What is an entrepreneurial city? What are its building blocks and whose doing the building?

We’d best be mindful that entrepreneurship is (at least) a double edge sword – carrying with it connotations of Delboy behaviour, illicit grey economy dealings, making a quick buck doubly fast but without a grain of civilising or moral coding behind it.

Whilst it can mean being creative, innovative, flexible, and focused on spotting income generation opportunities when none existed before, none of these things in their own right are necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad’ things. It depends on what is done in the name of entrepreneurship as to its resultant value.

So, an entrepreneurial city could either be the city from hell – much like Tokyo in Bladerunners, or it could be an en-nobled, ennobling civilised space in which people’s entrepreneurial behaviour is directed towards the greater good rather than their own bank accounts. An entrepreneurial city could either be filled with wide boys, hoods and spivs – or it could be like Venice. Or both. The choice is ours – i.e. all the inhabitants of that city, not just the choice of the ‘entrepreneurs’ whose interest might just be focused on their own economic destiny.

The building blocks of an entrepreneurial city might be

…The way it treats its poor, its excluded and its disillusioned
…The way it gives air time and political influence to individual spirits
…The way it doesn’t preferentially focus on the ‘big boys’ of the economy but supports the development of nano-, micro- and mini- SMEs
…The way it recognises and values local culture – not just traditional, mainstream arts and museums but the myriad of ways in which people go about things and create value, difference and impact
…The way it values diversity and difference
…The way it doesn’t only tolerate dissention but appreciates it
…The way it regulates itself and public behaviours
…The way it values risk, challenge and uncertainty
…The way it engages with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” (Wikipedia)

So, if we want to start making an entrepreneurial city we’re probably best starting at home. Our offices and premises could be reflective of those building blocks; we should worry less about PR aspects and not be so anxious about making mistakes.

Entrepreneurialism is founded on risk, learning, making mistakes and recovery. If we want to encourage that, we have to breath the same kind of air once in a while too.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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