Contributors to initial essay collection include Sir Ronald Cohen, Yo-Yo Ma, Sir Nicholas Serota, president emerita of Brooklyn Academy of Music Karen Brooks Hopkins, director of digital development at Royal Shakespeare Company Sarah Ellis, and George Gachara, managing partner of East Africa’s creative industries investment facility, HEVA Fund LLP, along with arts and impact investing leaders from Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico.

Nesta, the UK based innovation foundation, announces the publication of a new collection of essays from around the globe illustrating the need and opportunity for impact investment to maintain and sustain the creative economy. Creativity, Culture and Capital: Impact Investing in the global creative economy has been created in partnership with US-based impact investment field-builder Upstart Co-Lab and LATAM based Fundacion Compromiso. The female-led initiative marks the start of the UN’s International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development and recognises the creative sector as a key driver of inclusive and sustainable growth as the world recovers from the effects of the pandemic. The collection highlights the need and opportunity for impact investment to support renewed substantial sector growth, alongside continued government funding, philanthropic support and profit-maximising investment, and marks a moment when arts organisations and the creative industries – including fashion, food, film, music and design - are considering what kind of funding will enable them to ‘build back better’ following Covid-19. The essays within the collection explore two broad themes: Creativity at Work, which shows how art, design, culture, heritage and creativity are benefiting people, communities and the planet; and Connecting Impact Capital, which illustrates how impact investment is already transforming and stimulating creative economic activity delivering financial returns as well as social and environmental impact. 

Highlights include:


  • A foreword by Sir Ronald Cohen on the value of the report on focussing on new ways to fund the creative economy
  • George Gachara’s topical exploration of the impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s creative industries
  • A study on the innovative ways technology can be used in theatre, and how that can shape the future of theatre by Sarah Ellis
  • An essay on textile production based at Textile Museum of Oaxaca in Mexico, by Hector Manuel Meneses Lozano
  • Karen Brooks Hopkins’ essay which argues that for cultural institutions to thrive, they need diverse sources of income, particularly as we face an uncertain future
  • An afterword by Yo-Yo Ma in which he describes the positive effect culture and creativity can have on serious issues facing societies


Impact investment – investment made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return - has grown in prominence in recent years and currently accounts for $31 trillion of global capital. This initiative illustrates how impact capital can help finance a more inclusive and sustainable creative economy post-pandemic. As recognised in the report, the significant size and value of the creative economy is not yet fully recognised. Prior to the pandemic, the creative economy represented one of the most rapidly expanding sectors globally, predicted to reach 10 per cent % of the global economy in the next few years.  In the UK, the sector was growing at nearly five times the national average and was identified as a driver of job creation and economic growth before the shock of COVID-19. In the US, the creative sector was growing at nearly twice the national average. 

This rapid growth is one reason the United Nations recognises the creative economy’s potential to be highly transformative in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings, for example the source of 30 million jobs is the formal economy and 300 million jobs in the informal economy. With the launch of the collection on a new website, Nesta, Upstart Co-Lab and Fundacion Compromiso, invite further essay contributions illustrating how the creative economy yields social and environmental benefits and how values-aligned capital supports these efforts. 

The partners intend that this resource will clearly demonstrate the potential benefits of a global impact investment fund for the inclusive creative economy, and serve as a crucible for this effort. The partners aim to publish 100 essays in total by the end of 2021, creating a comprehensive resource of geographies, sectors and experiences, and showcasing a variety of initiatives delivering positive impacts through creativity and culture and the innovative ways in which value-aligned capital is used to fund these. The website, along with a series of events delivered in conjunction with partners such as United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG) and the trailblazing DICE programme from the British Council, will create a community around this resource to help instigate continued growth in the sector.

Fran Sanderson, Director, Arts & Culture Investments and Programmes, Nesta, comments:

“We passionately believe in the power of the creative economy to effect lasting positive social change, and in the huge opportunity for impact investment to support and amplify this change. The report is the first step in demonstrating this clearly to the world. The sector has achieved amazing things without a genuine global support structure, so we’re really excited to see where a more intentional effort could take this movement.”

Laura Callanan, Founding Partner, Upstart Co-Lab, comments:

“The creative economy has the capacity to intrigue, engage, educate and activate more mindful consumers so that the benefits of ethical and sustainable supply chains and the full power of media to drive positive change can be realised. Those who care about shaping a creative economy that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable will find numerous opportunities to deploy their values-aligned capital as the world rebuilds after the Covid-19 pandemic.” 


Carolina Biquard, Executive Director, Fundacion Compromiso, comments:

“Creativity is the new normal. It is the answer to facing the present and approaching the future. Arts and Culture has always been the human answer to find ways for civilization to evolve. Creativity is the way to connect our inspirations and cultural assets with the practical and economic sides of our lives. Especially our youngsters will need to learn to live in a Creative Economy, in a Creative System. We hope to help design the financial structure that this approach needs.”


Sir Ronald Cohen, Chair Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, comments:

"This is a timely and important initiative to regenerate our creative and cultural economy after the pandemic. Impact investment can help channel resources to take this market to scale, bringing great value to our society.”


Yo-Yo Ma comments:

“Culture’s power is in connection – it connects us to each other and to the world, helping us to know that if you hurt, I hurt. With that intrinsic strength and the right support, culture and creativity will continue to be the most powerful source of human solutions.”