How should creative clusters define, organise and manage themselves to unlock potential through a better understanding of collective needs and values?

Ross, Helen (2020) How should creative clusters define, organise and manage themselves to unlock potential through a better understanding of collective needs and values? Doctoral thesis, Northumbria Univesity.

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The value of the creative sector is paramount to UK PLC. Creative clusters have been a much-deployed UK policy tool for more than 20 years. Their role as a mainstay of regional economic regeneration is well entrenched and reinforced by the sector’s sustained high economic growth, even during challenging times. The body of creative clusters theory is considerable. The canonical texts of Porter (1990) and Florida (2003) dominate, and although regularly challenged, are not adequately interrogated at the point of delivery or at policy level where their influence continues to dominate sector planning, support and development.

As such, creative cluster development remains unopposed with no new approaches forthcoming. The lack of evidence of impact demands a challenge to prevailing beliefs and systems, a questioning of canonical texts and a removal of such a passive approach and acceptance of the policy status quo. This research has endeavoured to challenge those beliefs in order to produce a new and comprehensive understanding of all cluster actors, their values, needs and expectations, through which a more impactful cluster dynamic can be devised and implemented, bespoke and relevant to each cluster.

Combining a qualitative methodological approach with pragmatist philosophy, this research sought to explore how creative clusters should define, organise and manage themselves to unlock potential through a better understanding of collective needs and values. A rich case study of the creative cluster based in Newcastle upon Tyne’s Ouseburn Valley in the North East of England was developed to explore and create a shared meaning and understanding of creative clusters and create new knowledge of their structures and roles as well as collective values and ambitions.

This research has identified considerable new insights as to the values and ambitions of clusters, many of which defy canonical theory and industry practice. This research has established the need for a new approach to support cluster development, a bespoke approach to unlock each unique cluster’s potential. This research has redefined the anticipated value and role of clusters, removing economic potential as the accepted and dominant ambition for all.

Key to this research was the development of a model for analysing clusters and how they manifest, specifically the creation of ‘pillars’ to identify the precise roles of all who influence and shape the cluster. These pillars emerged as three archetypes, Architect, Influencer and Member (cluster business). The three pillars include all those within the orbit of the cluster and define three core definitive roles in relation to the cluster.

This understanding has provided a rich insight in to the commonalities, differences and relationships at the heart of the cluster, and produced findings across five core thematic areas, which contradict many assumed truths, in particular the perceived economic focus of a cluster.

While both policy and cluster creators (Architects) remain faithful to the economic ambition of clusters, 78% of cluster businesses (Members) believe economic growth was not a priority, thus revealing a conflict across the cluster pillars and a lack of awareness and understanding of the complexity of values, ambitions and needs of members and ultimately the sector. This understanding is vital for a sustained future, growth and policy making of clusters.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: creative industries, creative sector, cultural sector, creative and cultural business development
Subjects: W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 10:28
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 11:01

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