By Celynne Layug and Brian Jay Ambulo


Business columns tend to feature opportunities for our exporters and industry stakeholders. Creative economy, creative thinking  and creative cities are topics not usually associated with trade and investment. However, it is a wellknown saying that the first industrial revolution was driven by engineering; the second was driven by electricity and production lines; the third was technology and innovation; and the modern economies that undergo a fourth revolution are those that embrace and support human creativity.


As the Philippines explores new ways of diversifying its industries, how does creativity—the engine for ideas, heritage, culture and the arts—make way for job creation, social inclusion and economic growth and development?


Creative economy is not a recent concept. Professor Howkins, who coined this term and was also the keynote speaker of the Asean Creative Cities Forum and Exhibition held from April 24 to 27 at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig City advocates for creativity, as it engages and it reaches more participation from people. He believes that in these times, more than ever, people are more creative and inventive. He established the “Three Propositions”, the basic foundations to consider in order to be successful in the industry: Everyone is creative; Creativity needs freedom; and Freedom needs markets.


Creativity was also at the forefront of Inclusive Innovation Summit at the Manila Peninsula held from June 1. Dado Banatao, a Filipino entrepreneur who invented two of the foundation technologies in every PC today and founded three technology start-ups that became the third-most profitable company in the world in 1993, emphasized the value of creativity in creating disruptive technologies and technology solutions.  


Creativity has been deeply associated with performing and visual arts in general. Although truly embedded in the arts, creativity stretched far way broader than the said sector. Creativity is a mentality, a mindset on how to make something out of nothing, or something out of something, of executing different ideas, from the mundane to the extraordinary.  Coining the term creative economy is a way to acknowledge and to recognize the significance of creativity in driving economic growth and being a part of development.


Creativity is not a trend that dies and gets reborn. It is through creativity that our ancestors came up with the tools used for food gathering, the boats we used for maritime journeys for ease of trade. It is the same creativity that led the people to express themselves through literature, movement and visuals, and the same creativity that made us more connected now more than ever. Above all else, creativity is a celebration of ideas, on how people approach problems and how we come up with breakthrough solutions.


Creative economy, an important link to inclusive growth

Creative economy is now a mass movement globally, but the Philippines has yet to catch-up due to the perception that engaging in the creative economy is a hobby, a costly endeavor and an unpredictable incomegenerator.  Similar to the Philippines’s micro, small, and medium enterprise and entrepreneurship movement, there has to be a change of mindset, not only for the youth who have a lot of potential to be successful in this economy, but also to the mature target participants, such as the parents and the indigenous elders.


We can drive profit out of ideas and creative inputs.  If there is anything the Philippines is known for, it is our rich pool of talent, heritage and creativity—from singing, acting, directing, fashion, natural, cultural, tangible and intangible heritage, among others.  It determines who and, what we are; it is nonrenewable and, sadly, we are not capitalizing on such invaluable resource. Filipinos need the right environment to unleash their potential. We have to evolve into something more innate that would impact how we see a problem, and then translate it into a solution via an innovative or out-ofthe box service or product.


The Philippine government has started laying the foundation by dedicating a chapter on culture, creativity and innovation under Chapter 7 of Philippine Development Plan 2017 to 2022. Under the Malasakit pillar, the government prioritizes sustaining and enhancing cultural assets to foster creativity and innovation for national development. Furthermore, the Department of Trade and Industry champions the establishment and recognition of the creative economy and its potential to be the next ITBPM industry of the country.


Developing and sustaining creative cities

While the creative-economy movement should be a national initiative, local government units (LGUs) have a critical role in the movement through the development of creative cities. As an international platform, the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN), brings cities and communities around the world together in sharing best practices and ideas in the field of creative industries and urban development. Four cities in the Asean have already been inscribed in the list of the UCCN: Singapore for design; Phuket in Thailand for gastronomy; Bandung in Indonesia for design; and Pekalongan in Indonesia for crafts and folk art. As the Philippines envisions to have at least one of our cities inscribed by next year, it is assuring to hear reports of a number of LGUs applying to be part of the UCCN. There is an increasing appreciation that a creative city has a vast potential of increasing tourism, increasing investments, increased employment and income for the city. Ultimately, these translate to new and innovative products and services, and serve as a gateway to look at creativity and culture on a different light.


In sum, what can be the ingredients for a creative city and a creative economy?


1. Love of culture and heritage— Distinctiveness that shall translate to niche products, unique services, and innovative solutions to everyday problems;


2. Accessibility and participation —New ideas emanate from recycled ideas. People need to have interaction to inspire development of new ideas and creative thinking.  This is possible when people convene, brainstorm and collaborate;


3. Livability—A conducive physical infrastructure for the people to convene and expound on ideas;


4. Talent development and support;


5. Political will to enshrine creative thinking into development policies in local level; and


6. Entrepreneurship.


Celynne Layug is the program director for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Asean 2017 Committee on Business and Investment Promotion (CBIP) and a Foreign Trade Service Officer of the FTSC. Brian Ambulo is a Program Manager for the DTI Asean CBIP and worked closely with the Design Center of the Philippines during the Asean Creative Cities Forum and Exhibition. To get to know more about the Asean 2017 Business and Investment Program and how you can participate, kindly e-mail •