Dr. Shawn Cunningham is a process consultant working in the field of innovation and competitiveness improvement of the private sector. He supports a range of institutions, leaders and advisors around on topics such as making decisions under conditions of uncertainty or complexity, strengthening organisations or conducting learning processes through ongoing search, discovery and adjustment. He has conducted diagnoses and supported improvement processes in various industries and locations around the world.

He is a Research Associate at the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation in Pretoria. He is a faculty member of the University of Stellenbosch Business Schools Executive Education unit. He serves as an advisor to several think tanks, universities, development organisations and government departments both locally and abroad.

Main fields of expertise

  • Advisory support to leaders in government, business and academia to make decisions despite complexity and uncertainty
  • Private sector promotion and meso organisation development
  • Science, Technology and Innovation systems promotion
  • Industry modernisation, technological capability development
  • Improving Innovation Systems and Industry Competitiveness from the bottom up
  • Local and regional economic development
  • Creative Cluster and value chain promotion
  • Meso level Organisational Development and change management
  • Knowledge Intensive Business Services
  • Process consulting, discovery and process facilitation
  • Expert development and coaching

Working experience

2008: Partner in Mesopartner
2015-current: Part time Faculty Member (Innovation, Strategy & Technology Management), Stellenbosch Business School, Executive Education
2010-current: Research Associate (Innovation Systems & Policy) at the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
2003-2007 - Senior expert in the GTZ South Africa Local Economic Development and Business Development Services Programme
2001-2002 - Worked in South African development agency NAMAC (National Manufacturing Advisory Centre Programme)
1996-2001 - Own business in the IT sector. Involved in trade promotion, business chamber management and entrepreneurship promotion.

Main areas of research, practice and advisory service:      

Improving innovative, leadership and change capabilities in organisations

Assisting leadership teams and organisations to make sense of their environment and own behaviour, formulate strategies to become learning organisations that harness their tacit and explicit knowledge to become more innovative. Build technological and strategic management capability of public, private and academic organisations.

Building search, discovery and exploration capability in teams

Assisting teams from a range of economic and technological development organisations to conduct search and exploration activities to better understand opportunities for change, adaptation, innovation. Build the capacity of teams to engage with a range of internal and external stakeholders to build technological and organisational capability. Design, support and build capacity for process consulting and change within and between organisations.

Strengthen decision making for strategy, policy and development practice

Coaching of leaders to improve the learning capability of their organisations, assist leadership to develop better options despite complexity to enable decision making, policy formation, organic change and healthy organisations. This might involve social research methods such as Sensemaker, Social Network Analysis or process consulting.

Close the gap between industry and the academia

This involves identifying unique problems in industry that can be addressed by universities, researchers and industry working together. This kind of diagnosis can originate from a university or from industry.

Personal background

PhD. (Business Administration), 2009, Potchefstroom Business School, North West University, South Africa.MBA (2001, North West University, South Africa)

Born in 1973. Shawn lives in Pretoria, South Africa.

 

 

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The Fundamentals of Innovation System Promotion for Development Practitioners  
This book introduces the fundamental principles of understanding, diagnosing and improving innovation systems.  
Reducing Red Tape  
In this publication, Shawn Cunningham and Mattia Wegmann share their practical experience in reducing red tape at a local level. The manual is aimed at local economic development facilitators that are working on improving the cooperation between public and private stakeholders.  
Understanding Market Failures  
In this book, Dr Shawn Cunningham takes a perspective that the clues to begin to address market failures are in the world around us.  
Milestones in a process of innovation, change and development  
This anthology brings together a large variety of articles and comments by development scholars and practitioners from all over the world.  
Mesopartner Working Paper 16  
Gaining systemic insight to strengthen economic development initiatives. Drawing on systems thinking and complexity theories to improve developmental impact. This working paper provides a theoretical grounding for the work we have done in the last three years and will continue…