Can the creative industries lead us to a sustainable future? Dan Burgess talk June 2010

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A 10 minute talk where I was invited to stand in at the 11th hour to join a panel of thinkers to answer the question 'Can the creative industries lead us to a sustainable …

A 10 minute talk where I was invited to stand in at the 11th hour to join a panel of thinkers to answer the question 'Can the creative industries lead us to a sustainable future?'

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  • So I don’t really want to talk about brands and marketing.Cos it’s a little dull right now, if I’m honest.And because there’s not that much going on there, although there should be and could be.So I was asked to step in on this event quite late, 24 hrs ago in fact, so I’ve decided to base my talk on what I see as interestingh examples of creativity with an eye on a sustainable future.And also I wanted to explore what do we really mean by creativity when it comes to sustainable futures?What are we expecting creativity and the creative industries to deliver?So these aren’t prescriptive or exhaustive by any means– just some example of good stuf.f
  • Let’s start with our enormouswaste culture – let’s look at plastic. The incredible work of Chris Jordan.These are albatros chicks found off the north Pacific. In fact 2000 miles from human life.The parent birds have been feeding the chicks with plastic human debris they find in the sea which they think are fish.For me this is an example of creativity to raise awareness, shocking yes, but very powerful.This clearly shows and help us understand the inter-connectedness of the world and our actions. VBS TV have also used film to raise awareness of our plastic addictions with a documentary on the great pacific garbage patch. Worth a watch.
  • Staying with Plastic.The Plastiki project – David de Rothchild and crew – building and then sailing across the pacific on a boat made of plastic bottles –this is happening right now, to raise awareness of our plastic addiction and the waste and destruction it causes.That’s pretty creative imho.
  • Virtual water – a fantastic idea creating transparency and understanding in a playful way of our immense unconscious use of water – showswater footprint and impacts of everyday products we buy and use.there’s now an app for that as well.
  • Charity Water –creativity and passion to address a fundamental basic humanneed. 1 billion with no access to safe clean water. 1 in 8 people.Unsafe water & lack of basic sanitation causes 80% of disease and kills more people every year than violence and war.Raising Money using the social web and other offline stuff to fund and install water pumps in communities.Drill down to clean water springs and put a pump in that will last a village 20 yrs. One guy,Scott Harrison in NYC started this as his mission – in 3.5 yrs has raise $20 million.That’s pretty awesome.
  • Using smart creative interns to develop powerful comms.Showing what focussed people with a vision and purpose can achieve.
  • And here’s a reminder for Fathers day which is this weekend folks.Why buy a card when you can send an e-card to your dad and provide clean water to someone for 20 years. 
  • Design for the first world.Love this web based design competition project.So here’s something around consumption as a core idea in society – do we exist just to be consumers? – what is the developing world being developed into? What does developed really mean? Addicted to consumption, no awareness of environmental destruction we cause.Interesting provocative debate which needs to be had at so many levels.
  • Obesity is also singled out as a design challenge that the west needs saving from.Our toxic food production and habits-1.8 Billion clinically obese while 800 million are undernourished.That’s surely a signal of a broken system that needs radical optimisation.So for me this is a powerful alternative view of what it means to be human today.Good provocative creativity.We need more of this debate.
  • BPGlobalPR.This is not just another dig at BP.As a tweet I read this morning said “The earth is bleeding internally. We need to spend more time discussing the procedure, not just blame the surgeon” #BP.But none the less this a very creative (hilarious) and interesting way to get people thinking about this stuff, discussing our oil addiction, starting to get active around the peak oil situation on the horizon.Not sure whose behind this but feels like a tight group - 170K followers in a month or so.
  • These are my feet – these are EVO minimal running shoes from Terra Plana. a UK business who have been working tirelessly on creating ethical low impact shoes.These are inspired by barefoot running.The awesome’ born to run’ book suggests that we as humans all evolved as endurance runners, barefootrunning champions running with compassion and smiles, running connected to the natural world, taking away the intervention of products. So for me more ideas and creative initiativeswhich get us participating in things, doing rather than consuming, increasing wellbeing, reconnecting with nature in particular areawesome. 
  • Trees near you – an app for NYC.Maps 500,000 trees in NYC, what they are, what they do, their role – in terms of CO2 absorptionand stormwater protection.Awesome playful idea which starts to build more awareness of nature in the city. This is all good.
  • World cup – my friend Tom Farrand at pipeline ideas got me thinking about this.Estimates suggest $1.5 billion spent in advertising at this World Cup as well as $1.6 Billion in sponsorship. How effective is this money –what is the real benefit to the brand? Is this just not more wallpaper and landfill at the end of the day?what amazing things could have been fixed and developed in SouthAfrica with a fraction of that spend?Thankfully the Greenpeace solar world cup shows what can be done with small investments.South African paradox of an event being held in a country where the majority of its citizens cannot afford to buy tickets to attend games.In the village of Jericho they trained a group of teens in solar energy and installation. kitted out the community hall with solar powered big all the games. Thekit will be reinstalled on schools after the event.We need more of this sort of ‘creativity’ to do useful, impactful stuff with some of this enormous waste of marketing investments.
  • HOL – This is a plug for my neighbourHugh.To deal with sustainable futures we need to create resilience, action and momentum at grassroots community level.First thing is to get people talking and engaging again – at a time when many people in urban environements don’t talk to each other.HOL was set up a couple of years ago as a hobby, it’s doing amazing things in reconnecting a small part of north london, getting people engaged in proper community stuff which is starting to engage in some of the challenges, food, transport, education, open spaces, pollution, local business etc2000 plus people signed up.Positive actions happening.Awesome creative response.
  • Yumshare – will go into beta soon. Local, communityservice, around food clubs.We want to eat better food, local, organic etc – but it’s expensive.Create a food club with friends/family.Buy quality fromlocal food producers and wholesalers at a better price together.Gets delivered to one location.Club comes together to pick up their food. People connecting around food grown with love. Awesome. 
  • Do lectures .the most inspiring conference event thing which isn’t a conference event thing.sort of a freerange, organic mini TED in a teepee in wales.incredible humble people doing amazing things for humanity and the natural world. sharing their stories for all of us to be inspired to do our own. All the talks go up on the web for everyone else to watch.Curated and hosted by an amazing team including David Hieatt and Andy Middleton, in the mindblowing awesomeness of the fforest location in west wales.
  • Then finally a couple of work plugs.Couple of projects I’m really proud to have worked on. Nokia and Freecycle .Making freecyclemobile.Using the scale and reach of a big global business to spread a fantastic grass roots movement.Opening up Freecycle to people for who the mobile is the access point to the internet.Amazingly successful.Thousands of new people signing up every month.Using marketing money to invest in a useful global community service.
  • Nokia bike charger – I did some very early concepts a few years ago on this – just makes sense.Lots of people getting on bikes all over the world.Lots of people with phones.Phones need charging.Electricity is scarce for many.Carbon reduction is really important for others.Awesom.
  • This one is for Victoria.The Forest Guards project for Sony Europe. A kids climate change competitionsponsorship, that turned into an NDP project, internal engagement piece, and documentary film.Lovely creative approach with a very limited budget making good stuff happe.
  • So to finish off, most of these ideas are being activated by individuals or very small groups of people. Amazing creative thinking and doing from small groups of people with very limited resources.Passion and purpose in bucket loads though.So the question today was : Can the creative industries lead us to a sustainable future?There’s no doubt the creative industries could play a big role.Full of smart, highly skilled, talented people – but I think a lot of their/our energy is currently being wasted.So what could happen if we start to apply some of the the creative industries energy to tackling the enormous issues we face.In my opinion these are the biggest creative challenges of our time.Surely that’s exciting?3 quick things we can do.1.Support these amazing grass roots people – they need smart creative people to make their work better, to get more people interested, to build awareness.2. Pick a problem or a challenge to fix or get immersed in like Franny has done with 10:10. Find a project that your company can use some of its energy and skills to try and tackle.3. Push this stuff with clients, find things that you can tackle together through creativity – build purpose into what you do beyond just profit. Look for ways to build business with more meaning.Thanks!


  • 1. Can the creative industries lead us to a sustainable future?
    Creative industries KTN Event
    London, 15th June 2010
    dan burgess
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  • 20. So, what can we do?
    Creativity & New ideas
    Participation & Education
    Purpose & Action
    Consciousness & Balance
    Thank you!
    Twitter: @dansolo