Professor of Cultural Policy, University of Glasgow
PhD Researcher at Belfast School of Art
This discussion paper examines the role of cooperatives in the creative industries, with a particular focus on Scotland, where the authors estimate there are at least 50 'creative' cooperatives.
This authors looks at how creative workers and students typically understand cooperatives, explore the skills and training people need to set up cooperatives, and discuss how public policy can support the creation of more cooperatives in the creative industries.
A cooperative is normally defined as a business or organisation that is collectively owned by its members, who operate the organisation for their benefit. The members could be employees, customers or residents.
In recent years, structural inequalities in the creative industries have come under scrutiny. PEC research, for example, has identified significant and entrenched class, gender, and ethnic imbalances in the sector. Despite this scrutiny, alternative forms of practice and business models have remained relatively unexamined. Cooperatives are a business model that can offer greater equity among members, compared to more traditional hierarchical business structures.
This research is based on interviews and focus groups with policy makers and industry representatives, in Glasgow, Dundee, and the border regions of Dumfries and Galloway. Much of the research took place during, or in the gaps between, Covid-19 restrictions, which likely had an impact on the attitudes and outlook of many of the participants.
By synthesising many of the common themes and ideas from their research, the authors outline recommendations and policy changes that could support cooperatives in the creative industries. These include recommending a public campaign to raise awareness of cooperatives, and improved ways of accessing knowledge about cooperatives, with a particular focus on higher education institutions.