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Propinquity matters: Spatial Proximity and Cultural Closeness in Creative Communities: Dr Stephen Dobson


A colourful art installation of bags collected on a wall in various colours.

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Dr. Stephen Dobson, Associate Professor in Creativity and Enterprise, explores the concept of ‘propinquity’ in entrepreneurship, particularly within the context of creative communities and clusters. Dr Dobson highlights the value of diverse knowledge and experience in innovation, the importance of supported playfulness to foster collaboration and the kinds of support needed for creatives and creative industries.

The significance of propinquity:

While existing research on entrepreneurship emphasises the importance of networks, collaboration, and proximity, the role of propinquity has received limited attention.
Propinquity encompasses proximity, but also goes beyond physical closeness. It includes the kinship, affinity, and cultural connections that are built from ongoing close associations with others.
Creative places provide access to materials and resources, but of equal importance is their ability to foster this increased social and cultural connectedness.

Creative and entrepreneurial communities:

The creative economy is a vital contributor to industry output globally and accounts for 7 per cent of total employment. In the UK the creative industries are described as the fastest growing part of the UK economy providing £101.5 billion GVA contribution (2018). However, it is also a sector under pressure. The majority of enterprises (95 per cent) in the creative industries are micro businesses employing fewer than 10 people with a significant proportion (35 per cent) of workers being self-employed.
Creative clusters can support stronger entrepreneurial ecosystems and add capacity to micro businesses through greater access to skills, knowledge, customers, and amenities. However, these approaches need to move beyond a focus on geographic proximity to examine the barriers that reinforce inequities and exclusion.
The creative economy is essential for growth and job creation but current practices may be reinforcing intersectional disparities and under-valuing diversity of knowledge and experience.