A week ago British Council in Uzbekistan hosted a conference on opportunities of further mainstreaming creative entrepreneurship education in Uzbek universities. The event took place as a part of Council’s Creative Spark programme.
The event brought together representatives of ministries, local universities and international experts. Among them John Newbigin, Chairman of Creative England, London Mayor’s Ambassador for Creative Industries who was closely involved in developing the UK government’s first policies for the creative industries as Special Advisor to the Minister for Culture, Rt Hon Chris Smith MP.
“Dunyo” Information Agency correspondent met with Mr. Newbigin to discuss the notion, its value in bоth global and local economy and why should Uzbekistan develop creative economy.
Is there a precise definition for creative economy?
There isn’t really a precise definition for creative economy. There are several precise definitions of creative industries which includes music, theater, film, fashion and others. Some see business to business industries like architecture, marketing and advertising. Some countries choose gastronomy as of their creative industries.
Creative economy is much bigger idea and that is about fact that we need to be thinking creatively about every aspect of our economy because of changes happening around us, like environmental degradation, urbanization, digital revolution. These changes are affecting every part of the economy.
In this case, what lies at the core of creative economy?
Ideas. The point about creative economy is it is an economy where idea is more valuable than the product. That is where intellectual property is highly crucial. Let’s take fashion and textile industry. It is the quality of what you do with the textiles that brings value whether it is particular print.
For example, in China is thinking to move from “made in China” to “designed in China” slogan, because the country understands that designing products has more value to making them.
It sounds like creativity is the driver of economy, but how to turn it to financially stable business?
It is a very challenging issue. Firstly, according to the United Nations, creative economy is one the fastest growing sectors in a global economy. It is not just true in the developed economies, but all around the world. Secondly, in developed markets where there has been 20 years of analysis, creative industries are generating jobs twice as fast as the rest of the economy. As automation changed the way the labor market word, the more creative the job is, the less likely it is for a robоt to do it. So, many of these jobs are sustainable in a long term.
The problem with creative economy is that banks and investors do not like investing in ideas. If I go to the bank, they say: What collateral can you give me for an idea? As they say in Hollywood, it is a “know nothing business”. One can spend hundred million dollars making a film and nobody wants to see it. You don’t know until you created the product whether it is going to succeed or not. To put it simply, it is very uncertain atmosphere for investors because of its high risks.
Obviously, creative mindset is a prerequisite for having a successfully operating creative economy, but how to think creatively at first place?
All children are creative when they are born: they draw, sign, paint and play all the time. Everybody has a creative talent. The point is that education systems should encourage that creativity, but creative children are naughty. It is a problem because teachers want the children to think the same. As a result, they squeeze the creativity out.
It is easy to say we need to change the education system toward encouraging children to be curious for learning, but that is the right way. The chief economist in the Bank of England says: “Our school systems are still focusing on knowledge. I don’t need any knowledge because I have Google on my iPhone. I need imagination instead.” Good creative ideas nearly always come not from the head of one person, but from people working together.
What can governments do to support creative economy?
Things like drama, music, art in a traditional education system we think are less important than math, science, engineering. But actually they are important because this is what we call soft skills that are needed to interact/work with other people and to be able to go on learning.
You see, people learn one job and that’s it. In the way the global economy is changing, people will have to go on learning all through their lives. Even if they are farmers, the technology of farming is changing radically, therefore being open to new.
What areas Uzbekistan could successfully inject creative economy model?
The impression I get is that your President and the government are recognizing that if Uzbekistan will succeed in the 21st century it has to have a 21st century economy. Of course, you need manufacturing, engineering skills and so on, but you need to have creative skills as well.
That recognition is important because in many countries, governments are going in the opposite direction. They say: “We just want our kids to learn math, literacy, sciences.”
For Uzbekistan’s economy which has been heavily dependent on agriculture, to change as radically as it has done in almost 30 years is impressive. The fact that it will be changing is very positive.
Central Asia that has been seen as a backwater for too many decades, now suddenly, at the center of the world. Opportunities here are enormous. Speaking of Uzbekistan, you have a young population, there is a lot of human talent and if the country will continue developing strong education policies, underpinned by strong economy then the country is in very good position to prosper. One of the challenges for the government is to make sure that the entire society in all regions of Uzbekistan will benefit from these changes, not just people living in the city.
What Uzbekistan should do to turn creative sector as one of the main areas of business?
Real issue with creative economy is that no two countries are the same. An Uzbekistani comes with Uzbek cultural heritage. He/she will be different from my children. What are the strength of Uzbekistan? You have strong craft and cultural traditions. The tourism industry will obviously be important. The question is how does the country find ways to express itself in the 21st century.
As I understand it, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is interested in looking into relationship between the science, engineering and creativity.
2020 in Uzbekistan has been declared as the Year of Science, Education and Digital Economy. How do you think it will help unveil the potential of creative economy?
The fact that the government clearly states that we are interested in science, enlightenment and digital economy, it encourages investment from outside. Government, as I understand it, is trying to create an environment favorable for investment and bring skills to Uzbekistan.
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