Three stories of resilience, optimism and a new better normal

Map of Associates 2020

Map of Associates 2020

Since late 2016, the Creative Enterprise Programme (CEP) and the Creative Hubs Academy (CHA) has delivered over 100 workshops across 30 countries with more than 2,000 creatives. The international network of associates have been integral to helping build the networks, resources and knowledge necessary for more sustainable economies and resilient livelihoods.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything everywhere; the ways we live, work, socialise, consume, create, teach, learn and help. Many associates naturally reached out to Nesta to understand how other countries and creative communities are coping, pivoting and evolving. In response, we invited associates to convene and share stories of inspiration in a webinar.

Three stories in particular were selected to inspire and inform discussion in areas ranging from personal reflections on purpose, to the evolution of our practice and creative enterprise, to systemic questions of sustainability, policy, social responsibility and economic resilience. These stories are detailed below.

Thanks also go to seven other contributors, whose work helped refine the themes for discussion: Victor Murithi, Kenya; Maria Linares, Colombia; Barbara Mutabazi, Uganda; Ifeanyi Enukorah, Nigeria; Lekodi Magombo, Malawi; Jason Lau, Turkey; El hadji Niasse, Senegal.

What gives us hope – David Arazia, Mexico

The four steps of the volunteering programme

re_action is a programme developed by social innovation organisation make_sense. It is an open environment where citizens can learn and take action to solve social issues, with a structure based on the Collective Impact model popularised by Stanford University.

In just six weeks the programme has spread to six countries across the world, guiding citizens to take concrete actions safely and connect with other passionate volunteers and experts to support vulnerable groups and acute needs during the Covid-19 crisis.

David Azaria map of volunteer impact

Groups universally identified for support include elderly and isolated people, those at risk of domestic violence and front line medicine workers, but the delivery is unique to each area. At the heart of the process is an understanding of the importance of working from the ground up – providing tools, training and support to guide people to seek out the specifics of the latent needs and identifying challenges, and crucially, activating local community assets that can be leveraged to address them.

These skills are inherent to creatives; both CEP and CHA commit to focusing on ways to understand and connect with the people we want to reach.

“The key part of building community-based programmes is to really understand how people connect and why people want to connect with each other.”

David Arazia

If innovation is defined as the successful application of an idea, then success, particularly in innovation with an explicit social purpose, can only be ensured if the idea and its execution are relevant and meaningful to the group of people it affects. The organic networked structure of re_action provides that flexibility to be human-centred, to listen, understand and empathise, and build solutions with and for its communities even at a time in our history when these relationships have to be largely mediated online.

My new better normal – Mutsa Samuel, Zimbabwe

Musta Samuel image

All CEP/CHA associates are entrepreneurs, and work in multiple roles and with multiple organisations. Mutsa Samuel shared his personal story of overcoming adversity to developing his own business as a life coach, using three traditional principles taken from different languages across Africa.

  • Umoja (‘unity’ interpreted as to ‘sync with yourself’)
  • Yeqa (‘to leap’ interpreted as ‘managing and navigating your growth’) and
  • Kushava (to commit to purpose).

He kindly shared some exercises with the associates and a rare moment to pause, breathe and reflect mid-webinar.

Mutsa began by describing how despite ticking the typical boxes for career and material success, he fell into a depression because there was a misalignment between who he was and what he was doing, and uncertainty about where he was going. Mutsa acknowledged uncertainty as the source of his anxiety, and realised that he was missing the personal tools to deal with issues that surround it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused mass uncertainty. But all over the world people are using redundancies, furloughing, lockdown and self-isolation as an opportunity to reassess career paths, reflect on purpose and explore latent skills and passions (creating a recent spike in new businesses and patents being filed).

“The story that I’m telling myself today, amidst all this chaos, is this new reality which we are all facing is actually an opportunity for renewed self-awareness.”

Mutsa Samuel

Our creative entrepreneurs all deal with uncertainty – often setting out for the first time and alone on a new venture. Both CEP and CHA spend time up front encouraging entrepreneurs and hub leaders to consider their purpose and the mark which they want to make on the world through their work. Associates see first-hand the emotional side of marrying the objective with the subjective, passion with pragmatism; each participant’s personal sense of purpose and how their enterprise or hub may help them realise it.

Where we could go from here - Nora Carillo, Mexico

People working together

Nora co-founded Danausbin with knowledge sharing and co-creation at its centre. It aims to nurture stronger relationships amongst artisans through production and sales support, and facilitating reciprocal learning of skills, experience and even languages.

“I would not be here without these people – they were not just my mentors, but my inspiration to become an entrepreneur myself. Most importantly they taught me that sharing knowledge and collaboration are key to facing any challenge that I may have as a business owner.”

Nora Carillo

Due to the pandemic, the organisation ran out of artisanal products to sell, and co-creation stalled with the closing of their workshops. The financial vulnerability of some of these businesses was counteracted by a rapid skilling up in e-commerce, enabling members to continue to have access to a market, while the community of mutual support and learning was facilitated through social media and accessible online tools.

On a broader scale, Danausbin collaborated with other ‘business islands’ to share collective knowledge across the network, such as strategic and financial planning and experience. These have helped greatly in brining stability and resilience to the community of artisans.

Nora proclaims: “Creatives have built-in resilience. We are realising today in the context of the pandemic, there are weaknesses in government and even industries that before were considered as stronger than ours are vulnerable… I believe that strength and resilience will come from inside our business, and we are gathering and getting stronger as a sector. We want to change policy… we are realising our power as a group and we are not letting this go, not now or in the future.”


Steve Lee

Steve Lee is a Creative Enterprise Programme Workshop Associate, based in the UK.