We are lacking the necessary survival skills in the cultural and creative sector – a personal experience

by | 15 Jan, 2018 | 0 comments

We are lacking the necessary survival skills in the cultural and creative sector – a personal experience

We live in an era of radical new economic demands and environmental changes.   These demands require new ways of thinking, as such cultural and creative organisations have to adjust and adapt to in order to survive.

Complete changes in patterns of community needs, audience requirements, generational and demographic changes, new forms of resource development and advancements in technology have shown that the old ways of doing things to promote organisational stability now need to be balanced by equally strong new ways of adaptability.  If cultural and creative organisations are to survive they need to proactively seize opportunities for change instead of merely reacting, they need to adapt, and adapt quickly. But in order to identify opportunities they need to know what constitutes an opportunity, and critically, how you can plan, validate and implement them.

Now that culture has been added as one of the cornerstones of the EU it means that more than ever cultural and creative organisations must have the necessary entrepreneurial and business skills needed to deliver on their vision.

It has been finally realised not only in the EU but also in Ireland that the Creative and Cultural Industries are among the fastest growing and most vibrant industries with huge economic potential. The Creative and Cultural Industries provides employment to over 7 million people and generates 4.2% of the EU GDP (equivalent to what the EU28 collectively spend on Education).

85% of people working in the Creative and Cultural Industries are Freelancers (self-employed) and micro-businesses (1-3 employees).  A report by Graduate Prospects published in the UK in 2005 showed that “whilst only 2.3% of all first degree graduates had become self-employed in the 6 months after graduation, over a third (36.8%) of these had studied creative arts and design subjects.”

Despite the common knowledge that self-employment and freelance work require very specific entrepreneurial skill sets, attitudes and competencies there is a common perception that entrepreneurship training for students of arts, design and media and similar creative programmes is heavily neglected and under-developed in the current Higher Education and Further Education curriculum.

Many feel that their degree courses do not adequately prepare them for careers in the Creative and Cultural Industries as freelancers or small business owners. They are not attracted by traditional forms of business and entrepreneurial training instead they require sector-specific, contextualised learning experiences that allow them to link creative practice with commercial realities.

As a personal example, in September 2009 my partner Monika and myself opened the Centre for Creative Practices with the ambition to run an independent, non-commercial arts centre that was sustainable. Now I have to say it did not work out the way we intended but we learned a lot about sustainability, or rather the lack of it in the creative sector along the way.

The Centre for Creative Practices soon became known is the only arts organisation in Ireland dedicated to connecting, integrating and promoting migrant, experimental and emerging creatives among the local creative scene.  We were winners of the Arthur Guinness Fund in 2012, named in the Purpose Economy 100 for Europe in 2014, awarded the Multicultural Company of the Year and Shortlisted as Dublin’s Gallery of the Year both in 2011. We received financial support from the Arts Council of Ireland and Dublin City Council.

We ran on average 15 events per month, a total of over 700 events during the lifespan of the centre and engaged with around 1,500 creatives and 16,000 audiences. And it took us almost three years to price our concert tickets at €10 and to increase our venue hire rent to an “extortionate” €120 per day.

We were afraid to take risks, we didn’t have the education, the skills to run a business, we had never heard of, let lone produced a business plan.  We were afraid of failure, afraid to realistically price our work, afraid people wouldn’t come, afraid that people couldn’t afford it. But we were also afraid to ask them, we just assumed it. We worked in the creative sector and it was more about showing something than making a living from it, or so we thought.

However, through our contact with over 1500 artists we realised that well over 90% of them suffered from the same conditions and false notions that we did.  We were not alone, most of the sector lacked the skills to run a successful creative business or build a sustainable career. Therefore our overriding mission became to acknowledge the fact that we all needed help, irrespective of where on the path we are.

What we need is a new model, one that puts the role of creatives and their ability to make a living wage at the forefront of Creative Education. But what do we need to do to get from where we are at the moment, to one where creatives are making a living wage?  Because as Tim Knight says “Everyone and every organisation is perfectly designed to get the results they are getting.”

What skills do we lack? Based on a recent survey by the Arts Council of Ireland four factors predominate:

  • lack of financial skills
  • marketing services and attracting new clients
  • basic business administration skills
  • and finally the ability to raise investment or funding.

Also in relation to developing or continuing their careers they say the biggest needs are access to external expertise and education, access to money and access to resources.

We need to encourage cultural and creative leaders and their staff to explore the power of education and personal development, to share good practices amongst colleagues and co-workers, and bring back their learned knowledge to communities, organisations and eco-systems.

The organisations that are thriving and continuing to deliver real value are the ones that are increasing their emphasis on innovation and adaptive change.  These are the ones who are strengthening their adaptive capabilities allowing them to ideate, innovate and adapt.  We need more of these cultural and creative organisations to thrive so that they can fulfil their remit of challenging people to inspire and get inspired, to change lives, and most critically, to open minds.  We need them to adapt, not die!



Now CFCP is one of the European leaders in creative entrepreneurship training. We have developed and implemented physical and online training programmes, and mentoring in the creative industries for over 1000 creatives and 250 creative organisations since 2013.


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Creative Entrepreneurs Summit 2018 

Ashford, Co Wicklow: 30 November - 2 December 2018

Early Bird: €200 - till the 1 November 2018 Standard: €300

The Creative Entrepreneurs Summit 2018 takes place 30 Nov to 2 Dec. A mixture of workshops, talks, activities all around developing your creative career

This practical 2.5-day Entrepreneurship Programme for Creatives has been especially designed for all those who want to set up, run or further develop their own creative business, organisation or project in a professional and sustainable way.

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Developing a sustainable business model, understanding and articulating competitive advantage and unique selling points, defining value proposition, identifying go to market strategy and long term business goals will be the focus for the programme.

Participants can expect:

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The training will be delivered by experienced tutors combining their own creative backgrounds with years of running creative businesses and teaching entrepreneurship to creatives.

The programme, initiated by the Centre for Creative Practices in Dublin in 2013, has been attended by over 800 creative entrepreneurs in Ireland and Europe, earning enthusiastic reviews and helping creative practitioners to successfully grow their business, organisation or project.

These 2.5 days will be the best investment you have made in your creative career!


Creative Thinking and Co-Creation Techniques

1 day workshop
Ashford, Co. Wicklow
13 August 2018

Early Bird: €150
Standard: €250

By using a number of creative thinking techniques we will give practical examples of how you can take ideas from conception to reality. Based around the frameworks of  PO statements to "Yes, and..." we will look to develop out of the box creative solutions for real World problems.  We will look at a three stage work-flow taking us from idea generation, through validating the idea and testing.  We will look at a three stage work-flow taking us from idea generation, through validating the idea and testing.

Creative Business Model Development

1 day workshop
Ashford, Co. Wicklow
10 September 2018

Early Bird: €85
Standard: €125

The workshop will help you to answer all your strategic questions and to define the backbone of your creative business. It helps you to prepare a smart plan for the short, medium and also the long term perspective of your creative business.

Value Proposition Design

1 day workshop
15 October 2018

Early Bird: €85
Standard: €125

To run any successful business you need a clearly defined VALUE PROPOSITION that explains how your product/service solves your customers’ problem, need or improves their situation. A Value Proposition allows you to define who your customers are and to offer them what they really want. It also helps to secure grant aid or private investment.

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June 2018
Course Cost: €150

Whether you are a graduate, or looking to develop your creative career this course will give you clarity, focus and a roadmap to work from. During the course we ​will look at your purpose,​ ​your niche,​ ​your dream job or career position​ ​and identify​ the steps you need to take to reach your goal.


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