British Council Creative Economy

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27 February 2012

Culture Shift: Pilots

When you put leading digital innovators, creative practitioners and entrepreneurial energy in a room together in four cities across Africa you get some incredible ideas, lasting relationships, and seriously investable solutions for challenges.

The first round of Culture Shift may have come to a close, but the projects, and blogging, have definitely not!Click here to keep following the unfolding stories....

The British Council’s Creative Economy work shows that creative and cultural sectors globally are well placed to embrace technological innovation and find new ways for emerging creatives to benefit from the digital shift. Through its pilot programme Culture Shift– partnering with the UK’s Social Innovation Camp, Google partners CcHub Nigeria and iHub Kenya, as well as the Hub Johannesburg – selected participants have been challenged to merge their creative and digital expertise to design locally relevant and innovative new products and ideas.

Taking place over three days, theme-based teams competed for a grant award and expert business advice to help realize their objectives over the following months, enabling them to bypass what are often the most inhibiting factors for entrepreneurs – access to capital and sustained mentorship. UK social impact investors and creative digital mentors were also on board throughout to lend their advice on creative business development and investment readiness for entrepreneurs.

In recent years, the UK has led the pack when it comes to applying digital hacking practice and business start-up strategy to the cultural domain. The British Council’s CCE programme welcomed the opportunity to showcase locally-driven models across Africa – a continent faced with the fastest growing economies, urban centres, mobile phone markets, broadband adaption, youth demographics and innovative talent!

Here’s an excerpt from Tim Kindberg’s blog, one of our UK digital mentors who participated in Culture Shift Nairobi

Creativity in Context

We had a high-energy day at the iHub in Nairobi today generating ideas, or ‘itches’ that need scratching, across the business/tech/creative sectors. Moreover, we formed ideas and got to know one another around the discussion of sustainable solutions. Eight teams emerged to discuss, drift, re-focus, encounter a ‘gotcha moment’, or take a different path. What is fascinating is that all of this could be happening anywhere in the world.

Here, however, both appropriateness and appropriation are important parts of the process. These creative hackers want to fix the problems and grasp the opportunities they see around them in their everyday and business lives. ‘Obvious’ questions came up for me like, “Why wouldn’t someone just use Amazon for this, or Kickstarter for that?” For one, Amazon doesn’t exist in Kenya, but Kenyan e-commerce certainly does, and is showing no sign of slowing down. No doubt many new ideas are to come that will originate from here, and which the West will find itself appropriating.

There are also plenty of ways of appropriating technologies to provide solutions for local contexts, and equally, there are unexpected road blocks due to lack of infrastructure. It’s great to see creatives working on exploiting technology to create value for Kenya. Not only do the solutions are imaginative, but creatives are thriving on dealing with a whole host of constraints and, on the other hand, ‘gotchas’. At the same time, they have expectations of technology that tend to pull technologists out of their comfort zone. And that is a good thing. Technologists are creative in their own ways, too – more than many think.

One example of a winning project was QRiocity, from Culture Shift Johannesburg

Folk stories and oral traditions are slowly being diminished in the face of urbanization, lack of culture-specific education and, let’s face it, enough interest within younger generations. So, Culture Shift Johannesburg’s winning team ‘QRiocity’ asked themselves, ‘How can traditional stories and cultural objects –and their connections to spaces, places and local heroes – be more easily understood and accessed?’ After 48 hours of strategic debate, partnership planning, and no lack of sweat and tears, QRiocity came up with the brilliant idea of posting QR and SMS short codes on buildings, statues and locations (a bit like English Heritage’s Blue Plaques) and crowdsourcing personal stories to create user-generated journeys of discovery throughout Jo'burg’s Newtown. In the face of urban development and gentrification, citizens will be empowered to embrace what are often overlooked and forgotten geographical meanings and legends, and reposition these into an entirely new kind of place making.

The Culture Shift pilot took place in:

Lagos, Nigeria – 17-19 March

Taking over the Cc Hub in Lagos, the Culture Shift Nigeria teams worked with the themeICT for Festivals Development. Focusing on getting cultural/creative practitioners to work with digital innovators in designing new ICT tools for the organisation and management of festivals, the aim was to see how technology can maximize their social, cultural, economic and developmental impact.

On hand to assist in developing this digital creativity was the UK's Andy Young of Snook, and Kelly Clark of Marmanie shared her wealth of knowledge as a social impact investor.

Johannesburg, South Africa – 23-25 March

Led by The Hub, awardees of Culture Shift Johannesburg will subsequently benefit from a six month ‘Mentoring & Fruition’ support program designed by the Hub Johannesburg, consisting of mentoring, building investor relations and opening opportunities through relevant networks.

Coming together over a highly experimental 48 hours, hacking teams designed everything from digital prototypes to rough sketches of marketing and business plans. Social impact investor Stephen Rochman of Merism Capital, as well as James Baster, web developer and co-founder of Here’s a Hand, came along to, well, 'lend a hand'!

Nairobi, Kenya – 29-31 March

Partnering with iHub Kenya,Culture Shift Kenya was an initiative to get the creative sector together with the digital sector to explore problems and create simple, practical solutions. Led by some of Kenya’s best digital and creative talent, teams came together over endless chapatti's and coffee to explore new ways to use digital and mobile solutions to support the needs of the cultural and creative economy.

Visiting expertise included digital creative Tim Kindberg ofMatter2Media,Ryan Bowman of Circle Digital, Stephen Rockman of Merism Capital, and Lecturer Siân Prime of Goldsmiths University and the East African Entrepreneurship Diploma.

Cairo, Egypt - 3rd-5th May

Along with Kijamii, TEDxCairo, Startup Weekend Cairo, Eventtus, Cairo Hackerspace and Darb 1718 “Contemporary Arts & Culture Centre”,we brought together some of the best of Egypt’s software developers and designers with those in the cultural and creative sector to stimulate the creation of new technology tools and ventures to support the development of the creative and cultural economy.

Bringing expertise from the UK were Sarah Drummond - founder and director of Snook, Ramy Habeeb - creator of Kotobarabia, Tarim - a freelance technologist from Pervasive Media Studio, and Karen McGregor -Chief Executive of Firstport.