Written by Mekong Institute  

The Mekong Institute and the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD) jointly conducted a two-week workshop-cum Structured Learning Visit (SLV) entitled, SME Biz Network and ASEAN Gateway.  

The workshop was scheduled in two phases; 2-6 July 2012 and 9-13 July 2012. As part of the workshop, SLVs were organized to SME Clusters in the various provinces of Northeastern Thailand and Savannakhet province of Lao PDR.

On these visits, participants learned first-hand about best practices, established valuable business networks, and identified business opportunities in Khon Kaen, Mukdahan, Nakhon Ratchasima and Surin provinces in Thailand and Savannakhet province in Lao PDR.

The workshop-cum SLV was attended by 111 participants, comprising of mid-to-senior level officers from concerned government agencies and SMEs owners from the Northeastern region of Thailand. The workshop was designed to expose various stakeholders, decision makers, and local SMEs owners to trade and investment opportunities in Northeast Thailand and Lao.

Twenty-seven presenters / lecturers including ITD and MI facilitators conducted workshops consisting of discussion and experience sharing forums. Plenary and deliberation sessions were held on the current state of SMEs, business development services, and state policies and regulations relating to AEC integration preparation in 2015.

A number of participatory learning methodology methods were employed during the workshops in order to assist participants in achieving their ultimate learning goals. Participants were required to jointly develop business action plans, which upon the completion of the workshop, were formulated and shared. In total, eleven joint business action plans were formulated.

The evaluation of participants conducted upon conclusion of the workshops strongly indicated that the program was a success in terms of its design, content, and organization. Results demonstrated that participants had also absorbed the targeted skills and knowledge and revealed a high satisfaction rating. On average, participants awarded the program 4.43 on a scale of 5 (with 5 being the highest possible score). These results strongly suggests that the program, or similar, should be conducted again in the near future.

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