Who is missing from the picture? The problem of inequality in the creative economy and what we can do about it.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


Many constructions of the creative economy are celebratory. The creative economy is lauded as a provider of economic growth and good, well paid, jobs. This is alongside the role of the creative economy in a whole range of policy and practice areas, including education, regeneration, and diplomacy. However, as the research giving rise to this proposal has demonstrated, the creative economy is also the site for significant exclusions and inequalities. These include the gender, class and racial character of both production and consumption in the creative economy.
Who is missing? follows on from several AHRC funded research projects to consolidate work on the creative economy that has focused on the question of inequality. Moreover, the consolidation of this research will aim to offer approaches to challenge and change the structures of the creative economy that act to exclude. This follow on funding proposal aims to strengthen existing partnerships between academic experts on inequality and campaigning organisations; to disseminate the existing findings of research developed as part of several AHRC funded projects; to co-create new knowledge with organisations working to transform the unequal character of the creative economy; and to exploit existing research activities that will develop organisational, policy making, and practitioner capacity to respond to creative economy inequality. The project consists of three distinct, but complementary, work packages that address the dissemination, co-creation and research exploitation objectives detailed in this outline.
The roots of the project are based in two longstanding and successful partnerships between academic researchers working on AHRC funded projects and organisations within the Creative Economy. The first partnership, between the PI and Co-I and Create London, an arts development organisation, resulted in the Panic! Whatever Happened to Social Mobility in the Arts? Project. The second partnership is between the PI and Co-I and Arts Emergency, a charity that supports young people aged 16-19 from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers and education in the arts and then into the creative economy. This has been a four year working relationship informing Arts Emergency's use of academic research for media and public campaigning, as well as shaping their use of data and research in their practice.
The project starts by thinking through the needs of the partners for data and research. Work Package 1 (WP1) is focused on co-creating a set of approaches to disseminate the existing research findings in ways that are understandable to public, policy and, most crucially, practice audiences.
The second work package (WP2) responds directly to the needs of these organisations for data and research. WP2 will work with Arts Emergency to understand those aspiring to be part of the creative economy, along with re-interrogating existing research data to understand how current inequalities within the creative economy have changed over time. This latter point was the focus of the Panic! Project and Create London, alongside the academic team, are keen to develop and disseminate these findings more widely, particularly to audiences at Arts Council England and Creative Scotland (who have offered letters of support) and the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Work package 3 (WP3) takes up the dissemination activity for the project, with a PDF publication from Arts Emergency called Who is missing from the Picture: The problem of inequality and what we can do about it. This will be launched at a series of events, delivered by Create London, and produced by the young people working with Arts Emergency (paid as part of the research project), thus taking the research base beyond the academy whilst developing the skills, and the profile, of those aspiring to be part of the creative economy.

Planned Impact

Impact is at the heart, and is the purpose, of Who is missing from the picture: The problem of inequality and what we can do about it. The project is framed through co-production as an evolution of knowledge exchange. The eventual impact will be to change the terms of debate around the creative economy, giving pause for thought to those celebratory discourses, whilst enabling more critically engaged voices. At the same time, there will be a practical impact on the lives of young people engaged in delivering the project. The pathway for these impacts, broad and narrow, public and personal is as follows. WP1 creates the impact between the academics and the organisations, strengthening the existing partnership. These conversations, alongside support from ACE and Creative Scotland (letters of support attached), will develop organisational research capacity and set out the plans for the subsequent events. Crucially, WP2 is designed around the co-production of new knowledge based on existing, AHRC project funded, data, in the form of a summary report. In keeping with both Create and Arts Emergency's experience of campaigning on traditional and social media, the form of the report will focus on short, easy to access and easy to replicate sections, subsections and visuals, with the outcome of a viral impact across public debates over inequality in the creative economy. Here the production of an easily accessible report (hosted on the partners, as well as the two academic's websites) will set the stage for the engagement plans in WP3. This will be a series of public events, taking place, for example, during the Edinburgh Festival and at The Barbican (letter of support attached from The Barbican), along with other locations chosen as part of developing the programme. The programme will also reflect the approach to co-creation, whereby the programme has not been totally designed in advance and the interactions between organisations, participants and academics will shape the outcome and impact. The requested budget reflects the expertise of the partners in delivering major public engagement campaigns, including press, photography, social media, video and web materials, and posters, alongside the usual costs of speaker fees and venue booking. The delivery of the events and report will engage Arts Emergency's participants, all of whom will be paid and will develop skills, experience, and networks that research has shown are essential to getting in and getting on in the creative economy. This will be an important individual impact, whilst the paid labour from the participants will deliver the more public facing elements with Create London. Here the participants will have access to training workshops, as well as more hands on roles in design, production and delivery. There will also be the opportunity to develop social media skills with both the academics and the organisations as training, events and the report come to fruition.

Finally, reflecting both the PI and Co-I's experience on Connected Communities projects, there will be an academic paper reflecting on the experience of co-producing a public and policy engagement programme, and an academic paper summarising, if any, research findings on inequality in the creative economy. A final, additional, but often overlooked, impact will be on the academics themselves, who will learn from the project partners in the course of co-production. In particular the research assistant will gain valuable experience of working in partnership with non-academic arts organisations, how to engage different, non-academic audiences, and how to think through the interrogation of research findings from the point of view of those outside the academy. All of these are essential and important career development opportunities for an early career researcher.


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