South African Cultural Observatory

A Spotlight on 4th SACO International Conference

BY 30.09.22

In our previous editions this section has been dedicated to key highlights from our recent reports with a view to providing insights on some of the main issues facing the cultural and creative industries (CCIs). For this edition we have taken a different route and chose to put a spotlight on the upcoming 4th SACO International Conference. This is with the hope of encouraging readers to participate in the conference - an international platform that promises participants meaningful engagements on various hot topics facing the industry.

Following a four-year hiatus, the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO), in partnership with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture will host the 4th SACO International Conference 2022 on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 November 2022 at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria, Tshwane. To maximize participation and encourage diverse perspectives from both local and international industry stakeholders, the conference will be hosted in a hybrid format allowing for physical in-person and online participation. The Observatory has previously hosted three successful international conferences but has not done so since 2018.

The conference is intended to bring together local and international thinkers, academics, key industry stakeholders, including funders (current and potential), cultural practitioners and artists to share experiences and insights about what and how the industry can rebuild, consolidate and innovate in order to grow and support sustainable livelihoods of the cultural practitioners and the South African creative sector.

Organised under the theme “Creative economy reset: Structuring the creative and cultural industries for a sustainable and inclusive future”, the conference will discuss key industry issues against the background of challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It takes place amid trying times for all nations and people, as the impact and after-effects of Covid-19, climate change, heightened international conflict, disrupted supply chains, and mounting inflation collide to produce severe uncertainty for the world economy. For developing economies and the most vulnerable – including many creative workers who have been forced to live precarious conditions – these crises amount to an ambush on global and local ambitions for the sustainable growth of nascent creative economies and work. Yet they are just symptomatic of an increasingly uncertain future of shocks for which we need to prepare. 

These constant threats are complex and painful and present a significant challenge for policy makers, big and small business, civil society leaders and organizations, for value and supply chains, and the creative producer, maker, and worker. Sadly, the crises came at a time when the creative economy and the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) and sectors had gained mounting recognition as a potential growth engine for economic, inclusive and sustainable development. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside heightened global recognition, more investment was also flowing toward the CCIs from both public and private sources. The impetus for more funding, investment, and support is greater than ever as the world seeks to rebalance after Covid-19, while harnessing the moment to deal with embedded inequalities, protecting livelihoods, and maximizing the opportunities that technology and digital transformation brings. 

While crises abound, new technologies and digital spaces are opening up markets and providing tools for global reach for creators, artists and those generating creative intellectual property.

The impact of disruptions from artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IoT), big data, blockchain, 5G, 3D printing, robotics, drones, gene editing, and nanotechnology are a critical part of the creative economy discussions. In addition, big digital platforms (FAANGs/MANAMA) are radically affecting creative sector consumption and production. 

These debates and others are not just about the advent of technologies but broader human challenges as well. For that reason, it is important that the underpinnings and workings of the creative economy, now and into the future, are addressed. These should include the critical question of cultural rights, participation, livelihoods, climate and human survival; and consider the rethinking of cultural policy, processes and production in a changing world. 

Right now, it is important for the agents and agencies working in the CCIs, global and local, to maintain the gains, leverage the opportunities but also critically assess and, where relevant, redress the trends. This conference aims to do so considering South Africa, the African continent, and the global creative community. In support of the major theme and to provide guiding framework to enable these conversations, papers, presentations and panel discussions were invited within the following broad thematic areas.

Macro-themes and guiding sub-themes 

1. Dealing with disruption: New trends, developments and responses - global perspectives on the creative economy.

  1. The political, technological and social disruptions and challenges to the contemporary creative economy.
  2. The global and national economic trajectories and the increased fiscal squeeze on cultural and creative sectors.
  3. The creative economy and the challenges of increased socio-economic inequalities.

2. The cartography of the contemporary creative economy: Constructing, categorizing and revaluing the creative economy.

  1. The widening of the creative economy and the question of redefining boundaries.
  2. New and/or improved ways of mapping the creative and cultural industries and associated agencies.
  3. Methodological approaches, models and data.

3. International trade and creative markets.

  1. Trade trends, patterns, products and people.
  2. Stimulating demand for cultural goods and services in local, regional, national and international markets.
  3. Borderless or borderline: Copyright, IP and the trade in cultural and creative services.
  4. Levering the AfCFTA and other regional agreements and making them work for the creative sector.
  5. Accountability and access: What can developed nations do for developing nations’ creative economies?
  6. International categorization of the CCIs: Current and new methodologies, debates and discussions.

4. Cultural policy in transition.

  1. New developments in cultural policy.
  2. Strategy and policies for promoting and building partnerships in the CCI: best practices, precedents, institutional arrangements and support organizations.
  3. Cohesion, inclusion and well-being in the creative economy.
  4. The new urban cultural policy, creative-based urban strategies and cultural policies in cities of the south.
  5. Embedding the creative economy: Regional, national and sub-national perspectives.
  6. Regulating and taxing global digital platforms and players impacting the creative economy.

5. Innovation, adaptation, entrepreneurship: From theory to lived experience.

  1. The inter-relationships between innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity: purposes, partnerships, productivity and platforms.
  2. Boosting entrepreneurship and incubation in the creative economy.
  3. Entrepreneurial ecosystems for cultural and creative industries.
  4. Developing creative entrepreneurship through creative-based urban strategies.
  5. Still the creative class? To what extent does the creative class exist and/or contribute to good cultural policy and CCI development?

6. Creative work and human capital.

  1. Work and participation in the creative economy: Debates, theories and case studies.
  2. Training, education and continuous learning for the creative industries: Theories, debates and case studies.
  3. The fourth industrial revolution: Preparing for the future of work, and new opportunities and obstacles.
  4. Brain drains and gains: Methods and modes of national and industry talent development and retention.
  5. Precarity, gigs, freelancing and the creative practitioner: The question of inequality and structural issues.

7. Cultural participation and consumption.

  1. Sustainable creative industries: Industrialization, beneficiation of cultural and creative resources and products and audience and market development.
  2. Who will watch, read, buy? Creative markets versus the market for creativity - understanding audiences, clients, consumers and patterns.
  3. Debates, approaches and international, comparative and country specific case studies and analyses.
  4. Cultural rights and participation: Creative freedoms, rights and unions
  5. The question of national cultural policy: State-centred models and approaches, and more horizontal articulation of social and cultural capital.
  6. Towards a circular and green creative economy: possibilities and angles.

8. The digital creative economy and digital transformation.

  1. The creative economy and the new derivatives: new technologies, NFTs, the metaverse, blockchain, smart contracts, DAO, and creative skinning of the online world.
  2. Accounting for the role and impact of global digital platforms on the creative and creator economies.
  3. Creating IP: Who owns what in a digital world?
  4. How national and super-regional structures are responding to challenges and opportunities as digital platforms internationalize nationally located creative work.
  5. Social networks, start-ups and cultural entrepreneurship.

9. Funding, financing and investing in the creative economy.

  1. Widening the notion of “cultural policy” to include its various and new components, beyond mere arts policy: The economy of culture and new sources of funding.
  2. Funding models for the CCIs in developed, emerging and developing economies.
  3. Impact investment: A new route to sustainable funding and finance?
  4. Investment strategies for thriving creative economies.
  5. Sustainable finance, jobs and growth in the CCIs.
  6. Beyond public funding and new philanthropies: Possibilities and opportunities.
  7. Social enterprise: A way forward for sustainable funding for the CCIs and arts? 

Register for the event

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As I pen this, I am beaming with excitement. After a four-year-long wait, the 4th SACO International Conference 2022 is finally here. We are literally a few weeks away from the much-anticipated SACO International Conference that so many in the industry have kept asking me about.

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