Creativity in context
We had a high-energy day at the iHub in Nairobi yesterday, thinking of problems or “itches” that need scratching in the creative sector, and ideas for sustainable solutions. Forming groups, getting to know one another, talking across the business/tech/creative sectors. Eight ideas/groups emerged, from finding creative materials such as canvas to paint on, to connecting creative start-ups with investors. Discuss, drift, re-focus, encounter a gotcha and take a different path. All of this could be happening anywhere.
But this isn’t happening anywhere. It’s happening in Kenya, full of entrepreneurial spirit and creative energy but a place that is more “developing” than “developed” in some respects — like the difficulty of obtaining canvas and other basic arts supplies.
The longer I spent talking to the groups about their ideas, the more it seemed that working to the specifics of the Kenyan context was critical in developing their value propositions. Their concern, by and large, is about making Kenyan businesses to meet the particular needs of Kenyans, not (necessarily) for the global market. They want to fix the problems and grasp the opportunities they see around them in their everyday and business lives.
Appropriateness and appropriation are both important. “Obvious” questions came up for me like “Why wouldn’t someone just use Amazon for this or Kickstarter for that?” Amazon doesn’t exist in Kenya, whether that’s because of the very different means of payment or distribution networks or warehousing opportunities — or something else — I don’t know. Kenyan ecommerce does exist, however. And no doubt many new ideas are to come that will originate from here, and which the West will find itself appropriating.
There are plenty of ways of appropriating technologies, to provide solutions for the local context. Equally, there are road blocks due to lack of infrastructure. It’s great to see creatives working on exploiting technology to create value for Kenya. Not only do the solutions need to be imaginative, but creatives thrive on dealing with constraints and gotchas. At the same time, they have expectations of technology that tend to pull technologists out of their comfort zone. And that is a good thing. Technologists are creative in their own ways, too – more than many think.
What are these teams going to come up with today as they advance their ideas?