A Culture of Creative Innovation is Needed in Illinois

Written by Lisa Canning

According to a 2010 Illinois Economic Recovery Commission Report, it is critical to build a culture of innovation, especially in the tech sector, here in the state of Illinois. And yet according to the report  “Illinois-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promote entrepreneurial innovation, business expansion and global marketing often compete with each other instead of collaborating to support common goals”.  The fact that the state of Illinois ranks at the bottom for both job creation and new business formation (US Chamber of Commerce, 2011) certainly only heights the importance of changing the culture of innovation in Illinois.

A 2011 Martin Prosperity Institute study revealed that entrepreneurship levels may be connected to a region’s underlying creativity. The size of the creative class is positively and significantly associated with the total number of entrepreneurial start ups in a region. Not only the number of new establishments but the expansion of existing ones as well. While the Department of Cultural Affairs in Chicago has developed the Chicago Creative Expo, which just celebrated its 10th year, the city has yet to take a systems-building approach to supporting the educational advancement needed to build substantially more creative enterprises beyond their investment in this annual showcase. Short term workshops offered through CAR are a start but do not provide a structured programmatic solution or a safe place to fail for fledgling creative enterprises searching to find their niche market. And certainly a creative focused educational solution that includes cross sector participation will be critical to changing our culture of competition into one of cooperation too. Herein lies the opportunity for the creative sector in Chicago to rise and demonstrate our strength and leadership over the course of the next decade.

Building social capital is the gateway to increasing a culture of prosperity.  I wrote about this in an earlier post. It is what prosperity leaders Norway, Denmark & Sweden share in common- a value system based on culture. This is done though the sharing of ideas and knowledge which builds a more open, trusting, tolerant citizen in society- not a more competitive one.  I spoke about how social capital is the precursor – the necessary glue – to a highly functioning economy that cannot be built in isolation. Integrating the creative sector into the tech sector here in Chicago and throughout Illinois would be one way of beginning to break down these barriers.

And yet, Chicago and the state of Illinois face many other challenges that threaten the advancement of the culture of innovation we desperately need.

A 2012 Univ of IL Political Science/IL Integrity Initiative Report shows Chicago is the most corrupt in the US and Illinois is the third most corrupt state in the nation.

Violence in Chicago is also on the rise. In 2012 shootings increased 12 percent and homicides were up 19 percent.

And if these staggering statistics were not enough, The American Thinker Magazine labeled Chicago the New Capital of Segregation. (Bargo, 2012) Little progress been made since the Civil Rights Movement here. Government-sanctioned housing segregation practices have actually expanded in the past 25 years to now include Hispanics.

The building of social capital requires interdisciplinary teams, trust and shared language which robust culture provides. While Chicago has a large vibrant cultural sector, it too lives in segregation interacting alone, and often times in competition with itself.

The loss of creative thinking skills and their lack of integration into our lives, and local communities  is having a profoundly negative impact on human ingenuity in the state of Illinois. It is threatening not only our pocket books but now our safety. It’s time for the creative sector to begin to play a key role in changing the economic future for the state of Illinois.


About Lisa Canning

“Vowels are to words what creativity is to the world~ basic and necessary.”

Lisa Canning is the founder of IAEOU, the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE) and Entrepreneur the Arts.

What motivates you to explore your creativity? Follow me @IAEOU

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