South African Cultural Observatory

#SACOConf2017 - it's a wrap!

BY Richard Haines 31.05.17

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. 


I am incredibly proud of what I believe to have been a fantastic second National Conference at the Turbine Hall on May 24 and 25. We worked hard to ensure there was a wide diversity of views and insights from around the world but also with a specific focus on perspectives from emerging economies and particularly the African viewpoint. Then, we also endeavoured to ensure that we had a solid mix of researchers and practitioners and academics and artists – and I think this kept us all ‘honest’ and grounded in the reality of the creative economy from the ground up, to the ultimate figures and contributions. From a programming point of view, the conference was definitely a success.

One of our greatest challenges as the Cultural Observatory is people – and the industry itself – understanding our role and purpose. In general, the arts, culture and heritage sectors and the creative and cultural industries tend to be quite rightly sceptical of the ‘numbers game’ – and this was again evident in some of the critique levelled at particularly economic standpoints presented at the conference. Equally however, I think the real work of deepening and understanding the need to think of the ACH sectors and the CCIs collectively as the valuable and valid industry it is, is gathering needed momentum. This means we are supporting a more holistic view of the industry – and all the parts of its sum – which certainly add up to numbers, but also contribute to diversity of thinking, critique, creativity, social cohesion and a range of other factors.

Some of the SACO research presented at the conference really sums up the direction of both qualitative and quantitative work we are doing. I encourage you to visit the SACO online library and review the presentations given at the conference and some of the work we have been doing. Take a look at:

  1. My presentation and joint paper with Amy Shelver, Unathi Lutshaba and Njabulo Sithebe on the ‘Economy of the Imagination’ and ‘Reflexive Development Policy and the New Creative Economy’.
  2. Dr Sybert Liebenberg’s presentation on the National Research Agenda.
  3. Prof Jen Snowball and Serge Hasidi’s presentation on ‘Cultural Employment in South Africa’.
  4. Dr Teresa Connor’s presentation on ‘Rural Cultural Policy in South Africa: analysis, parameters and definitions’.
  5. Fiona Drummond and Prof Jen Snowball’s paper and presentation on ‘Regional Development and the cultural and creative industries in the Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape of South Africa’.
  6. Raymond Ndhlovu’s presentation on ‘Developing a regional cultural policy, guidelines for areas without big cities’.

And others in our library – including an outlined for the development of a Creative and Cultural Industry Index.

Those of you at the conference would have noticed our new brand is alive and strong – please enjoy the fresher look and feel of the South African Cultural Observatory brand. Your comments on it are also welcome. 

South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator 

We marked a critical event the day before the conference – and at the conference itself: the launch of our South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC). The SAFEIC is a free online tool developed by the South African Cultural Observatory 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.

The SAFEIC was developed by two experienced cultural economists: Prof Bruce Seaman from Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, and our own Prof Jen Snowball, SACO Chief Research Strategist. The tool is based on a regional economic impact calculator developed specifically for cultural events in the United States, and adapted for South Africa with the assistance of the original modeller.  I commend both Prof Snowball and Prof Seaman on the fantastic final calculator which is a phenomenal and empowering tool that will help South African event and festival organisers do what they have been unable to afford and generate before – economic impact. Please test out the calculator, it really is incredible.

Update on SACO activities

May was consumed by the final touches on the conference planning and the conference itself, but there is much also happening in the background as we start our research and commissioning process for the 2017/18 Mapping Study, and our monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) sectors. Here is a summary of the focal points for our research

In 2017/18 the SACO will complete a mapping study on:


Jobs and Employment


Contribution to GDP


Transformation and Ownership


Social Cohesion


Location and Clustering


Macro Mapping Study


In 2017/18 will also focus on M&E of the MGE, including:


‘Festivals and Events’ funding category of the MGE

Provincial events funded by the MGE

‘Touring Ventures’ funding category of the MGE

‘Public Art’ funding category of the MGE

‘Miscellaneous’ funding category of the MGE

Policy Recommendations

M & E KDI Report on the Cape Town Carnival

Interactive GIS Map of funding provided by MGE

Monitoring and Evaluation of MGE


Indeed, we are also about to start a countrywide domain workshop series from early July – so watch the press on that front.

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

Your Culturalist,

Prof. Richard Haines

South African Cultural Observatory: CEO


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