This post comes from a presentation I was asked to make for the Creative Mobility session at the 2nd annual Cultural Diplomacy Seminar of the London branch of EUNIC on 1st July 2011 at Europe House. The brief was to reveal any specific thoughts, ideas, visions or theories that I may hold about creative mobility, in particular future visions of how mobility could be utilised to enhance the economic and co-production opportunities for artists and cultural producers in these difficult times.
The subject and my passion about it being so vast, no way was there time to say everything that needed to be said, so I decided to give out just one thought, one idea, one vision and one theory. It was a useful exercise for it made the argument more accessible, and the ideas in this somewhat dense piece have since been expanded into several other posts in this blog or to come. But this is where those lines of thinking all began for me.
In my experience, being mobile internationally means more diversity and more growth for us all, as well as offering really useful data for measuring success when reporting back to our political class.
1. A Thought – the values of the makers of value
We are living through a period for the survival of the most adaptable, to famously misquote Charles Darwin. This is happening at all levels of society, from macro-economics to neighbourhoods. For creative people this means continuing to work in a sector where demand is neither ever met nor exhausted, and where delivery is predicated on the organisation giving more than it has the capacity to give.
It’s getting tough out there, as the world shrinks and resources reduce, for nations must increasingly prove their relevance. Governments could do worse than start thinking globally but acting locally, paradoxically extending their reach by working with local communities. The future will be for those who understand the power conferred by the ethical stance, openness and vulnerability; those who do not contribute to the problems of exclusion but integrate the people of the diaspora; those who link up their young people and sensitise their populations to international action in order to provoke a national debate on why they need an international policy.
The diplomatic context has changed. The actions of Bush and Blair in the early noughties taught everyone that the reputation of a country is its principal asset and that the means of communication can betray the message. Since 9/11 there has been a need to secure the citizen and not the state. The Arab Spring shows we are in an era of people power and not state sovereignty, for sovereignty now has to be shared inside a global system. Nike, McDonalds and now Apple have learnt that the product no longer controls the market, the consumer does. In the developed economies, national wealth is now being created more through knowledge and skill than physical possession and natural resource.
To my mind, it is our creatives that are some of the best equipped to deal with the need to survive by adaptation, which is why many nations are experiencing an explosion of activity in this sector as the fortunes of so many others sink. Creatives know how to be resourceful; with their ambition, knowledge and need. They have inbuilt sustainability; being intrinsic, balanced and resilient people. They are also organised; no strangers to leadership, partnership or self-help.
2. A Vision – tax is venture capital
International cultural trade and relations is undeniably creating national wealth, both protecting employment in the creative sector and providing returns to the national exchequer. Five successful business models have emerged that promote creative mobility: the simple or social entrepreneurship, the single product/multiple profit centre, the market-driven, the lateral collaboration and the use of nested organisations.
To enhance productivity in the creative economy, creatives begin with R&D, for it is this which leads to innovation. Young creatives are getting more skilled at attaching their business model to the outcomes of their R&D and then mainstreaming it. A business model creates value. It has 4 pillars – products and services, infrastructure and network, customer relations, financing. It offers our young creative entrepreneurs a choice of 4 roles – creators (predominant), distributors (ubiquitous), brokers (facilitating sales) and landlords (temporary use of assets). Young creatives have understood that the right to use an asset is more profitable and more highly valued than selling ownership of assets. There are 4 types of asset – financial, physical, intangible and human.
Nations are faced with the need to invest wisely but how?
They urgently need to get to know the trade chains: what links their product to its overseas market and most importantly what is its weakest link? In a time of reduced public resources, strengthening the weakest link will strengthen the entire chain. And they can grow their resources, exploiting opportunities to build reserves, capitalise and federate their funding. They can grow their financing by collaborating with the gateway producers, promoters and curators. But most of all, because they are not held to a bottom line, they should now use tax as venture capital.
There is a crisis for creativity in the government creativity-culture-heritage continuum (see my article on the RFOs): where to invest the dwindling resources available? Creatives still have to learn to financially evaluate their assets – always human, ever intangible. Governments could help by benchmarking the price of their skills and experience against similar in the private sector.
3. A Theory – a new diplomacy
We are living through a perfect storm of restrictions on creative mobility which threatens all hope of increased growth and diversity. Artists moving between continents, and sometimes within, currently face seven impediments to their mobility: visas and border controls; tax with-holding, double taxation and VAT; incompatible Social Security regimes; the impact of their carbon footprint; serious reductions in public funding for international work; corrupt or tortuous collection of their IPRs for mobile and digital works; the instrumentalist diplomacy strategies of their government.
Those who involve their business community in their diplomacy have been seen to exploit both the advantages of being the first and the power of economic attraction towards their values (aka culture). Within the wider society it is often the creatives that lead on the capacity of their society to make value from their values. This can help their government balance the international power of the international corporations and banks by moving away from the bilateral to the multilateral (from the WTO to UNESCO if you like).
This kind of diplomacy requires common policies across ministries, that is joined-up government from the bureaucracies. For creatives it starts with joining foreign affairs with trade and culture. This means joint strategies, coordinated activities, collaborative budgets. But no one should stop there. Societies need to move it on as quickly as possible to embrace education, tourism, science and technology. Governments should go lateral, spread the risk, and follow the real money.
4. An Idea – how digital shows the way
The digital dimension requires an expansionist view and is progressive: harnessing creativity; integrating the whole of business; engaging with audience, artist and each other. Here are more opportunities for collaboration than you can shake a stick at: peer networks delivering high expectation; democratisation and collectivisation; authenticity.
The business models have now evolved and there are six: freemium, ad-based, subscription, paid app, micropayment and sponsorship. For the IPRs of our young creative entrepreneurs, free drives paid. Here the technology first builds audience, to in turn provide traction towards membership, from where IPRs can finally be licensed. Going digital develops notoriety and reduces the carbon but access to technology remains an issue, for there is not yet any true equality here.
Between social media and TV there is now Internet convergence. Through HTML5 and Mobile web there is a neat convergence of device and person, an ease of interaction to harness the wisdom of the crowd, the advocacy of the crowd, building trust and integrity. The network has become pervasive.
There are 4 rules of engagement, all interdependent: relevance, resonance, transparency and incentive. Our digital creatives create, distribute and engage through their smart phone. They develop online collections, plan and curate on a phone which offers metrics and analytics to demonstrate benefit and reveal what joins and coordinates. Thus do they make their choices, and interpret, inform and entertain. We are now brought closer to the meaning than to the object, for access to the concept can now take place without owning the object.
My thought? – Adapt to create value from our values, or disappear.
My vision? – Renew cultural diplomacy.
My theory? – Grow resources by investing tax.
My idea? – Give rein to our digital entrepreneurs.