“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things…” – Henry Miller
Our current culture is no longer defined by industry and production, but instead, by creativity and technological innovation. The target population to contribute to our society and help keep it moving forward is that of creatives and creative-supporters. The entire system that creative activity emerges can be explained as a creative ecosystem. This ecosystem helps to cultivate creative thought, people and distinct creative places, encouraging the creative class to visit and participate in said places and activities at those places. For any creative destination, it is important to acknowledge and care for all components in the creative ecosystem, in order for the ecosystem to grow and thrive.
The term creative ecosystem has been in circulation since 2000 when it first appeared in BusinessWeek. Defining a form of infrastructure, this system that creative activity emerges from includes a few core components: The creative person, the creative project and the creative environment, and well as the functional relationships that connect them.
In this specific day and age, creative economies must be aware of how creativity, innovation and culture are important factors for the competitiveness of not only companies, but also for nations, cities and regions, particularly as we move from goods and service economies to “experience” economies. Ragnar Siil, a specialist with the European Union - EaP Culture and Creativity Programme, commented on the need to develop cultural and creative ecosystems in creative destinations, “Based on individual and collective creativity, skill and talent, the creative ecosystem is capable of improving well-being and contributing to the creation of new jobs in the city,” he stated.
Since the early 2000s, many nations, cities and regions have been paying close attention to the needs of the growing creative class and the health and well being of creative destinations as a part of our global culture. Without proper care and thoughtfulness toward maintaining a healthy creative ecosystem, many creative destinations will die out, and force residents and visitors to look elsewhere for jobs, homes, culture, and experiences. Like Henry Miller said, the destination is predominantly a new way of seeing things, and that is even more true in today’s society. The creative class includes the upcoming generations that will carry our culture into the future, and this particular group of people is concerned with experience, adventure, and authenticity.
Jane Jacobs, who, decades ago, noted the ability of cities to attract creative people and by doing so spurred economic growth, predominantly developed the human capital theory. The human capital theory establishes that creative people are the driving force in regional economic growth. Approaching this notion from a creative capital perspective, the human capital idea can be thought of as a stock or endowment; but, does evoke the question: Why do creative people cluster in certain places? Richard Florida has conducted years of research on this topic, including focus groups and interviews and was able to discover that people consider economic and lifestyle components and the combination of both of those things when considering where to live. People were not making the career decisions or geographic moves that the previous standard theories stated, but instead, educated and creative individuals were drawn to places that were inclusive and diverse. This creative capital perspective identifies a specific type of human capital, creative people, as being key to economic growth; and, it identifies the underlying factors that shape the location decisions of the creatives, instead of assuming that regions are blessed with certain endowments.
The creative class of people engages in work whose function is primarily to create meaningful new ideas and forms. This class of people includes scientists, engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, architects, as well as innovative thinkers and communicators like journalists, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and influencers, according to urban theorist and public speaker Richard Florida. The creative supporters are also involved in this—professionals who engage in problem solving, in health, science, tech, legal and financial industries. Florida estimates, according to his research, that the creative class includes 38.3 million Americans now, which does not discredit others from being creative, but merely looks at the individuals that are paid for their creativity in their professional work. That number is up by 10 percent at the turn of the 20th century.
The creative areas that these people are drawn to and contribute to are not thriving because of any traditional economic reasons like natural resources or transportation routes, but because the creative people want to live there. “The companies follow the people—or, in many cases, are started by them,” Florida says. “Creative centers provide the integrated ecosystem or habitat where all forms of creativity—artistic and cultural, technological and economic—can take root and flourish.” What attracts this demographic to specific areas is high-quality experiences, an openness to diversity of all kinds, and the opportunity to validate their identities as creative individuals. Laguna Beach is one of those places that people are inclined to flock to, but is on the cusp of losing this creative place attraction. It is pertinent that as a community, Laguna Beach maintains and helps to make sure that it continues to offer ample diversity of experiences, people, economics, technology and places.
“The nature and function of the city is changing in ways and dimensions we could scarcely have expected even a decade or two ago,” Florida stated. Although constant research on this area of interest is being done, there are basic that communities can pay attention to, in order to tailor these theories to their own space, place, and interests—diversity is at the very core of every version of this.
An important new study by economists Quamrul Ashraf of Williams College and Oded Galor of Brown University should help shed some light on this topic. "Cultural Diversity, Geographical Isolation and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," recently released as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research charts the role of geographic isolation, proximity and cultural diversity on economic development from pre-industrial times to the modern era. It finds that "the interplay between cultural assimilation and cultural diffusion have played a significant role in giving rise to differential patterns of economic development across the globe." To put it in plainly: diversity spurs economic development and homogeneity slows it down. This means that in a community, it is important to attract and keep diversity of industry, diversity of culture and diversity of people as an important foundation for success and growth.
Laguna Beach has had an extensive history in supporting and perpetuating diversity of people and experiences. Other cities in Orange County are catching up to the success of the creative center of Laguna Beach, long known for its history as an arts colony and an artistic epicenter in OC, by offering more affordable housing options, more diverse cultural offerings, encouraging bilingual and cultural businesses and centers, and creating unique and distinctive spaces and experiences that become signature offerings to those cities.