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Big Picture Issues
Economies of Life
A small group of IFF Members, led by Bill Sharpe, have been working for some time (notably with the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol) to figure out how to support a 'healthy creative ecosystem' - in other words, a naturally thriving arts and cultural sector. The core challenge is how to secure financial sustainability with no loss of creative vitality - familiar territory for many of us! This work, over several years, has become a deep inquiry into the nature of ecosystems and economies and the relationship between the two. The breakthrough has been to understand that there is not one economy but many economies, each defined and configured by a different currency, the integrity of which must be maintained in order to keep that economy healthy. This insight allows us to see that art is itself a currency - in an economy of meaning. The relationship between the economy of meaning and the economy of money must be carefully managed in order to maintain the vitality of both. The work also offers insight into how innovation in the economy of meaning takes place, and the role of art in keeping a culture alive and vibrant, with a third horizon edge. This is a very significant, and hard won, contribution to IFF's collective thinking. The ideas these essays contain open up new perspectives on critical issues way beyond the arts. The notion of multiple currencies being in play, for example, is easy to grasp intuitively and is already proving a useful antidote to conversations that in the context of a recession have become fixated only on money.
Bill's set of five essays encapsulating this work, Economies of Life - Patterns of Health and Wealth, is published by Triarchy Press. It is available for download in a low graphics edition on this site (see link below), or for sale in a beautiful printed edition illustrated by Jennifer Williams. The book is accompanied by a parallel publication from Watershed itself: Producing the Future - Understanding Watershed's Role in Ecosystems of Cultural Innovation - available in hard copy from IFF or for download below. These ideas were launched at a seminar in Washington in May hosted by British Council USA and National Arts Strategies. We are now broadening the conversation in the UK and beyond.
IFF has been working closely with Watershed Media Centre, Bristol and with other arts organisations in the initial stages of this work.
Last updated: 3 Dec 2011
Documents for download
Click on the documents below to download them to your hard disk.
Bill Sharpe talks about Economies of Life
Bill's introduction to the key ideas in Economies of Life recorded at an informal dinner for a number of leading arts and cultural organisations in London, 23 June 2010.
Date: 19 Jul 2010 Size: 14.6MB
Economies of Life
A collection of five essays by Bill Sharpe exploring the principles of ecological and economical thinking and their relationship. The essays consider - with poetic sensitivity and intellectual clarity - what keeps each of the many economies he identifies healthy, what sort of wealth each one accumulates and what sort of policies are most supportive of innovation and sustainability in a changing world. This is a text-only version of the publication for download. The full published version with figures and illustrations is available from the gift shop.
Date: 28 Apr 2010 Size: 1.0MB
Making Money and Making Meaning: Presentation to audience development UK annual conference, Jan 2010
Presentation by Graham Leicester of key ideas from Economies of Life relating the economies of money and meaning and their relevance to arts, culture and innovation.
Date: 04 Nov 2010 Size: 234kB
Producing the Future: understanding Watershed's role in ecosystems of cultural innovation
A short report exploring how the ideas in Bill Sharpe's set of essays 'Economies of Life: patterns of health and wealth' resonate with the creative practice of Watershed Media Centre in Bristol, UK and will help to extend and develop their conscious cultural innovation. The report also includes a chapter on how policy might better support such work and help to sustain innovation in the arts and cultural sector.
Date: 26 Jun 2010 Size: 2.0MB