Creativity in small rural towns

Kappeln/ Schlei - Small town in Northern Germany where I lived my teenager time

Creativity is seen as a factor in the current development. In the past the territory’s economic success depended on the availability of natural resources or infrastructure, but with the natural advantages are given and limited infrastructure and loses its relative importance as it advances across the board. This identified the presence of creative people and innovative, able to generate new growth through the invention and recombination as a critical success factor of a city or region.

Richard Florida (2009) speaks of the “creative class”, i.e. a “bohemian edge” are employees of new technologies, artists, musicians and other people different and innovative, which are concentrated in certain large cities in the world . He postulates that the creative class fosters personal and professional environment open and dynamic. This environment, in turn, attracts more creative people and businesses and capital. Finally creative people create competitive advantage and long-term prosperity.

Faced with these poles of attraction rural towns often have the disadvantage that their gifted and creative young people tend to seek his future away from his hometown. This brain drain is a major challenge for rural areas, because these streams contain the risk of cementing the disconnection with economic development. However, there are several examples of rural towns faced this challenge and made successful strategies not only to stem the brain drain but to attract new creative people.
Kim Huston (2011) explains in his book “Small Town Sexy” how small towns are attractive to young and creative leveraging their differences to large cities. People there is a quieter surroundings, closeness to nature and cheaper living costs a slower lifestyle and community. While it is important that these sites also offer good educational institutions, cultural and commercial offer attractive.
The Internet broadcast around the world certainly benefit rural towns. Equipped with a computer and a broadband connection can connect to any remote location with the most advanced knowledge and its protagonists. Of course, the infrastructure is not everything and remains a challenge in many rural towns of profiting more.

Florida emphasizes the tolerance factor. A city will be able to contain and attract people truly creative when accepting different forms and expressions of life. People supposedly “different”, for example homosexuals or immigrants, often prefer the big cities for their higher degree of tolerance, anonymity and the possibility of finding pairs. There rural towns requires extra effort for openness and integration to benefit from a diversity of talents.

In short, rural towns have structural disadvantages compared to large cities to attract creative people. It is not advisable to try to compete with the same forms and strategies in large cities, but it should look attractive and unique differential. If you cannot attract the real creative bohemians to the small rural town can attract other talents which weighted more about the benefits of quieter areas, with community, nature and affordable prices. In this case it also combine the talents that their interaction create real innovations and local prosperity.

Which country leads green growth in Latin America?

Last week I had a meeting at the German Development Institute and we talked about Sustainability and Green Growth. Together with their project partners the Global Green Growth Institute (Seoul) and the consultancy firm PwC they are currently busy to design a “Green growth road map for Peru. The project aims to analyze the potential of green growth in this South American country and will to make a series of recommendations how Peruvian governments and other stakeholder can seize on these opportunities.

In this meeting I was asked if Peru or another Latin American country is able to lead the continent in a green growth strategically. Sincerely, Peru would not have been my first choice to look for a continental leader in green development. My first bids would have been Costa Rica as the pioneer of ecotourism or the giant Brazil this year’s host of Rio + 20 conference. But what can one say about Peru?

Without doubt Peru with its three different climate zone – the tropical Amazon jungle to the east; the arid coastal desert to the west; and the Andean mountains and highlands in the middle of the country – is rich in biodiversity and a potential attractor for eco-tourism. Other green business opportunities, like exotic ingredients for nouvelle food cooking or alternative medicine and pharmaceutics form the tropical forest, are already identified. Nevertheless the current economic model is not sensitive with this potential, because of the dominance of extractive industries like mining and fishery. The tension between natural richness and the threats of the current economic model may be a good motive to work on a strategy for a sustainable economy.

The problems are pressing especially in the mega-city of Lima, where large parts of the population is i.e. suffering respiratory diseases. Hopefully an increasing part of the population will articulate there environmental concerns, so that the politicians feel the pressure to prioritize a more sustainable way of the economy and also business identifies more opportunities for green growth.

The question lacks still an answer: Which country do you see leading green growth in Latin America?

LED you do not see!

Pubilidad política

I usually cycle round Chascomús lake. There appeared some time ago some billboards of Provincial and National Government claiming that certain works were completed. In particular, they announce the completition a road around the lake and the building of wastewater treatment plant.
Still striking to me is that the names of the politicians in power appear with larger letters on the boards. It seems they want to show the population that fulfilled their electoral promises. Knowing that not everything that glitters is gold, thought it was much easier to communicate “works” that the results of a Local Economic Development initiative.

I want to remark the following fundamental differences between the construction of physical infrastructure and an LED process:
1. The most obvious thing is visibility, or rather the lack thereof in the case of DEL. A new road you can see and can be used. This kind of infrastructure is visible not only for the direct beneficiaries but everybody who pass through there. Unlike the business climate improvement or enhancement of trust between economic actors are invisible results.
2. Another issue is the ease or difficulty of attribution: In the case of a public work is clear who took the initiative and funded. On the other hand LED processes can result from the action of various actors, and not necessarily led by a government. We speak in this context of governance, i.e. a new way of managing the landscape based on public, private and civil society.
3. Finally is the time horizon is an initiative of LED until it can show results as more jobs, reducing poverty and improving living standards of local people. The period to achieve this kind of results usually takes longer time than the duration of a government.

Knowing these characteristics of LED I wonder what can be done to convince a politician or a government to invest resources in initiatives to promote the local economy.
1) Although the results of a project are often not visible, you can use other ways of communicating. A suitable method is to tell stories of success on examples of successful entrepreneurs who give testimony how the initiative changed its economic situation. These cases and personalized copies are disseminated in public discourse and even the media (TV, radio and internet).
2) Important is to support the successful cases with numbers. Politicians love to communicate quantitative progress. Thus it is important for the actors of LED indicators to identify appropriate and monitor them constantly. These data are also eligible to be reported by the media. There are even initiatives where a newspaper or radio deals with a constant accompaniment of the process.
3) Because the final effects of LED materialize in the long run, it is crucial to get intermediate goals and consistently show progress, however small. We speak here of the “salami technique”, i.e., cut a large project into several pieces and communicable chewable.

This list is not exhaustive, but it shows that there are ways to also politically profitable projects.

At the same time we must be careful that no one “kidnaps” an initiative and take it yours excluding the contribution of the other actors. When you can take over a network initiative, others will opt out and just lose the benefit “extra” work together. So to market is important to show the work together as a special value and used to reveal a new form of government.