How businesses can support the creative economy

From mentoring to providing grants and encouraging the local art scene, there are many ways in which businesses can help the sector

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When the pandemic hit last year, the government took unprecedented decisions to deal with the global crisis. To stem the spread of Covid-19, we were restricted from meeting friends, going to work and engaging in public activities.

Many of us resorted to books, binge watched television, took up arts and crafts, attended online events and concerts and virtually explored museums and galleries during Covid-19 movement restrictions.

The creative economy, which helped many of us endure the loneliness that became synonymous with the pandemic, was one of the most negatively impacted segments of the economy after the retail and tourism sectors. Unesco estimates it employs about 30 million people worldwide and in 2020 the cancellation of public performances cost authors 30 per cent of their global royalties, while the global film industry alone lost about $7 billion in revenue.

The creative economy is a collective name given to a group of industries such as advertising, art, architecture, publishing, digital media and computer gaming among others. It accounts for about 3 per cent of global gross domestic product, according to a 2019 report. In the US, the value of culture and arts produced in 2019 was almost $919.7bn, accounting for about 4.3 per cent of the nation's GDP. The arts contribute more to the US economy than agriculture, mining, transportation or construction.

According to The Art Basel and UBS Global Market report published last year, one third of galleries are estimated to have reduced their staff by half during the pandemic.

Governments around the world were cognisant of headwinds faced by the creative economy and took steps to alleviate at least some pressure. The Philippines provided individual financial support to creative workers, while the UAE launched The National Creative Relief Programme, which offered financial grants to freelancers and smaller enterprises operating in the creative and cultural industries sector.

As we slowly move back to normality, it's time start to start supporting and appreciating the output of creative industries, and for businesses to aid governments and help them to bounce back. From mentoring and providing grants, to supporting the local art scene, there are many things they can do.

Banks and financial institutions can cater their corporate social responsibility budgets to help individuals and companies associated with creative economic sectors. This can be done in the form of grants and special loan programmes that can help them sustain and develop their businesses during difficult times.

Just as important as it is to provide financial support – an invaluable step by financial institutions – it is also important to provide business development advice and training to freelancers and SMEs operating in creative sectors. Businesses and financial institutions can help creators and support them in monetising their work.

Another way to support the creative economy is for businesses to work with freelancers in their local communities. Instead of only working with large agencies, businesses should seek local talent – whether videographers, artists, social media account managers or illustrators and commission them for their advertising and marketing needs.

Business can also support young, creative university graduates with apprenticeships, train them and help them build their resumes for the job market during these challenging times. If a business can afford to, it should also launch paid internship programmes to financially support creatives.

Media houses and publications have a role to play as well. Publications or broadcasters should dedicate a special segment every week to shed light on local creative talents or institutions. The awareness they create can help connect them to customers and support their business during the pandemic.

The simplest way to support the creative economy is by financially supporting small enterprises, institutions and freelancers. Purchase art by local artists.

Online galleries such as showcase arts by regional talent, which can be bought as corporate gifts. Museum memberships, annual tickets to local cinemas as well as theatres can also be good corporate gifts.

Support for the creativity economy can take multiple forms, and it doesn’t necessarily dent balance sheets. The creative economy has helped us endure challenging times and it’s time we paid it back.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.