This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Community Paradigms Require a Creative Community not just a Creative Economy

This blog’s last post, Art as a Path of Social Disruptive Innovation Towards New Community Paradigms began looking at the role of art in creating new paradigms for communities from both ‘community engagement’ and ‘economic development’ perspectives by citing a number of related LinkedIn discussions within both arenas. The idea is to crowdsource diverse ideas from a collection of professional and pro-amateur colleagues. The two groups are of similar size but have very little overlap. Only one LinkedIn colleague seems to belong to both camps, Della Rucker of Wise Economy. The discussion within each group though seems to begin reaching over the fence for insights from the other. Economic development is beginning to realize that it must expand its concerns to the entire community, not just the municipal revenue generators, and many in community engagement are realizing that clients need a seat at the table in deciding budgetary issues and that programs need to also be financially sustainable to be effective. The last post leaned more to the community engagement side of the equation.

From a more global economic perspective, the idea of art being a driver in municipal economic development ties in with the concept of Creative Cities as proposed by Richard Florida and related issues as to whether the concept can also be applied to non-metro locales. Although there is more affinity with the Florida perspective than with counterarguments proposed by his detractors, this blog has not taken a firm position. There is an even greater affinity with the ideas of Jane Jacobs as contrasted say with those of Alfred Marshall. However, these are complex issues and if one is to depend upon any one thinker as a foundation for future ideas then it would be Warren Weaver who originated the concept of ‘organized complexity’ in his 1948 paper Science and complexity(pdf).

Another group discussion among Economic Development Professionals raised a number of these issues in Development, Creative Class, Artists & Creative Clusters Addressing the Fuzzy Logic of the Appeal through a paper in the Oxford Journal of Economic Geography, Emoting with their feet: Bohemian attraction to creative milieu†. The discussion itself raised questions on the seemingly inevitable gentrification occurring after the establishment of an artistic milieu within a community. This is definitely a concern. One that, as was cited through in the last post, is starting to be addressed by art organizations such as Fourth Arts Block in New York City. However, although such a connection can be made, the Journal of Economic Geography article, from my perspective, dealt more with the creation of ‘creative milieus’ as part of enhancing the dynamics of economic development in a community.

The study is dated from 2007. It is though, in my view, a more nuanced study of the issues than found in a standard Florida vs Kotkin debate, not jumping to the defense of one camp or the other. It honestly admits to being incapable of coming to definitive conclusions when appropriate. They point out that Florida's concept incorporates aspects of both Jane Jacobs and Alfred Marshall. It also points out weaknesses in current creative cities arguments such as the need to utilize an aggregate creative class construct that defines a class of nominally creative workers using broad occupational categories that, “conflates high human capital requirements with creativity and includes some detailed occupations with little requirement for either.” The study, therefore, asserts that “This indefiniteness does not allow concluding that a particular strategy for promoting the arts will increase economic dynamism.” The operative word here being ‘particular’ as in single, distinct and usually predetermined. The study still provides other important insights.

The reason that creativity is of such interest is the belief that stimulating the creative energies of a place will generate new economic opportunities that are sustainable and resilient, inspiring a number of initiatives to promote ‘Creative Cities' by trying to provide interactions within urban creative milieus that both energizes productive lives and fulfills personal lives.

The study differentiates between artistic, innovative and creative milieus while pointing out that one does not necessarily lead to the other. What differentiates a creative milieu from an artistic milieu is a greater diversity of knowledge. A creative milieu is a place where, “face-to-face interaction among a critical mass of entrepreneurs, intellectuals, social activists, artists, administrators, power brokers or students helps to create new ideas, artifacts, products, services and institutions which contributes to economic success.”

An innovative milieu construct would 
alternatively focus on the creative interaction among firms and their workers related to innovation and economic competitiveness and would further assert that members of the so-called creative class seek to permeate creativity in all aspects of their lives as consumers of artistic venues. The artists follow the economic generators, not the other way around. 

The factor of allowing knowledge spillovers, “between a diverse set of actors contributing ideas from a range of knowledge domains” that differentiates creative milieus from artistic milieus also characterizes a difference with an innovation milieu. A creative milieu is seen as a more difficult construct to precisely differentiate from innovative milieus through concrete identification of actors, structures and mechanisms.

The study warns that it takes more than bringing together a diverse set of creative agents in a particular place as this may not generate enough interaction across domains to result in a creative milieu.

The study did indicate that evidence of even a weak creative milieu which helps ensure a city’s attractiveness to artists also serves as an important indicator of its ability to retain and attract creative workers. They see their main contribution as empirical confirmation that a relative surplus of Bohemians is likely to reveal a vibrant creative milieu.

They did find suggestions of interesting connections between newly founded entrepreneurialism and creative milieus within non-metro locations. One means of measuring economic dynamism due to a creative milieu is the generation of new products and services created through net firm formation. The study asserts that despite the difficulties identifying the components of a creative milieu, such as greater human-scale interaction, better restaurants, and other factors, creative milieus appear to have increased entrepreneurial dynamism in their non-metro counties sample. Such a claim could not be made though for the metro sample of their study.

They stressed though that their findings, “of a strong creative milieu in non-metro counties did not resolve the debate over the importance of local arts communities to regional innovation and competitiveness.”

In contrast to more conventional studies examining the geography of innovation, the study's explanation of regional performance does not rely on particular quantifiable metrics such as human capital, R&D spending, transportation or infrastructure regarding a location of quantities in a place but in devising a proxy variable in calculating a more complex function for a particular quality of place. The non-metro results are more likely to demonstrate what is a place’s and its community's true contribution to economic dynamism where it is, “not conflated with the density of creative agents randomly ‘rubbing elbows’ in the city”. It is not only a question of culminating creative types but also the nature of community networking and the means of engaging in that network within a larger and sometimes chaotic environment.

The study suggests that it is structural complexity that makes determining a correlation between enhanced economic development activities and a cultural milieu as an attractor difficult because precise identification is difficult. There is also a question of spatial dependence as through “the propensity for nearby locations to influence each other and to possess similar attributes”, a spatial lag in the metro equations might be an indication of the importance of clustering and agglomeration that might be swamping any effects from a creative milieu.

The study also suggests that the role of artists in identifying a creative milieu might be similar to indicator species in ecology studies in identifying complex environmental conditions. “In both cases, the environmental phenomena of interest are observable, although very costly or difficult to measure.” This could be useful though in overcoming some of the fuzzy conceptual logic issues found with the ‘Creative Cities’ concept. This is a different way of looking at the issues that when combined with a community engagement perspective could potentially bring about some new insights into creating new community paradigms.

Past Posts