An Introduction to the Creativity Culture & Capital platform from Nesta

An Introduction to the Creativity Culture & Capital platform from Nesta and a Q&A with Director of Arts Programmes and Investments Fran Sanderson

Nesta, formerly the National Endowment for Science and the Arts, is a UK based charity with international reach and a quest to support innovation for social good. First launched in 1998 the organisation has transformed from the UK’s first ever publicly supported national endowment, to an independent innovation agency with the mission to generate large-scale, life-changing impact.

In January 2021 Nesta launched a bold new 10-year plan aimed at combating three defining societal challenges: how to give every child a fairer start, how to help people to live healthier lives; and how to build a more sustainable economy.

Fran Sanderson is Director of Arts Programmes and Investments at Nesta, comprising an impact investment business, Arts and Culture Finance, and a legacy of grant and support programmes designed to stimulate new business models, positive social impact and structured experimentation in arts, culture and creative enterprise. In January 2021, in collaboration with international partners Upstart Co-Lab in New York and Fundacion Compromiso in Buenos Aires, launched a brand new Creativity Culture & Capital platform aimed at creating a collective hub of diverse, creative intelligence; a space offering inspiration to drive innovation.

Launched to coincide with and drive interest in the 2021 United Nations Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development , and with support from the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, this new platform aims to showcase the potential of impact investment in the creative economy to drive social and environmental change.

Although the platform will be live until at least December 2024, the team is on track to publish over 100 essays from individuals, organisations and businesses from across the world by the end of 2021.

We caught up with Fran to discuss how the platform came about, what she hopes it will achieve and why creativity is so important to what Nesta does.

  1. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To start off, what is your role and when did you first start working for Nesta and why?

I started out my professional life at JP Morgan where I worked for 9 years and managed an ethical equities fund. I then took a couple of years off with my family to travel – we even spent a year living off grid in Portugal – before facing the reality of coming home and finding a job!

After that I moved on to Big Society Capital as an investment director and it was in this role that I first came across Nesta when I worked on the pilot for the Arts Impact Fund while on secondment with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Although I didn’t initially consider myself as having the kind of background Nesta would look for, I was drawn to their ethos and was delighted to be approached to run the Arts Impact Fund. This role evolved, and in 2017 I took on overall responsibility for Nesta’s grants and action research activities in the arts too, as Director of Arts Programmes and Investments, a position I enjoy to this day.

  1. This new Creativity Culture & Capital platform launched in January of this year, can you tell us where the idea initially came from and what you hope it will achieve?

The platform really came about through collaboration and the desire, shared with colleagues and the project’s creative partners in Argentina and the US, to generate a critical mass of collective intelligence to act as a springboard for new ideas and innovation. Impact investment has reached critical mass in the last few years, with dramatic growth in assets, interest and practitioners; and the ideas underpinning the active use of capital for positive change have really become mainstream.

We recognise the creative sector as a key driver of inclusive and sustainable growth, particularly as the world considers how to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19.  At a time when the creative industries are considering how to ‘build back better’, the need and opportunity for impact investment (alongside continued government funding, philanthropic support, and profit-maximising investment) to support renewed substantial sector growth is more vital than ever.

So, developed alongside the work of Arts & Culture Finance and inspired in part by Nesta’s ambitions to be a system shaper, we decided to use our platform and networks to try and build a movement around impact investment in the creative economy, initially by collecting and sharing powerful demonstrators from around the world, and that’s how the Creativity Culture & Capital platform came about.

  1. You put out a call for submission in March, how has the response been?

It has been great, we are all delighted, and quite humbled, by both the number and wide-ranging scope of the submissions that have been sent in so far. We have received a fantastic number of submissions from a diverse selection of countries , with particular thanks to the British Council and their powerful DICE (Developing Inclusive Creative Economies) network. We will publish a second edition in the summer and a third in the autumn, with a blend of solicited and unsolicited essays – we do encourage people to browse the stories and send the submission page to anyone with a captivating story to tell about how people are funding positive change through creative enterprise around the world!

  1. What kind of submissions are you looking for/would like to see?

We are looking for the full spectrum of experiences, knowledge and creativity to appear on this platform, particularly from perspectives more seldom represented, for example from those in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We hope to see examples from cultural heritage, fashion, design, food and media and to give voice to leaders from marginalised communities and the next generation. We really want to hear from contributors outside our circles and networks, and the reason we wanted to publish the stories as a live resource was to generate a snowball effect and connect positive ideas from across the planet.

Fran and the team behind the Creativity Culture & Capital platform are committed to developing a just, sustainable and profitable global creative economy through impact investment by creating a critical mass of creative and collective thought. The philosophy behind the platform is that once people become aware of it, submit to it and start to use it, its remit and capacity will grow. Having already received a substantial number of submissions from countries including South Africa, Wales and Pakistan, they are looking for more, so if you have an essay or thoughts aligned with the themes of creativity at work and connecting impact capital, you can submit your contribution here – Submit your insights – Creativity, culture & capital (creativityculturecapital.org)