Among the many distressing side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been considerable impact on nations’ creative economies.
Cultural and creative industries (CCI) were among the first to be forced to shut their doors as coronavirus spread, and among the last to reopen.
Consequently, budgets were cut and jobs were lost as governments prioritised the physical health of their citizens.
Now – as creative industries look to bounce back from the problems created by the pandemic – a new online course from City, University of London and UNESCO may hold the key to successful creative rebuilding.
Like so many academics, Professor Andy Pratt and Dr Jenny Mbaye (from City’s Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries) have necessarily honed their online teaching skills throughout the pandemic.
Recently, they have applied those skills to a new online course – in partnership with UNESCO.
The eight-week course, which has just had its first graduates, was aimed at mid-level cultural and creative industries policymakers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Channelling expertise effectively
Professor Pratt and Dr Mbaye worked closely with UNESCO on the content, using their expertise to suit UNESCO’s need to train policymakers – and those in civil society organisation and the cultural sector – to engage with the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
This week, UNESCO is holding its annual Intergovernmental Committee to monitor the 2005 Convention – a report to accompany the Committee urges governments to support the creative industries to rebuild after the pandemic. Professor Pratt and Dr Mbaye were invited to give the Committee overview of the inaugural course.
The course was designed to encourage effective engagement and confront digital fatigue via short, interactive components. The Centre made sure that course modules were designed interactively and via varied formats to maintain the concentration and attention of the 24 students.
To be more effective in delivery, lectures were pre-recorded in ‘bite-size’ chunks or 10- to 15-minute videos and comprised of a mix of (regional/local) expert interviews, animated concept explainers, and talks, all tied up with an introduction and conclusion.
Each week students were asked to share their own local interpretations and applications of the ideas and themes discussed.
The course was so successful that UNESCO are now exploring plans to repeat the format in other world regions.
Sensitivity to local challenges
Professor Pratt said a key reason for the course’s success was its attention to local cultural differences and emphasis on helping students apply the concepts to their own region.
“Our target audience were those who had some experience of, or engagement in, CCI,” he said. “So, we needed them to learn as a group, thereby building a deeper knowledge of local CCI processes and policymaking.
“Creating even a simple mapping of the Creative Economy requires a huge effort. This is a reminder that policy does not ‘just happen’, it requires information, institutions, and skilled individuals to make it work.
“Finally, monitoring the 2005 Convention is not a simple checklist exercise, but both an interpretive and learning process.
“The success of the course shows that the Centre is leading the way in education and training in this field – and doing so at a global scale.”
Dr Mbaye said that the course provided students with increased awareness and sensitivity of the challenges they faced.
“Rather than providing a set ‘template’ of knowledge, we have created a process of learning and action that embraces the diversity of culture and its expressions,” she said.
“This sensitivity to context, and situatedness, is – we would argue – one of the hallmarks of this course. It is an awareness that we hope that practitioners will take back to their workplaces.
“We were gratified, and surprised, that the busy policymakers from across the ASEAN region who participated in our programme attended every session – a remarkable thing for an online course.”
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