South African Cultural Observatory

A roaring end to SACO’s second year

BY Richard Haines 30.03.17

THE South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) has completed its second year of operation – and we are truly coming into our own. As it should be, year two was incredibly busy as we ramped up to deliver a full suite of research; a wider compliment of staff operating nationally; and increasing partnerships across the arts, culture, heritage (ACH) sectors, the cultural and creative industries (CCI) and the public and private sector. 

The SACO team has really pulled out all the stops and we have some really compelling research on the table that is likely to influence both policy and practice across the sector. I am extremely proud of the analytical thinking we are generating as a think tank. Two key pieces stand out immediately.

Firstly the concept note for the establishment of the CCI Index for South Africa. The development of a CCI Index for South Africa makes logical sense; as it will support the regular collection of such data and provide credible information on which to make policy, strategy, planning and funding decisions. The rationale for the establishment of such an index was mapped out in the past quarter with the aim of help policy formulation and raising the profile of CCIs in South Africa. The concept note will be shared early in the next quarter and it is compelling reading for the greater industry.  

 Then, the SACO is also just about to publish a piece on ‘Realising the Economy of the Imagination and the Creative and Cultural Industries: Options for South Africa’, which outlines the potential for establishing creative clusters; and for simultaneously leveraging off existing South African ingenuity while creating an environment or milieu for innovation. This essentially entails the creation of the conditions that inspire an ‘economy of the imagination’ and leverages off the CCIs and ACH sectors. This approach could and should be woven into policy and the current review of the White Paper on Arts and Culture – and integrates well with the National Development Plan and other policies that have inter-governmental reach.

The other major focus of the past quarter has also, unsurprisingly, been the SACO’s second National Conference 2017, which takes place on the 24 and 25 May – Africa Day – at the Turbine Hall in the Newtown Precinct, Johannesburg, South Africa.

We have just announced our top international speakers list today – and in the next two weeks will also announce the top Africa and national speakers filling out our programme. Our international headliners include:

  • Professor Lluis Bonet, Director of the Cultural Management Programme, from the University of Barcelona, a leading authority in cultural economics;
  • Professor Erez Lieberman Aiden, Director of the Rice University Culturnomics Cultural Observatory in Houston (formerly Harvard Cultural Observatory);
  • Geoffrey Wood, Professor of International Business, at the University of Essex;
  • Andres Gribnicow, Creative Economy Undersecretary at the Argentinian Ministry of Culture.

The call for papers and presentations under the conference’s major guiding theme ‘The Creative Economy & Development – Perspectives from Developed and Emerging Economies’ – is still open until tomorrow, 31 March 2017 at 5pm.

Conference registration is open until April 28. Visit our conference website for more information, to submit an abstract or to register to attend: 

Update on SACO activities

Aside from a strong focus on the National Conference and developing research, we have also been busy. We recently awarded seven scholarships and bursaries to promising young scholars doing research across the CCIs and ACH sectors. Read more about the exciting research they are pursuing  here.

Then, we also appointed a database coordinator, Jan-Carel van der Linde, who has already made great strides in helping the SACO rationalise its database and apply geographic information systems mapping to our current data set. In the 2017/18 financial year we will launch a comprehensive mapping study, and JC’s contribution to this process will be invaluable. Meet him  here.

The other major project we have been working, led by Prof Jen Snowball is the South African Festivals Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC) – a free online tool developed by the SACO specifically for cultural festival and event organisers so they can track the economic impact of their events. The SAFEIC is designed to be used to estimate the economic impact of a festival on a host economy. It has been carefully, and conservatively, designed so as to produce results that are as reliable and valid as possible for a wide range of events – provided the data that is inputted is as accurate as possible. We will launch this in the coming months.

Our research suite will be available early in April and we will start to share updates about the products, so keep reading our newsletter, website and like us on our social media platforms.

Until then, enjoy the March edition of The Cultural Observer.

Your Culturalist,

Prof. Richard Haines

South African Cultural Observatory: CEO



#SACOConf2017 - it's a wrap!#SACOConf2017 - it's a wrap!

THE #SACOConf2017 was a real celebration of the current and future potential of the creative economy. Please enjoy this special edition newsletter which focuses on highlighting some of the speeches and insights offered - and which also covers the emerging trends, the critical debates and access to the presentations.

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IT’S ALL systems go for the second South African Cultural Observatory National Conference on May 24 and 25 in Johannesburg. We are very excited to present a dynamic and varied programme – featuring a wide range of global, African and local speakers and perspectives; especially since it’s Africa Day on May 25.


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THE theme for our May 2017 conference could not have come at a better time. Post the South African 2017 budget speech, when accounting, fiscal frugality and money are on our minds – there is no better time to talk economy, development and the role of the creative sectors in stimulating both of these critical elements.

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IT’S A New Year and there is a lot to be achieved in the upcoming months across the arts, culture, and heritage sectors and the creative and cultural industries. For example, we have a strong working draft of the Revised White Paper (RWP) on Arts & Culture (2016) on the table and the entire industry must offer their inputs to strengthen the policy framework which will inform debates regarding our industry for years to come.


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