Posts with tag Finance

Sustainable businesses?

Department of Finance invite each year board members and CEOs of state owned companies to a half-day board conference on different current topics. Today this year’s conference was held at Dramaten (Royal Dramatic Theatre) on the pressing issue of ”Sustainable business” with prominent guests as Al Gore, David Blood, and Petter Stordalen, and an introduction by Minister of Market Finance, Peter Norman.

According to the Swedish state’s definition of ”sustainable business” it includes how companies work with human rights, employment conditions, environment, anti-corruption, business ethics, diversity, and equality.

And apparently all of us board members in different state-owned boards are doing an excellent job.

This was pointed out by all speakers, with the exception of Petter Stordalen, who eagerly and passionately was claiming that we could all start our sustainable work today. Now! But for the rest it was more of a clap on the shoulder and reassurances that ”you are all doing such a good job!” looking out of the audience.

”I am happy with the support I get from the state”, two of the participants in the last panel claimed. With a cosy self-confidence the two CEOs answered the moderator’s questions on how they work sustainable, challenges they meet and how they solve them, and if they are satisfied with the support from their owner, the state. And they are happy with the support, both reassured.

And you wonder how is that possible?

How is it possible to scratch each other’s backs and claim satisfaction, when companies in the world, which also includes Swedish companies (state and privately owned), are still violating human rights? When climate goals are not reached? When children are used in child labour? When textile workers die in Bangladesh due to lousy working conditions? When women and children are sexually abused?

Shouldn’t the questions instead be: What are we all doing wrong? What is it we are NOT doing so that these violations can continue? What is it we are NOT doing but SHOULD do to fulfill the ambitions with sustainable business?


17 juni, 2013

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Business or Humanities?

One of the success stories of Stanford University, with it’s premises in Silicon Valley outside San Francisco (US), is, it’s said, to be its close relation to the businesses in Silicon Valley. It’s a symbiotic relationship. They nurture each other and many success business stories have started at Stanford; Google, Facebook, Instagram, Apple, Hewlett-Packard.

Leland Stanford, a Republican governor in the late 1800s and who made a fortune from Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, and his wife decided to found a University in their late son’s name. Stanford University opened its doors in 1891 and the device was that the University should not become an ivory tower, but ”qualify students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life”.  From the start, the close relationship to private funding, corporate research funds, and venture capital for start-ups, first for innovations in radio and broadcast media to todays digital technology, has been a base for the University.

The story can be read in The New Yorker (April 30, 2012) and gives an interesting light on the success story behind business ideas developed at Stanford and the philosophy behind it. But also the dangers of such a focus on success and making money.

The campus life and the atmosphere at Stanford is described as open to ideas, easy going, ”people are willing to try things”, risk-taking, access to venture and risk capital, creative. But there are also questions raised if Stanford has the right balance between commerce and learning, between getting skills to make it and intellectual discovery for its own sake? Is corporate money stearing research priorities?

David Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, who has also taught for many years at Stanford, express his worries that students uncritically incorporate the possibilities of Silicon Valley, but it’s a lack of students devoted to the liberal arts and the idea of pure learning. The one and simple question stearing choices is: What will I get out of it?

The philosophy now promoted at Stanford is the ”interdisciplinary education” and getting students to become ”T-shaped”, that is they have depth in a particular field of study and breadth across multiple disciplines. Social skills are put forward and an effort is to put together students with different majors (engineering, business, medicine, science, design) to together solve real or abstract problems.

David Kelley, the founder of design firm IDEO, is also director of Institute fo Design at Stanford (, and is driven by the mission to lift empathy in his students. He wants the students to learn to see the human side of the challenges posed in class and that way provoke creativity.

Still, fewer students get into liberal arts and humanities and many become, as said by a senior Miles Unterreiner, ”slaves to the dictates of a hoped-for future”. Students become instrumental and only get majors in subjects that lead to jobs, something also supported by Universities.

It’s an interesting development. Reading Steve Jobs story and listening to many of his talks, he puts two processes next to each other as crucial for his success: The development of technology and the liberal arts.

The post is based on the article in The New Yorker (April 30, 2012) ”Annals of higher education. Get rich U.There are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley. Should there be?” by Ken Auletta. The photo is from a TED talk on the web.

Read more from posts on IDEO, San Francisco, and the Arts from our visit in 2008 here and posts on other interesting US visits here. Read also here the report from Svenskt Näringsliv which last year promoted less money to humanity education in Sweden, a very criticized report.


25 juni, 2012

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Art policy a foundation for CCI

In a letter to the Observer, some of UK’s famous artists within film, TV and theatre send a warning of what the drastic cuts in UK funding to art will do. The main message being that less public money to the art field will have serious effects on British economy. Creative industries have contributed more than 7 billion pounds a year to the economy.

An article in BBC News report on the appeal where Dame Helen Mirren, the actress, are one of the artists stating that investment in the arts brings in (as they put it) ”staggering” return for the country. If cultural policy is dismantled, it will have effects on creative industries and the economy as a whole.

October 20th 2010 was named Axe Wednesday by British press due to the government announcement of massive cuts in the UK budget in all areas of society. Within arts it has meant cuts over all fields within culture, and just the Arts Council England, distributing money to a large amount of arts venues, theatres, and galleries, had its budget cut by around 30 percent.

Swedish Counsellor for Cultural Affairs in London, Carl Otto Werkelid, says in a short interview on the Swedish Government website, that UK is facing a huge tightening of public finances. The cultural field is still holding its breath in the wait of seeing what concrete effects the cuts will have for the arts. The appeal yesterday was perhaps a change in the waiting. Carl Otto Werkelid is talking about a paradigm shift that will have effects way beyond the boarders of UK.

Read the original letter to the Observer here.

Read the article in the BBC News about the appeal by British artists here.

Read the Guardian on the culture cuts here.

Read a short post on the changes in UK here.

And read the interview of Carl Otto Werkelid here (in Swedish).

14 mars, 2011

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The end of UK Creative Industries?

It looks like the politics on creative industries started by the New Labour in 1997 has come to an end. The incentives started in the late 90s were new and has contributed to create a market for small-scale cultural businesses, models that have been exported in Europe, all the way to Shanghai in Far East. UK has long been seen as the cradle of creative industries.

powenstflemingWhen Chris Smith was appointed by Tony Blair in 1997 to be Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports, he could continue a process started in the 80s centred around Greater London Council (GLC). GLC described the cultural scene in London as the new ”industry” being important for creativity, social inclusion and economy. It was an attempt to describe cultural initiatives as the new industry and redefine a term first used by the two critical theorists Horkheimer and Adorno. The two were upon their arrival to the US in the 1940s chocked by how popular culture was produced in almost a factory way producing standardized culture goods. It was like an industry, they said in disgust.

The Greater London Council changed the understanding of cultural industries in the 90s, to instead describe the small-scale, cooking, multi-skilled cultural life with a potential and importance for the economy in London. Chris Smith could pick up and continue on this road, creative industries have grown and has become an important part of society and, many reports have confirmed, contribute in a substantial way to economy.

This is an epoch now being buried. Tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct 20) is Axe Wednesday, as it has been called in UK, where the government will announce massive cuts in all sectors of society. TV-news is showing expected figures of 500.000 public jobs being lost. Culture is expecting around 40% cuts in funding.

Two large factors have completely reshaped the scene: The financial crisis and the Conservative government.

The present government is reinterpreting creative industries to mainly concern media, dismantling what most understand as the large contribution of cultural industries; social inclusion, regional development, and labour market.

goldsmithsSeveral effects are expected in the cultural field, such as a total dismantling of cultural policy where for example the Film Commission has seen its last days, a complete dismantling of the regional level, a probable redefining and change of creative industries, cuts on most cultural development agencies, enormous cuts in the universities which means more focus on employability and less money on research and long-term learning.

Will this mean that we see the end of creative industries?

Interviews done in London, 18-19 October 2010, a project commissioned by Region Västra Götaland (Sweden) to do a small knowledge and research survey. Interviewed were Paul Owens at Burns Owens Partnership, Tom Fleming at Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy, Sian Prime, Director of MA Creative and Cultural Entrepreneursip at Goldsmiths University, and Gerald Lidstone, Director of Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University.


19 oktober, 2010

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Music Industry and new business models

This sunny day in Stockholm, people from the music industry gathered at Hotel Rival for the Creators Conference arranged by Swedish Music Information Center, The Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers and Society for Swedish Composers.

The focus was added value in the digital world, the attempt was to lift the question from Intellectual Property Rights to look broader; which way might we go in technical choices, what new business models might we see in the future, and what is the role of the middleman within the music industry? Mark Fischlock, the moderator for the day, early on stated that we seem to have underestimated the digitalization and we have for a long time tried to impose old models in a new system. He got a lot of agreeing nodding from the eight-headed panel, and American Intellectual Property Law Attorney, Bennett Lincoff, was quick in hooking on to this, saying that we need a completely new business model for the music industry that can deal with the challenges imposed by the Internet.

Other things said was things like ”We have to find solutions where money goes directly to the Artist”, ”People are willing to pay if the money goes to the right thing”, ”How do you get a fair deal between the producer and distributor?”, ”There is no interest in pipes, you are interested in the content they are providing”, ”The real problem is the lawyers who seem to be stuck in old structures”, ”Let’s face it: We are all cutting and pasting, we have to be less focused on IP”, ”It’s a difference between free or feels free on the Internet”. Many points were made by legendary manager Peter Jenner (Pink Floyd, The Clash and others), who stressed that the industry needs to change and money go directly to the pockets of the Artists. The distributors, like the record-companies, publishers, just grab too much of the pie and this will, and has to, change. Another important point made was the lack of political interest in digitalization as a whole in Sweden.

A bit of a sad remark is the reminder that the music industry in Sweden has to take a serious look at the equality question. Are we to believe that the talented, brilliant, famous musicians, singers, composers, and directors of organizations in this field are only men? In today’s Stockholm paper Dagens Nyheter an article put the light on the music industry being very male-dominant, while among the theatre institutions things have changed. A few years ago a survey showed theatre institutions to have almost only men as directors, something that now had changed to a 50-50 percent men and women in top positions. For everyone who read today’s paper and then went to the conference, sadly got the situation in the music field confirmed. In each panel of eight people, only one in each was a woman. Maybe the Internet and new models in distribution may have an impact on changing this male domination, letting young talented women find alternative ways?

10 mars, 2010

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The Economy of Creativity • Nairobi

I was stunned with what the government official was saying. I had to hear it referred by another person before I believed it.

The workshop days on the topic ”The Economy of Creativity” started with a TV-show with well-known actor and journalist John Sibi-Okumu as the presenter. Invited to the panel were celebrities from Kenyan business and creative life. Hip-hop artist Nameless shared panel with business man Manu Chandaria,TV-personality Dan Ndambuki known for his very popular show ”Churchill Live”, a representative from the Rugby team, Anders Öhrn from Swedish Institute and the governmental official. It was a talk of the economy of creativity, obstacles and possibilities for creative industries in Kenya, the relation between culture and business life. The governmental official said that a cultural policy is coming and a national endowment for the Arts will be in place, something very welcomed by the Artists in the audience although many afterwards told me that they heard this so many times. And as she talked she was addressing problems in the field, and she explained the problems with something like: ”People have an attitude problem” and ”this needs to be changed”. People have an attitude problem? A clip will be on youtube soon, so let’s check if she really said this.

After the show, mainly cultural entrepreneurs and some representatives from business life gathered on a one and a half day workshop to discuss how cultural entrepreneurs and investors could empower each other. The thought was that business life needs the creative industries, as well as the other way around. After long and intense discussions and the full commitment of participants acting as investors investing money in cultural projects, it was quite obvious that venture capital and cultural projects and businesses have difficulties finding each other. Investors will not find the opportunities they are looking for in these projects and Artists’ might not be interested in this sort of capital. They just don’t make enough profit to be interesting for the investor and the major drive for the Artists is not profit, but meaning. For a few it might be a way, and for them it would perhaps be interesting to build bridges, but for the majority this is not a solution. It is important, all-the-same, to learn from each other and there are benefits for both business and cultural field to interact more, was a thought from the conference.

On the evaluation after the workshop, a few conclusions were drawn to strengthen the creative industries and the awareness of the same. Maybe not so new, but even more strongly:

1. Strengthen cultural entrepreneurs and professional Artists with management tools and other similar skills. Education, workshops and training is needed.

2. Strengthen the creative field as a sector through better organization and structure.

3. Promote the creative industries and show the potential for other fields. Raise awareness with businesses and investors.

The workshop was funded by Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation, support from the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi,  in the project ”Empowering Creators and Investors” run by Pratik Vithlani in cooperation with GoDown Arts Centre and Nätverkstan. Read more under category ”Kenya” on the side on this site.


13 september, 2009

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Unemployment rates for Artists in US

National Endowment for the Arts in the US recently published a research done on unemplyoment rates for Astists since the financial crisis. The findings are not surprising, but still sad news in a field where income levels are known to be lower than the rest of the working force.

The study put forward several findings:

• Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers, a category where Artists are put since their high levels of education.

• Unemployment rates for Artists have risen more rapidly than for US workers as a whole.

• Artist unemployment rates would be even higher if not for the large number of Artists leaving the workforce. Some decline may be Artists’ difficulties of finding job prospects.

• Unemployment rose for most types of Artist occupations. High unemployment rates are found in performing Art (8.4%), fine Arts, art directors, and animators (7.1%), writers and authors (6.6%) and photographers (6.0%).

• The job market for Artists is foreseen as unlikely to improve until long after US economy starts to recover.

At the same time as these discouraging news are put forward, another report by National Governors Association recognized that the Arts directly benefit states and communities. This is done through job creation, tax revenues, attracting investments, invigorating local economies, and enhancing quality of life. Figures are put forward by Americans for the Arts, that there are 100.000 nonprofit Arts organizations that support 5.7 million jobs and return 30 billion dollars in governement revenue every year.

Read more of the study here.

5 maj, 2009

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Forum for Creative Regions and Cities

Committee of the Regions, a political assembly giving local and regional authorities within EU a voice within the EU structure, arranged a two-day meeting in Brussels on 20 – 21 of April. More than four hundred participants gathered, together with a hundred invited ”young talents” from many parts of Europe, to discuss what makes regions and cities creative, what would make Europe more creative and together with practical examples both in panels and study visits around Brussels.

The first panel discussion addressed the question ”What makes regions and cities creative?”. A crucial question for EU-Commission if the aim of the year of creativity and innovation is supposed to give results in more innovation and affect economy in a positive way. Many things were put forward, both by the panel, and also by the many young entrepreneurs, cultural practitioners and students in the audience. Why doesn’t education in Europe have more ideas about how to foster creativity? How come the visionary eyes of the young child is gone in the eyes of grown-ups? What happens going through the educational system? Many Art Educations are quite conservative, how could these change? How can Artists and politicians work more together? Are there educational tools to be used? Where do you turn to if you have ideas of something to start?

On the question ”If you get to choose, what is the priority action at EU level?” the answer was unison: Get rid of the blocks in EU, make access to EU money less bureaucratic!

A crucial question if the hopes of creative economy is to come true. There is also a close link between the year of intercultural dialogue in EU last year, and the year of creativity and innovation. If new creative ideas are to happen, the wide variety of competence, skills, cultural and ethnic backgrounds need to be addressed and taken care of in a different way than is done today. There are hopes that the creative field will be the new savior in the financial crisis. Perhaps it will be. But only if you do a correct analysis of the field, understand how running organisations, Artistic practice, projects work, using the competence in the field to find the right incentives to catalyze the potential – there are of course an enormous potential. If you don’t, and get stuck in policies and the overestimated perception of what creativity and innovation is, it will be more difficult. There is a balancing act that needs to be performed.

Artist Jörgen Svensson represented Region Västra Götaland with the project Art and Politics and the project Community Art Lab formed together with Nätverkstan, a project based on using creative processes as a tool for city development. Interesting projecs were for instant FIRST innovation Park in Brno, Czech Republic, and the housing project led by Territorial and Urban Development of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, led together with Mia Hägg, an archtiect in Paris running Habiter Autrement. Urbact, European Programme for Urban Sustainability, just launched a report that can be found on the website.

The Community Art Lab project will soon be posted on this website. Other posts connected to this are for instand Robert McNulty from America for the Arts, on Migration and Entrepreneurs, the seminar in Barcelona in January on the same topic, and examples from India. A programme of the seminar can be downloaded here CreativeCitiesRegions16-04-09. Encatc had a smaller seminar in the afternoon of the 21st of April to continue the discussion, with interesting inputs from Pascale Bonniel Charier of experiences from Grand Lyon and Donato Guiliani from Region Nord Pas de Calais. Download the programme for the Encatc seminar here seminar_encatc090421.

23 april, 2009

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Wondering about the financial crisis?

Do you have a hard time following how in the world we ended up in the financial crisis? Here is the animated film that describes it: ”The Crisis of Credit Visualized – Part 1.

27 februari, 2009

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On the financial crisis

To get more views of the on going financial crisis, have a look at two articles in The New York Review of Books. One by Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton, and Nobel Prize Winner in Economics in 2008, on the title What to Do. The other by George Soros, a financial speculator, investor and Chair of Soros Fund Management (and known for breaking the Bank of England in 1992) on The Crisis & What to Do About It.

29 november, 2008

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Seed money for culture

In many of the art institutions we visit in San Francisco, you find that the Bernard Osher Foundation has funded projects, artist-in-residence programs, exhibitions within art and culture. It can be the small independent film theatre in San Rafael, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts or California College of the Arts.

In Sweden you find The Foundation for the Culture of the Future, which has had the same possibility of funding initiatives all over the country. If you ask around, almost every small or large initiative within culture in Sweden have had funding at one point or more from this Foundation. It can be new project ideas or Art institutions, it can be the Municipalities or cultural organisations. The money from the Foundation has allowed them to initiative new ideas of development, changing structures or explore new areas, something the ordinary funding system usually doesn’t allow. The idea of being able to make a quick decision to give money if the Foundation finds an initiative interesting and the non-bureaucratic structure makes it open to new ideas. The access to seedmoney of this sort has been one of the key factors behind the vivid cultural scene you find in Sweden today.

13 juni, 2008

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Start from scratch

Finally the new premises of the Arts Grants Committee at Maria Skolgata in Stockholm could be properly celebrated and officially opened. One year after moving in. Many people has been involved in one of the Committee’s biggest – and for some controversial – changes. Staff, architects, the Director (both former and sitting), civil servants at the Cultural Ministry and many others have put a lot of effort into this promising new localities. Everything from the art on the wall to the colours, furniture and the specific floor put in for dancers in one of the project rooms has been thought through. You rarely ever have the chance to do that. Start from scratch.

From here, the Committee hand out scholarships, grants and support to visual artists, musicians, dancers, composers and filmmakers. One of the assignments is also to focus on the working conditions for artists in Sweden. To put forward the situation for artists and set the light on the specific and hard working conditions that they have. Few survive on their art. Still, to get the great piece of opera that give new light to music; the fantastic theatre play that put forward the difficult questions; the dance-performance that pushes the limit of what can be expressed with your body; or the local underground band that catches your heart – artists need paid time to work, rehearse and perform.

Many questions have been and will be discussed. What does the working conditions look like for artists? How do our musicians survive in-between their gigs? How should the grants be formed to let composers write new music? How should the pensions for dancers be solved? How can the situation for the independent artists become better? What is artistic quality and how should this be judged? How do we discover new artistic expressions that are unknown today? Hardly new questions, but still valid. And what if we could start from scratch – how would a cultural policy for the 21st century be formed?

Take a look at to get a glimpse of their work.

5 maj, 2008

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How big is your world?

How do world cultures relate to the multifaceted process that we call globalization? Can we achieve greater knowledge and awareness of these issues in our own activities through interdisciplinary thinking and intercultural cooperation? In what way does globalization influence national cultural policy?

These were issued discussed at an interesting seminar with the titel ”How big is your world? Cultural Policy and Globalization” a at the Museum of World Culture in Göteborg, Sweden, on April 10th. The seminar was based on the project The Cultures and Globalisation Series, which has resulted in impressive first and second volumes of ”Conflict and Tensions” and coming ”Cultural Economy”. Several speakers were invited such as Yudhishthir Raj Isar from the American University of Paris; Stefan Jonsson, writer and journalist in Sweden; Mikael Franzén, a Swedish political economist; Chris Waterman from UCLA School of the Arts in Los Angeles; Zala Volcic from the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at University of Queensland and several others.

The first and second volume of ”Conflict and Tensions” and some information of the publication is found at the following website:

18 april, 2008

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Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

On this blog we would like to explore entrepreneurship from a cultural and social point of view. Or rather put forward entrepreneurial initiatives within these two fields.




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