasis on the fourth day from a content point of view was the local institutional context and stakeholders, and how they help or hinder the participation of companies in GVCs. I learned so much by hearing from the participants how this played out in Barbados.
We also brought in a guest instructor: Professor Keith Nurse from the University of West Indies. He did a presentation on tourism in global value chains, an area in which he has done extensive research. It is always good to show government officials that there are such experts in their country.
Day 4 is when the pressure goes up a notch as participants need to prepare their final presentations to be delivered the next day. The presentations needed to include an overview of the industry with the all the main GVC dimensions: the input / output structure, the geography of the chain, governance dynamics, upgrading examples, the local institutional context, stakeholders in the country and policy recommendations for upgrading.
I heard from one participant that he had stayed up until 4 am in the morning to prepare. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind as he was really excited about learning and applying the tools!
On the final day of our workshops, I always wake up with more excitement than normal. It is really the culmination of all the hard work put forth both by the instructors and the participants.
Each group presents about eight slides for 15 minutes. This is followed by a Q&A session. I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and the analysis. It was obvious that the teams put in tremendous effort and that they learned new skills. More importantly, it was evident that the work presented can be directly applied, as Paula Bourne from Barbados Investment and Development Corporation noted. “The GVC approach we learned during the Duke workshops is very useful for collaboration,” she said. “It brings people with different perspectives together and allows them to go through a useful process to evaluate opportunities. Sometimes when you go to workshops, there are times when the information is not relevant. That wasn’t the case with the Duke workshop. There was lots of energy around the topics and I know this is something we can use for our organization.”
The sentiment was shared by Marina Taitt, Director of Export and Business Development at the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation.
“We had excellent facilitators,” she said. “This is the most systematic way that we are going to grow global in Barbados. I know for sure that we will benefit from this over the long-term as this is going to take us to new horizons.”
We recognized the participants’ effort by presenting them a certificate during a closing ceremony. While the participants are all senior level government officials, their excitement made it seem like a high school graduation ceremony. There were lots of pictures and a festive atmosphere. It was humbling to hear one of the participants make a speech and thank Duke CGGC for the experience. I was very grateful to receive a gift: a bottle of extra old Barbadian rum!
This was the first of five GVC workshops. As part of our collaboration with the OAS, we will be conducting four additional GVC trainings throughout the Caribbean. We are off to St Lucia in May. I am looking forward to similar impactful experiences, both for me as the instructor and the participants!
Karina Fernandez-Stark is a Senior Research Analyst at the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness.
Learn more about Duke GVC Center’s training activities.