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The Nucleus Approach


Nucleus and SME statistics

Statements of chambers and SMEs

Impact: What changed? Interview with Jordi Castan


Legal property of the Nucleus Approach



Types of Nuclei

Manual for the Nucleus

The start

9 criteria for the selection of a sector

How to kill a Nucleus

Chambers and Associations

Lobby and Public Private Dialogue

Benchmarking of chambers

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Benchmarking of Business Chambers and Associations as a Tool to Stimulate Change Processes

By Simone Lehmann and Rainer Mueller-Glodde

Benchmarking is a powerful tool to improve business chambers and associations[1] in developing countries. A framework of benchmark criteria was developed to reflect key elements of successful business chambers, tested in reference to known chambers in Brazil and Sri Lanka and then applied in Vietnam. It was new to the Vietnamese culture to compare the performance of a group of business chambers and discuss the results. This article details out this intervention that resulted in the stimulation of learning processes and changes for each business chamber and for the chamber system as a whole.

When working with business chambers in development cooperation the decisive question is on how to stimulate its leaders and members to improve the chamber’s performance. The most common approach carried out by technical consultants refers to international standards concerning services, lobbying and organisation of chambers. The technical advisors try to convince the chamber leaders to improve their organisation by showing them international best practice. But frequently chambers are rather reluctant concerning changes in their organisation because of traditions, culture, history, economic reasons and politics. The local context may differ considerably from international conditions. A solution can be to demonstrate the performance of other chambers in the same local context.

Comparisons are one inherent element of the Nucleus Approach: A “Nucleus” is a working group of entrepreneurs (e g carpenters, hotels) within a business chamber, which is moderated by a chamber employed counsellor. Within a Nucleus the entrepreneurs compare their enterprises through discussions, cross visits and mutual evaluations. These comparisons enable the entrepreneur to “benchmark” her/his enterprise, often for the first time. These results stimulate upgrading activities in most cases. [2]

Development cooperation programmes applying the Nucleus Approach work with groups of business chambers. Meetings, trainings and counselling of groups of chambers provoke comparisons and lead to gradual changes.

A more methodical comparison is a benchmarking executed by a neutral external person or team. The decisive point is the definition of the applied criteria for business chambers and of scores. In order to sustain the benchmarking as a quick and moderately expensive tool it is necessary to keep it simple, easy to handle for the users and easy to understand for the benchmarked organizations [3].

The criteria correspond to the products of business chambers and the conditions under which they are produced. The individual scores have been encountered in practice in business chambers in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

[1]    A “chamber” is defined as an aggregation of enterprises in one geographical and administrative area. “Associations” are organized sector wise. The considerations in this article refer to both. In order to ease the reading we use the expression “chamber” for both. In Vietnam above defined chambers are called “associations” even if they are multi sector chambers in one province.

[2]    The Nucleus Approach was evaluated systematically by Rainer Müller-Glodde / Simone Lehmann: GTZ ESSP Sri Lanka - Impact Analysis 2005 and 2006 of the Application of the Nucleus Approach, Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Organizational Development of Business Associations and Chambers, Kandy, Bonn, Dakar 2007. Please download the document

[3]    By the end of the nineties, the Brazilian Fundação Empreender (Entrepreneur Foundation) applied a benchmarking system for business chambers which derived from one for bigger companies. It proved to be too complex.