Creative Economy

Economic systems where value is based on imaginative qualities rather than the traditional resources of land, labour and capital. Compared to creative industries, which are limited to specific sectors, the term is used to describe creativity throughout a whole economy.
– John Howkins

What is the Creative Economy?

The creative economy is an increasing factor in the development of business environments and overall community economic success.

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Many Creative Economy Definitions,
But Agreement at the Core

In 2001, British academician and entrepreneur John Howkins published book The Creative Economy.  This under-recognized seminal work created what was perhaps the first definition of the creative economy as it is used today. As defined by Howkins, the creative economy is comprised of the following key creative activities: advertising, architecture, art, crafts, design, fashion, film, music, performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, toys and games, television and radio, and video games (Howkins 2001, pp. 88–117).

Two distinct areas of the economy are being referenced when the terms “creative industries” and “cultural industries” are used. Creative industries are an array of economic activities that are directly related to the generation or exploitation of knowledge and information. The creative industries moniker is frequently substituted with the term “creative economy.” “Creative industries” is the broadest reference to to the phenomenon of creativity influencing the size, growth rate, and general dynamics of an economy.
The term “cultural industries” in the creative economy conversation refers to a perspective on the creative economy that produces and distributes cultural goods and services. Such goods and services are presumed to embody or convey cultural expressions that supercede their commercial value. Activities at the center of this overview definition are centered on legacy cultural activities, most of which in the United States are remain nonprofit cultural organizations.  “Cultural industries” are a subset of “creative industries” and/or the “creative economy.”

Richard Florida’s popularized the concept of the creative economy in his bestselling 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class. And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life.  This work offers Florida’s definition of the creative sector. That definition is quite broad and includes workers in the software industry, scientists, white collar workers, salespeople, and more. These workers are included in Florida’s definition because he argues that some kind of creative activity and/or insight is deployed by them in order to succeed at their jobs. When Florida talks about the creative economy, he is talking about occupations and industries that need creative thinkers in order to grow. While arts and culture are a part of his concept of the creative economy, in Florida’s definition, such activities are a relatively minor part and certainly not the core focus of what he is talking about.

Two influential sources that offer definitions of the creative economy are found in work done in Great Britain and in a major report issued by the United Nations UNESCO in 2008.  In Great Britain, the government commissioned a creative industries taskforce in 1997. One charge to the task force was to define the creative industries. The body’s definition was: “Those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Task Force Report and Mapping Document 1998). The industrial activity sub sectors cited as locations where such activity takes place are identified as: “Advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software, television and radio” (DCMS, Task Force Report and Mapping Document 1998).

What is the Creative Economy?
Much of the population today, and most notably the millennial generation, is seeking a more complete quality of life between work, play, and entertainment. This has resulted in a migration from the suburbs to urban areas where a more expansive array of cultural offerings is readily available. Interestingly, these decisions are not limited to specific arts genres or individual types of events, but may be based on a variety of intellectually stimulating activities.

Many millennials seek out not only those locales where they are able to take advantage of viewing such events, but also where they are able to be active participants. Providing labor, experience, and talent to these markets has a continuing positive impact on the potential for economic growth.

How Does Creative Economy Impact the Present?
John Howkins first popularized the term ‘creative economy’ in his 2001 book,
The Creative Economy, basing his model and concept on several factors that include research and development, cultural goods and services, and the arts, among others. As models evolve, so has the view of the creative economy. This resulted in a refocus in his 2013 second edition, where he deemed the defining characteristics of the creative economy to be economic value based on creativity, and creativity itself. In his own words: ‘Creativity is not new and neither is economics but what is new is the nature of the relationship between them.’

Where Will We Go from Here?
Where communities welcome the creativity and resourcefulness of new business, this becomes a magnet for entrepreneurship and investments in such urban areas. Offerings such as grants, tax incentives, and access to financial resources can be a huge factor for importing creative talent and businesses in such industries as graphic design, software development, and the creation of unique goods and services.
As growth and commitment to the community evolve, creative economy takes a leap forward. New residents contribute to the success of the business environment, while also investing in education and other resources. The creative class itself is often used to refer to those who work in technology and sciences, the arts, entertainment, and cultural endeavors.
Creative minds and talent are of significant value to the economy. Many of the largest contributors to long-term success have come from small start-up business with not much more than an idea and determination. Think Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Instagram. With such rewards generated from intellectual and business success, it’s imperative that such businesses “pay it forward” to their communities – and indeed to the world – by supporting cultural and artistic events, foundations, community activities, and human rights organizations. Fortunately for each of us, most of these companies have done just that. This may be an excessive example of the creative economy, but it certainly serves to illustrate the concept.

Major Influences on the Economy
The very idea of the creative economy continues to evolve, and constantly expands to include additional businesses and populations. Even economies such as China have provided more incentives to individuals to exercise creativity and produce unique products that contribute to market growth and revenue.
It’s time to change the focus away from the diminished industrial economy and factory production to creative products and markets. These are where the potential lies not only for today, but for the long term. While manufacturing and services certainly have their role in the success and quality of both urban and rural locales, the creative economy represents an increased focus on individuals and small businesses.
Many cities have demonstrated recognition of the creative economy, and have created areas designated as creative zones. In such areas, special incentives are provided for investments in businesses that can contribute to the very essence of the community.
Small, creative businesses are more successfully focused on attracting talented, creative individuals to complement their goals, searching for like values and commitment not only to the company, but also to their families and communities. The result is progressive, forward-thinking businesses that more traditional, shareholder-focused businesses cannot compete with.