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Creative Citizens

The Creative Citizens research project helped shape our thinking about Creative Cardiff and the Creative Economy Project.

It began life in a ‘sand-pit’ event at Birmingham University in the autumn of 2010, where almost 100 people - academics and those interested in working with academics - got together to explore ideas relevant to the Connected Communities programme, then recently launched by the UK research funding councils.

Out of the sandpit came a potential coalition of researchers, some ideas about partners and a theme.

In the following weeks, this sharpened to a project entitled Media, Community and the Creative Citizen, which asked the following research question: ‘how does creative citizenship generate value for communities within a changing media landscape; and how can this pursuit of value be intensified, propagated and sustained?’

Chair of Digital Economy at Cardiff University, Professor Ian Hargreaves, led a team from six universities: Cardiff University, University of Birmingham, Open University, Royal College of Art, Birmingham City University and Bristol UWE.

Research sites were identified in London, Birmingham, Bristol and South Wales, shaped around three themes: community journalism, creative networks and community planning and design.

Partners included Glasshouse Community Led Design, Nesta, Ofcom, Talk About Local, South Blessed, the Moseley Community Development Trust, The Mill (Walthamstow), Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum and the Wards Corner Coalition.

We used a wide mix of research techniques; including surveys and interviews but with a particular focus upon co-created media ideas such as the application of web-based design to community planning procedures, and reverse-engineering from digital activities to physical media in local news. We ran countless events and interventions, ranging from a murder mystery experience to digitally visualised maps of community assets.

Lessons from the project

Lessons from the project that we have applied in our Cardiff-based creative economy work include:

  • In the creative economy, collaboration is king. Collaboration and co-creation between researchers and partners outside the university is demanding but value-adding when you get it right. Agreement, shared purpose and mutual understanding are what given creatively generated citizenship moves their novelty, legitimacy and power.
  • Digital media are essential to effective community interventions, so learn and use them. But don’t be afraid to modify digital media to your own needs and tastes or to ditch them if that is what user feedback says.
  • Both universities and communities have a part to play. Universities are important in the creative economy because they are vast sources of knowledge, experience and energy. But communities also have knowledge which is also essential for successful research. Respect!

If you would like to find out more about the Creative Citizens research project, the archived project website provides lots of leads.

Our book The Creative Citizen Unbound: how social media and DIY culture contribute to democracy, communities and the creative economy (ed. Hargreaves I and Hartley J) was published by Policy Press in 2016.

If you wonder what an old-fashioned book is doing in an aggressively digital world, try this online article: Creative Citizenship by the book: everyone, everything, everywhere.