‘We have to start to think from the bottom up’
A law for something that cannot be captured in a law. To achieve sustainability goals, but that is not the purpose of the law. The law was conceived in the Brabant Provincial Government Building, but it is not a program. A law supported by councillors, but without mayor. Still hanging in there?
Although there is no mayor, there is a lawmaker: Henri Swinkels (deputy of Liveability and Culture until June 14, 2019) took the initiative for the Law to Preserve Creativity in 2018. Why? “Children are born creative, with a lot of imagination. But when they go to elementary school, things go wrong. I thought to myself: there should be a law that aspires to conserve curiosity and creativity. People think that we have to stimulate and develop creativity, but we already have it in us. It is pretty much a law of nature: creativity is more a part of our nature than we assume. The Law to Preserve Creativity helps us to talk about possibilities and alternatives, instead of being stuck in a fixed pattern.”
Swinkels noticed soon that more people are interested in tapping into creative potential. “We see this both in the industry and in education, as well as in Councillors of Culture in municipalities. Of course, you should not take the idea of a creativity law too literally, as creativity cannot be easily captured in a law. At the same time, that is also a part of creativity: throwing people off guard.”
“Enormous problems such as environmental pollution and inequality can only be solved if we start with creative design power’
A better world
The Law to Preserve Creativity has a strong social component, although indirectly, Swinkels explains. “If you tap into creative potential and make sure there is room for creativity in your own professional environment, you will relate differently to your colleagues. Imagination, exploring possibilities, not excluding each other but looking for connections. You are open to ideas that go beyond business efficiency and financial gain: ideas that fit an image of creating a better world. This applies from a local to a global level. Wehave to find out how we can imagine that better world. The solution to save our climate has not yet been found. And we won’t, if we do not start using that creative potential. How can you, as an individual, contribute something which is important to the whole world? Enormous problems, such as environmental pollution and inequality, can only be solved if we start with creative design power.”
Of course, the challenges are great, the former deputy notes. “Think about CO2emissions: because of the scale of the problem, we do not see our own contribution. That is why we have to start to think from the bottom up: How can I organise a world that is no longer heating up? To answer that question, we can find inspiration in various places. Think in possibilities and study the process: ‘how do you get there?’ Besides creativity, we have to add experience and knowledge to realise that ideal.”
Swinkels continues: “Of course, our ‘law’ is not the solution to everything. But we will have to start with creativity and incorporate it into our processes. Not just for ‘quick wins’, but because it helps managing your company. An ultimate situation would be that people would become really generous and envisage the world and society.” In this process it is important to connect people and their creative thinking power, he believes, “whether someone contributes with their own vegetable garden with chemically untreated crops, or by designing innovative cars driving on solar power as a high-tech thinker at Lightyear: they are working towards the same goal and are using their creativity. They could feel more connected in their ambition.”
“The difficult thing is: we only recognise a plan if we describe where we want to end up. And that is not very creative’
When is the ‘law’ a success? Swinkels: ‘The difficult thing is: We only recognise a plan if we describe where we want to end up. And that is not very creative. It is about the movement in which we tap into that creative potential. Can we allow that energy? Rely on the unexpected and coincidence? Just embrace the unfamiliar? The ‘laws’ encourage you to start with this yourself, and also to give others space. Start by lighting small fires, and use them to start a bigger fire. Think about chaos theory and the allegory of the butterfly that can, with one flap of its wings, cause a hurricane on the other side of the ocean. To achieve that, we must put the subject creativity on the agenda. We do this rather locally – you have to start somewhere, after all. And during the Creativity World Forum, we can put this on the international agenda.
Law in progress
During the three-day conference (CFW2019), the councillors will present the first results of the ‘law’. That law focuses more on the development than on the application of creativity, and that is also the opinion of pathfinder/project leader Esther Hartzema. ‘When we opened the dialogue with the professional field in 2018, and drafted 7 sections of the ‘law’ together, it turned out that a lot of people know very well how to stimulate creativity. But they also experienced obstacles along the way. That is why some sort of agenda had to be created, for and by councillors: the Law in progress.”
This agenda should partially contain existing activities: things that institutions and companies are already doing to stimulate creativity. But also new activities, says Hartzema. “About questions we still have, and about what we want to learn together.” For example, Helicon believes it is important to give creativity a place in the curriculum of its vocational education. But how do you do this? Education has always been aimed at ‘transfer’. Helicon is now organising a think tank to discuss this matter with other councillors. There are many more pearls like this, and the task that lies before us is turning these into a beautiful necklace with our collective power. Besides, the CWF2019 is a beautiful stop along the road that is the Law in progress. It is very important that we present, evaluate, and celebrate everything we do, also internationally.”
‘Because of the Law to Preserve Creativity, I realise this is not strictly about art, but that it is broader, about being able to think freely.’
And what does Hartzema herself think about the ‘law’? “I always thought that my personal drive was: to bring art to life, and life to art. Because of Law to Preserve Creativity, I realise this is not strictly about art, but that it is broader, about be able to think freely. I think it is a great task to be able to contribute to actually start living these creative ideas.”
The 7 sections of the law
As signer of the law:
- I promote the importance of creativity, and I build towards a healthy climate for creative growth.
- I create an environment that stimulates researching, experimenting, and reflecting.
- I believe in the variety of talents of people and I promote diversity.
- I focus my attention on the personal creative growth of pupils, students and teachers on all educational levels.
- I take the creative intelligence of the people in my organisation seriously.
- I realise that people flourish if they express themselves creatively and that this contributes to their well-being.
- I give the playful person plenty of space.