Building Creative Networks and Entrepreneurial Culture in Georgia

This month I was in Tbilisi, to deliver the Nesta Creative Enterprise Programme, and also to be a mentor, panelist, workshop facilitator and judge at the Cultural and Creative Institute Youth Forum. This was outlined as two separate trips, a week or so apart, but I was delighted to be able to stay on in Tbilisi to immerse myself in the culture here, and more importantly to participate in and witness what happens in the days and weeks after all the activity of the workshop.

Creative Enterprise Programme, Tbilisi, Georgia

The Creative Enterprise Programme focuses on creating the right conditions for successful and sustainable delivery, convening an ecosystem of organisations (government, NGOs, regional development agencies, academia, private sector), energy and vision. It is about striking a balance between universal (the programme has been honed over more than a decade) and local knowledge and context. It originates in the UK, which has a strong creative sector, academia and skills. But in seeking to share this knowledge, it needs to be tailored each time to suit host countries seeking to develop their creative economies. A huge part of this is the long tail of activity before and after each workshop, to understand better how this knowledge can be more specifically and successfully applied within the unique context of each country, region and city, each with their own ecosystems of funding, networks, legislation, policy and talent.

By spending the ten days or so between engagements, little as it was, it gave me better insight into ‘why things are the way they are’ here – the rarely spoken, subjective cultural nuances that permeate business culture, government roles and remit, service culture, generational differences, public optimism or pessimism (just as everywhere has its own way of being).

Over the course of the ‘in-between’ week, I mentored five alumni businesses of the CEP to prepare them for a presentation pitch to the Cultural and Creative Institute Youth Forum. In that time, I had direct exposure to how they were developing their relationships and keeping the other 18 businesses that participated in the CEP in close contact. The creative industries are very social; based on trust and being able to see eye-to-eye on the way they see the world, and critically, agree on something that may not yet exist. Over meals and coffees and evening drinks, jobs were offered, resources were shared and advice, connections and support were freely given. 

This extra time after the CEP workshop was a gift. I got to explore Tbilisi and outside of the city, I got to know the CEP cohort better and see them develop into a support network, and I learned a lot about Georgia’s long history as a cultural crossroads between some of the world’s largest and most influential empires and ideas. 

Crucially, it gave me much more time here in person with the cohort of Creative Enterprise Programme participants, in these first vital weeks when the bringing together of a cohort of creative entrepreneurs can become, with a little nudging and nurture, the beginning of a successful network of creatives helping each other out and enriching each other’s development. Nesta has increased its support of this activity, developing the Creative Hubs Academy in response.