Building creative communities: Our partnership with British Council

The creative economy and culture has been a priority field of Nesta’s for many years. This work aims to show the value of the creative economy, influence policy and promote digital technology. In the Innovation Skills team, we’ve partnered with international organisations to design learning programmes that support creative entrepreneurship.

Since 2015, Innovation Skills has been working with British Council in the UK and around the world as part of their creative economy theme. From the beginning, our intention was to lead the design and support the implementation of learning programmes in a way where we could step back and enable them to become locally led. We’re proud to have reached that moment, and our range of activities over the past five years has included:

  • Updating the Creative Enterprise Toolkit, which helps entrepreneurs to set up creative and social businesses, to include more guidance on social media marketing.
  • Developing and growing the Creative Enterprise Programme, a three-day intensive workshop based on the Creative Enterprise Toolkit, which has taken place in 25 countries during the past three years.
  • Creating and launching a new learning programme, Creative Hubs Academy, designed specifically for creative hub and community managers.
  • Publishing a new resource for the Creative Hubs Academy: the Creative Hub Leader’s Toolkit.
  • Building a global community of creative facilitators, who host the workshops, adapt the content to their local context, maintain longer and more meaningful relationships with their participants, and advocate for the creative industries in their region.
  • Reaching more than 2,000 participants in face-to-face workshops in three years.
  • Implementing a new evaluation framework for CEP, which we’ll be sharing details and new case studies from later in the summer.

Our partnership with British Council is now drawing to a close. But its legacy will continue through the practical resources and the connections made, whether that’s through the workshop participant alumni or the global network of creative facilitators.

In this blog we reflect on our learnings, share the resources and celebrate the successes.

Supporting creatives to sustain their enterprises

At its core, Creative Enterprise Programme (CEP) is a three-day capacity building workshop that supports emerging creative and social entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses. Over the past few years, we’ve transformed the workshop and delivery model to enable greater impact at scale. A key part of this has been recruiting locally-based creative facilitators to run the workshops – known as workshop associates – rather than relying on our UK-based associates to deliver abroad. We’ve been transitioning to this new approach, and over the past year 96% of all CEP workshops were led by locally-based associates.

Download the Creative Enterprise Toolkit (available for free in 12 languages).

Creative Enterprise Toolkit

Creative Enterprise Toolkit image

Bringing hub leaders together to learn together and from one another

CEP focuses on individual entrepreneurs, but we know that creative hubs are vital to the creative economy. Our research identified, however, that hub leaders were often under-resourced, worked in isolation, lacked opportunities to develop skills and would benefit from a way to collaborate, share learnings and access support.

To help hub leaders through these challenges, with British Council and their partner Hivos, we developed the Creative Hubs Academy – a modular learning programme that can be curated based on the hub leaders’ specific needs. Alongside this, we designed a longer learning journey where hub leaders reconvene about six months after the initial workshop to reflect on what they have learned putting it into practice and to solidify their connections.

Download the free Creative Hub Leader’s Toolkit.

Creative Hub Leader’s Toolkit.

CHA Toolkit.png

Recognising talent to build a global community of facilitators

The workshop associates are the lifeline to making all this happen, and there are now 29 associates working with the British Council across 12 countries (with more waiting in the wings in Latin America, plus the team based in the UK). They are experienced facilitators who also act as strategic liaisons for British Council. They are an incredible bunch and are all coming into the programmes from different angles – local policy interest, academia, as an artist or entrepreneur themselves, a business coach, to name a few – but all share the same goal to support creatives.

Whereas earlier British Council programmes relied on UK-based consultants travelling to run workshops, over the past three years we've worked with British Council teams to find the balance between promoting the UK and recognising talent on their doorstep.

By recruiting locally-based associates, the programmes are more sustainable both financially and environmentally. But more importantly, we’ve been able to make the learning more relevant and inspirational for the participants. We know that learning from someone familiar with the local creative economy, the unique challenges faced by creatives and/or entrepreneurs, who can signpost to relevant local resources, and literally speak the language will achieve the best outcomes long term.

Map of Associates 2020

Map of Associates 2020

With the associates spread across the globe, it’s important for us to bring them together as a community of practice. Many of the associates contacted us at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, curious to learn how others are pivoting (and outside of CEP or CHA). As a group, we discussed how the world is changing where we are and shared stories of hope.

Adapting the programmes to local needs

We have now handed everything over to British Council – from workshop slides and facilitation guides, to resources to recruit associates, to operational how-to guides for country teams to organise successful workshops, to the methodology of why we do things.

For many British Council teams, the CEP or CHA programmes sit within a wider creative economy portfolio and strategy that the associates can now also help shape. For example, in Southern Africa, the associates have sent weekly themed Whatsapp messages to the cohort signposting to other learning content. We know that there is only so much that can be achieved in a three day workshop, so this gives British Council and their associates the space to test new things, bring in ideas or contacts, and make the programmes unique to them.

Looking to the future

For Nesta, the time has come to step back and hand the baton over to the British Council teams around the world to continue running the programmes. We're proud of the quality of the content we’ve developed, as well as the foundations we’ve laid with the British Council teams to now “own” the programmes for themselves. The appetite for continuing shows the ongoing need to support creatives around the world, and we’re excited to watch both the associates and workshop participants grow.


Kimberley Ballantyne

Kimberley Ballantyne

Kimberley Ballantyne

Learning and Development Manager

Kimberley worked as the Learning and Development Manager.

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Isobel Roberts

Isobel Roberts

Isobel Roberts

Content and Communications Manager, Innovation Skills

Isobel worked in the Innovation Skills team as Content and Communications Manager, helping to build Nesta's learning and development offering.

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