Creativity is at the heart of the Maker movement. If Italy wants to become a leader in this field, Italians need to freely exercise their creativity. Charles Landry is the founder of an urban policy think-tank and a guru when it comes to urban creativity and revitalization. We met up with him at Florens 2012 to ask him how, in his opinion, Italian cities measure up.

Landry has invented the "Creative City Index" which includes ten key indicators of creativity, resilience and likelihood of future success. These are:

  • political & public framework
  • distinctiveness, diversity, vitality and expression
  • openness, trust, tolerance & accessibility
  • entrepreneurship, exploration & innovation
  • strategic leadership, agility & vision
  • talent & the learning landscape
  • communication, connectivity & networking
  • the place & placemaking
  • liveability & well-being
  • professionalism & effectiveness

His research, conducted in collaboration with a series of cities (Bilbao, Perth, Canberra, Freiburg, Ghent and Oulu so far), looks for evidence of these indicators in some of the places you'd least expect it. Creativity is not just driven by the traditional arts, but by the larger creative industries (design being an important one of these), and especially by business and even administration. The idea is that anyone (even your post office worker) can be creative, given the right set of conditions.

To become a 'creative milieu', the  city, or an area of that city, must establish certain physical conditions in terms of both hard and soft infrastructure. Some cities seem to naturally contain many of these elements, while others gain them through administrative intervention. Unfortunately, there is no one easy recipe that can be applied worldwide - what makes Berlin a hub of creativity right now, as we tried to figure out in this article, cannot be transferred one-to-one to, say, Florence, Italy.

At a recent event in Florence, we caught up with Charles Landry, who had just spoken about creative cities in the context of a major conference on culture and economy (Florens 2012). We asked him a tough question: to evaluate Italian cities. He had to do this on the fly and in a diplomatic manner, so we appreciate his effort! In his occasional experiences working in Italy, and during longer stays as he has a house here, he has noticed that there is heavy bureaucracy and a resistance to actually doing things; a political and public framework that is blocking progress. And that this is happening despite Italy being in a severe crisis for some time, which in other countries unblocks things.

Hoping to make a change from the bottom up, we asked Mr. Landry what we could do (personally, as a collective, as Makers in Italy) to kickstart some creative change. He recognizes that Italians have the skills, creativity and capacity to change the creative scene and its related economy, but he's at a bit of a loss to suggest just one thing we can do from the bottom, other than, perhaps, protest! He suggests that the best thing for Italy would be if, with every new company, association or producer, another one would kindly step aside and make way for the new stuff - without knowledge of a certain political campaign that suggests the same concept of "rottamazione". So, without attention from above, and without the likelyhood that anyone will make way for us any time soon, the best we can do is make stuff anyway... and do it in spite of organizational, political and economic challenges.



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