The daughter of a number of British Council’s longstanding initiatives, Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) was established as an ambitious, interdisciplinary £7m pilot in 2018 seeking to address profound economic exclusion in Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa and the UK. DICE draws on the tools of creativity, entrepreneurship, creative social enterprise, policy and international collaboration to create sustainable livelihood.
The pilot’s centrepiece was the DICE Fund 1.0, connecting 28 UK intermediaries (accelerators, incubators, networks, arts organisations, hubs, and universities) with 28 counterparts in the other DICE countries. The 56 ‘Collaborators’ were charged with co-designing and co-delivering capacity-building programmes for nascent and established creative social entrepreneurs. We funded those shared endeavours that set out to work with people less likely to have access to economic opportunities due to conscious and unconscious societal and structural barriers, particularly young people, women and/disabled people. Together the 56 organisations worked with 9100 people in just one year, most of whom the British Council would not have been able to identify, let alone learn from, without the intermediaries’ lasting power in their communities.
Nurturing the ecosystem around these partnerships, DICE mapped the creative social entrepreneurial landscapes in each DICE country, and collaborated with over 1300 policy makers and influencers, an additional 6800 creative social entrepreneurs, and 1700 people working for intermediaries. Together we delivered 150 inter-connected projects across this inclusive ecosystem that collectively built entrepreneurial capacity and confidence, strengthened intermediaries and led to policy reform and recommendations. While each project is an impactful story unto itself, it is the portfolio that is most exciting for us - each a unique personality and approach to addressing economic exclusion through their shared and local definition of creativity, innovation, inclusion and enterprise. How then can we nurture learning across these projects? How can the UK learn and grow from the experiences of these projects, with economic strife right before our very eyes? The Fund led to our co-designing monthly, joyous, experimental and inclusive virtual gatherings with our Collaborators.
Now in our seventh month, we welcome entrepreneurs, artists, policy makers, funders, investors, students, and researchers from over 35 countries, creating intimate conversations and artistic performances about the ‘in-between issues’ we find in cultural relations. What is the art, science and process of authentic collaboration? How can we grapple with power dynamics and unconscious biases in inter-cultural dialogue, particularly in post-colonial nations? Can we forge a collective and shared vision in our work? If not, why not? We thread these questions through sharing the practical tools that creatives, entrepreneurs and innovators deploy to create social impact in their work every day here in England, and around the world.
Our practice in building virtual international camaraderie and attempting to combat digital fatigue has led us to develop and launch the DICE Digital R&D Fund. With applications due on 15 December, we are seeking 20 digital experiences that activate economic agency to be delivered across all DICE countries. As with the first Fund, this R&D Fund is demand-led and has a ‘community of practice’ built in from the outset – we will learn from our applicants’ interpretations of the brief, their hopes, and their definitions of inclusion. And as with any experiment, we will keep on asking questions.
Examples of previous projects supported by the DICE Fund:
·Working with ZU-UK Establishing a new upcycling fashion label with ZU-UK’s experiential theatre company in partnerships with LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third largest favela
·Working with Hackney Cooperative Developments, Mentoring 26 female domestic workers to launch their own creative and social enterprises in Johannesburg
·Working with Cockpit Arts, wetting up the first ever dedicated co-working space for creative entrepreneurs in Pakistan (in Karachi)
·Working with Epic Arts, Transforming a donation-based inclusive arts space in Jogja, Indonesia into a social enterprise and leading networked organisation, where disabled members of the community come to socialise and express their creativity through dance.
·Working with YouthBank International, empowering young women to develop income-generating enterprises aiming to solve social problems in Egypt
Some activities addressed structural barriers to inclusion by developing and delivering sensitive content. And some DICE activities sought to compensate for the hidden costs of participation for priority groups, addressing barriers to participation directly. While each project is a story unto itself, it is the portfolio of them together that is most exciting for us - each a unique personality and approach to addressing economic exclusion through their shared and local definition of creativity, innovation, inclusion and enterprise. How then can we nurture learning across these projects? How can the UK learn and grow from the experiences of these projects?
Becky Schutt, Creative Economy Lead, DICE