Ranking ‘Creative Cities’: an exercise in futility?
Researcher Oli Mould reflects on the tendency for economic development policies that seek to boost a city’s ranking on ‘creative city’ league tables to paper over the very people and processes responsible for creativity.
The ‘creative city’ is often heralded as the path out of the economic quagmire many cities around the world find themselves in. Employing a palette of planning and development policies designed to attract the so-called ‘creative class’, cities compete with one another to climb the creative city league tables that have been built around a countless array of indices. However, increasingly, these policies are overlooking people and processes that are more fundamental to a city’s inherent creativity.
To compete globally, cities are turning to marketing and branding strategies in order to sell themselves as the next Silicon Valley, for example. A notoriously futile example of complete citywide remarketing was Detroit in 2003 under Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Being toward the bottom of many creative city rankings (notably those by the creative class guru Richard Florida) and experiencing severe economic decline in recent years, Detroit’s economic governing agencies (such as the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the City of Detroit) formulated the ‘CreateDetroit’ brand and enacted policies to encourage growth around creative and knowledge-intensive industries.