Recovery through Creativity and Innovation

Recovery is important for survival. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world and crippled developing communities. Complete recovery on all fronts is what our focus should be on. Recovery in regaining peace of mind, recovery in diversifying our economy, recovery in increasing the health and well-being of our people, recovery in providing our children the education and social interaction they need to develop, recovery in being able to see our loved ones and spending time with each other. Recovery of this pandemic will be a challenge, but we cannot push it aside, because it will cost us too much. Recovery will require us to be creative and to innovate. It will but, how can Aruba leverage in this technological world we live in?

Many studies confirm the breakthrough role of creativity throughout this pandemic. The use of creativity in how we deal with the crisis on a personal level, academic level, business level, and governance level reached new levels. New levels that require us thinking outside the box to solve everyday issues and help us transition to this new normal. Creativity builds resilience especially in helping local NGOs and local entrepreneurs adapt to the current and upcoming changes posed by COVID-19 and help deal with the increased socio-economic need within our society. Today we will focus on how creativity can help Aruban neighborhoods and communities not only overcome, but recover.

There may be no universal understanding of creativity. The concept is open to interpretation from artistic expression to problem-solving in the context of economic, social and sustainable development. Therefore, the United Nations designated 21 April as World Creativity and Innovation Day to raise the awareness of the role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development. Creativity and innovation, at both the individual and group levels, have become the true wealth of nations in the 21st century, according to the findings of the special edition of the Creative Economy Report “Widening local development pathways”. Creativity and innovation is what we can describe entrepreneurs to be. According to Atwater (2020) “entrepreneurial leaders share three defining traits that make them different from other leaders: they are amazing risk managers, they are great uncertainty navigators, and they thrive in exploring ambiguity. Consequently, entrepreneurial leaders can innovate their way into the future”. What happens to entrepreneurs who are in a society that does not leverage on culture, technology and or creativity? Think about it.

Creativity and Culture

In today’s interconnected world, culture’s power to transform societies is clear. Creativity contributes to building open, inclusive and pluralistic societies. Both heritage and creativity lay the foundations for vibrant, innovative and prosperous knowledge societies. UNESCO is convinced that no development can be sustainable without a strong culture component. Indeed, only a human-centered approach to development based on mutual respect and open dialogue among cultures can lead to lasting, inclusive and equitable results. Yet until recently, culture has been missing from the development equation. To ensure that culture takes it rightful place in development strategies and processes, UNESCO has adopted a three-pronged approach: it spearheads worldwide advocacy for culture and development, while engaging with the international community to set clear policies and legal frameworks and working on the ground to support governments and local stakeholders to safeguard heritage, strengthen creative industries and encourage cultural pluralism.

The creative economy –which includes audiovisual products, design, new media, performing arts, publishing and visual arts– is a highly transformative sector of the world economy in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings. Culture is an essential component of sustainable development and represents a source of identity, innovation and creativity for the individual and community. At the same time, creativity and culture have a significant non-monetary value that contributes to inclusive social development, to dialogue and understanding between peoples.

Cultural and creative industries should be part of economic growth strategies, according to the UNESCO report on culture and sustainable development. These industries are among the most dynamic sectors in the world economy, generating $2.25 billion in revenue and 29.5 million jobs worldwide. In that spirit, countries are harnessing the potential of high-growth areas of the market for economic returns and poverty alleviation. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 246 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

Technology and Innovation Labs

According to the Sectary General of the UN (2018) “the advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, are generating revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing. I am convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leap‑frog into a better future”. With no doubts technology is our future. Technology is the catalyzers for bursts in creativity and innovations in a community. Therefore, the UN created the UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTILs) framework with a mission to leverage emerging technology to transform societies, nations and humanity as a whole.

The UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTILs) are intended to move humanity forward, faster by focusing on the use of innovative technology to solve some of humanity’s most demanding needs. These technology and innovation labs could encourage small societies in developing their economies to be more resilient and sustainable. The UNTIL in Finland focus on SDG 16 “peace, justice and strong institutions”, SDG 4 “quality education”, SDG 12 “responsible consumption and production” and SDG 3 “good health and well-being”. Currently, Finland is aiming at the development and management of a Circular Economy (SDG 12 “responsible consumption and production”). Interestingly, Aruba has already indicated that this is a prospective economy for the island.

Next to Finland, you have Malaysia who focusses on SDG 8 “decent work and economic growth” and SDG 11 “Sustainable Cities and Communities”. At the moment, they are only focusing on SDG 8 and specifically on “ethical fashion and ecotourism”. Furthermore, you have Egypt that is focusing on SDG 4 “Quality Education”, SDG 3 “Good Health and Well-being”, SDG 1 “Zero Hunger”, and SDG 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”. Egypt is the only country currently working on all their assigned SDGs in research and projects related to: special-needs students (SDG4); disease control, epidemic prevention, and therapeutic tourism (SDG3); animal production, poultry farming, aquaculture, water rationalization, and soil fertility (SDG1); and Circular Economy (SDG12).

Aruba can make use of these types of research lab frameworks, however, are the (financial, human, social) resources in place in order to establish relevant output? How can we as an island use our culture and our creativity to recover? Technology is considered the left side of the brain, while creativity the right side of the brain. We have to nourish both sides and create frameworks were we can develop both. I hope one day our government will see technology as a driving force and not only to secure e-governance for example, but to leverage it island-wide and disciplinary-wide. Having labs that last on the island with the involvement of academia, entrepreneurs, and NGOs the possibilities are endless. In the end, if we want to accept it or not, the creative industry is culture and technology is culture! Without creativity, technology and culture we cannot and will not innovate!