What is ‘Creative Enterprise: Sustainable Business Planning for the Arts’ about? By Richard Maguire

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What is ‘Creative Enterprise: Sustainable Business Planning for the Arts’ about?

Creative Enterprise: Sustainable Business Planning for the Arts is a module about successfully building a small business in the cultural and creative industries. The cultural and creative sector is worth about 8% of global GDP and is based on creativity first and foremost. We tend to focus on thinking about the giants of this sector and forget that it is built on a huge number of small businesses operating in an incredibly varied set of ways. Creative Enterprise uses our connections here at UEA with local partners in the cultural sector to help our participants to take their passions for creative and cultural activities – whether writing, painting, history, film, drama, or any other such activity – and develop the skills and ideas needed to create businesses that are viable and can also have a positive social impact.

Is it just for people who come from an Arts and Humanities background?

Not at all. We define ‘creative’ as the process of using ideas to produce a new idea. Starting a business is a creative process, and we are exploring this sector from multiple perspectives. Firstly, we want to help people from an Arts and Humanities background who want to use their skills in starting their own business, or working in a small and medium sized enterprise. Secondly, we want to work with people from any background who want to start a business (or work in an SME) in the cultural and creative industry. Finally, we think that people who want to work in any sector would find it valuable because we will explore the creativity required to succeed in any new business venture.

Why ‘sustainable’?

Two reasons. Firstly, our aim is to help our participants in creating creative and cultural businesses that are not dependent on subsidy to survive. Too many social enterprises and other businesses in this sector have been built on a financial model dependent on hand-outs from government or third sector bodies. This leads to ‘short-termism’ and projects that have no long-term viability.

Secondly, by using the word sustainable we want to emphasise that we are looking at ways in which cultural and creative industries can be given longevity through connections with their localities, by meeting genuine social needs identified through local engagement. Sustainability is about finding ways to help communities develop the platforms they need, to be entrepreneurial in our approach to working with people.

On the module we work with the Civic Systems Lab, whose mission is to invigorate the local civic economy in the UK and across the world. They work with a wide variety of projects, helping encourage communities in creating businesses that are viable because they are linked to the genuine needs of the people around them.

So it is about a ‘bottom up’ way of doing business?

Not so much bottom up, but based on the concept that success can be found by being part of what John Howkins calls a ‘creative ecology’ – a place where a population has sufficient resources and flows to be able to interact purposefully to use ideas to create ideas. Key challenges this course explores is both how we work in such a creative ecology, but also how we become part of the process of creating and sustaining such ecologies.

Our partners in this module, such as the Civic Systems Lab, are working now across the country in this task, helping communities and entrepreneurs to find innovative new ways to develop sustainable funding streams and to show how business creation is a force for positive change, delivering urban and rural regeneration and improving social cohesion.

The Civic Systems Lab has been created to seed a local civic economy in the UK through collaborative and live project development and to develop, through practice-based research, insights into the opportunities and risks faced by our society in the current transformation of state, economy and society. The cultural sector, like many other sectors, is facing new challenges as government funding streams diminish and new, innovative and entrepreneurial thinking is needed to drive activity forward. This module looks at this.

What will participants do on the module?

Our participants will be tasked with creating and delivering an appropriate business opportunity for a specific partner project that will as a catalyst to bring local enterprise and innovation together.

The aim is to use help participants develop wholly new ways of approaching business creation based on principles of lean start up and focused on local responses. Participants will develop their entrepreneurial skills through the discussion of a wide range of relevant knowledge and skills with practitioners in the sector.

If we were to summarise the aim of the module it is to challenge our participants to think radically about how cultural practice and business activity can be synthesised to create self-funding businesses which might also generate positive social outcomes.

Richard Maguire Richard is Associate Dean for Employability within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at UEA. Richard is also highly involved with shaping the new MSc in Enterprise and Business Creation at Norwich Business School.

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