A Commons for the Creative Economy

I listened to the podcast of Richard Florida‘s presentation in Savannah, Georgia from December 2006 and I made a number of notes that seem to bear directly on how our Commons can help to prepare the town for the societal changes that we are beginning to experience in how we work, where we work, and when we work.

First of all, I felt reassured that the Commons is on the right track when Florida stated that his data show that knowledgeable, innovative and creative people attract more of the same. This means that jobs move to the people, not the reverse. An essential idea of our Commons is to attract and retain creative people in our community.

According to Florida, we are living through the biggest economic transformation in history – from a physical capital economy to one of human creativity. He specifically refers to the decrease in manufacturing sector jobs and the increase in creative jobs (entertainment, art, science, technology, design, etc). Creative work currently accounts for one-third of the US economy, and it is increasing. However, to be truly successful we will need to integrate creativity into all of our sectors, including the lower-paid service sectors, where every person is valued for their creativity. Florida says that this is possible in the same way that business and government cooperated to make manufacturing a high-wage sector.

In order to be part of the creative economy, cities (hopefully towns as well) have to understand the creative community needs pyramid. These needs have to be addressed to attract creative people, who will be the engines of future economic growth.

Basic Needs must be addressed first but addressing the higher needs of Lifestyle and Values are what will attract the creative class. This class is not differentiated by age, sex, education or income; as other classes have been in the past. The creative class in many cases are the marginalized or those living at the edges of the community. For instance, being open-minded and tolerant is not only attractive for recent university graduates but for the poor as well. Creativity can and does come from all socio-economic classes.

florida-pyramid.jpg

I envision our Commons to be a creative garage where innovative ideas can be tinkered with and anyone can drop by and get involved in the process. One idea that is forming is to have a completely public & open space as well as a members-only area within the Commons. In conjunction with other aspects of our town, such as the university and our natural spaces, the Commons can be one component in building a resilient and dynamic community for the creative economy.

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