Customizing Policy for Creative Cities in Three Steps

The goal of creative city policy is to create practices that incorporate the arts, culture, and creativity into a city’s broader policy initiatives. However, in “Creative City Policy and the Gap with Theory,” authors Jan Jacob Trip and Arie Romein argue that there is an inconsistency between the theory of arts as a social and economic driver and the reality of many cities’ current policy approaches. This gap between creative city theory and practice, the authors argue, too often produces ineffectual policy.  The authors set out to close the gap by identifying a three-step approach to help cities develop successful creative city policy. This approach incorporates social and economic issues, integrates the needs of multiple sectors, and generates policy that is city-specific.

To demonstrate how this approach works, the authors apply the three steps in an analysis of the existing creative city policy of Delft, a midsize city in the Netherlands. They do so by sifting through pre-existing quantitative data and policy plans, as well as by conducting interviews with local representatives and creative entrepreneurs. In the first step, the authors use interview data to identify Delft’s most significant “place qualities”—its defining social, symbolic, and physical characteristics. In the second step, the strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential opportunities and threats (collectively referred to as “SWOT”), of the major place qualities are determined. In the third step, these SWOTs are assessed as a whole to identify specific policy needs. For example, an important physical place quality is determined to be the supply of work spaces in Delft. The authors then identify an opportunity to redevelop unused inner-city industrial buildings to supply more creative workspace. This opportunity in turn produces a policy need to create more parking and broaden transit options in the inner-city.

The application of the three-step approach to Delft exemplifies how creative city policy should be developed around the existing qualities of a city rather than around a generic theoretical model.  Such policy that is specific to a city’s needs, collaborative across sectors, and based on realistic, attainable goals is positioned to be well-received and successfully implemented.

Trip, Jan Jacob & Arie Romein. 2014. "Creative City Policy and the Gap with Theory." European Planning Studies, 22(12): 2490-2509. 
DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2013.790592 

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