Some folks close to where I live recently got a licence to set up a medical cannabis operation.
They haven’t started yet from what I can make out. But they’re in the planning stages.
I was interested due to the fact that I think the legalisation of cannabis is just a matter of time in NZ given trends elsewhere in the world.
I’m also interested because I can see the education aspects of this.
So, I started thinking of how someone, with the right approach, could really dominate this part of the market.
Disclaimer: This is not a value judgement on whether legalisation is right or wrong. I just think it’s going to happen.
Here’s how I would approach the education side of things in order to dominate this emerging market in NZ.
1. Work on cultural values first
I would work with iwi or entrepreneurial Māori groups first to integrate a strong set of values early for this kind of work.
I’m a Pākehā – a white New Zealander, who works with Māori in education and business. And my cultural lens and worldview is likely different to yours, but I know that getting the cultural values in place is important for anyone’s brand domestically and internationally.
In practical terms, I would start with some input around cultural competency including the development of a specific set of values for the business that resonates with stakeholders including manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, wairuatanga, aroha and ako for starters.
You can google these terms if you don’t know what they are.
And this kind of expertise is likely something you need to pay for if you want authenticity and integrity as part of your story.
One huge benefit is that you can leverage these values in your education and training if you have them well integrated.
But in my experience, you won’t get on board with iwi or other groups if you don’t.
It’s also necessary if you want to change the narrative around Marijuana use through exploring the possible health benefits of medical cannabis.
We need to change this narrative. Just google something like “marijuana convictions NZ ethnicity” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Cultural values are also a good brand story for international trade as some entrepreneurial Māori businesses are discovering.
2. Develop a suite of different education offerings
Anyone looking to lead in this space is going to need to develop a suite of fully online, blended, and face-to-face training and different kinds of offerings.
Here are some ideas on what this might look like.
Perhaps offer 80% of the online content for free and then charge a premium for the other 20% of online and all of the blended and face-to-face content.
Design face-to-face and blended training, in particular, to align with the values from 1.
This means that training is workshop and discussion-based, not lecture style.
Keep in mind the following:
- Online training is scalable.
- Blended is somewhat scalable.
- Face-to-face is hard to scale and expensive.
Also, there are plenty of great online education platforms out there now including some great Kiwi ones. Go and have a look.
3. Focus on the practical and actionable over the academic
Also, focus on the practical and actionable over the academic when it comes to cannabis education if you want mass appeal and greater uptake.
Offer face-to-face training Wānanga style to draw in groups who are not likely to respond to a western-style academic lecture approach.
Do this for high-level professional development right down to the grassroots level training.
This might mean starting and finishing training or professional development with Karakia, as well as allowing opportunities for everyone to share what they know, providing good kai and getting really, really great facilitators.
Note: this also works for Pākehā and other learners and is in keeping with the philosophy of ako in Māori – which means both “learn” and “teach”.
Don’t be boring.
And don’t be cheap when it comes to getting the best facilitators.
4. Consider an “embedded” approach
Consider using the “embedded” approach for education and training where you are leveraging dual outcomes at the same time.
In practical terms this means explicitly combining two things:
- the content knowledge and application (medical cannabis education, in this case);
- together with the underpinning foundational skills and knowledge (e.g. unpacking and explaining things like vocabulary including technical jargon, calculations required for dosages, or even just learning-to-learn skills for coping with new or specialised content).
Most people stop at the first, or treat the second as something else to be dealt with elsewhere.
This requires some skill to design and facilitate. But its important if you want to generate educational benefits beyond just those associated with selling product.
5. Work with digital badges for learning
Certificates are old-school. Digital badges and micro-credentials are where things are at right now.
Create digital badges for all training using sharable digital badges under the open badges protocols set up by Mozilla and others. This flows out of 2.
This approach is free to test, cheap and easily scalable if you stay away from the traditional education funding and compliance mechanisms.
What this means in practical terms is developing your own learning outcomes for really small chunks of learning and training. And then assessing them based on verifiable achievements or demonstration of skill.
This is different to time-based learning like NZQA credits which rely on a time-based credit system where 10 hours of learning = 1 credit.
Someone wanting dominate a particular industry, should do this for everything working horizontally and vertically in a systematic manner.
For example, in the case of medical cannabis you could start with the horticultural skills required by the growers and continue through to the dispensing skills or other professional learning and development required by pharmacists and others.
Note: there will be implications for quality control that you need to consider.
6. Bundle training to offer micro-credentials
Once you have a suite of digitally badged training options, the next step would be to bundle these together in different configurations and offer them as industry-based micro-credentials.
Again, I think it’s important to stay outside of official educational compliance territory, at this stage at least.
Micro-credentials are currently the wild west of the education world and you could chart your own course here if you do it carefully and intentionally.
An agile approach to micro-credentialing allows you to quickly compile new micro-credentials or bundles of skills, knowledge etc that you need to promote for your workers, clients and others.
The scope is massive. But I’d look to start with a minimum viable product or service as a way of testing the waters.
7. Develop your own professional standards
Once you own the space around industry credentials, you need to look at how you can own the space around continuing professional development.
One way to do this is to develop your own professional standards for medical cannabis education, cultivation and distribution.
Again, this should align with the values from 1. and seek to promote the professional skills and practice from 2. to 4.
Appoint yourselves or set up the official accreditation agency for this. Become your own quality assurance and compliance authority in other words.
8. Require others to hold your accreditation for your products and services
Once you are on your way to becoming the new authority in your chosen field, you need to require that everyone holds your accreditation for your products and services.
Then, once that is in place, require that people who hold your accreditation for growing, distribution, sales and so on renew their professional accreditation on a time-based cycle. E.g. every 3 years.
Medical professionals like pharmacists already do this.
They can do this by compiling an online portfolio of evidence that demonstrates they meet the required standards for professional values, knowledge and skills through their work in the medical cannabis industry.
Do the same and make it part of your education platform. You can also leverage this into conferences as well as other kinds of paid training.
9. Offer both free and paid training
If you build a digital ecosystem for your education, training and professional development you package it in different ways.
Offer free and paid training, digital badges, micro-credentials and professional standards internationally including for your overseas distribution partners as a way of adding value.
Free online training can potentially create a feeder for paid training. Also, free training is a kind of try-before-you-buy approach that works well with online models.
10. Create and disseminate new knowledge
Create and disseminate new knowledge about medical cannabis use and cannabis education.
Through your startup process, you are going to create new and proprietary knowledge, as well as collect stories.
Don’t underestimate the power of giving away new knowledge in order to become the expert in your field.
Some of this you may want to share via free online training and information products.
Other aspects you will want to keep in-house or behind a paywall as part of your premium paid training and education.
Also don’t underestimate user stories. User stories around medical cannabis are going to be big.
Anything you want to give away needs to be easily sharable on all social media channels.
You also may need “train the trainer” materials so you can create a decentralised and distributed system of medical cannabis trainers who can become your champions once this industry takes off.
11. Export education and training internationally
When you have a minimum viable education product or service you can explore selling your training and education system internationally.
This goes deeper than just selling some training, but once you’ve reached the size you want, you could leverage your systems by selling related consulting and/or licensing your training system internationally.
Ok, that was 11 ideas. And this approach doesn’t just apply to medical cannabis.