Value chain coordinator

Value chain coordinator

The coordinator serves as the backbone of a WealthWorks value chain, weaving together the efforts of everyone involved.

With multiple players and moving parts, it’s no surprise that WealthWorks value chains need to be guided by a thoughtful and committed coordinator. At the point a critical mass of businesses, organizations, agencies and investors want to act on a market opportunity and build a value chain, they typically agree they must have a coordinator who will serve as the backbone that holds and weaves their efforts together.

Who can be a coordinator?

The energy, knowledge and ability the coordinator brings to the job of constructing the value chain is a critical investment that can make the difference between success and failure. Anyone might be a coordinator—an organization, a business, an agency or a team. But like any value chain partner, the coordinator, too, must have a vested interest in developing and maintaining the value chain. A coordinator might be:

  • An organization involved in identifying the market opportunity might emerge as a “central” player and take on the coordinator role. For example, a local community development financial institution (CDFI) or a regional non-profit might coordinate our organic tomato soup value chain.

  • A public agency can be a coordinator. In this case, helping organize and build value chains might become the job description of state or local economic development agency staffers who are tasked with strengthening a specific sector—like regional organic food systems.

  • A team of interested partners might serve as coordinator—or hire one for the purpose. For example, a group of local schools and hospitals that are interested in sourcing more of their food locally (while improving health, reducing obesity, cutting costs, and increasing local incomes) might band together to hire and oversee a coordinator to build a WealthWorks value chain for that purpose.

  • A business might serve as coordinator. For example, a high-end grocery store company might find it extremely valuable to coordinate a value chain that ensures a steady and ready supply of organic tomato soup and other organic products—both to satisfy its customers and to buff its community-centric image.

In some cases and over time, the coordinator might become a researcher, a trusted advisor, perhaps a mediator and even a data collector. But, first and foremost, the WealthWorks value chain coordinator must embrace three critical roles: convener/connector, wealth-building advocate and innovator.

  • As the convener and connector, a coordinator reaches out to partners individually, and brings partners or potential partners together as needed. In the process, the coordinator scopes out the interests—self-interest, shared interest, or common interest—of potential partners in participating in the value chain. In building relationships among all the partners, the coordinator sees and is able to communicate the “big picture” of the value chain to others. From this vantage point, the coordinator can identify gaps in the value chain, recognize self-interest of potential new partners, and work with existing partners to resolve challenges and address opportunities quickly, often building or strengthening relationships along the way. The coordinator can also help facilitate the development of “feedback loops” that spread useful information throughout the value chain network.

  • The coordinator serves as the value chain’s leading wealth-building advocate. The coordinator holds the WealthWorks vision for the larger group, encouraging partners to make decisions and take actions that grow stocks of local capitals, increase local ownership and control of that capital, and improve livelihoods for more in the region, always including low-income people, places and firms. This vision of the region’s people, places, and firms doing better now and in the future helps value chain partners grapple with tough decisions and make far-sighted choices. Coordinators keep asking the tough questions and remind partners that regional wealth building is in their shared interest.

  • Finally, the coordinator must be a willing and skillful innovator—or facilitator of innovation. Value chain partners often address tough challenges and gain confidence in themselves and each other through innovation. The coordinator helps unleash innovation, encouraging partners to try new things, access new knowledge, engage in unprecedented conversations, take risks and learn from their efforts. These experiences catalyze new activities, attract new partners and make the value chain more resilient.