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Think Creatively to Develop the Caribbean

Economic growth is always a topic of concern in the Caribbean. While not all of the countries in our region may have resources such as oil, we all have something of economic value that can diversify and contribute to growth – creativity. Creativity is a process that transforms and connects ideas to increase the value of goods or services and is an inherent part of art, business and science. Moreover, creative industries have been one of the most dynamic sectors in global economic development and, in several countries, have grown faster than the national economy.

Not only do creative economies develop and trade on ideas, imagination and innovation, research shows that they also fuel job creation and trade, reinforce cultural identity, develop human capital and promote social cohesion and sustainable development.

The right people are critical to this development. Economist Richard Florida posits that creative people share “a common creative ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference and merit.” To Florida, they are individuals who resist traditional organisational structures in favour of creating their own norms and relevant structures. They revel in diversity and complexity, are flexible, open and unrestricted by geographic, social or cultural dimensions.

Admittedly, cities with high population densities may have an easier task of growing creative industries, however, it is important to just be in a city where such people can live, work, socialise and easily transfer knowledge. These collaborations are a key part of building clusters that support creative economy development. In the Caribbean, we need cities where there is a broad economic appreciation of culture, things to do, and connectivity of people.

In order to grow this kind of economy, private and public sector recognition of the economic value of creative assets should be bolstered by policies and legislation. Creative goods and services should be marketed to both locals and tourists, raising the standard of the assets produced and potentially promoting trade within the Caribbean and around the world.

In small island nations where tourism is a major industry, I propose that we consider ways in which to develop the creative economy not just to supply consumers of goods and services but also as a co-creator of the destination brand for our unique countries.

Art at Baha Mar, is a creative initiative at Baha Mar, the $3.5 billion resort under construction in Nassau, The Bahamas, which enables local artists to submit individual or collaborative concepts for art projects at the resort. Initiatives such as these help to develop the creative economy of the country by building connections between the private sector and the wider creative community, enhancing the quality of creative output and expanding the market for creative goods. It also pushes a paradigm shift about The Bahamas thus enhancing the internal and external brand in terms of its aptitude for innovation and creativity as well as its potential for economic development.

Changing how we embrace creativity can nurture our ability to generate ideas from within thereby making us more self-reliant. If we really want to grow the region, make the business case for creative people to stay in the Caribbean and to contribute to its economic, cultural and social development. There can be a great return on the investment.

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