Belarus opens the country's first School of Creative Industries supervised by MSSES graduate

Belarus opens the country's first School of Creative Industries supervised by MSSES graduate

In September, the first Belarusian School of Creative Industries will open in Minsk supervised by Alina Derevyanko, a MSSES graduate. We asked her about what the Belarusian creative industries are, what distinguishes creative business from other types of entrepreneurship, and why it is necessary to learn from those who have already scored bumps along the way.

The leading areas of creative industries in Belarus closely overlap with the IT sector. It has the most competitive salaries, the best conditions in the labor market — working in IT is equivalent to ideas about well-being and success, whether you work as a game designer or a tester.

IT companies have a significant impact on the country's economy. Perhaps the most famous is Wargaming, an online game developer with offices around the world, 4,000 employees, hundreds of millions of dollars in profits annually, and a head office in Minsk. Therefore, the state supports this sphere - there are tax incentives for IT startups, there is a High-tech Park in Minsk, whose residents are exempt from traditional bureaucratic relations with the system, etc.

But there is no concept of creative industries in the Belarusian legislation. This area lies somewhere between the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Economy. In 2015-2018, Belarus, along with 5 other countries, implemented a large European program "Culture and Creativity" - its goal was to show different stakeholders that such an industry exists, that it is promising and therefore it`s worth defining it at the legislative level, developing an official policy on creative industries and calculating their contribution to the economy.

When the project was being prepared, it was necessary to formally refer it to some department —the Belarusian Ministry of Culture got it. But when later legislative initiatives for the development of creative industries were worked out (the same legal concepts or tax preferences), the Ministry of Culture couldn`t lobby for anything, since such things should come from the Ministry of Economy, which didn`t participate in the project in any way.

"Culture and Creativity" became successful in Ukraine — since that time, the concept of "creative industries" has been officially enshrined in the law "On Culture" there. But most importantly, it is entrenched in the official rhetoric, among the decision-makers in the country.

In Ukraine, the concept of "creative industries" is officially enshrined in law. But most importantly, it is entrenched in the official rhetoric of the decision-makers in the country

We can say that Belarus has a community of creative entrepreneurs, there is a noticeable growth of creative spaces and events that they create, which correlates with the Pan-European trend that began in the 1990s. But successful projects in this area aren`t connected with the state in any way — and the Belarusian creative industries don`t find much support from the foundations yet. Creating a business accelerator for IT projects — no one has any questions about why it is profitable. But it`s not clear why creating an accelerator for creative business.

In Belarus, unlike Russia, there is no system of private funds, so the support of creative industries here is carried out at the expense of the EU grants. This is partly politically motivated: the country is a kind of buffer zone between Russia and the EU — there are a number of territorial programs of American and European donors — the main support for the creative economy in Belarus comes from them.

We don`t have an education that is at least positioned as an education in the field of creative industries. Therefore, we invited people who have received such education abroad -  in the UK, for example-and those who are successfully developing a creative business here in Belarus. The idea of the school is to introduce students to the existing ecosystem of creative industries - existing platforms, forums, international programs and funds-and those who are already creating a creative economy and clearly understand the situation in its various industries.

For example, I don't do design or fashion - we invite those who successfully work in this field, practitioners, to conduct master classes. We want to give our students universal tools which they can work on their project in a particular field of creative economy with management skills, business planning, promotion and PR.

When teachers are practitioners, this is always the most valuable learning experience. You didn't just read Landry's book about creative cities, but you got to know the people who create this environment-it's quite memorable

We are based on our experience — in my case, it is also connected with MSSES, although it has been 9 years since my graduation. When I was making a program for the school, I looked back at what moments I was most interested in learning. In particular, the story with the involvement of professionals echoes MSSES: when we met with gallery owners at the "Winery", went to the Manege, where we were told in the first person how it works on the course on creative industries. You didn't just read Landry's book about creative cities, but you got to know the people who create this environment, do something themselves-it's quite memorable.

This is the the method we want to use in our educational program: when teachers are practitioners, it is always the most valuable learning experience. When we talk about the creative industries as an economic sphere, we get from the atmosphere of creativity and inspiration into a competitive environment where you need to convince customers to spend money on your idea or product

But the task of the school of creative industries is not to teach business processes like how to calculate the break-even point or correctly calculate the purchase volume, but to help people with an idea or a cultural project find a sustainable development model that will generate income. Because when we talk about the creative industries as an economic sphere, we get from the atmosphere of creativity and inspiration into a competitive environment where you need to convince customers to spend money on your idea or product.

This means that the methods that are traditionally used in marketing are also applicable to the creative industries. But the creative business is more than just creating added value and generating revenue. It offers people something more than a marketable product — an emotional value or even a lifestyle.

We received an application from a girl from the region-she writes that they have only one site in the city where cultural events take place, and she wants to learn how to organize them herself: learn how to form a team, how to attract partners and sponsors, how the event business works in other cities. Sometimes people work somewhere, but don`t see the sense in their activities — they leave to fit into more creative formats. For such people, the school will provide infrastructure, tools, other people's experience, and inspiration. After all, the specialists whose projects we focus on and whose experience we use in training were also once ordinary enthusiasts.

There have been noticeably more creative venues - festivals, creative hubs, and cultural projects – over the past 3-4 years. About 80 percent of them are concentrated in Minsk. We communicate with the people who run them — none of them learned how to write business plans, they had to fill a lot of bumps, learn by trial and error. On the one hand, such people also have a request for education in the field of creative industries. And on the other hand, almost all of them say that they need people in the team. At the school, we create a space for professional communication-we unite those who want to work in the creative industries and those who can offer something in terms of infrastructure.

We are organizing the School of Creative Industries in Minsk together with the Liberal Arts European College. It was created by former teachers of the European University for the Humanities, which was closed in Belarus in 2004 and continued its work in Lithuania. Those who want to enroll in a European master's degree after graduating from a Belarusian university often go to the College. This is due to the problems of humanitarian education in the country — local universities don`t train specialists focused on the modern changing context. The college provides additional, non-certified education modeled on the Western Liberal Arts system.

Now we have the most active period — accepting applications, it will last until September 18. At the end of the month, we are planning to hold a presentation of the School of Creative Industries in Minsk.