Archive for July, 2010

User-led innovation: A NESTA provocation

July 15, 2010

Sir John Tusa, Sarah Weir & John Holden

Yesterday I and 6 other Clore fellows took part in a symposium hosted by Nesta on the theme of leadership in times of uncertainy. Nesta and the Clore Leadership programme had commissioned each of us to write a provocation on an aspect of contemporary cultural leadership. My paper investigates the sector’s resistance to user-led innovation and attempts to offer some suggestions as to how the sector’s leaders might better embrace or apply some of the fundamental principles underlying this evolving form of activity.

I was particularly interested in how the practical application of values of openness, freedom and co-creation might question or challenge the concept of the role of the professional artist and the received notion of the safe space for creative risk and experientation, where ‘safe’ can often mean ‘closed’.

My article looks at three aspects of resistance:

– responsivity: how can our arts organisations be truly responsive without their artistic autonomy feeling under threat?;

– permission and permissive leadership: how do we create a culture within which we give permission to our users to transgress, to do what we don’t want them to do as much as what we do want them to do?;

Рand messiness: innovation by definition is not the hand-maiden of best practice, and if most innovation stems from radicalism, how do we allow for that radicalism without sterilising it in the very process of permitting or legitimising  it?.

I end by looking at the role of institutions and producers in all of this – something I think will become ever more critical in offering a pivotal context for this kind of activity, which can on the one hand protect safe spaces for artistic experiment and on the other make work and creative processes porous for users to access and contribute to.

I gather that all the articles are due to be published on the Clore and Nesta websites, but having received a couple of requests, have decided to publish mine in full here also:

Final EDITED Nesta article M KNIGHT