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Canada's 1st creative ec dev office?

Updated: Oct 4, 2023


The creative sector in the Vancouver Island/rural Islands super-region has the potential to be a vital economic driver. Our 2021 all-Island arts impact study and 2022 pilot projects validate the strength of the sector. We are now designing a three-pillar Creative Economic Development strategy to build capacity and remove barriers.

  1. A connected, measurable ecosystem

  2. A village of makerspaces

  3. A team of creativity coaches

This fall 2023 we're securing partnerships and funding to start implementing our strategy. The timing is perfect. In the next few years, it is anticipated that the tourism and economic sectors will be developing their own super-regional strategies. The creative sector exists at the intersection of these other major sectors, and a robust Creative Economy Strategy will enhance these efforts.

We're calling this initiative 'Canada's first Creative Economic Development Office' because our ecosystem approach is new. In practical terms, it won't actually be an office, but instead a coordinated network of existing and customized supports, overseen by a collaboration of cross-sector delivery partners such as Tourism Vancouver Island, the Rural Islands Economic Partnership, and Community Futures, as well as specialized creative business development coaches.

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The creative sector is an overlooked and underleveraged resource in our super-region, especially in rural areas and for IBPOC and other equity-denied populations (footnote 1) resulting in economic exclusion and foregone GDP. We are not optimizing the unique multiplier potential of the sector to contribute to “employment and business growth, social cohesion, and local regeneration” (OECD, 2022)- particularly as we recover from the pandemic and adjust to transitions in other resource-dependent sectors.

“The arts is a human asset that’s available in our communities and entirely underexploited. There is so much potential lying dormant: undervalued and underutilized." - Line Robert, Former Executive Director, Island Coastal Economic Trust

This strategic plan represents an inaugural exploration into the full capacity and potential of the sector (footnote 2), and a scaling up of Creative Coast’s shared services model for filling support gaps that we’ve been testing in select areas with solid success over the past three years.

The Vancouver Island/rural Islands super-region is the perfect scaling-ground to apply a creative economic development framework. To our knowledge, this approach is untested in Canada.

Our enviable characteristics:


Our Creative Economic Development Strategy is comprised of three pillars. Implementation will be guided by a diverse, cross-sector Steering Committee.

1A: Connecting our super-region through outreach and engagement

1 B: Measuring and mapping assets and capabilities

2+3: Creating makerspaces and synching business coaching


ABOUT CREATIVE COAST Creative Coast is a collaboration lab of Vancouver Island and rural Islands artists and arts organizations, as well as strategists from the economic development and tourism sectors. Our purpose is to transform isolation into connection, and collectively grow our creative supports, practices, audiences and impacts. Since 2019, we’ve been fostering sector-wide collaboration and innovation to explore the benefits of operating as an ecosystem, instead of in regional siloes. In 2021 we conducted an All-Islands Arts Impact Study and preliminary gap analysis which enriched our understanding that the creative sector could be playing a more significant role in the super-region’s economic and social well-being. (For a broad summary of sector impacts, check out this incredible Impact Explorer Tool from American for the Arts.) In 2022, we expanded our conversations to include tourism and economic development sectors, and began exploring opportunities for collaboration and integration. This Inclusive Creative Economy Strategy has emerged from these cross-sectoral conversations. This timely exercise will ensure creative sector inclusion in emerging super-regional economic development and tourism strategies.

SAMPLE METRIC/OUTCOMES (will be finalized during asset mapping phase)

Who is participating?

  • equity-denied groups (Indigenous, racialized, newcomer, youth, LGBTQ+, people with differing abilities)

  • gender, race, age, etc.

  • participant or partner

  • areas of the arts sector (arts orgs, arts admins, artists)

  • geographic areas

How are they engaged?

  • attendance webinars, conversations, community forums, etc.

  • interactions with outreach portal/platform

How do they describe their experiences?

  • surveys and key informant interviews at various touch points (e.g, initial contact, midpoint, etc.) for creatives, Initiative Partners and other stakeholders

What are the results of our work together?

  • number of readiness plans

  • number of creative tourism opportunities

  • number of clusters and new markets emerging

  • number of regional new marketing strategies emerging

  • number of referrals to Initiative Partners and other existing business support agencies

  • number of new jobs /and/or businesses created

  • number of existing businesses boosted/experiencing income growth

What outcomes are we striving for?

  • more creatives feeling more connected and valued in their communities

  • more creatives engaged with business development and tourism development supports and services

  • more creative leaders, including those from rural/remote and underserved communities integrated into super-regional and sub-regional economic development conversations

  • more understanding of distinct community assets and capabilities, and how the sum of these parts adds up to a stronger super-regional creative economy

  • more, deeper strategic collaborations across sectors and communities

  • better data that enhances the insights from 2021 Arts Impact Study, offers a more complete view of participation rates, employment and income figures and impact, and lays the foundation for a Creative Economic Development Strategy


We are not alone in this regard: the modern creative economy is in a vital transition period. Analysis of the first 20 years is now revealing who’s been included (urban, more privileged) and who’s been left behind (rural, less privileged). Established economies around the world such as the USA, UK and Australia are now implementing strategies to value and include those left behind by the modern Creative Economy. Federal Reserve inclusion calculator. UK press release and early measurement results. Equity-denied populations include Indigenous, racialized, newcomer, youth, LGBTQ+, and people with differing abilities.


Our definition of the creative sector is broad, and includes arts-serving organizations and individuals involved in a wide range of activities associated with the modern Creative Economy such as advertising, and marketing; film, TV, radio and photography; music, performing arts and visual arts; crafts; design including product, graphic and fashion; publishing; architecture; and software/computer engineering; as well as people working in creative roles in industries that are not typically thought of a creative such as education and training, retail and manufacturing and public administration.

It also includes cultural capital elements such as: tourist trails, community arts, creative hubs and clusters, annual festivals, regional networks, music studios and conceptual spaces, and traditional endogenous (grass roots) crafts and archives, as well as new/emerging creative industries.


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