I spent a few days last week in Oklahoma City, as a keynote speaker for an event sponsored by the Creative Oklahoma initiative. Believe it or not, but Oklahoma is working hard to become known as the “state of creativity” (and they’ve gotten a good start by securing the domain name www.stateofcreativity.com). Like many of my readers, I was at first skeptical; Oklahoma doesn’t typically come to mind in connection with the creative economy. But Oklahoma’s creativity initiative has the backing of top political and business leaders, a rare combination. I met the Governor as well as a substantial number of local business leaders. And both Democrats and Republicans were united behind the initiative.
For about five years now, Oklahoma’s initiative has been guided by Sir Ken Robinson, a leader in the field of creativity and education who has spent most of his life in the U.K. (thus accounting for his knighthood by the Queen) and, seven years ago, attracted to the U.S. by a top position at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles. No doubt as a result of this expert advise, Oklahoma is doing everything right–the campaign is proceeding on multiple fronts, including education, culture, and business.
I was invited to talk about innovation in the schools of the future. Oklahoma schools have adopted the A+ schools model that originated in North Carolina. If we want a creative economy, then we absolutely have to start with our schools, because the creative economy depends on creative workers. I haven’t written much on this blog about my research on schools and creativity, but let me just say that most schools today do a very poor job of fostering creativity in students. When I see Oklahoma investing in its schools in this way, I begin to believe that it truly could become known as the “state of creativity.”
They’ll have to be in it for the long haul; regional transformations like this historically have taken between ten and twenty years. Another invited speaker was Pascal Cools, of the Flanders District of Creativity project. Flanders is the Flemish region of Belgium, and until a few years ago was thought of as an agrarian backwater. Now it’s a center of the global innovation economy. In the small Belgium town of Leuven, Pascal coordinates a global network of “districts of creativity” that include Qindao, China, Karnatka, India, Catalonia (“in” Spain although the Catalonians would deny that), and yes, Oklahoma–the only state in the U.S. to be a member in this international effort.
I wish Oklahoma great success in this transformative effort.