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Global Creative Economy Council: An introduction from the Chair

John Newbigin, Chair of the Creative Economy Council

A blog from Creative PEC’s Global Creative Economy Council

As its name suggests, the Global Creative Economy Council (GCEC) exists to research and reflect what’s happening in the creative economy at a global level. As well as a diversity of perspectives – academics, practitioners and investors – its membership reflects views from every part of the world. This highlights the fact that while the creative economy ‘discourse’ – the academic research, the data collection, the impact analysis of policies and so on – happens overwhelmingly in the Global North, it fails to pick up much of what’s happening in the Global South.  

While the basic dynamics of the creative economy may look the same – informal or micro businesses and freelancers struggling to find finance and skills and to value or safeguard their IP – the social, cultural and environmental significance of the sector is very different, which makes the drivers of government policy different too. One of our longer-term interests is thinking about how to share understanding between the two hemispheres – if only because the rapid and continuing growth of the creative sector, and its consequent potential for global trade, could be even greater were it not for a lack of common definitions, regulations, protocols and IP regulation.    

Whatever the underlying reality may be, the perception of the creative economy in the northern hemisphere – or, to be more precise, western Europe and North America – still has some echoes of Richard Florida’s pernicious ‘creative class’: geeky, white, male, middle class, cliquey, and very metropolitan, typified by start-ups, unconventional business models, a lot of lobbying for tax-breaks and the occasional unicorn.  The perception in much of the Global South could hardly be more different and can be summed up in a sentence from the Director of the Asian Development Bank Institute who recently wrote, in his introduction to a book of essays entitled ‘Creative Economy 2030’: 

“Creative industries are critical to the sustainable development agenda, as they have the potential to support inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic development.”   

It is no accident that the UN’s ‘International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’ in 2021 was initiated by Indonesia and supported at the UN almost exclusively by countries of the Global South. 

To paint the ‘North’ version as a recipe for entrenching existing inequalities, while the ‘South’ version is a programme for radical social change, may be a crude over-simplification. But there’s enough truth in it to suggest that the ‘southern’ perspective may have the more significant role to play in addressing some of the greatest challenges facing the planet – the chaotic growth of mega-cities, resource depletion, youth unemployment and mass migration, the loss of cultural heritage – both tangible and intangible – and, of course, climate change.  And even if it hasn’t, since 80% of the world’s population live in what can be defined as the ‘South’ where that cocktail of issues contains all the ingredients for an apocalyptic nightmare or, with a bit of imagination and the near ubiquity of digital access, the impetus for a creative transformation,  it seems like a good idea to put our heads together and consider what mutual benefits might flow from closer collaboration, deeper analysis and shared understanding between Global North and Global South. 

With the invaluable support of the British Council and the Creative PEC, we seek to do this in a number of ways. Firstly, we use our combined networks to better understand what’s really going on – whether it’s looking at how informal workers and businesses survive and prosper; how networks and intermediaries act as ‘interpreters’ between government and creative entrepreneurs;  how a creative economy can contribute to social  and environmental sustainability as well as economic growth. As well the policy lessons that can be learnt and applied at a global level, or at least a trans-national level.   

Secondly, we convene discussions that bring together creative entrepreneurs, policy makers and government officials to discuss and share. We did this recently in Istanbul and Cairo, with encouragingly positive results. Thirdly, we, as a group, and some of our members as individuals, contribute to research that addresses the wider priorities of the Creative PEC and the British Council.  

And, finally, GCEC members share observations and lessons from their own day to day practice and observations – and that is the intention of these blogs.

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