In my last post I mentioned that we need to find the right path to secure our sustainable future. With so many ideas, challenges, projects and voices this seems quite daunting; the path has become an endless river of sustainable demands. On our journey down this river, often fighting the rapids and being pushed backwards, we can though find islands of hope and invigoration. These islands are sanctuaries, where we have time to be creative, to consider new ideas and time to innovate, to act on those ideas.
Like weary and exhausted adventurers, we land on the islands – to our astonishment, we find they are already inhabited. They are colonised by a unique tribe, a people who use the power of expression and persuasion to find the right answers, a people who inspire and engage through performing and visual arts. They are the people of the creative industries. And they represent some of the oldest, and now, many contemporary activities known to us. Dance, film, music, drama, theatre and the new digital and social economies to name but a few… So, just maybe, with such an arsenal of creative communication, this talented tribe could help encourage us, on our weary path, to change our unsustainable lives: to persuade through the art of sustainability.
Recently, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported, ‘Ultimately too, the creative economy has the power to influence and inspire present and future generations, to protect our planet, people, cultures and natural resources and therefore contribute to a more sustainable development path.’
Over the last few months I gained a fantastic insight into this economy, working with one of the UK’s leading universities on a MA creativity programme. This entailed collaborating with many of the creative industries (the beating heart of the creative economy) influencers. I saw first-hand just how the arts uses creative persuasion and expression as such powerful and meaningful tools. Building on from this, surely, we should be using, in a far greater way, the arts to impassion all of us to engage more with sustainability and the impacts of climate change, habitat loss, climate refugees – to name but a few. Just imagine the power to influence if, every major city around the world runs the same stage production, dramatising the impacts of climate change. Imagine if it was written and produced as a musical by a leading composer and impresario of musical theatre and, had some big stars. The arts are powerful; ideas are endless; audiences are vast, and persuasion is unbounded.
Interestingly a week or so ago, from when I wrote this, the news media (BBC News) were talking about research that suggests if food packaging were to show how much exercise we need to undertake to burn off the calories that the food contained, we would have a far better knowledge of what is good or bad. Effectively empowering knowledge through more engaging and understandable images. In a similar way, we could use creative persuasion and expression in the arts to influence and involve us as to how to live more sustainable lives – to change our habits that have such a negative impact on our planet and its people. This form of creativity has meaning to us all, it is visible, it is audible, it is touchable, it is real.
David Straker, who runs the website changingminds.org simply says that ‘Persuasion occurs when a person causes someone else to change.’ He goes on to say that there are six elements to this, which includes media: the communication. Many of the creative industries may have grown from very early beginnings but in this fast-growing age of digital and social economies, old and new come together through modern communication. Whether that is a drama production, a social media blog or through fashion, these creative products and services have the ability to communicate lifestyle impacts. True meaning that people can connect with, true meaning that corporations can engage with. Suddenly, the knowledge economy is gaining strength and the creative economy leads on this path. The creative industries are thriving, and thriving on a global stage. This growth is not just viewed in economic terms, but it is also about cultural growth. Earlier in the year, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, who directs UNCTAD’s trade division, said in an UNCTAD press release, ‘Acknowledging this dual value has led governments worldwide to expand and develop their creative economies as part of economic diversification strategies and efforts to stimulate economic growth, prosperity and well-being.’
Growth becomes endemic and that can be positive and inspirational in itself. It comes in many shapes and sizes and, earlier on in this blog, I mentioned an academic influence on my thinking. Well injecting even more innovation into this, it may surprise some of you to learn that the business designed programme I worked with was centred in Humanities. Yes, Humanities. And, why not? The aspects of human society and culture are surely the largest influencers in business, and culture requires storytelling, where there is creativity, where there is expression. No better place then – where the performing and visual arts thrive. Universities across the Globe are engaging the Social Sciences and Humanities in order to radically shift business thinking away from the tired strategies of business-as-usual to more creative and innovative rationale. Sustainability needs such influencer groups to come together, to combine knowledge and combine ideas and actions; the ability to build new powerful social and cultural networks. In essence, we all need to find new paths to persuade and express ourselves as a combined force not as solus individuals.
The creative industries, from the old and new, have such a path; it is time to engage the arts in these global challenges far more, to ensure human society and culture leads the way. To build sustainable value from advancing and refreshing real and meaningful solutions based around creative persuasion and expression.