Building Back Better with the Creative Economy


Author: Kristina Dimitrova

On June 2021, an online event 'Building back better with the Creative Economy’ was held, developed for International Geneva in the framework of the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. During the event three speakers, Isabelle Durant – Secretary General at UNCTAD, Jenny Mbaye – City University of London, and Gilles Bazelaire – Director of KIKK festival, had their say about the growing role of creative economy in terms of income generation, job creation and export, complementing the mission of Sustainable Development Goals.


What is Creative Economy?

One of the first models of creative economy was explained using concentric circles. It is a way to portray the full extent of the creative economy, or what we call the basic creative arts. Thus, in the center we have literature, music, performing arts, then the cultural industries, such as film, museums, galleries, libraries, photography, etc. But, the cultural and creative industries as a bit broader concept must take into consideration the aspect of heritage and media, weather it is broadcasting, radio, television or print, and finally video games, that make the creative economy a whole which covers anything that has intellectual property rights involved and it goes from arts and artists, to design, architecture, fashion and advertisement. 

This model which was used for a long time puts at the center the individual artist’s creative genius and since it’s also very important to understand the scope of the creative economy, an additional notion had to be introduced which is the process of production. In order to do so, it required to get away from the hierarchy, innovation and creativity, and basically to look beyond the circles that seemed to imply hierarchy which made part of the activities more marginal. So, nowadays there is a notion of the creative production as a cycle where we can see the interdependence and different links of the production chain. There is an actual creation phase and various activities that come into play, such as production, exchange, dissemination, consumption, archiving and recording. Actually, it’s based on the notion of having an eco-system with bridges between the different links of the cycle of creative production. 

The three aspects of Creative Economy

Three aspects were highlighted during the event showcasing the complexity of the creative economy in the effort to ensure a more sustainable, creative and inclusive industry. The first one that was pointed out is that creative economy comprises of all the activities which are interrelated, dependent and tend to build the creative capacities of individuals in the area of arts and technology. In fact, it was said that at the heart of the creative economy are the cultural and creative industries which are essential for promoting cultural diversity, as well as, improving the global market and the global cultural world. Thus, according to the speakers on the event, the cultural creative industries fed by creativity and individual talent have a strong potential to create wealth, jobs and intellectual property rights. In fact, the creative economy sector of interrelated and codependent activities is highly important because it makes possible for people to take ownership of the concept of eco-system that we have in the service sector. 

The second aspect that was talked about was the geographical dimension of the creative economy, because nowadays we have a collective interaction and given this set of interrelated activities, it’s also important to take into account the environment where they take place. As being said on the event, the creative economy is not just floating in air, but it is rooted in values in the local cultural organisations, hence there are undeniable links with the cultural heritage and cultural industries.  In that sense, speaking about the geographical location there is a special importance in the culture of the cities and urban environments because they have a pivotal role in the local environment. 

The third feature or dimension of the creative economy pointed out was the major challenge of the specific political requirements that go with it. The cultural creative industry has an organizational structure that is unusual because of the size and diversity of actors. For example, there are the major platforms, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, on one hand, and the many, many micro enterprises and entrepreneurs on the other, thus this constitutes a major challenge for decision makers and policy makers who are more used to handling average sized companies. And there is something else that is unusual about this economy. For example, the fashion industry as part of the creative economy has different seasons and in terms of how it is organized in time seems very characteristic, because there are teams who are more or less flexible and can be modulated depending on the type of the project, or what we call portfolio careers nowadays, where the actors involved can have all different activities, jobs and roles in a company. In other words, people can wear different hats within the creative economy.

The KIKK festival - an example of good practice 

One positive example part of the creative economy pointed out, was the KIKK festival which is building bridges and ties between the areas of arts, science, culture and technology, happening in Namur, Belgium, which will have its 10th edition in November, 2021. It started as a local project, but now the festival attracts people from around 55 countries, created by 100 000 inhabitants during 4 days, where a series of players from different creative industries gather together to showcase their innovation and talent. Throughout the years it has become richer and has generated and produced all kinds of value allowing the different actors to bring their own points of view into the world.

Even though the creative economy is very difficult to measure, very complex and very diversified, it’s definitely getting bigger which means that there is a demand for it, an appetite for it. The difficulty lies in turning something that is more vertically organized into something that is more horizontal and fluid, since it can bring a higher value to people, creators, creative and cultural sectors, as well as, the economy in general.