Lessons learned: European culture districts article series and certain recommendations relevant to DC Government's economic development and culture functions
The European Union flag flies at the Embassy of Greece in Washington, DC.
The series of articles I did on European culture-based revitalization as practiced in eight cities (Bilbao, Dublin, Hamburg, Helsinki, Liverpool, Marseille, Thessaloniki, Vienna) for the Europe in Baltimore project conducted by the European Union National Institutes of Culture Washington Cluster is finished (for the most part, there is an additional article in the hopper based on a trans-atlantic conference that was held a couple weeks ago).
The final article in that series is a long one, and includes a lot, my basic conclusions and understandings, an expansion of the original framework of the types of revitalization programs and the scale at which they operate, (some of the) things I missed, academic work I was introduced to that I still need to delve into more deeply, and "recommendations" for cities considering participating in the European Capital of Culture program, for Baltimore, and for the U.S. Federal Government in terms of how to better focus resources and attention on revitalization practice, in part by adapting certain programs of the EU--the Capital of Culture and Green Capital programs specifically--and a German program, the International Building Exposition--as diffusion and innovation models.
EU knowledge networks for urban improvement are superior. Perhaps the biggest lesson is the difference between the European Union/European Commission and the US knowledge ecosystem--universities, the federal government, other state and local governments, nonprofits, etc.--in terms of knowledge capture and innovation diffusion. It's not that various entities in the US don't generate tons of information on culture-based revitalization and planning practice more generally, we do.
The difference is that in the US we haven't created "practice networks" in the same way, and we don't capture the benefit of focused cooperative and collaborative "competition" between cities as a way to improve outcomes for all participants.
Instead, much of what we do in the US is "one-off" and repetitive (plus cheerleading is big and critical analysis is not appreciated) and we waste a lot of time and money doing similar things, but over and over.
Relevance to DC government's economic development and cultural activities. It happens that some of the recommendations for Baltimore are relevant to DC, in particular how Liverpool has restructured its economic development and culture functions into two branded agencies directed by plans, Liverpool Vision and Culture Liverpool specifically, that combine various city government functions but also integrate the private and nonprofit sectors in particular ways.
Vienna does something similar. It has a branded economic development agency, with two sub-brands focused on the creative economy (Departure) and on information technology and communications.
I hear that the same business schools that produced the city's "economic development plan"--which I was not particularly impressed by, are producing a similar study on DC's cultural offer and the creative economy. I am not expecting very much, but I suppose I shouldn't be so negative.
First, what should happen is a restructuring of DC's economic development activities. Right now, the various economic development projects pursued by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development feel disjoint and political considerations shape the priorities in significant ways. I'd like to see a real plan, on the scale of those done for Liverpool (and Bilbao).
Second would be a restructuring of activities related to the cultural offer as well as the creative economy.
Third would be to direct more of the city's tourism tax revenue stream to support the development of cultural assets at various scales throughout the city, including within neighborhoods, because cultural assets are what makes the city attractive both to residents and to visitors (e.g., what a paper about Thessaloniki calls "city break" tourism, which is what DC's "local" tourism offer is).
Vienna does this) that also has the innovative thrust of Helsinki's Forum Virium Helsinki agency. (Allegedly, DC's CTO unit does some of this kind of innovation too, although it's not evident from the DC.gov website design...)
Past writings. I wrote a memo in 2006 (reprinted in 2007 in "Cultural resources planning in DC: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king") that discusses how to reorganize the city's cultural resources programs in an integrated fashion.
The paper I wrote on culture districts and revitalization in 2009 is as relevant today as it was then.
Plus by early next week I will have another piece on "knowledge clusters"-'Innovation districts" in response to a report released earlier this week by the Brookings Institution, which will extend the other writings. (The reality is that the precepts for "creating" culture districts are pretty much the same for knowledge quarters.)
Plus I guess this piece from a few months ago, "Naturally occurring innovation districts | Technology districts and the tech sector," presages my thinking about how innovation district concepts are relevant to DC.