By Michelle Constant, CEO of Business Arts South Africa
Academics Goetz, Fleming and Han, in their article, “What makes one economy more resilient than another?”, talk of self-employment as a proxy for innovation and entrepreneurship. While we are concerned about the conflation of entrepreneurship and self-employment, it is in both these economic spaces that we can support and strengthen the creative sector. BASA understands the danger of instrumentalising and commercialising the arts, recognising that the value of the arts is – first and foremost –intrinsic to our engagement as human beings. However, we are also aware that in the current economic climate, with the threat of junk status hovering, we need to be supporting the skills creation, and thus job creation, of the sector.
What has become quite clear in the nationwide BASA Education Programme, partnered with the National Arts Council and RMB, is that while some arts practitioners demonstrate the skills required to run a creative business – immense discipline, the ability to work under pressure, to deliver at short notice – true entrepreneurial spirit is not easily learnt. And this is certainly not a mind-set that all young artists and creatives have, given our historical and economic reality, as well as current access. What we do know, through DAC research, is that 50% of enterprises in the sector are black owned, 30% by youth, and that more than 70% of respondents working in design, culture and heritage, performance and celebration, say that this work is their primary source of income.
Having said that, Goetz, Fleming and Han argue that self-employed workers are unambiguously associated with higher resilience and agility in times of economic crisis, and that more work experience and higher levels of self-employment respond robustly to the impact of economic shocks. This is definitely something to be considered in the support of the cultural environment.
In order for us to scale and deepen our education programme and all its diverse iterations – Young Professionals, BoardBank and the Mentorship Programme – we need business friends and support. Should this be something you think your company, or you, might like to engage with further, I’d love you contact me, so that we can roll out the numbers, the ROI, and the opportunities for you. It’s a great programme, one that offers small steps to real change. Let’s all be change makers.