Every day millions of citizens do something creative, from knitting and genealogy to photography and choirs. These creative citizens, some organised in groups and networks, some not, are the bedrock of the creative economy.
The background to our interest in creative citizenship arose from the way that online communications have enabled individuals and small groups of individuals to engage more frequently, deftly and in greater depth with many types of organisation. Today, many companies design their products and services in close dialogue with users. This shift from a “user pays” to a “user makes” approach supports the possibility of a growth in smaller-scale, more flexible and voluntary community services.
Our research sought to examine three manifestations of creative citizenship:
Hyperlocal publishing groups, writing neighbourhood news most often as a blog site, have started to emerge in scores of communities around the UK, sometimes in response to the scaling back of traditional media;
Community-led design, which is increasingly deployed as a means of ensuring that new buildings and other products reflect the needs, creativity and aspirations of the people who will use them;
Creative networks, which take many forms: here we explored the value-creation that arises between relatively formal communities of this kind and the growing highly informal networks of individual creative citizens, many built around online communications platforms.
Our aim in studying these cases was to generate data and insight about each case, but also to answer the more general questions set out above: what is the value of their work, to these citizens as individuals, to their communities and to wider civic goals?
Our research hoped to produce:
- improved data on the value, scale and potential of UK hyperlocal publishers and how they interact with traditional media; plus, working with our partner Talk About Local, sharp insights into the conditions likeliest to support the development of successful hyperlocals and the tools needed to achieve this;
- an understanding of the value, potential and practicalities of community-led design, with a particular focus upon understanding the potential and limitations of digital media;
- an evaluation of everyday, “at home” creative citizenship which provides an indication of its scale and potential, alone with insight into the most effective ways of providing gateways between the work of these lone or loosely networke creative citizens and more formal organisations and structures.
This project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under the Connected Communities cross-Council Research Programme. It also formed part of the Digital Economy Programme.
The project received £1.4 million and ran for 30 months from mid 2012 until late 2014.
More details on the programmes funded alongside this one can be found on the AHRC website.