There is a great line in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention – “Creativity must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system.” One of the key systems, of course, is the city, which is the reason why politics and elections are important to artists, entrepreneurs and all creators.
The New York City mayoral election appears to be turning out to be a huge negative for creative people. In a week when London Mayor Boris Johnson is calling for a “London Visa” to attract high tech, fashion and other talent to his city, New York is facing a choice between an old-fashioned liberal and an old-fashioned conservative and a return to an old 20th century era of class and ethnic conflict. Sad and boring. It’s as if the past 10 years hadn’t happened in Brooklyn, that the booming Maker Culture wasn’t there and that the soaring Gen Y and immigrant populations weren’t important. Did any of these candidates for mayor hear of Kickstarter?
To whomever eventually wins the NYC Mayor’s office, I’d like to suggest a few policies to promote what I call "Indie Capitalism.“ It’s the kind of capitalism that is remaking the face of the city. Here goes:
1) Crowdfund new housing for the middle class. Moderately priced housing is in short supply in the city, threatening to drive creative people–and lots of non-creative people–away. Brazil is pioneering the crowdfunding of skyscrapers. Why not do the same for middle class housing. Kickstart another Stuy Town–or 10 Stuy Towns.
2– Fund the student creative class. There are amazing universities in NYC where students produce remarkable work in their classes, especially senior classes. That creativity gets flushed after graduation (it goes into student portfolios). My sense is that a good third of those senior projects could become the kernel of a new businesses. Many of my students go to Kickstarter for this, but Kickstarter is a narrowly curated crowdfunder. A city-wide AppleStarter available to all MBAs, senior design students and young creators could generate lots of startups and jobs.
3–Start a "C-School” that does innovation the New York City way, putting culture, experience and engagement first in generating products and services, in contrast to the “D-School” kind of innovation out of the West Coast that is technology-centric. (I’m working on an Institute of Creativity at Parsons and this could be the foundation.)
4–Expand the Gifted & Talented public school programs. New York already spends more money on education per student ($22,000) than any other public education system in the nation. But very little goes to develop creativity. Even children who test highest for being creative have to enter a lottery to get into Gifted & Talented classes because there are so few of them. This is just nuts for a city that runs on creativity.
In fact, this whole election in New York appears nuts for a city that runs on creativity.