Tuesday 2 April 2024

Karpool (karaoke) interview: my thoughts on creativity

Anyone who followed any part of my professional journey over the 7 years I was Tumuaki leading Te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka Hornby High School (2016-2023) will know that the most essential component of the change I tried to engineer was to embed creativity into the kura, to make creativity the essential ethos of all that we did. 

Was I successful? It's not for me to judge, but for others... the akonga, the kaiako, the whānau .. but I tried. On the back of that, I was recently invited to be a part of a carpool interview with Steve Zonneville, who along with along with Dave Armstrong has pioneered the 'Forty Hour Principal' project.

Apologies in advance for the quality, I had to compress the video significantly to get it onto the blog. The video speaks for itself.

My answers (I hope) capture a lot of what I believe about creativity and education, and creativity and life. Here is the post in which I talked about creativity as an act of rebellion.

It's time we rebelled, it's time we nurtured and celebrated what makes us human. I reckon!!!

Sunday 17 March 2024

Go where the people are

 If you like that genre of humour that we call 'Dad' jokes, you might have heard this one:

"Isn't it amazing how they manage to build hospitals where all the sick people are"

... or ...

"Isn't amazing how they build the roads where all the cars go"

You get the idea, so I won't labour the idea or prolong the pain. My point is, if you want to sustain creativity, and learning (beyond formal schooling, that is) I think you need in part to go where the people are. There will always be those who will make the effort, go out of their way, to take advantage of opportunities, to participate in creative or learning events or opportunities. But I'm not convinced that is the majority. Generalising our behaviour as a species, I reckon we tend to look for the easy way out, the easiest path, and if we think something's not easy, we are typically less likely to participate. Just depends on the motivation, our individual answers to that question 'what's in it for me'.

Then there is the issue of genuine ability to connect, to participate. I recall in the 90's when I chaired the kidsFest Trust in Ōtautahi, we took pains to try and get events out into the areas where we knew incomes were more limited. We also negotiated free bus services to try to enable children especially to travel to events. I have worked with many whānau and young people who cannot afford a bus ticket or have never ridden a bus and don't know how. It's easy to apply pākeha middle class values and expectations to these problems, missing the point that we are not all the same. We assume such things at our peril when we think we have a cunning plan that might address inequity of opportunity.

I have seen some interesting solutions to this problem.

As part of its 150th Anniversary celebration the University of Canterbury ran an event called  'Raising the bar'. They took 'talks' by members of their staff out into local bars around the city. I attended one at my favourite local brew pub. It was unfortunate that one of the speakers chose to humble himself before the architect of Ruthenasia, making the content farcical at times. However we can't all see things the same way, can we. My only question is whether or not they took any of these events to any of the local bars in the poorer parts of town. I would love to know ..

Then there is the fabulous  'Arts on Tour', something which I think has been defunded by the Arts Council, sadly. We were pretty regular patrons of the local events.

I recall one concert called 'The Four Chiefs', one of whom was Wayne Mason of 'The Fourmulya' fame with 'Nature'.

I'd never have thought I'd be sitting 3 metres from one of Aotearoa's iconic musical legends listening to him perform. 

Libraries are a great example of taking creativity and learning into their local communities. They have become much more than book repositories (they are still that however), they have become learning and creative hubs for their local populations. They organise and/or host a range of events, sometimes delivered by their own staff, sometimes delivered by external providers.

Organisations like 'Ako Ōtautahi-Learning City Christchurch', with their Learning Days festival, attempt to bring together a range of such providers under one banner ('Learning Days'), their events taken to places where people congregate like shopping malls, libraries, and streets. 

The thing is, we need more. These functions are not things that typically 'make money'. They are typical 'merit' goods, so they are under provided by producers, and we under consume them in the context of what gives the greatest benefit to society, if their provision is left to the market.

UC needs to run a 'Raising the bar' event every year. ArtsOnTour needs to have its funding fully reinstated. These things spark people's curiosity, and that's what leads to real learning.

If we want a 'learning city', a city that is creative and thriving, one of the things we have to do better at taking these opportunities out to people, we have to be where the people are, whether it's in cafes, libraries, bars, shopping malls, or bus exchanges, we just have to go where the people are, to make it easier for them to access these opportunities. 

'Like, that helps create the vibe .. maaaan'

Sunday 25 February 2024

'Like, it's the creative vibe, man' (5)

I've thought a little about what deliberate and intentional actions we can take if we are to generate a more creative city, a city in which learning is just how we are. It's a complex beast, one in which I am not at all qualified to make grand assertions. But I've been thinking about it. I've asked myself this question: what are the possible levers that we can use to get there?

Maybe these things can (in the language of economics) be classified as macro and micro 'levers'. 

The macro levers are those that operate at an institutional and system wide level. In Aotearoa New Zealand perhaps the best example is the impact on education of Tovey and Beeby, and their work with creatives in schools in the 1950s and 60's (one of the best examples of which must be Ralph Hotere, but there were a number of others). This was action that impacted directly on children and young people, action that (so the literature suggests) resulted in an epoch of creativity in our schools. Did it? Not sure, but it seems to be a reasonable assertion. This was also the time of Elwyn Richardson and his ground breaking work in leading learning through the lens of creativity.

Thinking about this macro level in education poses questions around our national curriculum, and the importance that it places (or doesn't place) on creativity. This then (presumably) impacts on  the mahi within individual kura. My experience was that regardless of whatever curriculum documents say, it is possible to foster an ethos of creativity in an individual kura, as long as there is leadership from the top.

Within the civic or public space we can question the commitment of civic leaders (both elected representatives and salaried professionals) to the creativity, to the efficacy of creativity, in generating economic activity, innovation, and wellbeing, amongst their citizenry. How easily swayed are they to the benefits of such a focus, especially in these cash constrained times when they are being told that the choice between roads and drains, or libraries, pools, and creative public services, is an 'either/or' rather than an 'and'.

That said, they are still able to consider how they fund libraries in particular, and also museums and galleries, and other public spaces and activities, to support creative thinking and endeavour amongst their citizenry. In Ōtautahi Christchurch the public library spaces at Tūranga, and the redevelopment of the network of suburban library spaces, gives us hope. I note that the soon to open Hornby library (the Matatiki Hornby Centre) will be an absolute delight in terms of the facilities that it offers to the locals that might foster and support creativity and innovation with its dedicated 'Creative Activities Room'. Included will be opportunities ranging from 3D printing to sound recording.

These are examples of those macro level levers which generally are out of the reach for most of us.
I wonder also about the degree to which we can pull the levers of civic and architectural design across civic and private projects? When I look at some of the building and space design that we have seen in Ōtautahi through the earthquake rebuild, we see some of the worst and best of building design in particular, from awful tilt slab monstrosities to the creation of quirky innovative spaces that are new, but have the feel of ancient spaces. These are part of that 'vibe' I am talking about.

A signal of the development of Gloucestor Street, and the 'arts precinct' that will include the new Court Theatre, plenty of hospitality, backstopped with Te Pae, a wonderful new convention and function centre at it's west end - more 'very cool vibe'

The old 'New Regent Street', strengthened and repurposed with less traditional retail, and more hospitality, business.. a delightful 'feel' on a sunny day

More relevant and accessible to us as individuals are those micro level actions that we can take. Organisations like Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch are very proactive in showing some of the possibilities. What happens when you 'join the dots', when you connect people and ideas? What happens when you find guerrilla bureaucrats, awesome people within organisations who are able to activate smaller parts of those organisations, and resources, to support the vision of a more creative city, a city that values and activates learning not only within the formal sector but across the informal sector of learning?

Are we joining enough of the dots? Are we telling the stories loudly enough? Often enough?

AO-LCC is one of several organisations that are working to leverage change. Others include the Greater Christchurch Schools Network, Risingholme providing Adult Community Education, and that group of smaller providers such as Egg Academy, and Creative Trust, the Christchurch Young Writers' School, and Christchurch Rock 'n' Roll Club, and .....  all those smaller rebels that I have mentioned previously,  all alongside an amazing public library network. Ōtautahi is not in any way different from or superior to any other city. It is simply the city I know.

At our individual level, perhaps the best thing we can do is to actively broker conversations with many and diverse groups, as many conversations as we can, about creativity, about learning. We need voices that will echo loud and clear over the top of those who would have us submit to endless machine-like lives. We need to amplify the messages. We need to be persistent and relentless in the messaging, in fostering the conversations.

We need more than words. Individual acts of creation matter, whatever they are, in what ever form or medium we choose.

Going back to my original contention, if we accept that creativity and learning go hand in hand, if we accept that learning can be generated more effectively formally and informally through a creative lens, if we accept that creativity and innovation enhance our lives and our communities as measured with both economic and wellbeing metrics, is there such a thing as a creative vibe in a city, does it enhance creativity and innovation generally in a community, and does it enhance learning in a city? Is it another piece of the puzzle of how we go about building a 'learning city? Could it, would it, help to create a 'learning vibe' in a city? And what would a 'learning vibe' look like, feel like, sound like, in a city?

Perhaps my biggest contention is that whatever we do, we need to be far more deliberate and intentional in doing it.

What is at stake? I couldn't put it any better than O'Connor and his associates:

Like Freire, McLaren (2000) offers critical pedagogy as an antidote to education
systems that “replicates social inequity and creates an unthinking consumer class” (p. 123).
A truly democratic society requires people who are fully conscious, or fully awake in the
world, and Maxine Greene argues it is arts-making which brings the individual into awaken-ness (Greene, 1997). Perhaps it is why some might call art or photography ‘a woke subject.’Martha Nussbaum (2010) argues the moral imperatives sitting beneath a democratic society are based on the creation of empathetic citizens. She argues that empathetic imagination has been systematically ignored, and severely repressed, by neo-liberal models of education.
(Page 15)

And with reference to our formal schooling system:

We argue how the true measure of public education is not in individual achievement, but in
the success of participatory democracy. What we risk with the current schooling is creating
classes of people disconnected from a sense that they are able to be active participants in
their own lives. We believe the dangers of such an approach during post-normal times is
obvious as new nationalisms and dehumanising ideologies find fertile ground in collapsing
(Page 16)

These words tell me that we face uncertain and worrying times. Let me finish with some words from the Ōtautahi Climate Action Campus:

"Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi - Shifting young people’s sense of climate anxiety to climate hope. One of the biggest mitigators against climate anxiety is to take action." 

Source: https://www.growwaitaha.co.nz/our-stories/climate-action-campus-otautahi-shifting-young-people-s-sense-of-climate-anxiety-to-climate-hope

 ... which I'd like to adapt like this:

Could we be a "Creative Action Campus, Ōtautahi - Shifting people’s sense of anxiety to hope. One of the biggest mitigators against anxiety is to take action."


'Replanting creativity during post-normal times', O'Connor, Anderson, Freebody and Ginns, October 2020


'Like, it's the creative vibe, man' (4)

I clearly recall my time leading teacher professional development. Teacher practice was hard to shift. But it was very rarely a result of an 'I can't be bothered' attitude. It was much more likely that the thought process was 'Yes I see what you are saying, and why this would be a good idea, but.. what would it look like in my daily practice?'. And once you were able to show that, the almost universal response was 'aha, I get it, righto then...let's crack on with it'.

I think this 'fostering creativity' and this 'learning city' thing are similar. What could it look like? I use the word 'could' because I reckon that there isn't ONE formula, there isn't ONE way, to do this. What's more, I think that any city or organisation needs a multitude of approaches and responses. After all, that's creativity isn't it? I wanted to try to capture a little of what it already looks like in Ōtautahi Christchurch right now.

The Greater Christchurch Schools' Network (GCSN) works with schools and the city's libraries to bring creative opportunities to school aged children. These are typically digitally focussed (because that is the 'raison d'etre' of GCSN). Here is a sampling of the activities on offer in 2024.

Then there's 'kidsFest', an annual festival of activities for children that has run in Ōtautahi since the 1990's

There's the work of Ako Ōtautahi - Learning City Christchurch and its annual 'learning days' celebration. This celebration aims to showcase learning, and the value of learning, to connect more and more of those who work in that area in the city, beyond the more usual compulsory school sector.

The 'climate change' campus, set up on the original site of Avonside Girls' High School in the east of the city, attempts to connect young people with the issues around climate change, and what they can do to mitigate the existential dangers of the current climate crisis.

Cities typically also have their own performance based cultural institutions. In Ōtautahi Christchurch, our very own Court Theatre is something of an icon.

There are a number of other 'players' in the market place. There's the 'Egg Academy', the brainchild of Kane Stewart:

The 'Word' festival in Ōtautahi, certainly not unique to the city, and not a 'small player':

The Canterbury Poets' Collective:

And let's not forget that there are also many not for profit clubs and societies that offer creative growth opportunities.

For example dance clubs:


... and craft clubs:
The Christchurch City Council information web page on craft groups etc

My concern about many of these is whether or not they serve the 'democratisation' of learning. Do they succeed in serving those most vulnerable in our community? I recall the story of a young man with whom I worked in a school.. he was a seriously good rapper. He left school, and (I think) went the way of the gangs. As a society we lost the benefit of his amazing creativity, and may in the future face the social and economic costs of a human being who crosses the law. I hope not.

Then there is what is happening in the schooling sector itself. I'm yet to be convinced that schools in general give creativity the emphasis it demands or deserves, but certainly within schools in the Manaiakalani network creativity is a central part of their underlying pedagogy. There are two school clusters in Ōtautahi that are part of the network (although not all schools in each Kāhui Ako participate): Uru Mānuka in the west, and Te Pai Tūhura in the northeast.

This summarises their underlying pedagogy.

One kura in the Uru Mānuka kāhui ako tries to place creativity at the centre of what it does.

This gives you a glimpse into what this could look like, it is all fabulous stuff. I'm not sure that it is not enough though. More effort, more thought, more resource, needs to be applied to the challenge of creating creative communities, communities in which there is a clear 'creative vibe', or perhaps just as importantly there is a clear and visceral 'learning vibe', communities in which creativity and learning are 'just the way we are'.

The challenge is 'how do we do that'?

'Like, it's the creative vibe, man' (3)

In this series of posts my aim is to argue for deliberate and intentional actions that support creativity in cities and towns, in schools, everywhere.  I am arguing for public art, for public education, for public library services .. the list could go on.

I can already hear the libertarians arguing that this is all a waste of money, that public art and public education means we have to tax people and so we take away their freedom of choice (in terms of how they might choose to spend the money that they lose in taxes). In doing so they show that they either cannot or will not understand some fundamental aspects of their own free market models. They completely miss the mark in understanding anything at all about public and merit goods in a market economy.

Public goods are defined as follows:

"A public good has two characteristics:
Non-rivalry: This means that when a good is consumed, it doesn’t reduce the amount available for others. e.g. benefiting from a street light doesn’t reduce the light available for others but eating an apple would.
Non-excludability: This occurs when it is not possible to provide a good without it being possible for others to enjoy. For example, if you erect a dam to stop flooding – you protect everyone in the area (whether they contributed to flooding defences or not.
A public good is often (though not always) under-provided in a free market because its characteristics of non-rivalry and non-excludability mean there is an incentive not to pay. In a free market, firms may not provide the good as they have difficulty charging people for their use."   
(Source: https://www.economicshelp.org/micro-economic-essays/marketfailure/public-goods/ )

While the street light example is perhaps the economics teacher's classic example of a public good, public art is also a public good under the economic definition. The fact that I look at a piece of public art doesn't in any way diminish anyone else's experience in looking at it (provided I don't get in the way). It isn't 'used up' when I gain its benefit, it isn't 'used up' by my own act of consumption, so it is non-depletable, and non-rival. It is also difficult or impossible for a private provider to charge for its use because by definition these works are in public spaces. 

Merit goods are defined as follows: 

"A merit good has two characteristics:

People do not realise the true personal benefit. For example, people underestimate the benefit of education or getting a vaccination.

Usually, these goods also have a positive externality.

Therefore in a free market, there will be under consumption of merit goods." 

(Source: https://www.economicshelp.org/micro-economic-essays/marketfailure/merit-demerit-goods/ )

The spill over benefits of increased education will not typically be recognised by those consuming it, and so it will be under consumed.  Increased levels of education are for example related to greater worker productivity, and decreased crime. There does seem to be a causal link rather than a simple correlation with regard to crime. Yet these benefits are often not directly available to the consumer of that education, and so are not factored into decisions about the quantity of education that an individual will consume.

Put simply, to use the jargon of the free market, these are examples of market failure. i.e. the market fails to provide the quantities of these goods that are optimal for society. This is exactly WHY it falls to governments (central and local) to provide these goods. The argument most often is not about whether or not to provide these goods, but rather about how much of these goods to provide. I suspect that many libertarians might argue for none at all.

I won't go into the graphical analysis of externalities of consumption as they relate to this issue. Feel free to dig deeper yourself.

'Like, it's the creative vibe, man' (2)

Way way back .. in the day .. I completed an undergraduate degree in economics. I'd always planned to be a teacher (since aged 7 years, would you believe), but did briefly entertain the idea of being a professional economist. I was never good enough .. whew.. dodged a bullet!! However that body of knowledge to some degree persists in my head (the cynical might say it is seared into my brain and left me permanently scarred), so I hope you'll forgive this wee foray into some speculation around creativity and economics.

The issue of the moment seems to be the efficacy of the education system, and talk about creativity might well be easily dismissed as 'woke', as 'soft', as missing the point about the need for the 'three Rs', to which many educators will no doubt be letting out long sighs and gasps.

I'd have to say that the literature generally seems to be very supportive of the efficacy of creativity as a vehicle, as an impactful approach, to education, and something that benefits society in many ways. So this has me thinking about how we foster greater creativity. This lead to some simple (some would say simplistic) concepts from economics. Why economics? I wonder if the only way to get real change is via the traditional 'market signals' of prices. Do we need to flick the switch of 'self interest' that lies at the heart of neo-liberal economics in order to get the 'buy in', the support that this all needs?

Just a cautionary note: I am not arguing that what you will read below is correct. It is intended as something of a 'provocation'. It is less important to be right, than it is to be engaged, at the moment.

I was struck by a connection with what economists call the 'elasticity of supply'. Alfred Marshall wrote of the concept of time periods in economics. These are not defined by our usual measures of time, but rather by the variability of the factors of production, or inputs, that firms use. Marshall describes the momentary, short run, and long run time periods. Here is a typical undergraduate summary. The  economy's resources or factors of production are typically classified as land (all natural resources), labour (all human inputs), capital (all man-made goods used to make other goods), and entrepreneurship (the willingness to take risks, and to organise production). I have found varying definitions for Marshall's time periods, but the most universal seem to be these:

The momentary time period is that in which no factors of production can be changed.

The short run is that time period when some factors can be changed, but some cannot.

The long run is that time period in which all factors can be varied.

The supply curves look like this:

In the momentary time period, no changes in price will induce changes in the quantity supplied from producers. They simply cannot vary any inputs, therefore they cannot vary outputs.

In the short run increases in price will induce some increases in output, because some factors of production (natural, human, and entrepreneurship, in particular) can be varied. However the producers don't have enough time to vary capital inputs (machinery and buildings are the big ones here).

In the long run an increase in prices will induce larger increases in quantity supplied, because producers have enough time to build new buildings, buy new machinery, invent new processes etc i.e.. they are able to vary ALL of the inputs into production

I have been thinking about a relationship between prices and creativity. I wondered if there might be a similar general relationship between prices and creativity in the economy. I am NOT saying that producers BUY creativity. 

The model I am suggesting assumes that we might have some way of measuring creativity in order to quantify it along an axis. Attempts have been made, but rather than talking about creativity they typically talk about innovation. In an article titled "What’s the Real Difference between Creativity and Innovation?" by Sarah Stone, published on June 16, 2022

"Creativity involves generating original and unique ideas, while innovation is about implementing those ideas to create value. Understanding these distinctions is essential for organizations and individuals looking to remain competitive in their respective fields. "

However if you'll forgive me the looseness here, I am trying to suggest a concept rather than a strictly econometric relationship.

In that momentary time period, there is no time to be 'additionally creative in an economic sense.

In the short run, as prices vary, it is possible to vary to some degree the amount of creativity and innovation, and their consequential impact on production. However because producers have 'staked their claim', 'drawn their line in the sand', with their specific capital investment, they will be unwilling to make many changes their current investments. They will see current plant and processes as 'sunk costs' from which they need to garner a return. Therefore they will be relatively unwilling to invest in new processes, unless in some way they see themselves at risk of being whisked away by the pace of change. The current AI revolution may be a case in point.

In the long run, all bets are off, and creativity and innovation could rule.

So I wonder if the 'chunky' nature of capital inhibits creativity. Once producers are locked into a specific set of capital investment decisions, do they then effectively turn their back on new creative solutions as they seek to recover the 'sunk costs' of their capital investment?

This approach looks at individual markets, but what about the economy as a whole?

So, as prices rise in an economy, do they in fact induce more creativity, innovation if you prefer, from producers? It is of course possible that as prices rise, producers are getting adequate reward from their existing processes and capital investment, and so in fact their incentive to innovate and be creative diminishes.

I adapted an old Keynesian model to the following:

In the longer run as prices rise, they induce increased creativity, which in turn increases GDP and incomes.

Interestingly, the relationship could actually be the opposite. In a paper titled 'Does innovation promote economic growth? Evidence from European countries', Rana P. Maradana, Rudra P. Pradhan*, Saurav Dash, Kunal Gaurav, Manju Jayakumar and Debaleena Chatterjee, 2017, the authors establish that while it seems reasonable that increased innovation leads to economic growth, the relationship can also move in the opposite direction. Increased economic growth can lead to increased innovation. Quoting from the paper Abstract:

"The paper examines the long-run relationship between innovation and per capita economic growth in the 19 European countries over the period 1989–2014. This study uses six different indicators of innovation: patents-residents, patents-non- residents, research and development expenditure, researchers in research and development activities, high-technology exports, and scientific and technical journal articles to examine this long-run relationship with per capita economic growth. Using cointegration technique, the study finds evidence of long-run relationship between innovation and per capita economic growth in most of the cases, typically with reference to the use of a particular innovation indicator. Using Granger causality test, the study finds the presence of both unidirectional and bidirectional causality between innovation and per capita economic growth." (my emphasis)

So IF innovation and creativity tend to go hand in hand (that might be quite a leap), then we might be able to expect growing economies to generate more creativity across communities.

And how does this connect with the concept of the learning city? There seems to be a cyclic relationship between growth and creativity/innovation. Creativity leads to innovation which leads to economic growth which leads creativity which leads innovation which leads to ... ... etc

And I've already written about how creativity and learning seem to be inextricably linked. Is learning the kick starter to creativity? Is creativity the kickstarter to learning? Does it matter? What impact would we have on learning if we engendered more creativity? What impact would we have on creativity and innovation if we engendered more learning? In particular what impact would we have either way if we built a whole city permeated with the creative and learning ethos?

The issue seems to be that we think about the circuit breaker(s) that will set this cycle on it's way.


'Does innovation promote economic growth? Evidence from European countries', Rana P. Maradana, Rudra P. Pradhan*, Saurav Dash, Kunal Gaurav, Manju Jayakumar and Debaleena Chatterjee, 2017 

"What’s the Real Difference between Creativity and Innovation?" Sarah Stone, June 16, 2022

'Like, it's the creative vibe, man' (1)

I kind of like the word vibe. 'Like, you get the vibe, man'. It's not the sort of word you want politicians to use about economic recessions. You'd hope they were slightly more data informed, more economically and data literate. But maybe it is the sort of word you could use when thinking about the creative environment, and about creativity in general. Maybe it's also a word you could use when thinking about the extent to which a city values, nurtures, and supports, learning, the degree to which a city is learner friendly. My online Cambridge dictionary defines 'vibe' like this:

"the mood of a place, situation, person, etc. and the way that they make you feel"

I've been wondering about the significance of the 'vibe' of the places in which we live, the vibe of our environment. Why might it matter? As I've wandered around a number of towns and cities in Te Wai Pounamu, I've been noticing the 'vibe' of those places. One way in which we pick up the vibe about creativity is with displays of public art works. 

At the bottom of this post I've added a series of photos of some of the pieces of public art I've seen and experienced. Have a browse.

The 'creative vibe' could of course equally be generated through performance art, but the ephemeral nature of that is problematic. We see a wonderful change in the cityscape of Ōtautahi Christchurch during the World Buskers' Festival 'Bread and Circus', but I'd wonder what the residual effect is as memory of the event fades.

The small scale retail scene also sends me a 'vibe' when I see small retail stores selling artworks and a general array of what are often 'unique' items, especially when I see the same stores opening their doors year after year after year,..,. it takes something special to ensure the longevity of these businesses. That tells me that there are enough people who value that tangible side of creativity to support those businesses. This is something I rarely pick up in the retail malls (although there are some exceptions to that). Given the social place of malls these days, I wonder if it is possible for them to influence the 'creative disposition' of their local populations in this way? The trouble with that is of course that their management is answerable to shareholders, and influencing the creative dispositions of their locals is not their core business - no apology needed.

I do think there is such a thing as a 'creative vibe' in schools. I believe it is possible to nurture and sustain creativity in schools. My previous experience working with the Manaiakalani network and the 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy showed that this can be done, and when schools have a pedagogy that includes creativity you are more likely to see young people who value and believe in their own creativity. You get what you pay attention to. It takes vision and leadership, it takes guts, it takes time, it takes a huge amount of talking and doing, but.. it CAN be done. 

The Hornby High School vision

I am 'wondering'  whether such a thing as a 'creative vibe' in communities, towns, and cities, is real, or merely the result of what I 'want to see', a product if you like of my own confirmation bias.  And if so, is it a necessary part of a creative city, and also therefore of a learning city, because I believe that creativity and learning go hand in hand.

You could be forgiven for asking the question 'so what'. Why is this of any interest or significance? My undergraduate background in economics kicked in (oddly) and that lead me to think about the 'Creative Economy' and its benefits, and in the process of reading and thinking about this I came across the Canadian Heritage publication 'The Creative Economy: Key Concepts and Literature Review Highlights' (2013). In this the authors make this statement:

"For the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the creative economy is an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development (2008):

• It can foster income generation, job creation and export earnings while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.
• It embraces economic, cultural and social aspects interacting with technology, intellectual property and tourism objectives.
• It is a set of knowledge-based economic activities with a development dimension and crosscutting linkages at macro and micro levels to the overall economy.
• It is a feasible development option for innovation, multidisciplinary policy responses and inter-ministerial action.
• At the heart of the creative economy are the creative industries." (Page 4)

And more importantly:

"The Conference Board of Canada, along similar lines, suggests that there is a growing understanding and appreciation of the relationship between the arts, the cultural industries and broader society stating that “a creative economy extends beyond the culture sector to harness creativity in order to bring about positive social and economic changes across a broad spectrum of industries, sectors and social organizations” (The Conference Board of Canada, 2008, p.3)." Page 6)

And again:

"A significant social impact of the creative economy is its contribution to employment with the creative industries generally accounting for around 2 to 8 per cent of the workforce in the economy (UN, 2010) (including Nova Scotia at around 4.5 per cent and Canada at 3 per cent). The creative industries are both knowledge intensive, requiring specific skills and high level qualifications, and labour intensive (such as the theatre or film industry) where high creative output occurs. According to Florida, the quality of these kinds of jobs may provide greater work satisfaction because of the creative skills required – therefore driving innovation in the wider economy (2002).

Another important social aspect of the creative economy, particularly the cultural industries, is its role in fostering social inclusion." (Page 10)

The authors also reference the link between creativity and learning:

"Important links have also been made to education. In schools, the role of arts and culture in forming the social attitudes and behaviour of children is well recognized." (Page 11) 

This takes me back to the paper 'Replanting creativity during post-normal times' (O'Connor, Anderson, Freebody and Ginns, October 2020) in which the case for creativity in schools is well argued. With respect to the economic benefits, they state:

"Creative citizenship clearly provides an economy with a competitive advantage (Buchannan et al, 2018). Increasingly, New Zealand will require workforces that can not only solve problems but pose new ones, synthesise ideas, take well managed risks to develop ideas, products and services of value. This clearly speaks beyond the contribution that the creative sector makes to the economy, recognising that internationally the trade of creative goods and services has doubled throughout the past twenty years (UNESCO, 2013). As tourism dwindles post-COVID-19 the creative sector both as a domestic market but also in the international trade of film, music, and visual art will become an important part of diversifying the New Zealand economy. More importantly, it will be the competitive edge a creative workforce gives across all sectors of the economy." (Page 11)

This statement about the impact of creativity on learning stands repetition too:

Much of the research suggests that fostering creativity through the arts empowers children to better learn throughout other subjects and areas of their lives raising both personal competencies and academic success. Syllabuses and curriculum documents over the last decade have increasingly mandated creativity (Jefferson and Anderson, 2017), yet research indicates there has been no discernable or systematic rise in creativity within schools.  (Page 18).

If we accept this connection between creativity and learning (and there is a lot of evidence to support the connection) then this again leads me to make a connection between creativity and the concept of the 'learning city'. 

This next part may be too big a leap, but I am wondering if supporting a more creative city may be a precursor to nurturing a 'learning city'? Is it possible that thriving creative arts sectors lead to more creativity and innovation across the economy generally? Could it be that civic investment in public art works supports the growth in that 'creative vibe', which in itself then supports more creative thinking, attracts people of a more overtly creative disposition, and so generates more innovation, and hence economic growth? Does it mean that 'creativity' might become a 'way of being' in a city for more and more people? 

Here is a selection of photos I've grabbed from some of the places I've been in over the past couple of years, and some of those pieces of 'public art' that I've seen.

Of course the 'vibe' will be set by more than just public art works. Here are just a couple of other views of Ōtautahi Christchurch.


'Replanting creativity during post-normal times', O'Connor, Anderson, Freebody and Ginns, October 2020

'The Creative Economy: Key Concepts and Literature Review Highlights', Canadian Heritage 2013