The Trading Regionally and Developing Expertise (TRADE) project in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE.) is a pilot cross border initiative funded by USAID to promote economic development in the region. The goal of TRADE is to build the capacity and a network of promising local consulting companies, thereby establishing a positive multiplier effect on the local small and medium sized enterprise (SME) sector in the region. TRADE will do this by creating a network of consulting organizations that work with each other and similar networks in other countries that will encourage cross border collaboration and exchange of ideas and resources.
Through training and active use of technical assistance provided by TRADE, the consulting companies in the Network will improve the quality of their organization, products and services. The TRADE project builds this regional network by organizing quarterly Network events, creating communication tools such as a Network Website, providing training and providing the project's partners with expert business advisors to both provide technical assistance and on the job tag team training on consulting methods.
To create a critical mass for the Federation and ensure its future sustainability, consulting companies with large potential in three countries: Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, have been chosen on a competitive basis as core members who will receive targeted technical assistance through March 2003 to build their capacity. In each country the consulting organizations that belong to the network are called Partners. The overall coordination, administration and marketing of the project is headed by the Project Office in Budapest where the Chief of Party Gina Volynsky is located. Hungarian consulting companies are going to be active participants in the federation both as trainers and participants.
This innovative program strives to build on previous USAID, donor and private efforts and to compliment and support existing initiatives in each country. TRADE is a joint initiative of the United States' two leading private volunteer organizations, the Citizen's Democracy Corps (CDC) (which also manages the MBA Enterprise Corps) and International Executive Services Corporation (IESC). To ensure that the program is consistently meeting its own goals and the needs of its clients, Counterpart International will benchmark and monitor the progress of selected consulting companies and the Federation. The program began in October 2001, and it is envisioned that once the pilot is completed in March 2003, it will be expanded in geographical scope.
The approach is three-pronged: first, to improve the operational capacity of consulting companies to manage the day-to-day business of their institutions more effectively. Selected BSIs will have the opportunity to work side by side and learn from long-term experienced private sector volunteers, short-term industry experts, IT experts and, MBA Enterprise Corps volunteers. In addition, some will have the opportunity to compete for grants for innovative projects and training.
Second, the program will help consulting companies address strategic issues by providing specific technical training to upgrade the quality of consulting services to members and/or clients. Specifically, the program will prepare them to participate in global markets by providing training on pertinent business skills such as industry standards, procurement procedures, and information technology. Through a series of training and technical assistance the program will help the participants of the Network design products and services to help their SME clients overcome the hurdles of expanding their businesses and exporting their goods and services.
Third, the program will assist the BSIs in creating a Network to promote cross border and regional trade and making crucial contacts through special events, technical assistance and the TRADE website. An important component of the program will be to seek and recruit Network members more advanced consulting companies from the Graduate Central European countries such as Hungary. This will help further stimulate trade where these members will act as mentors and provide technical assistance to the other consulting companies.