Paper written for the Imagine Kingston Conference, November 9-12, 2017
Written by Michael Bonnick and Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick with contributions by Prof. Amb W. Richard Jacobs
The 300 year old city of Kingston is distinctive for its cultural profile with a world class live music scene, museums, art galleries and a vibrancy that lives up to its status of a capital city.
It is a kaleidoscopic city that is multicultural; modernism and underdevelopment co-exist side by side. It is widely accepted that Kingston is the creative hub of the Caribbean, indeed it is generally agreed that, although the City can benefit from a serious spruce up, it is among the top ten creative capitals of the world. Kingston boasts the surprising, fascinating, magnetic art and creative production that are the hallmark of the self –appointed great centres of culture, art and design. However, there is a need for strong, questioning and supportive layers of cultural and civic planning that will give our city more of a chance of becoming the creative economy super power that it should be and that the rest of the world thinks it already is.
Kingston has been subject to many different types of regeneration, from the slavery economy to today’s innovation economy; our city is no stranger to reform. Yet, with all the creative industry business plans, cultural policy forums and inter-ministerial working groups punctuating our knowledge economy landscape, what we have overlooked is the need to curate our city – a concept misunderstood by many. This paper examines why the need to curate Kingston is central to its regeneration and how, in so doing, we support multiple interdisciplinary curators, to support the different designer makers and creative publics producing content, exhibiting art, culture and design. To curate the city, is to create the right enabling environment for the creative and cultural sectors to get the most, and the best out of our city. Access to sector specific education, access to information, access to networks, access to finance and access to specialised support, are all of a part successfully curated the creative city.
This paper examines the role of design education and creative clusters in moving Kingston towards becoming a multi-million dollar, global creative city. What would Kingston look like if it were to be curated, taking all of the above into consideration? Who would the key players be? What products and services would be sold? Who’s buying? How much would Kingston be worth, how much income could the city earn? We want to take you on a journey visioning Kingston’s creative ecosystem, if it were to turnover a multi-million dollar per hour, creative economy. Culture, creativity and prosperity - imagine curating the city so that our internationally renowned culture and creativity generate massive company growth, hundreds of jobs, local economic impact and private sector investment; imagine Kingston as a brilliantly successful creative cluster initiative with, at its heart, art, culture and design as drivers of our innovation economy.
Creating an Enabling Environment - The Educational Imperative and Creative Clusters.
The starting point in any systemic change is the development of a Civic Culture as described by Almond and Verba (1963, Princeton University Press) that imbues the citizenry with a specifically designed value system, predisposing them to adopt a set of values that determine behaviour. This value system is highly differentiated and often quite specific. In seeking to curate the developmental dimensions of the City of Kingston through the cultural and creative industries, we need to propagate more widely, a civic culture that values and supports a well-structured, cohesive design education programme, which will propel the next generation of innovators to turn design, artistic and cultural ideas into commercial products and services. This area of focus involves all sections of society, including the churches, government and private sectors that run the schools, the NGO sector that provides much of the resources and a wide cross section of influential organizations and individuals, including practitioners that determine perceptions. Their main task would be to build a positive image of the arts and cultural sector in the society that will encourage first the identification of the sector as a critical economic segment of the Jamaican society, collect statistics and identify employment opportunities for those who devote themselves to the sector.
For Kingston to compete with other creative cities such as London, Tokyo, Paris, New York, Amsterdam just to name a few, it will need to add design education, such as design technology and other applied arts, to its current curricula spanning primary to secondary education. Too often in Jamaica, an enormous emphasis is placed on the traditional arts only (visual and performing), due to its tried and tested merits as outlets for so many creative souls on the world stage. Trench Town for example, produced Bob Marley and many other creative greats, whose accolades have spot-lighted Kingston’s legacy as a creative and cultural mecca, able to spurn out global musical hits and urban culture, highly valued in countries such as Japan.
China is an example of how creating and managing an enabling environment for an innovative economy has changed the fortunes of a country. The Chinese economic might is not a fluke, but a deliberate, systematic and strategic policy change, made to reposition the nation into an ecosystem able to rapidly create products for the world stage. Design education draws from many subject areas and by starting to build awareness and capacity from the primary preparatory level, by training a nation of critical thinkers, will enable the absorption of knowledge that can be applied to reconfigure a wide range of cultural and creative projects – applied arts. We marvel at the curation of so many of these first world cities but fail to recognise all the moving parts that work together to create a workforce able to grow their creative industries. We have most of the moving parts - now we need to map them, identify the gaps, build the capacity, action the solutions and convene the city to implement.
What is Design education and how can it support Kingston to become a USD $60,000,000 per hour city. Design and Technology was first introduced in England and Wales in 1989 and has since taken the world by storm. It has a layered history, “deriving from craft traditions, linked to manufacturing and industrial practices, incorporating design work and embracing new technologies” (Owen-Jackson, 2008). This responsive subject positions both teachers and students to embrace new technologies and methodologies to be able to push the envelope of innovation. The international baccalaureate (IB) has borrowed heavily from the design process to prepare their students for the dynamism of today’s technological workplace. In the International Baccalaureate Diploma programmes, they are constantly embedding the design process and thinking into their interdisciplinary subjects. Students are taught the design cycle which contains the key stages of innovation. By teaching students how to identify problems worth solving and equipping them with a series of interconnecting methodologies, they are able to rapidly realise prototypes worth testing and evaluating. Such case studies highlight the merits of fostering critical thinking and an entrepreneurial mind-set for the next generation of innovators and makers ready to add real value to civic culture.
In the world of business, global design companies have actively and successfully developed a wide range of cultural and creative projects for many international companies. Companies like these are a part of curating our city towards becoming a multi- million dollar creative and cultural capital. They have made waves by repackaging the design process into a new methodology called ‘Design Thinking’ to aid organisations’ problem solve, innovate and capitalise on existing and emerging commercial opportunities. This iterative process adapts a human-centred approach to solve ‘wicked problems.’ With empathy at its core, the end-user’s needs are kept at the forefront when developing new systems, services or cultural products. Too often many local creative and cultural practitioners fall in love with their own ideas without fully investigating the real needs of their intended target audience – in this case the city of Kingston.
“As everyday life continues to become more and more programmed, the need for fiction, complexity and dialogue increases exponentially. For today’s comatose consumer, fiction is no longer a question of need but one of absolute necessity” (Chapman, 2005). According to Chapman, creative and cultural innovators must develop design interventions able to engage the end-user on a physical and emotional level via fiction. We must do the same with brand Jamaica and ultimately the city of Kingston. Walt Disney for example heavily invested in fiction to imagine parks, resorts, regional entertainment plus more. Their global team have successfully translated storytelling into a fabulous world of make believe. This play on worlds, imagination combined with engineering, celebrates their ability to foster open collaboration between creativity and technical innovation. Likewise, Kingston must learn from these tried and tested models, developed by storytellers and technical talents capable of visualizing successful commercial ventures rooted in our Jamaican culture.
It is undeniable, and never ceases to amaze countries quadruple our size, how Jamaica continues to punch above our weight class, as a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea. Clearly we are abuzz with unbridled creative energy that must be harnessed and nurtured to allow a plethora of businesses to offer both local and international clients products, which speak to the Jamaican experience and beyond.
As we seek to re-envision Kingston it is imperative for Jamaica’s policy-makers to re-design elements of our educational system to create inclusive learning environments that truly cater for all learners. There should be a seamless transition for our high school graduates into vocational and tertiary institutions. Unfortunately for some of our graduates armed with a high school certificate, this is where the road ends and they are then cast into the world of work to find an outlet for their 8 subjects (with distinction).
What if Kingston had a series of maker-spaces strategically placed across the landscape ready to support these potential creative entrepreneurs, plus vocational and university graduates to develop prototypes or form collaborative partnerships with like minded individuals? A makerspace is a place equipped with computer aided design and manufacturing technology to support interdisciplinary collaboration, given our unparalleled and enviable capacity as a people for rapid innovation; maker spaces are the starting point and central to Kingston sustaining and growing our capital’s creative economy. People with similar interests can work on projects whilst sharing ideas and knowledge, we can generate income as a city by selling our innovations and selling our knowledge. But we need Kingston to be branded as an innovation hub, where the ebb and flow to the innovation and creative economies meet. A network of Kingston based maker spaces, aptly equipped, will encourage international and regional open collaboration; the sharing of innovation and knowledge irrespective of the geographic location. Of course, Kingston would have to develop its own model based on the socio-economic and cultural DNA of this city. The time for such a civic culture is now; successful creative cities are supported by open collaboration across disciplines, cultures and continents, with like-minded practitioners finding solutions for ‘wicked problems.’
One of the wickedest of problems is the socio-cultural divide that has plagued the City of Kingston from its very inception and is a product of its slave history (see W. Arthur Lewis The Stages of Economic Growth U of Manchester Press 1955). Lewis goes into great detail as to what has fostered this characteristically typical Civic Culture in the Caribbean. He explains in detail the factors that nurtured a lack of entrepreneurship, marketing capacity, and the effect of colonial neglect that has facilitated a lack of civic pride. This invariably will be a difficult nut to crack but, the need to regenerate and to effectively rehouse vast areas of downtown Kingston should provide an excellent opportunity for the transmission of creative civic values.
Another ‘wicked problem’ which should be easier to resolve is the attitude towards crime. This is of relatively recent vintage stemming from the competition for scarce resources driven by the competing political parties between 1960 and 2000. Once communities are engaged in the regeneration of their city, there is evidence to suggest that this engagement is accompanied by a reduction in violent crime, as people become focused on new emerging opportunities often linked to creative work and cultural development.
Other potentially wicked problems will wither away as services become more universally available and the expectations of the neighbourhood are upgraded. The key to transformation at that stage, will be the establishment of creative clusters where the innate national creativity of the Jamaican people will be nurtured from inception by the application of the principal enshrined in the popular expression “tun yuh han mek fashion” (literally –“turn your hand to make fashion”).
Thus, by mixing the traditional expressions and approaches with the more modern technology we can establish a city economy based on culture and creativity, channelled through the veins of our creative entrepreneurs, born into high tech makerspaces, that bring their design interventions to life generating untapped income. Their market ready solutions will reflect the DNA of the Jamaican culture, merged with international sensibilities to ensure their solutions are commercially viable beyond our shores.
Case Study: Digital City - how design and education changed the fortunes of Teesside
Below is the abstract of a full case study that originally appeared on page 83 of the “State of the Relationship 2014”. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies.
DigitalCity is a multi-partner initiative to create a high-growth digital cluster in Tees Valley, North East England. Led by Teesside University, it capitalises on academic expertise in digital media and technology and a strong enterprise agenda, providing a unique environment for the development of digital start-ups.
Since it began, DigitalCity has seen purpose-built facilities spring up on the campus and in the town centre, with a network of new buildings in development further afield. It is a cornerstone of the Local Enterprise Partnership’s economic development strategy.
The initiative is defined by a joint investment by the university, local authorities and LEP. This partnership helps facilitate a number of key features. For example, an innovative fellowship programme aims to capture the best graduate talent and encourage the startup of new businesses. Meanwhile, the national and international virtual and physical networks provide benefits such as the transfer of digital skills and knowledge to businesses, a creative environment for entrepreneurs, postgraduates and established companies, and access to inward investment, innovation and trade partnerships. Local schools and communities also benefit from initiatives promoting social inclusion, raised aspirations and the sharing of digital skills.
At the time this case study was written, it was DigitalCity’s tenth anniversary. This milestone is a testament to the partnership that has created and grown it. Over the years it has had the active support of regional and local development bodies, private sector organisations, local authorities, the European Commission, government departments, and a wealth of community groups. Against a backdrop of political and economic change partnership commitment has only increased, to the extent that six councils have adopted DigitalCity as a key economic driver, generating revenue and capital investments for innovation, jobs and businesses.
DigitalCity works because of a shared vision and shared benefits, which have meant everyone involved has been able to commit to it and to understand what it can deliver.
Strategic leadership and collective ownership have played a part, too. DigitalCity has not been without challenges and risks, but the continued, explicit commitment of strategic partners and effective governance by a private sector-led strategic board have given continued confidence in its future. In addition, strong project management and successful delivery have meant that partner support has been there when needed to exploit opportunities or address problems.
The backbone of any prosperous city is a relevant education sector and a well looked after and SME ecosystem that, in the absence of cultural and creative employment opportunities, can support the creative and cultural production that, by default end up becoming SMEs, many already linked to universities and colleges. Creative clusters that specialise in supporting them, will not only provide access to networks, access to information, access to sector specific support, but also invariably access to finance, through international open collaboration opportunities.
A city alive with creative clusters would go even further in establishing an enabling environment to support a multi-million dollar creative economy – they would establish the vision and build the infrastructure of Kingston’s creative ecosystem. Clustering is when firms in the same industry gather together in close proximity, to benefit from pooled expertise, skilled labour, economies of scale and other auxiliary services. Creative Clusters is a clustering of varied forms of creativity that we typically see as different to one another, but still deeply interrelated (tech, economic arts & culture) alongside NGO’s cultural institutions, arts venues and local spin off businesses Creative clusters carry out a distinctive activity that is connected to the specificity of their location and that makes sense to the businesses they want to attract. The term itself is used to describe (at least) four kinds of related but very distinct spatial entities including creative districts, regional clusters, creative co-working spaces and virtual online clusters.
They are drivers of poverty alleviation, economic growth, job creation and investment – money follows creativity and in a recently published study by the Martin Prosperity Institute, "Rise of the Global Start-Up City", it was noted that 2/3 of global venture capital investment centres, are in just 20 metropolitan areas. These cities include San Francisco - home to Silicon Valley; New York - where 8.6% of jobs are in 10 industries across the creative and cultural sector, the city’s largest share of the job market; Mumbai - home of Disney India, Pixar Animation and Bollywood; and Bangalore - India's leading IT exporter. All 20 metropolitan areas have robust design education opportunities and dynamic creative clusters.
There are specific added values provided by the cluster approach that are especially relevant for the MSME ecosystem, the most relevant being; for the purpose of this paper; building national and international competencies of industry, academia and policy - this is the draw of the 20 cities attracting the most investment worldwide. As previously discussed, in this paper, our current education systems are designed to solve specific problems in the industrial-manufacturing age, however to be a competitive global city with a dynamic multimillion dollar creative sector, in today’s changing world, Kingston has to produce workers with skills and a solutions oriented approach, for an innovation, knowledge based economy. In addition to retooling the primary and secondary education systems, Kingston needs to consider the economic impact of creative focused universities and colleges that the city has yet to capitalise on. Creative focussed universities and colleges in the UK for example, attract foreign students who in turn inject approximately £77.3 million in income per year into the national economy . Imagine how much Kingston would earn with universities and colleges dedicated solely to the study and apprentissage of Jamaican music and reggae, yet we have none.
Although design education and creative clusters sound like relatively simple solutions to implement, to execute them will require a sea change that is deeply systemic. Clusters cannot be legislated and planned; they must grow organically from the will of the people who create them. The blend of art, culture, technology, education, economy is what the cluster is embedded in. Business support, investment and local government are the bookends that keep the cluster ticking over. This involves the preparation of at least a 10 year Master Plan for the City of Kingston that prioritises an enabling environment for creative clusters and their main actors to thrive in. Applied arts schools, universities, research institutes, CCI friendly financial institutions, media, big business, SMEs and other CCI service providers all make up the creative clusters that will be dotted across our city, each cluster focused around specific creative and cultural industries. The creative and cultural economies in turn become sustainable adding measurable and long term value to Kingston’s wealth. Miami Design District, 22@Barcelona, Nollywood (Nigeria) and Cheonggyecheon (South Korea), are all examples of both specialised and multi-industry creative clusters of how concentrating knowledge-based activities can transform an underutilized area into a high-quality living, working, and learning environments. They have all delivered on the regeneration promise that we are striving for in Kingston - imagine Trench Town as a creative cluster initiative in 2028, as one of the 20 metropolitan cities where money follows creativity.
Trench Town 2028
By establishing a network of world class creative focussed universities and colleges, one of the four pillars of successful creative cities, Kingston can be catapulted to a place where it is a first among equals. Trench Town in 2028 could be in the top four creative communities in the world having a specialised, highly networked creative sector that generates US$10 million per minute. It could be divided into three main clusters – music, design and digital - each encompassing industry specific sub-clusters focused in one of the key creative and cultural industries, identified by the government of Jamaica. These creative clusters will not only nurture entrepreneurial ecosystems and maker spaces, but also be centres of tourism, learning, innovation, policy dialogue and recreation. The overall enabling environment will facilitate each creative cluster to generate 10 million USD per hour through the sale of creative goods, services and knowledge and the associated economic activity of the support services that will be located within the cluster, such as restaurants, housing, shops and transportation.
To fully integrate the concept of creative clusters with economic impact into the fabric of Trench Town, will require the synergy of several moving parts to ensure a functional, yet organic ecosystem of knowledge sharing and economic activities. Equipped with CAD and CAM technology, Trench Town makerspaces would help incubate the creative products of young and established entrepreneurs. These participants will be able to access local and international conferences ready to facilitate trade and exposure to opportunities beyond Kingston’s shores.
With a strong uptake of well-trained technical and creative entrepreneurs, the Trench Town design cluster will aid rapid innovation of business ventures by providing the right environment to test ideas before taking them to market. Educational institutions must play a major role in guaranteeing a steady supply of competent talent. Of course, an interdisciplinary network of home-grown minds must work together to create a legal and ethical space in which to innovate, spanning animation to narrative design, where learning is shared and intellectual property respected and harnessed.
To fully realise these clusters we must fertilize the formation of strategic partnerships with relevant local and international organisations, community groups and government to guarantee their success, where fluid exchanges occur in an integrated fashion. Kingston is already a UNESCO city of music and Trench Town an internationally acclaimed cultural destination; however both locations lack the capacity to scale and generate rapid growth – our UNESCO City of Music designation, is the perfect catalyst for this. How do we capitalise on this? Take the example of Detroit.
Detroit was designated by UNESCO in 2015 as the first U.S city to be acknowledged in the field of Design because it is one of the few cities that have fundamentally changed the way the world works, lives and moves. Detroit’s design legacy can be traced to roots in the global Arts and Crafts movement where the College for Creative Studies and Cranbrook seeded an environment where design could develop and flourish. Many also credit Detroit as the city where the practice of industrial design was invented and perfected; with General Motors establishing one of the world’s first corporate design departments and College for Creative Studies establishing the world’s first transportation design curriculum during the 1930’s Detroit is a creative cluster – Kingston has the footprint, the potential but not the capacity. Trench Town in 2028 can be a hotbed of international creative partnerships “with and between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy”
Much like Detroit has done with design, Kingston, as a UNESCO city of music and Trench Town as a music mecca, will have leveraged its musical assets by 2028 to become one of the top four music districts in the world alongside, London, New York and Nashville. The Trench Town music cluster would also be home to various interconnected disciplines, which articulate the cultural gems of the Jamaican experience - dance, theatre, film and live events. To aid the success of this cluster, a structured multidisciplinary support mechanism needs to be put in place. Open collaboration must be facilitated to enable small to large scale products to be realised, rivalling the Disney or Cirque Du Soleil experience.
Our Jamaican creative identity unleashed and properly channelled through a cohesive prototyping, will create opportunities for access to finance and foreign investors, and can increase the visibility of our success stories. This is a win-win scenario where jobs are created and brand Jamaica is amplified by building on traits that are common among leading creative cities: 1) quality of place; 2) access to highly skilled human capital; 3) synergetic relationships between government, business and academia; 4) anchor firms and institutions; 5) local and national government involvement.
Achieving a USD $60,000,000.00 per hour economy is not impossible. Like the Chinese government’s 40 year planning and investment in the Bamboo industry, both the arts and the design clusters will need the time and holistic planning to realise Kingston’s potential to become a big fish in the global creative industries landscape. However, in our highly interconnected world, we cannot rule out the importance of also investing in a digital cluster - the intersection where art meets technology is grossly overlooked, with exception of animation or graphic design, both of which cannot thrive without several other tech sub-clusters supporting them.
In the final analysis, the case for a $60 million US/ hr creative city lies not only in the revision of our cultural policies, but also in the deliberate integration of that policy into our economic policy. Although we are more used to and comfortable with the top down approach, this is not what will generate cash flow; our creative and cultural class need to demonstrate tangibly, how investment in creativity and knowledge-based service industries can stimulate urban economic growth, in particular, showing the value that art and design offers to a broader, national economy– money follows creativity, not policy - it’s our show and we, have to run it.
Founder @ MELB Design Ideation Studio; Industrial Designer; International Art/Design Educator; Fine Artist;
Cultural Strategist; Creative and Cultural Industry Enterprise Development Specialist; Founder, South South Collective.
Prof. Amb W. Richard Jacobs
Political Scientist, Diplomat
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“Case Study: The Economic Impact of Creative Focused Universities and Colleges – Analysis of the Social and Economic Impact of Learning. “ Rob Slane, November 29th, 2016
Creative New York Report 2015, Center for an Urban Future
“State of the Relationship 2104.” National Centre for Universities and Business, 14 April 2014
I'm a first time blogger with a few design focused observations to share in cyber space. I hope to trigger dialogue on subjects I'm passionate about.