With a small team over a six-week period, Upstart Co-Lab undertook a research sprint to inform our discussion with impact investors about opportunities to drive financial and social value through a Creativity Lens.
The team interviewed experts, practitioners and investing principals on Gender Lens investing, impact investing, community development and quality jobs, as well as founders of social purpose Creative Businesses and managers of Creative Place real estate projects. Problem-solving sessions with colleagues from impact investing, community development, creative industries, and related fields provided early feedback on our approach and working hypothesis. Please see Acknowledgements for more information.
A major theme in our discussions about the creativity lens was defining creativity. In this area, Christine Harris and Dennis Cheek, co-authors of the National Endowment for the Arts’ “America’s Creative Economy”1 report, were a helpful resource. Dennis Cheek brought our attention to vertical and horizontal approaches to defining the creative economy – the vertical approach uses an industry-based definition whereas the horizontal approach uses a cross-cutting, sector-agnostic definition and focuses more on the methodology, mindset, and approach of a worker. Christine Harris got us thinking about support jobs in the creative economy and pointed us towards resources for further research.
The quality jobs experts we spoke with included Steven Dawson from the Pinkerton Foundation and Renata Hron Gomez from Investor’s Circle. They helped us determine which communities we should focus on when looking into quality jobs, and pointed out different starting points for defining quality jobs. In addition to providing useful information, they helped connect us with other experts.
Upstart Co-Lab completed a comprehensive literature review, and landscaped 50 existing data and research efforts on cultural institutions, creative placemaking, artists, and the creative economy. This research landscape included university research centers, creative business accelerators, arts and business advocacy groups, consulting firms with a dedicated focus on arts and creativity, and nonprofits working in the creative economy.
The 50 sources included in this research landscape:
- Americans for the Arts
- Arizona State University: Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
- Arts Midwest
- Aspen Institute
- Center for Creative Community Development
- Center for Creative Economy
- Center for Cultural Innovation
- Creative England
- Creative Many
- Creative Startups
- Cultural Research Network
- Cuyahoga Arts and Culture
- Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
- Institute for the Future
- Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC)
- Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
- Metris Arts Consulting
- National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture (NADAC)
- National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA)
- National Creativity Network
- National Endowment for the Arts
- National Governors Association
- New England Foundation for the Arts
- NEW INC
- North Carolina Arts Council
- Otis College of Art and Design
- Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP)
- Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP)
- The Brookings Instituton
- The Creative Industries Network
- The Kresge Foundation
- The National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) •
- Federal Reserve Bank of San
- Foundation Center – Sustain Arts
- Grantmakers in the Arts
- Hacking Creativity at Red Bull
- Hawaii’s Creative Economy: The Creative Industries Division (CID)
- Insttute for Creative Entrepreneurship | Berklee College of Music
- University of Georgia
- Urban Institute
- Urban Manufacturing Alliance
- Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF)
Although thinking about impact investing in the context of the creative economy is a new idea, research over the past 20 years has explored the economic, civic, social, and community benefits of a vibrant arts & cultural sector. Any conversation about how to define and measure the impact of investing in the creative economy will build off this robust foundation.
We assessed these data and research efforts according to their focus on Creative Places and Creative Businesses; the type of social impact that was studied; intended audience; and geographic focus.
Intended Audience – Past research has been intended to inform specific groups of stakeholders, guiding policy and funding decisions, outlining business and economic opportunities, and documenting the value of arts and creativity. The primary audiences for this research has been: Artist-Innovators,2 Arts Organizations, Business Leaders, Community Development Leaders, Funders, and Government Officials.
Social Impact Focus – The social impact categories we examined were: Economic Development, Civic Engagement, Quality of Life and Building Resiliency.3
Geography – Most of the organizations we looked at focused in the U.S., concentrating on a city, state or region. We also included two groups with a U.K. focus, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which works globally.