Creative Economies

The Creative Economies Model

Value Creation in a Dynamic System

Christoph Weckerle and Simon Grand (in collaboration with Gerd Folkers) developed a model of creative economies that no longer relies on the problematic distinction between creative and non-creative elements. The model understands “creative economies” as a dynamic system of value creation that function as a laboratory for alternative models in culture, economy and technology.

Why “creative economies”?

At a series of interdisciplinary and international panels in Venice, Hongkong, Zurich and London two of the authors of this report, Christoph Weckerle and Simon Grand, raised the question of how to represent, interpret and analyse the ecosystem of the creative economy in a way that would better reflect the complex and heterogeneous character of the field. Could there be a new way of looking at the field that would reveal so far unexplored patterns, dynamics and possibilities?

The most important insight produced by these discussions was that a truly future-oriented and sustainable approach to defining this system would move beyond both the “creative industries” concept and the “creative economy” perspective (applied in parts 1 and 2 of this report respectively). Every approach that relies on one particular definition of “creativity” gets caught up in the dichotomy of creative/non-creative, which forces an arbitrary and rigid limit on a complex and dynamic system.

Central to any knew approach should be the recognition that creativity is not self-evident: it must be constantly redefined and reinterpreted, described and reflected from different perspectives.

At the same time, the variety and multiplicity of possible “economies” should be examined. How the economy works is not a given, nor is there only one model of why entrepreneurial initiatives are successful, in demand or sustainable. In many different fields, though perhaps particularly in the creative economy, there is a strong trend of searching for alternative models, strategies and perspectives to critically reflect, reconceptualise and remodel the economic.

In response to these discussions, Christophe Weckerle and Simon Grand developed a model of “creative economies” that no longer relies on the problematic distinction between creative and non-creative elements. They chose the plural “creative economies” to emphasise the openness of the system and make it clear that creative economies may be structured in many different ways. Depending on variable contexts and perspectives, there may be very diverse understandings of both creativity and economy in play.

A model based on three spheres

The model represents creative economies through the interplay of three spheres: a “core” area, where original creation happens, an “extended sphere” consisting of further creative and innovative actors, and a multiplicity of other organisations as part of the “collocated sphere”.

Graph 1: The Creative Economies Model (Creative Economy Report 2016: 74)

“Creative Core”
The central element of the creative core is a concept of creativity that is closely related to artistic creation and therefore similar to that used in the “creative industries” approach. Beyond this narrow meaning, however, further fields and activities are aligned with the creative core: experiments, improvisations, the hacking of existing systems, critical engagements etc. can all take the shape of creative statements and processes depending on the context. Whether these are assigned creative status is not dependent on their belonging to particular disciplines, however. Their actual effect on culture, economy and technology is much more important. Actors engage with uncertain constellations, alternative models and new possibilities. However, this can take place in science labs as well as design agencies, in technological start ups or the indie theatre scene, at entrepreneurial initiatives or established companies, in new models of journalistic reporting as well as art exhibitions.

“Collocated Sphere”
The outer ring in the diagram includes those organisations and sectors that are not directly involved in the creative core in any particular context, but which provide the framework, e.g. infrastructure or finance, that is essential for an effective distribution, implementation and enforcement of new ideas, designs or concepts. They thus create the conditions that enable new approaches or alternative opportunities. The panels in Hongkong especially demonstrated how actors from the “collocated sphere” – property managers, insurance brokers or lawyers and policy makers – affect the “creative core”. It is also becoming clear how these actors themselves act creatively by significantly reducing or extending the parameters.

“Extended Sphere”
Between these two spheres, the model locates a broad spectrum of initiatives and organisations that see themselves neither as part of the “core” or the “collocated” spheres, but consciously act in the space between. Depending on the context, these belong more to the one sphere or the other, ensuring important, independent and sometimes extremely creative exchanges between the two. They therefore engage in multiple transfer and translation activities.

The categorization of actors, initiatives and practices within these spheres is not predetermined and stable, but rather assigned on a case-by-case basis and subject to constant change, re-evaluation and redefinition. For example, a game design studio can act as a “creative core” in collaboration with an entertainment company, be part of the “extended sphere” of an art project and belong to the “collocated sphere” of a research partnership or scientific laboratory.

Value creation in dynamic systems

These dynamics are central to understanding the multiple dimensions of value creation within creative economies. Value creation that runs transversally to the three spheres (“core”, “extendend” and “collocated”) forges connections between very diverse actors, because it permanently recombines aspects of creation, development, implementation, production, distribution, marketing, knowledge generation, communication or archiving.

An example: In her book “Reality is Broken” (2011) Jane McGonigal describes how the World Bank applies strategies of “massive online games” to develop solutions for bringing electricity to certain remote areas. Applied to the model, this means that value creation would extend from game design (in the “creative core”) to development cooperation (“extended”) to finance by the world bank (“collocated”).

Value creation therefore takes place in hybrid constellations that cut across traditional boundaries, for example between computer science and architecture, robotics and dance. Even established actors must constantly ask themselves where they can make a difference and achieve an impact. Our conversations with involved actors as well as the case studies demonstrate how these decisions are usually made in force fields that – depending on the point of view – consist of mutually exclusive poles or offer actors a territory in which to unfold the hybrid settings described above.

These force fields can be labelled and discussed in different ways. Central to the creative economies debate is the pair of concepts “singularity - mainstream”, where an actor negotiates to what extent a design or an initiative should remain unique and recognisable, or conversely how relevant it is to achieve a (broader) impact or to reach a (larger) public. A closely related force field is “global - local”, which is about the challenges facing organisations that wish to position themselves globally, while they are simultaneously expected to connect locally with their activities. While the force field “hardware - software” describes the relationship between framing conditions, such as infrastructure, and the actors which generate content within these conditions, the force field “public - private” centres on the role of the state versus other initiatives.

Consequences of the model

The following ideas resulted from the panels where the model was discussed:

Close integration of macro and micro perspectives: Since actors in the creative economies frequently shift between the spheres of the model, a constant interplay between macro and micro perspectives is essential in order to successfully identify alternative models for culture, economy or research that emerge in this ecosystem. An example for such an alternative model is the trend towards no longer separating “content” and “context”: that to create something new also means creating its organisational preconditions.

Develop new evaluation criteria: Exciting new value creation in this model would continuously interweave “core”, “extended” and “collocated” aspects, relating them to each other in previously unexpected ways. This would require a substantial discussion of how such value is evaluated and the mechanisms needed to do so. Central questions include: what role will the human factor play in judgements of quality, in a future defined by the increasing reach of intelligent algorithms? And what potential lies in a combination of the two, in models such as that of “smart curation” (proposed by Frédéric Martel)?

Integration replaces transfer: While the creative economy model was based on a “transfer” logic (creative occupations transfer into other sectors that are not themselves creative), the creative economies model develops a translation-oriented approach. The intermediary “extended” sphere becomes more central. Actors will become increasingly able to translate between fields and also seek the qualifications to replace transfer with translation. One challenge of these translation processes is that they will take place not just between different disciplines and economies but also between different cultures and traditions.

New forms of governance: In the extended model described here, politics, economy and the sciences are actively embedded in the dynamic value creation processes of the creative economies. It will therefore also require a reconceptualisation of governance.


Buurman, Gerhard M./Trueby, Stephan (eds.) (2014): Geldkulturen. München: Wilhelm Fink.

Grand, Simon/Weckerle, Christoph (2013): Die Zukunft der Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft wird von ihren Akteuren entworfen. In Hedinger, Johannes M./Meyer, Torsten (eds.) (2013): What’s next, Kunst nach der Krise. Berlin: Kadmos.

Grand, Simon (2016): Routines, Strategies and Management: Engaging for Recurrent Creation “at the Edge”. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

McGonigal, Jane (2011): Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Vintage.

Toma, Yann/Barrientos, Roe Marie (2008): Les entreprises critiques!/!Critical companies. Paris: CERAP Editions.

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