The world has undergone dramatic changes due to the pervasive spread of the Internet, the marriage of computers and telecommunication, and the shift to a global economy. Cities, regions, and nations everywhere face an uncertain challenge in the wake of globalization.
What we do in the next few years to reinvent our civilization, our political, social and economic institutions, and, importantly, our schools to meet the challenges of this new economy will determine whether our cities and communities survive and succeed or atrophy and die…in this new world order.
The Creativity Community examines the challenges to regions and local communities, to education, and to parents, politicians and policymakers in the U.S. and indeed, across the world.
Cities across America have been struggling to reinvent themselves for the new post-industrial economy and society predicted by Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell in the 1960s.1
In their efforts to prepare themselves for the 21st century, many communities have focused on updating their data infrastructure to accommodate the needs of an age in which information is the most valuable commodity.
The emphasis on technology has been rooted in the belief that as cities of the past were built along waterways, railroads and interstate highways, cities of the future would be built along “information highways,” specifically, wired and wireless information pathways connecting every home, office, school and hospital and, through the World Wide Web, millions of other individuals and institutions around the world.
These new information infrastructures are undoubtedly important. But the effort to create a 21st century city is not so much about technology as it is about jobs, dollars and quality of life.
Creating a city of the future, and a city for the future is about organizing one’s community to reinvent itself for the new, knowledge-based economy and society; preparing its citizens to take ownership of their community; and educating the next generation of leaders and workers to meet these global challenges.
It will not be easy.
The new economy represents a paradigm shift from manufacturing and service provision to technology and innovation. Yet, in the wake of the basic changes wrought by globalization, there is no alternative. Now more than ever business and industry are dependent upon an economic system that rewards creativity and innovation.
Thus, at the heart of this effort is recognition of the vital role that art and culture play in enhancing economic development, and ultimately, defining a creative community: one that exploits the vital link between art, culture and commerce and in the process consciously invests the human and financial resources necessary to prepare its citizens to meet the challenges of the rapidly evolving post-industrial, knowledge economy and society.
Almost 20 years ago the city of San Diego launched a "city of the future" initiative. The Committee members really didn’t know what a city of the future looked like, but they knew that fiber optics having lots of bandwidth in the ground were a key ingredient. So fiber optics and bandwidth were the foundation of the effort.
Today, with greater understanding of the challenges of the new global economy and knowledge of what it takes to succeed in the workplace of the future, we know it is not bandwidth in the ground that matters most. In fact, it is not technology at all, but the bandwidth in people's heads that is important.
People in every sector of the economy and society need to understand the challenges before us, and that technology had changed and was changing almost every facet of our lives. Only then can we begin to grapple with meaningful reform.
We also know now that to have a creative community cities and regions must have creative people. To have creative people a city needs to nurture its young people and create a system of education that engenders the new thinking skills that business is now demanding while providing the vibrant culture essential to attracting and retaining the workforce needed to meet the challenges of the new economy.
Government has a vital role in promoting affordable, accessible broadband and encouraging land use policies that encourage development of creative economic clusters that include art districts, public art, art museums and other cultural institutions. Governments can also embrace green initiatives, encourage private sector investments in enterprises that exemplify and foster the concept of sustainability.
While there are many things every region must do to make its community highly livable, and attract, nurture and retain the best and brightest, a truly creative community understands that:
1) Globalization has changed life and work, as we know it. Technology--particularly the internet and the pervasive spread and influence of new media--have led to the emergence of a world where every nation is inextricably tied to every other and manufacturing and service sector jobs are being outsourced or off-shored.
2) A new economy based on creativity and innovation has evolved that represents America’s salvation because it relies on the principals of freedom, free enterprise and entrepreneurship unique to the US.
3) Education must be reinvented to ensure an American workforce capable of succeeding in this new economy. As Dana Gioia, former Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts said “cheap labor, cheap raw materials, or the free flow of capital or a streamlined industrial base,”2will not be enough to compete.
4) Efficient, affordable, effective broadband infrastructures available to citizens, businesses, governments, schools, and the entire non-profit sector are essential for economic survival and success.
5) Metropolitan regions are the new centers of commerce. Cities and Counties within regions must work together to compete in the global economy. Governmental planning and development, as well as the provision of vital public services must be regional.
6) Telecommunication has replaced transportation and affects land use and zoning rules and regulations. The creative community recognizes the important role of so-called creative clusters combining business, education, art and cultural institutions. Downtowns also play a special role becoming the “living rooms” of regional communities.
7) Civic collaboration or engagement is critical. New and existing organizations responsible for planning and development and for weaving the fabric of the new community demand that all institutions--public and private-- and individuals become owners of the new economic, social, and political agenda.
The challenges America faces in the wake of global competition are daunting. We have lost our prowess in manufacturing and in the provision of services such as banking, accounting and insurance because computers can be found almost everywhere in the world. With an educated workforce any country can now provide such services to any other country at a fraction of the previous cost.
Globalization 3.0, according to Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat,3has arrived.
Outsourcing and off-shoring are commonplace. We are currently suffering what economists are calling a "jobless recovery," and our communities and schools are facing challenges not well understood by politicians, policy makers or parents.
We don't know exactly how many jobs are lost from off-shoring but the loss of manufacturing and high-tech service jobs in America will be a permanent feature of our economic life in the 21st century.
It is clear that the pervasive worldwide spread of the Internet, digitization and the availability of white-collar skills abroad--where low labour costs alone may justify the move--means changing all our institutions. AsBusiness Weekhas argued: “The Industrial Economy is giving way to the Creative Economy, and (communities) and corporations are at another crossroads. Attributes that made them ideal for the 20th century could cripple them in the 21st. So they will have to change, dramatically… It's about creativity, imagination, and, above all, innovation."4
IV. The Creative Economy
During the Clinton presidency democratic strategist James Carville was fond of reminding campaign and White House staffers "It's the economy, stupid."
Much the same could be said today.
The stimulus packages and all the federal policies in the world will not help if all we do is prop up the old industrial, manufacturing economy. It is the creative economy that must be acknowledged, embraced and supported.
John Howkins, author of The Creative Economy (2001)5, writes that anyone with a good idea can make money. He counts in the few millions the creative industries and occupations such as advertising, architecture, graphic design, filmmaking, writing, and artists.
Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class (2004)6, has a more expansive definition of the term "creative," and includes professionals in "business and finance, law, healthcare and related fields." These people "engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital... all are members of the creative class." Florida claims 38 million people among the new creative class.
Communities are struggling once again to define this shift in the basic structure of the world's economy. We know it's global, its digital, and author and columnist Thomas Friedman ofThe New York Timeshas told us “the world is flat." But it is creativity -- simply defined as "the quality or ability to create or invent something original” that best defines what most of us need to succeed in the new economy.
We need to understand that the tectonic plates of the world's economy have shifted and that a whole new economy and society based upon creativity and innovation is emerging. As a consequence, it is vitally important that we reinvent our communities, our schools, our businesses, and our government to meet the challenges such major structural shifts are compelling.
The critical tasks of renewing and reinventing any city--housing, transportation, public safety, roads and bridges, clean water, electricity, schools etc.--is enormous. The task of creating a knowledge city, a creative and innovative community, is equally complex and essential.
V. The Role of Art in Education
In order for the creative community to nurture the new workforce with the higher order thinking skills a creative and innovative workplace demands, we must reinvent our systems of education.
In the early 90’s Robert Root-Bernstein, a biochemist and MacArthur prizewinner, completed a study of 150 biographies of eminent scientists from Pasteur to Einstein. His findings were startling to educators lobbying for more emphasis on the sciences. He discovered that nearly all of the great inventors and scientists were also musicians, artists, writers or poets. Galileo, for example, was a poet and literary critic. Einstein was a passionate student of the violin. And Samuel Morse, the father of telecommunications and inventor of the telegraph, earned his living as a portrait painter.
Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, co-authors of Sparks of Genius,7conducted extensive research into the minds of inventive people and argued that creativity can be encouraged and enhanced in everyone.
The goal of education should be “understanding,” the Root- Bernstein’s argue, rather than merely knowing. The process of learning should be active rather than the passive acquisition of facts. It is possible, they argue, to know about the principles of physics or literature without having to use them; however, being able to use them is not possible without an understanding of how they function in nature and human affairs.
In every field, inventive thinking originates in nonverbal, non-logical forms. All students should be given early and ongoing stimulation of aural, visual and other senses and be taught to imaginatively recreate sense images.
They should learn to abstract, empathize, analogize and translate intuitive forms of knowledge into numbers, words, images, sounds and movement. In some instances, feeling and sensing are communicated most naturally as literary, visual or musical expressions.