Complex cultural ecologies: capturing value through connections between public, private and not-for-profit organisations in the creative economy

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Culture Media and Creative Industries


What I propose is an approach rooted in the Complexity Thinking framework (Comunian, 2011), enriched with the Panarchy model (Holling, 2001), which I think would guarantee a challenging yet complete comprehension of the cultural ecology in the city of London and its artists, the platforms they aggregate in and the impact and influences they have on the social and economic tissues of the city, with a particular focus on how each of the element shape and it is shaped by the other networks, with the exchange and overlapping of the micro, meso and macro dimension the CT fully describes.
This holistic approach at the complex, multi-layered web of networks - whether it is composed of nested adaptive cycle as the Panarchy model states or not - is the only one capable of giving a significant insight in an ecology, far distant from a deterministic, mechanistic, and therefore limited, framework and concept of the "chain", already questioned in the manufacture literature with the Global Production Network (Gereffi, Korzeniewicz, 1994).
More than one author (Chapain & Comunian 2010; Grahber 2002; Holden, 2015) has already empirically showed that abandoning the dated, siloed vision of processes in the cultural production, in its phases, levels and social networks, can explain motivations and directions of all the relationship that make a cultural ecology a living system.
As a further reason to prefer this kind of holistic approach, the ultimate aim of the project is to understand the relationship between PFCOs and CIs and, broadly, the effects of the current public funds through all the ecosystem. Even if the concept of spill over has already been doubted (Holden, 2015) it is still unclear which dynamics are enhanced and which are hampered from the distribution of public money. In the impossibility of making a generalisation, given the centrality of locality in a cultural production ecology, the beforementioned mapping of the London ecosystem is the only valid way to understand this kind of dynamics.
As said in the project description, main PFCOs would be the first subjects to be studied. Central hubs of the whole city-network, they would give most the "spatial" information needed to reconstruct the dense relationships between different PFCOs and between PFCOs and CIs.
The "Ecology of Culture" report (Holden, 2015), as well as the work of Pratt (2015) and Holling (2001), brings empirically proof to the thesis that a healthy ecosystem is a flexible, adaptive and, ultimately, a resilient ecosystem. The question this research should answer is if the current - and past - public funding policy has led the Londoner cultural ecology toward a rigid or a resilient situation.
Both Holling and the Report authors give a series of indicators - or "vital signs" - of a resilient ecosystem, such as the variety and numbers of different types of cultural actors, whether they are increasing or decreasing, whether new forms are emerging, if the supply network is sustainable in extended period of time and if the ecology is proving to be generative, with its complexity increasing in time.
Though not taking these measures as a strict list of prescription to follow, I think they are a good index of reference points on which the research should base the evaluation of the networks and the effectiveness of the policy of public funding in avoiding what Holling calls a "rigidity trap" (Holling, 2001), opposite situation of a dynamic, fluid and creative local cultural ecosystem.
The methodology that has already been tested with excellent results from all the quoted researches is based on semi constructed interview suitable to understand the ethos of the actors animating the ecology, the nature of the relationships between them and institutions and organizations; their users, participants and audience; the nature of local funders and government, foundations and trusts; the audience experience and the critical response to the work on offer.


10 25 50