IT is said that to be human is to be creative. So, what does creativity mean exactly?
In his book titled Human Motivation, Robert Franken defines creativity as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining oneself and others. Franken provides three reasons why people are motivated to be creative. One, people have a need for novel, varied, and complex stimulations. Two, people have a need to communicate ideas and values. Three, people have a need to solve problems. To be creative, one must be able to view things in new ways or from different perspectives. Among other things, one needs to be able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives.
In relation to economics, the so-called creative economy, as explained by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), is an evolving concept that builds on the interplay between human creativity and ideas and intellectual property, knowledge, and technology. Essentially, the creative economy refers to the knowledge-based economic activities upon which the creative industries are based.
The UNCTAD notes that the creative industries—which include advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, television, and radio—are the lifeblood of the creative economy. They are also considered an important source of commercial and cultural value. The creative economy is, therefore, the sum of all the parts of the creative industries, including trade, labor, and production.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) cites the creative economy as one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the world and currently accounts for about 3 percent of global gross domestic product. One of the unique features of the creative economy is the dual nature of the value it creates—both through physical manifestations of creativity (e.g., films, paintings, and books) and intangible expressions of creativity (e.g., dance, music, and performances). As an economic model dependent on the monetization of ideas, the protection of intellectual property becomes a decisive factor for the growth of the creative economy.
Moreover, the Unesco notes that at the heart of the creative economy are cultural and creative industries, which operate at the crossroads of arts, culture, commerce, and technology. CCIs generate about $2.25 trillion annually and employ about 30 million people worldwide. They are also the biggest job providers for workers aged 18 to 25—making them the industries of tomorrow.
Tragically, however, Covid-19 has exposed pre-existing vulnerabilities within the culture sector. Owing to its heavy reliance on venues and shared experiences, the sector has been among the hardest hit by Covid-19. Cultural tourism suffered a double blow of travel restrictions and physical distancing measures. For instance, according to the International Council of Museums, nearly 13 percent of museums may never reopen. Many small creative enterprises and organizations, lacking cash reserves or endowments, are fighting for their survival. Due to the mostly informal nature of employment in the sector, many freelance and part-time workers have slipped through the cracks of conventional social safety nets.
Nevertheless, Covid-19 has also accelerated paradigm shifts and reinforced some positive trends, particularly in the areas of e-commerce, digital marketing, digital content streaming, digital conferencing, and remote working, which, together, are opening new opportunities for creative industries and creative freelancers. In the Philippines, for instance, House Bill 8101 (An Act Providing for the Promotion and Development of the Philippine Creative Industries and Providing Funds Therefor) aims to, among other things, push for the digitization of Philippine creative industries.
In particular, HB 8101 seeks to create a Philippine Creative Industry Development Council that will, in partnership with the DICT, provide access to digital services and digital training platforms for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises and freelancers in the creative industries. Technical and financial assistance will be provided to Filipino entities that will endeavor to create digital content distribution platforms that benefit the creative industries. Dedicated high-speed infrastructure and bandwidth will also be provided to Internet service providers in the creative industries.
Indeed, these could well be wise investments in training and technology. As many argue, there will most likely be no return to normal, as Covid-19 appears to have permanently reshaped the way people live and work. Some of the behaviors developed in this crisis—including wide-scale digital adoption—will most likely outlast the pandemic, well after restrictions on activities are lifted.
In reference again to Franken’s definition of creativity, the accelerated digitization of the creative industries nicely illustrates how human beings can manage to use their God-given intelligence to satisfy their different needs, which include communication, self-expression, entertainment, and even economic survival. After all, it takes creativity to conquer a crisis.
Dr. Ser Percival K. Peña-Reyes is the Associate Director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development.