Building on the idea that creativity and culture can be a generator of economic growth, local governments are directing investment toward new cultural industries and districts, including public spaces whose cultural amenities are intended to harmonize different social interests and improve the quality of urban life. A flurry of recent data highlights this global economic shift. Figures published by UNCTAD in May 2013, for instance, show that world trade of creative goods and services totalled a record US$624 billion in 2011 and that it more than doubled from 2002 to 2011. The average annual growth rate during that period was 8.8 per cent.
Focused specifically on the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts recently released the first-ever estimates of the creative sector’s contributions to U.S. gross domestic product based on 2011 data. The release identified that creative industries, led by Hollywood’s film industry, accounted for about $504 billion, or at least 3.2 percent of U.S. goods and services.
Providing another global view, UNESCO recently released its United Nations Creative Economy Report 2013with a focus on the creative economy at the local level. The Report confirms the creative economy as one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy and a highly transformative one in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings. The UNESCO Report aims to serve as an inspirational tool for others shaping their own pathways for local development with reviews of almost 80 culture and development programmes.
As city leaders seek more inclusive models of participation, the integration of culture and creativity into the planning agenda at the local and national levels is essential. This will encourage the promotion of local approaches to planning and ownership of development strategies and promotion of cultural participation, cultural heritage and innovation.