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Creative capital: our human superpower

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Measuring Vancouver Island's creative assets is a key component of our proposed Creative Economic Development Strategy. See this blog post for strategy details.

And yet the work of measuring creativity feels like trying to weigh air with a feather.

The 'vital capitals' feels like a good place to start. Creative contributions to our economic and social well-being definitely rely on human capital (skills, labour), and are rooted in cultural capital (group customs, place-based customs).

But those categories don't feel fit the task, and the more I read about capitals the more it seems that creativity more closely resembles natural capital. Creativity feels more ever- present and amorphous, like wind or sunshine, but also different.

So now I am wondering if we need a new category - creative capital.

Here is my first go at trying to explain why.

  • Creativity is more than the sum of its parts: inputs (ideas, imagination), outputs (art, dance, movies) and contributions (GDP, SROI)

  • It relies on individuals but thrives in collectivity.

  • Like a houseplant it needs space and light and care and feeding.

  • Like a diamond it needs pressure to form.

  • Just like the rest of us, it is inspired by places, especially the place we call home.

  • Without it there would be no digital age.

  • It's the magic that grounds peoples and cultures and keeps us always evolving.

All this to say, if we want to measure creative capital we need to do more than just add up all the creative jobs or industries. But that is as far as I've gotten with my thinking.

I'm wondering if the data reclamation project we are working on with Simon Fraser University will help uncover some next steps. We are co-designing this project with Indigenous artist activities and are hopeful it will facilitate reconnections with other ways of knowing and measuring.

Speaking of incorporating Indigenous world views, I will end this post with an excerpt from Inuk writer Ossie Michelin's 2022 article The Colonial Legacy of Canadian Art. Huge thanks to my Creative Coast colleague Karen Bannister for bringing this article to my attention.

Under colonial capitalism, the world is seen as a series of standing reserves of resources waiting to be harvested. This process ignores history, relationships and culture, and appropriates the resources into its system of colonization.


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