Creativity and culture as important topics of a European youth policy
Not only since the beginning of the economic crises 2007 creativity is seen as a major personal skill to deal with challenges and demands. The one and only correct answer to a given problem does not exist anymore; flexible thinking, unorthodox methods and creative ways to problem solving are seen as the appropriate approaches in today's globalising world. To find creative solutions to complex problems is understood as an important input for innovation which are seen as the main motor of the European Union economy. Furthermore, creativity is a human capacity that enriches the personal life, enables the person to meet daily challenges and fosters cooperation in society.
Additionally, over the last decades it became common sense that creativity is not just a given talent but an ability that can and should be trained and improved. As a consequence, creativity developed into a purpose with regard to the upbringing of children and in education. Creativity flourishes in societies where free, equal and open exchange between humans, people and cultures is taken for granted.
Creativity and Culture in European Policies
Since creativity plays such an important role nowadays, it is not surprising that the year 2009 was declared to the European Year of Creativity and Innovation (Decision No 1350/2008/EC). The homepage of the so named year announced the following key message: Creativity and innovation contribute to economic prosperity as well as to social and individual wellbeing. So creativity and innovation are thriving factors for entrepreneurship and important new skills needed in new jobs. Therefore these capacities are mentioned as key competences (see the recommendations on key competences for lifelong learning, and the resolution on new skills and new jobs) and thus being inline with the ideas of the Lisbon strategy.
Culture is, as the Council of Europe points out, an essential component and a key factor for human rights and democracy. It builds the basis for an understanding of society, of life itself; it is the basis of cooperation, dialogue and exchange. Therefore the Council of Europe asked already 1954 for strong culture politics to foster respect for identity and diversity, intercultural dialogue and cultural rights – as the basis for respectful and tolerant living together (see European Cultural Convention, CETS No.: 018). Cultural diversity and cultural heritage are important elements of the European self-concept. Also in the Lisbon Treaty (Article 167) it is pointed out that the Union should take culture into account in all its actions so as to foster intercultural respect and promote diversity.
Creativity is a key factor for culture and cultural expressions but vice versa culture is seen as a catalyst for creativity. Already in the Culture Programme of the European Commission (2007 – 2013) stimulation of creativity through culture and the promotion of creative industries are set as a European Union policy. Also in the European agenda for culture in a globalizing world, culture and its influence on creativity is discussed: "The role of culture in supporting and fostering creativity and innovation must be explored and promoted. Creativity is the basis for social and technological innovation, and therefore an important driver of growth, competitiveness and jobs in the EU."
This connection between culture and creativity, the features of creativity leading to innovation and competitiveness or economic growth, and the prerequisites for fostering creativity are analysed in detail in the study "the impact of culture on creativity" where the terminus "culture-based creativity" is mentioned. It is furthermore highlighted that art and culture learning in school and in life long learning has a major impact for stimulating creativity. Even a possible future European Union creativity policy is outlined.
In the "Manifesto" of the ambassadors for the European Year of Creativity and Innovations – a group of artists, economists, researchers and scientists – it was outlined what lines of action are needed to foster creative thinking and support innovative approaches. This manifesto can be seen as a further marker towards a creativity policy. Last but not least the economic impact of culture and creative industries is gaining more and more strength, and they are therefore topic of European research and a special Green Paper for "Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries".
Creativity and culture in youth policy
The links between culture, economy, education and creativity were furthermore topics of diverse conferences in the last years. The homepage of the European Year of Creativity and Innovations 2009 provides a good overview and starting point for further research. Also the importance of creativity concerning the lives of young people today was topic in events of that year. Especially the role of the new technologies in the young people's approach to creativity is an issue, and a row of interesting papers on this issue can be found in the reports of the conferences CICY Conference in Belgium and Promoting a Creative Generation in Sweden – to name only two.
The increased importance of creativity also has an impact on education as one of the core issues of youth policy. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for example, recommends now to assess educational success not only in the traditional subjects of schooling but also in field of "soft skills" like creativity.
Also in recent youth policy declarations this stronger emphasis on culture and creativity is reflected nowadays. To value and encourage the creative potential of young people is recommended for the refreshment of the Youth Agenda of the Council of Europe. And in the "EU Strategy on Youth Policy - Investing and Empowering" creativity is one of the main tools to deal with the challenges of our time when standard approaches seem to become inefficient. In this communication creativity is coupled to entrepreneurship to highlight the need of creative solutions also in the field of economy. Young people should be encouraged to think and act innovatively.
Text drafted by Manfred Zentner
for the Partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth.