Planting orange seeds: How we're empowering creative communities in Latin America

What does it take to be successful in the Orange Economy, as the creative economy is known in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)? What challenges are creative entrepreneurs currently facing? What kind of support do they need? What dreams do they have?

Nesta and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have been trying to understand such questions (and do something about them!). In recent years, we’ve worked closely with teams of creative entrepreneurs from across the region.

This is a taste of what creative teams navigating the Orange Economy have told us about their reality

  • “The creative sector is going through a fragile moment. The pandemic has closed schools and theatres. Social distancing means no face to face activities. Adapting our art-based activities for online is a huge challenge.”
  • “We’re pioneers, but that brings with it some challenges. Our path is not well trodden.”
  • “We want to define the type of organisation that we want to be.”
  • “It’d be great if we weren’t fighting fires last-minute all the time!”
  • "We’re about to change the structure of our team, and become more international. We need to address the impact this will have.”
  • “We need to understand our client community better.”
  • “We’re trying to scale and become sustainable whilst running a business.”
  • “We want our clients to pay the real value of our services.”
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Supporting the Orange Economy

The creative entrepreneurs who gave us these insights are not alone. A quarter of entrepreneurs are self-taught, as IDB reported in 2018, and there are few educational programmes in LAC that prepare young people for entrepreneurship. Aldea Creativa in Mexico said “the majority of businesses do not survive to the magic number of three years”. Creative entrepreneurs in particular can often struggle to marry brilliant artistic talents with practical skills required to run a successful business.

IDB have championed the Orange Economy for many years. Likewise, Nesta has a long history supporting creative endeavours, including programmes with the British Council and African Development Bank, policy and research with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), and funding through Arts and Culture Finance.

In 2018, Nesta and IDB came together to respond to challenges faced by LAC creative entrepreneurs. We too found that teams were disbanding. These teams had the skills and motivation to launch their enterprise – but found themselves unable to scale or sustain in the long term. After a successful prototype workshop with creative teams in Argentina in April 2019, and with the landscape for learning programmes and the needs of entrepreneurs drastically changing in the past 12 months, we wanted to reach broader audiences. We have now completed two exciting pieces of work:

  • We have inducted a pool of trainers who are able to adapt and deliver the workshop sessions to their creative entrepreneur audiences, and
  • We have published a self-directed learning guide for creative entrepreneurs, based on the workshop sessions.

Connecting innovative mindsets

A virtual train the trainer pilot (ToT) took place during two weeks in March/April 2021, with a mixture of facilitated group sessions, clinics and self-directed learning. We welcomed 17 trainers from across the region, all bringing facilitation skills, knowledge about the Orange Economy and microbusinesses, a learner-centred attitude, and a ready network of creative entrepreneurs. The pilot aimed to introduce the workshop content, enhance their facilitation skills, provide confidence to adapt the workshop sessions for online learning, and deliver a session to real LAC creative teams.

The trainers worked in pairs and adapted the existing workshop content to an online learning environment (quickly becoming pros in Zoom and Miro in the process!). The common changes they made included: shortening sessions to limit screen time; injecting more focus and pace into the sessions; and adding their own icebreakers, reflection activities, or case studies. In total, more than 20 teams attended sessions facilitated by the trainers across two days.

The teams said the sessions encouraged them to start conversations around topics they sometimes avoid; receiving access to practical tools for them to continue working on was helpful; and they congratulated trainers for their great facilitations skills!

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The 17 trainers who participated in the ToT pilot

The intensive ToT was well received by the trainers too. The sense of community from across the region was recognised, with 100% of trainers saying they will keep in touch with the other trainers. On average, they said they will apply their learnings within the next three months, and facilitate to 10-20 teams in the next 12 months. Some trainers said they could reach 100 teams through their access to massive events or platforms for entrepreneurs!

Choose your own adventure

Great value was highlighted by teams during the ToT but, as we know, creatives can't always attend workshops. A lot of learning happens flexibly, on the job, in their own time. We have produced CO.NECTA to acknowledge this reality.

CO.NECTA is a self-directed learning guide, and is available in Spanish and English. We have reimagined the content from the prototype workshop in Argentina into activities to suit a new user group (creative teams, not facilitators) and learning approach (self-directed, not facilitated). It responds to common challenges faced by teams: limited access to tools that boost creativity and the exchange of perspectives among the members; lack of strategies to identify new opportunities; and misalignment between members on the vision and needs of the enterprise.

Graphic outline of the CONECTA modules in English and Spanish

The research, development and testing phases took place between August and November 2020. We consulted regional experts to gain a better understanding of the LAC context and ensure the content was serving a collective need. We spoke with established creative teams for inspirational stories, which are published in CO.NECTA, and validate the content. We tested the activities with creative teams too.

CO.NECTA grew into a comprehensive resource. The activities are independent from one another so teams can dip in as required and there are three suggested learning pathways to reach specific goals (create a new product, explore new partnerships, and apply for funding). Teams may already be familiar with some of the concepts in CO.NECTA, so this is an invitation to try new ideas, but also to revisit existing practices.

So, what’s next?

Both the ToT and CO.NECTA opened conversations among trainers and creative teams that emphasise the need to support the Orange Economy and reimagine new horizons for the creative community in LAC. Keep an eye on the IDB website for further events and research.

A team effort

This project brought together so many people over many years and we would like to thank:

The 17 trainers – we are excited to see where you take this content!: Alexandra Isabel César, Ana Patricia Ospino, Ana María Vásquez, Angela Camargo, Claudia Lozano, Davina Uriel, Diana Silveira, Fabian Herrera, Guadalupe Martínez, Javier Benavides, Javier Pastorino, Luis Alberto Flores, Mariano Gilmore, Mónica Real, Rafael Gómez, Roberto Cruz and Rosanna Zárate.

The 24 creative teams who participated in the train the trainer pilot: Akunyajaa, Aamnba Productora, Academia Baluarte, Andes Materials, Arte Metal Reciclado, Arteria Estudio, Caro Huezo, Casa Collab, Casa Madre, Circo Reciclado, Cluster Enoturístico de Ica, Cuentos de Vereda, DSGN CHEATS, En Giro, iFurniture, Kertin's Fate, La Tribu Performance, Leefante, Marxis, Mascabado, Melara Products and Services, Missie Makeup, Producciones Mosaico, Ana María Gutiérrez, Ram Publicidad Creativa, Scentinet Community, Trampolin, Verdever, and Veromobili.

The 19 creative teams who generously shared their stories and the five who participated in testing for CO.NECTA: Amalgama, Ambulante, ANANAY, ArchDaily, Básica, Basicos, Ecolana, Esto También Está Sonando, Garage Films, Gaucho Devs, Iceberg, LABVA, Loog, Mundial, Nature’s Jewelry, Ofelia & Antelmo, Otra Piel Design, Pirotecnia and Sesiones al Parque.

The eight regional experts who helped us better understand the challenges of the Orange Economy: Alejandra Luzardo, Alex Paredes, Estrella Peinado-Vara, Felipe Mujica, Javier Pastorino, José Alonso, Mariana Delgado and Pablo Rosselló.

Nesta and friends: Benjamin Reid, Berni Maza, Brooke Stuckey, Diana Hidalgo, Elena Oyon, Emma Dickson, Iso Roberts, Laura Siqueiros, Mary Wessel, Priscila Vanneuville, Sonja Dahl and Sian Prime.

IDB: Matteo Grazzi and Simone Sasso.

Author

Juan Casasbuenas

Juan Casasbuenas

Juan Casasbuenas

Curriculum and Content Manager

Juan was a Curriculum and Content Manager supporting the Digital Frontrunners and Global Innovation Policy Accelerator programmes.

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Kimberley Ballantyne

Kimberley Ballantyne

Kimberley Ballantyne

Learning Content Manager

Kimberley works in the Partnerships team as a Learning Content Manager.

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David Araiza

David Araiza is an innovation and design consultant based in Mexico, and is passionate about social entrepreneurship, community building and impact innovation.