Why are we doing this?
Creative hubs - spaces for creativity, either physical or virtual - are part of a worldwide movement. They support creative communities to collaborate, create and thrive, and can provide a vital lifeline for the growth and sustainability of often unique artistic practitioners and budding entrepreneurs. They do this through extensive entrepreneurial activities, convening, curation, and by providing services to support and amplify the activities of creative people.
Creative hubs are rapidly increasing in number. DeskMag has estimated that 1.2 million people worldwide are based in coworking spaces, and that’s just one form a creative hub can take. They also exist as maker spaces, multi-purpose arts venues, virtual networks or many other types of communities and networks. The workplace is changing, creating more opportunities, greater impact and space for innovations, with creative hubs playing an important part of this story.
Creative economies are key to any economy across the globe. In the UK, creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the economy, with figures released by DCMS in November 2017 placing the worth at nearly £92bn. Strong creative industries have a positive contribution to the innovation economy and other sectors of the economy as well, and are even more critical drivers of employment and GDP in low- and middle-income countries. Creative hubs also have the potential to strengthen and deepen developing creative ecosystems.
As well as creating economic impact and opportunity, creative hubs can act as platforms for activism, cultural change and community cohesion. Hubs can be activators in regenerating neighbourhoods, providing access to diverse networks or creating much needed space for cultural activities in culturally deprived areas. Their potential is huge, and they are incredibly flexible in nature.
Currently, there are very few learning offers that cater directly to the needs of creative hub leaders and their teams. By getting closer to the needs, challenges and skills gaps amongst the hub communities, we’ve learned more about the common and shared problems facing creative hub teams at different stages of development. We’re now developing a learning offer to support them to create more value and impact for their communities.
What are we doing?
Together with our partners, the British Council and Hivos, we are developing a flexible, co-created learning programme, specific to the needs of creative hubs. The programme has several levels:
- Skills and capacity building: tools, resources and learning experiences to support the growth of creative hubs and their communities, developed in partnership with hub leaders from around the world.
- Building networks, sharing and amplifying: sharing best practice across a growing global community, and creating stronger conditions for policy changes to occur in support of creative hubs.
- Mapping and codifying: embarking on several key research questions to better understand the value of hubs, their contribution to developing inclusive creative economies, and the skills and competencies their teams need to thrive.
We have already completed our initial scoping phase, where we worked closely with hub networks and communities to uncover insights to inform the development of our learning offer.
We ran co-creation workshops in Bangkok with a cohort from across the South East Asian region, a session in Cairo with hub leaders from across the Pan-African region, and further workshops in Abuja with a group of hubs from four countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone) in West Africa. We took a user-focused approach to the research and held a series of workshops and interviews with selected participants in a number of locations in order to better understand hub leaders’ learning needs and expectations. In parallel, we conducted desk research and a review of existing support materials.
Over the next year, our collective aim is to test and iterate a range of support programmes and content in different countries around the world. As we go, we’ll be sharing our progress online and at events.
Longer term, Nesta and our partners are seeking to build a scalable programme of support for this global hubs community that will see them achieve more sustainable impact worldwide. We plan to scale our activities in the spring of 2019, so keep an eye on this project page for updates.
At Nesta, we are interested in ways in which the creative economy, arts and culture are innovating to remain relevant, diverse, sustainable and inclusive. Our research looking at which skills will be needed in the future highlights the importance of creativity, with 87% of ‘creative occupations’ resistant to automation. With a growing young workforce, and global shortage of jobs and opportunities, there has never been a more important time to be supporting communities to be creatively entrepreneurial.
Creative hubs are, by their very nature, extremely closely aligned with creative enterprises. This new programme builds on ten years of impactful delivery of the Creative Enterprise Programme (CEP), in partnership with the British Council.
As part of the delivery plan for the CEP this year, we have been working with in-country British Council teams and partners to build local capacity to deliver the programme. Our aim is to strengthen local networks and develop local communities of practice that support the development of the creative industries, and so supporting hubs is a very logical next step for us, contributing to broader ecosystem development.
About our partners
Creative hubs are integral to the service portfolio of the British Council and Hivos. Both organisations have a strong track record in supporting the development of global hub networks. The British Council has developed programmes such as the European Creative Hubs Forum and Creative Hub Making Vietnam, and launched resources such as the Creative HubKit and Creative Hubs: Understanding the New Economy. They have also carried out mapping studies of creative hub networks in Europe, Vietnam and Taiwan and recently commissioned hub mapping research in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia.
Similarly, Hivos programmes include Mideast Creatives, Age of Wonderland, Ubunifu in East Africa and R.O.O.M, a brand new programme in collaboration with the British Council. Hivos has also organised several Global Creative Hub meetings, such as the Creative Hub Meeting in Southern Africa and the Coworking Summit.