Felipe Buitrago - “We Are in an Age of Innovation”

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Oct 27, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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Felipe Buitrago - “We Are in an Age of Innovation”

Consultant supports Salzburg Global’s efforts to help young cultural entrepreneurs Mr Buitrago speaking during a brainstorming session

Sitting in the finely decorated Chinese Room at Schloss Leopoldskron, Felipe Buitrago’s reason for being at Salzburg Global is simple. “I am at the Salzburg Global Seminar because I want to make the world economy a more creative economy.”

Mr Buitrago is consultant of the Division of Cultural Affairs, Solidarity and Creativity at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C, where he leads the Cultural and Creative Economy Lab.

He found himself, among other leading thinkers, at Salzburg Global earlier this month for a strategy session entitled ‘Promoting the Next Generation of Cultural Entrepreneurs: Planning for Success’.

The aim of the session was to help evolve the 2012 Young Cultural Leaders Forum into a 10-year program.

“There’s a partnership that is starting to make an innovative approach, which at the same time returns to its roots,” said Mr Buitrago, describing the significance of the session.

“The cultural sector in particular is way behind in many of the strategic discussions at a global level. It’s very important that it’s included here now and focused on young cultural entrepreneurs.

“We are in an age of innovation and the fact that [cultural entrepreneurs] are taking the risk to try new formats [and] involve people in a different way is very important.”

For over 11 years, Mr Buitrago has worked in creative economy development on behalf of the Colombian Ministry of Culture, the British Council, the Ibero-American Observatory of Copyright (ODAI), and separately as an independent consultant and university professor.

He described the strategy session’s topic as very important and relevant to the work being conducted at the Inter-American Development Bank.

The bank is aiming to improve the communication tools for cultural entrepreneurs in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

It aims to reaffirm the relevance of the creative and cultural industries for regional economic development.

Speaking during the session, Mr Buitrago said, “Being here, meeting these very interesting people from all over the world helps me understand better what I’m doing. With that I can actually improve my ability to communicate and reach out for the similar leaders across the region.”

Mr Buitrago would like to see more opportunities given to young people, to help develop their skills and provide employment.

However, he suggested the world was in the middle of a large economic transition.

Past economic disruptions have been caused by developments in agriculture and the industrial revolution.

Mr Buitrago suggested the latest disturbance was being caused by digitization.

“The new generation is coming through with new skills [and] has a different relationship with technology, but the people managing the economies are not aware how it works.

“It’s our job to try and help people, especially the people in charge right now to understand what’s coming next so they can start preparing the ground for them.”

Mr Buitrago has experience in research, international negotiations, design and evaluation of policy and development programs in more than a dozen countries around the world.

He has collaborated on a number of publications, including ‘Creative Lebanon’ and ‘A Tanzania for the Creatives,’ both published in 2009. His latest publication is entitled, ‘The Orange Economy’.

On the first evening of the strategy session, Mr Buitrago attempted to convey his latest book’s main arguments to the rest of the participants.

“In this book, we are trying to communicate the statistics behind the creative economy, in particular to help the policymakers make decisions about it.

“We provide some tools to understand the nature of this: how this ecology works; how there’s one supply side and a demand side but also an institutional side; and how you have to look at this in a multidimensional way in order to cover it.”

In order to provide for this multidimensional approach, Mr Buitrago said his team had come up with "the seven Is” for the development of the Orange Economy.

These include: information, institutions, industry, infrastructure, integration, inclusion, and inspiration.

Mr Buitrago argued information is needed in order to make informed decisions, adding institutions and industry needed to be developed to combine creative talent with entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking capitalists.

This can be improved by providing greater access for cultural artists through infrastructure.

The experienced consultant suggested creative activities played a significant role in terms of inclusion.

“Creative activities have shown an incredible potential to help solve the social, economic, political and inclusion gaps in terms of diversity of gender, sexual orientation and political differences.”

But for progress to be made, Mr Buitrago said one factor could not be prioritized over another. In his eyes, it’s a process that starts and ends with the individual. He concluded the interview by saying, “It has to be all worked together and integrated in order to be effective."