Supporting Creative Business: Cultural Enterprise Office and its clients

This project will investigate how the Cultural Enterprise Office operates as a business support agency for creative sector micro-businesses in Scotland. Led by PI Philip Schlesinger and Co-I Melanie Selfe, it seeks to develop in-depth academic understanding of the workings of public support, provide research-based analysis to assist Cultural Enterprise Office, and analyse what lessons for public support in the cultural field can be drawn from the experience of the service and its clients. By mobilizing and analysing the implicit, embedded knowledge of those providing and receiving support, it aims to revalue organizational experience: transforming fragmented anecdotes into structured evidence, identifying models of best practice in cultural sector support and developing new methods and models for the effective evaluation and evidencing of cultural support initiatives.

Through the detailed case study of Cultural Enterprise Office, the investigation will address the following issues:

  • How does a cultural support agency understand its role and evolve its agenda within the wider policy and economic landscape?
  • How do particular practices, schemes and interventions enable the organisation to achieve its objectives, and to what extent do these activities meet the needs of clients and transform their perceptions and business practices?
  • What are the particular challenges of developing entrepreneurial skills and establishing micro-businesses within different parts of the creative sector? 
  • What can academic research bring to an understanding of agency-client knowledge exchange and how can future knowledge exchange be best facilitated?
  • What key lessons can be drawn from the experience of the service and its clients in relation to the challenges involved in framing and executing policies for support of cultural enterprise in the 21st century?

Excellent access has been provided by the partner organization, enabling the use of multiple methods to create a complex picture of the support practices of Cultural Enterprise Office, patterns of client engagement and its place within the wider Scottish policy context. The team will observe and analyse routine activities and key initiatives; interview board members, staff, clients, advisors and stakeholders; conduct coding and analysis of a decade of key documents and internal records; and organise a series of knowledge exchange events designed to facilitate reflection on policy and practice at multiple levels. In addition to conventional academic publications, outputs will include datasets, case-study materials and a report designed to be of use within the policy field.

Whilst clearly situated in the Scottish context, this study will address pressing issues relevant to a number of wider policy and creative economy debates. Findings are expected to contribute substantially to our understanding of the specific support needs of micro-businesses; the fit between entrepreneurial policy rhetoric and the career aspirations, professional identities and intellectual frameworks of creative workers; the relevance of concepts such as IP for small scale creative enterprise; and the way geographic clustering/dispersal affects the effective delivery of support. Current policy continues to position creativity as the engine of enterprise and economic regeneration. This study will use empirical research to identify the challenges of developing creative reputations and successful business profiles within a notoriously ‘precarious’ sector, and will inform the provision of effective creative sector support.

For further information on Cultural Enterprise Office: