Insight: The resilience of creative hubs in Southeast Asia, told through the British Council’s “Communities of a New Future”

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The global escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, learn, communicate, and work. But for creative hubs and their communities, the current crisis has presented questions along with challenges: What is the purpose of creative hubs in this pandemic? What will creative hubs look like in the future?

The British Council’s “Communities of a New Future” is a three-part online gathering for hub managers in Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom to discuss these questions, and begin the long journey to the answers.

The first forum was entitled “Inspiring Resilience: what are the short-term responses from creative hubs?” Held last May 29, the event gathered together more than 100 hub managers and leaders, as speakers discussed how the creative hub community has evolved beyond just a physical space.


According to one of the speakers, Felencia Hutabarat of Ke:kini Ruang Bersama & Co-working Indonesia, the hub has tackled the challenge of being a “voice of reason” amidst the chaos of the pandemic, hosting several programs for its community members that tackle issues like mental health.

“We’ve invited experts and people who have been practicing these issues for a long time, the idea is to bring voices of reason,” Hutabarat said. “There has been so much noise, everything is online. We kind of have to decide where we have to be in the online jungle, and we decided we wanted to be the voice of reason.”

Amongst the challenges, Hutabarat highlights that the hub wants to empower citizens to be “resilient in their own way.”

“We get a lot of mixed messages from our government… the state government says something, and the provincial government says something else. So through our hackathon, we find ways for our citizens to be independent and resilient in their own way whether the government is there or not.”

According to survey data gathered by the British Council, although a number of creative hub leaders who said they felt “alone,” more of them agreed that they felt “more connected than ever.” More participants also said they felt “inspired” as opposed to “overwhelmed,” signaling that many creative hubs felt there was much to be done in the midst of the pandemic.

Also according to the survey, 35 percent said they had applied for funding as a response to the crisis. Up to 80 percent said they had made the partial or total move to online mediums, while 60 percent said that they made plans to support their community, whether residents or neighbors.

Stephanie Kee of the Penang Art District in Malaysia added that her hub has been able to connect with people they weren’t connected with before, but that the lack of “human connection” available in face-to-face interaction remains a challenge.

“In the earlier stages, [our goal] was to look for resources and find emergency support for the community. But as time goes on, the conversation matures to really think about our role in society and how we can remain relevant, I suppose, in this new normal and how we continue to deliver value especially when human connection is limited due to lockdowns and the recovery period.”

“It’s been really inspiring to see how some creatives are finding ways to support frontliners and their communities either by releasing content online or having personal conversations.”

By connecting creative hub leaders from Southeast Asia and the UK, the British Council aims to encourage mutual learning and exchange of ideas. The three forums will be hosted between May and July 2020, each one exploring the short-, medium, and long-term perspectives for creative hubs globally.

Communities of a New Future – A series of creative hub conversations is made possible by forum partners adobo magazine, Whiteboard Journal, and Thames International.

For more information on the program visit: creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/blog/20/05/18/communities-new-future-series/


Partner with adobo Magazine

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