Designing Sustainability into Creative Economies: Triple Bottom Line by Design Plus Culture
By: Ilm Creatives
Dyanis De Jesús, Rasha AlShihabi, Montserrat Castañon, Vimvipa Poome, Juan Camilio Sánchez and Saadia Zaahid
Issue 13 Fall 2014
In response to the global economic crisis, nations are re-considering strategies for growth and resilience. One strategy gaining traction in recent years is in the growing creative economy, wherein nations to diversify their economies by leveraging their cultural and creative assets. Art, fashion, architecture, and advertising are just a few examples of industries that rely heavily on the specialized skills of a creative workforce. Intellectual property is the enabler of protecting, financing, and materializing ideas to produce creative output. The cumulative activities of the creative sector are called the “creative industries.” The operation of these industries, taking an innovative design-thinking approach, is what generates the “creative economy.”
A team of interdisciplinary creative professionals from Pratt Institute’s Design Management graduate program have developed a framework to guide nations through development of creative economy. Titled, Designing Sustainability into Creative Economies: Triple Bottom Line by Design Plus Culture, the framework and a manual developed by; Montserrat Castañon, Dyanis De Jesus, Vimvipa Poome, Juan Camillo Sanchez, Rasha Al Shihabi and Saadia Zahid. The aim of the framework is to create a methodology for incorporating sustainable practices and outcomes within the development of creative economies. This article provides a background on the topic, insights on the process and a quick snapshot of the final outcome.
“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste” – Paul Romer, Stanford University economist (2009)
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2008 Creative Economy Report concluded that creative industries provide one of the most vital sectors and highest growth opportunities for developing nations. The UNCTAD 2010 Creative Economy Report adds that, at a time of economic crisis, when standards of international trade fell, world trade in creative goods and services remained resilient.
A creative economy approach offers sustainable growth and prosperity, especially to developing nations that are looking to create new competitive advantages, according to UNCTAD. Creative industries are also crucial for developed nations because the competitiveness of the nation relies on the creativity of their workforce, and the ability to leverage the quality of their knowledge and skill set to gain a strategic advantage.
On the other hand, triple bottom line (TBL) is a framework that takes into account the social, environmental, and economic impact in order to assess value creation and growth.
An extended model of TBL proposed by Jon Hawkes brings culture into the equation and enhances the framework to include: social equity, environmental responsibility, economic health, and cultural vitality.
According to several reports disseminated by The United Nations on the topic of creative economies, it has been stated that culture-led development includes a range of non-monetized benefits, such as “greater social inclusiveness and rootedness, resilience, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for individuals and communities, and the use of local resources, skills, and knowledge.”
A United Nations report on culture and sustainable development further explains that, “respecting and supporting cultural expressions contributes to strengthening the social capital of a community and fosters trust in public institutions. Cultural factors also influence lifestyles, individual behavior, consumption patterns, values related to environmental stewardship, and our interaction with the natural environment.” Regions or countries that consider local culture and knowledge systems are in a better position to foster sustainable prosperity in a way that fully integrates environmental and social aspects into their economic development.
A creative economy approach offers the potential to implement the aspect of culture with triple bottom line principles into one fully integrated methodology, thus weaving a common thread of cultural and sustainable elements into a new type of framework. Therefore, a creative economy framework offers a baseline structure in which triple bottom line and culture can be enhanced, and leveraged to impact a nation, city or region.
The Role of the Designer
As design managers trained with a triple bottom line by design perspective, we play a critical role in connecting design thinking to environments where new strategic approaches can further spread the practice of triple bottom line by design and its objectives.
We saw the opportunity to add further value to existing creative economy theories by extending them into a fully integrated sustainable methodology that could intentionally activate social, environmental, and cultural aspects along with economic diversity.
This meant a way to foster not only the creation of economic value but “sustainable prosperity,” which we define as “the ability of an individual, group or nation to provide shelter, nutrition and other material goods that enable people to live a good life, according to their own definition of what constitutes a good life.” This is a kind of prosperity where a healthy emotional and spiritual life exists in a society, in the context of an enabling environment that improves productivity.
As defined in the Arts and Cultural Management and Design Management graduate programs at Pratt Institute, our strategic design knowledge is based on the idea that TBL can have further impact when fully integrated into businesses through design thinking as triple bottom line by design (TBLD). “The full value of TBL cannot be realized if design is relegated to delivering discrete TBL product solutions. To be sustainable, organizations now need to be triple bottom line by design”, emphasizes Mary McBride, the Chair of the programs. Throughout the course of the program, we also became aware that the principles of TBLD can be applied beyond business. With value creation, we were looking to boost the economic development of nations around the world in order to facilitate “sustainable prosperity”.
The Task at Hand: We Didn’t Start from Zero
Our extensive research showed that creative economy theories have been evolving since the mid-to-late 1990’s focused mainly on creative industries—a concept predominantly led by the United Kingdom (UK)—driven by their own need to diversify industries to support economic growth and gain competitive advantage. Through new industry classifications and mapping, the UK measured the economic contribution and potential for development in order to monetize the production and activities of these industries. In 2006, as the UK government recognized the value that the creative industries added to their economy the term “creative economy” was formally adopted to capture the vast contribution to economic and social life.
For our purpose, it was important to examine what could be considered as worldwide benchmarks in the creative economy theories and methodologies. By looking at the origins and evolution of the concept of creative economy, we were able to identify the theories and methodologies that have been most developed, most applied, and that are most comprehensive. Based on our research, the most widely accepted resources are: The United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), John Howkins, Richard Florida, and the British Council. The basis of these theories are most widely used around the world, and in fact, many of the countries researched, which have implemented a creative economy strategy have referred to one, or a combination, of these sources.
To achieve our objective, we created specific criteria to guide our assessment of best practices within each of the theories; as it was important to establish a point of comparison and contextual understanding of varied perspectives. We then identified key factors that each theory considered in their approach to economic development, and examined the extent to which TBL and cultural aspects were already integrated within them.
With the set goal to identify opportunities to reach our objective of fully integrating TBL and cultural aspects into the creative economy agenda, we also considered benchmarks already established on sustainability related to culture and the creative industries. We identified Forum for the Future’s Beacon Project, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNCTAD and Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) who pioneer the interest and exploration of the dynamics of creative economies, TBL, and culture.
Our key findings were summarized in two main areas:
1. Culture plays two roles within a Creative Economy;
2. Creative industries can support Triple Bottom Line practices.
1. Culture’s Two Roles within a Creative Economy: Functional and Anthropological
Culture’s functional role: culture as a capital:
In establishing the definition of creativity to set the context for creative economies, UNCTAD identifies the value and role of culture as a “capital.” The value derived from culture is measured as capital because it contributes to the “outcomes of creativity” that then form the “creative capital.” According to UNCTAD, the creative capital is comprised of what is defined as the four capitals: social, cultural, human, and structural or institutional, which are the determinants of the growth of creativity. This concept is captured in the “5C model,” a study on the creativity index developed by the Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Hong Kong, that measures the interaction of the four capitals in contributing to the cycle of creative activity generating a fifth C, which represents the outputs of creativity in economic terms.
Culture’s anthropological role: culture as an enabler:
Culture influences economy, social inclusion and our relationship with the environment as it is ingrained in human behavior in the context of specific communities and/or regions. A focus on culture can be seen as a human-centered approach to development, as we learned from the UNCTAD. They illustrate this point by stating, “local and indigenous knowledge systems and environmental management practices provide valuable insight and tools for tackling ecological challenges, preventing biodiversity loss, reducing land degradation, and mitigating the effects of climate change”.
Agenda 21 for Culture:
Another initiative advocating for cultural integration in a creative economy is “Agenda 21 for Culture,” an action plan for cultural development. “Agenda 21” was an agreement by cities and local governments from all over the world stating their commitment to human rights, cultural diversity, sustainability, participatory democracy, and creating conditions for peace. According to the agreement, the role of culture in sustainable development is not only about using artists to raise concern on climate change or about building cultural venues that are efficient in the use of natural resources.
They conclude that beyond the income that cultural industries can bring to the economy, the role of culture in sustainable development is mainly about including a cultural perspective in all public policies to guarantee that any sustainable development process has a soul.
2. Creative Industries Can Support TBL Practices
Creative industries as drivers of sustainability:
Forum for the Future’s Beacon Project is a sustainable development charity that partners with leading businesses and public service providers, to devise strategies that enhance people’s lives and are good for the environment. The Beacon Project explores innovation challenges and opportunities specifically for creative industries. The project highlights three areas of opportunities where creative industries can drive sustainability:
Working to reduce the direct footprint of the industries;
Working to enhance the creative persuasion they can have on society and;
Working to promote technology and innovation for sustainability in order to enhance competitive advantages
In exploring the intersection of TBL and culture with creative economies we gathered key insights on culture’s role and concluded that creative industries are culture creators that influence people’s behaviors, and therefore can be the drivers of sustainable prosperity.
Triple Bottom Line by Design Creative Economy: A Manual
Through design thinking and application of the 4D Design Model (Discover, Define, Design and Deliver) we created a new methodology that captures best practices from existing creative economies’ theories, and integrates triple bottom line by design. This is achieved with the introduction of the Jon Hawkes’ four pillars as four capitals – economic, social, environmental and cultural – to establish a sustainable intent throughout the process of economic development.
The successful implementation of our methodology, guided by design thinking, was enabled through the creation of a manual. This guidebook, available in print and digital formats, allows diverse stakeholders to generate creative economy strategies that ensure sustainable development.
Our Triple Bottom Line by Design Creative Economy: A Manual is a practical tool to deliver the new methodology and support its implementation. It was designed to translate a typically complex process into a highly actionable, easy to follow step-by-step process. It is supported with diagnostic questions and specific examples for each step to facilitate the application. It guides the full implementation of a triple bottom line framework to develop sustainable creative economies in any city, cluster, region or country at any stage of development, and at any scale, by individuals, creative entrepreneurs, organizations or governments.
How we address the environment:
By integrating the four capitals throughout the development we are able to operationalize and measure the inputs and outputs of economic development always considering: economic, social, environmental and cultural factors. Environmental factors are keys to creative industries, the physical manifestations of the products and services, in their practices and the context of the regions in which they operate.
How we address social factors:
People are at the core of our new methodology simply because they are the key resource behind creativity.
Our approach is devised not only to stimulate employment and economic opportunities, but also to address societal concerns such as social inclusion, poverty eradication, community empowerment and gender equality, among others – all aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
How we address cultural factors:
Creative industries are culture creators. They create cities, objects, communications that influence consumption patterns, lifestyle, and people’s attitudes. Our methodology leverages this influence to drive understanding regarding sustainability, and increase its awareness. Cultural heritage is also a key that countries can use to create competitive advantage, for example in the development of export markets, and a consideration we intend to bring to attention.
How we address economic factors:
Creative industries have increased employment across the world, with a 50% higher growth rate compared to other industries according to UNCTAD. But growth without sustainability is not beneficial in the long term. By integrating TBL and culture at the core of this development we are aiming for long-term prosperity. The promotion of creativity and the creative industries leads to new business models, innovation, new products and services, idea generation and, in general, greater competitive advantages by creating value from the intangible of ideas, something that the world has in abundance.
Outlining Future Opportunities
The guidebook simplifies complicated creative economy theories, making this knowledge accessible to diverse stakeholders: governments, organizations and independent professionals. It is designed as a step-by-step process; its use is versatile and not restricted to such application depending on the skillset and experience of the team. It is also comprehensive in capturing the numerous areas to be considered into developing a sustainable creative economy and where might be a need to bring in support from specialists for specific areas of expertise and implementation. Once a clear and defined strategy is in place, the strategy team will have a clear path of what areas that will require attention, which key stakeholders can help them attain the holistic vision for the project, what could be the milestones and the measures of success.
This guide offers a functional tool to craft strategies aimed to reaching sustainable prosperity within creative economies. Focusing on the key insights of culture’s role as an influencer and an enabler within the strategic context of creative industries since they are culture creators that influence people’s behaviors, and therefore to our beliefs, the drivers of sustainable prosperity.
With this current shift in embracing TBLD practices, the new creative enterprise will best flourish within a context that supports it and enables it to flourish, and our hope is to provide a framework that will do so as well.
ILM Creatives is a consultancy group of Pratt Design Management Alumni – Strategic Designers from the four hemispheres who joined forces in New York City to facilitate the development of inspired solutions for sustainable, brighter futures that consider people, planet and profit.
Visit www.ilmcreatives.com for more info.
While the TBLD+C model is not a completely novel idea, this comprehensive framework allows for a more user-friendly approach that can be adopted by private, public and municipal entities alike and used to create and foster sustainable growth. The model is particularly useful in the tenuous economic times we are experiencing, as the creative and cultural sectors rise and becomes more viable economic platforms that incorporate social and environmental needs.
STRATEGIES IN ACTION:
Assess the needs of your creative economy project in order to define and organize outputs, outcomes and goals.
Adopt a design thinking approach to analyze the data you have gathered. Explore goals that incorporate environmental, social, economic and cultural factors.
Map and plan tangible actions that can be taken in order to achieve overall goals and move your project forward. Be sure to leave room for future opportunities that may arise.
Evaluate your progress frequently by using designed metrics as you begin to implement your plan. Meeting measured success milestones will provide a sense of achievement as you more forward.
About the Authors:
Dyanis De Jesús is a creative entrepreneur with over a decade of experience in the design and strategy sides of digital, advertising and business, along with a deep commitment for social good. Dyanis is also a co-founder of the Puerto Rico Creative Economy Initiative (prcei,org), advocating the importance of cultural and creative industries as principal drivers of economic development for Puerto Rico.
Rasha AlShihabi is an Associate CreativeDirector and a Design Strategist. Rashahas more than a decade of experience ranging from advertising, branding to entrepreneurship and brand consulting for non-profits. She holds B.A.s in Graphic Design and Psychology, and an MPS in Design Management from Pratt. Her interests’ lie in utilizing design thinking to create sustainable business solutions that bridge art, design and culture.
Montserrat Castañon is an Industrial Designer and Design Manager with experience focusing on the production of design projects and art exhibitions in museums and galleries such as Laboratorio Arte Alameda in Mexico City, and Cristina Grajales Gallery and Fitz & Co. in New York City. Her passions are thecreative intersection between disciplines, like art and design, and cultural exchange.
Juan Camilio Sánchez has an extensive experience in planning and developing interactive projects for multinational agencies in North and South America. A creative entrepreneur developing platforms within the intersection of business, technology, creativity and sustainability.
Saadia Zaahid is a business strategist with a decade of experience in the creative sector in UAE and the Middle East. International brand consultant working on projects that build cultural understanding and commercial collaboration between the Middle East and the US creative industries.