South African Cultural Observatory

Changing the world

BY 31.07.17

NELSON Mandela once said: ‘I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.’ In July the incredible leader was front and centre as we not only celebrated his birthday through the now globally renowned 67 Minutes and Mandela Day initiative, but also in the re-naming of Nelson Mandela University.

As the South African Cultural Observatory we are proud to be hosted by the Nelson Mandela University, which exemplifies the values of such a great leader, however human he was, underpinned by the universitiy's core values: Respect for diversity; excellence; Ubuntu; integrity; responsibility; and respect for the natural environment.

Changing the world

All this change at the university has got me thinking about how go about changing the world – and nurturing a more creative, tolerant world. I have been reading extensively about the impact of automation and the fourth industrialisation will have – and in fact already is having – on the future of work.

Basically, the reality is that we will need to start trade in the currency of ideas. For this we need creativity more than ever, to both survive and thrive in this future. This is something Prof Jen Snowball, SACO Chief Research Strategist alluded to in her recent article on creative industry employment which featured in Business Day: Culture and creativity have the X factor that can fire up economy.

But it is also about the values Nelson Mandela was so fond of: excellence, leadership, integrity – knowing when to do the right thing, when to turn the other cheek, when to act and when to watch.

The interesting thing is that in large measure the creative industries have long been primed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have worked precariously, done freelance, had to build micro-businesses that thrive on networks, we have had to cluster and bunker down, and weather storms coming out of them with innovative ideas. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is perhaps our industry's greatest opportunity.

How are we going to turn it from potential to reality? This will become the leadership quest, I believe, of our time - and it's something we need a good research grounding in to take advantage of. We hope the SACO is starting to yeild some of the information needed to help us make the decisions which will shape our and others' futures as we enter into a brave new time where we can change the world. 

Update on SACO activities

July has been flush with activity. Our domain workshop series launched this month in East London, which has been our biggest yet with over 100 people attending the event.

 In the lead up to the domains, we invested heavily in developing a world class presentation platform to introduce the SA Cultural Observatory, Prezi, the completion of our biographical database survey to map the industry and improve our database; and a training video for the South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator which we recently launched. Watch this space, we will share with you soon. 

We also hosted the Argentinian Ambassador Javier Figeuroa with whom we are looking to sign a technical cooperation agreement to share best practices in cultural and creative economy development.

The SACO also attended a number of important meetings and conferences this month, most notably the Gauteng Infrastructure Investment Conference and the Arts & Culture Trust/ University of Johannesburg Creative Conference where we both presented and participated in the debates shaping South Africa's creative industries specifically and the broader socio-economic milieu more generally.  We also attended the National Arts Festival and our staff celebrated Mandela Day by packing food for 67, minutes with Food Forward. We have been busy. 

Research Update

Research is one of the things we need to have the knowledge that will change the world. It’s our core focus for our third and final year of our contract with the Department of Arts and Culture. Our priority is now almost entirely on delivering our major research outcomes.

We have been in the process of appointing service providers to run a number of our third year research deliverables, including a mapping study. We will make an announcement in this regard next month.

Watch this space as we reach out to you as a sector and industry to participate in mapping the existing and future potential of the creative and cultural economy. 

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

Your Culturalist,

Prof. Richard Haines

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