Global Experience
Case Studies: Ministry of Culture

Expanding Argentina’s Network of Creative Cities

For years, Buenos Aires has been a pioneer in Latin America’s creative economy. In fact, the capital city employs the majority of Argentines working in industries like music, audiovisual production, design, fashion, and publishing. The city has also seen nearly 90 percent growth in the creative sector between 2004 and 2012. During this time, the local government implemented policies and incentives that encouraged both foreign and domestic investment in their creative sectors — actions that have helped increase employment, stimulate the economy, and foster entrepreneurship throughout Buenos Aires. Inspired by this success, Argentina’s Secretary of Culture Enrique Avogadro saw an opportunity at the national level to reduce unemployment, boost tourism, and nurture the development of new industries by growing Argentina’s network of innovation hubs, known as “Creative Cities.

Students meet with Argentina's Secretary of Culture
“The Minerva student team had to navigate the constraints and complexities of a national government. Given this fact, the way they approached their research, and the recommendations that came out of it, were as impressive as they were insightful.”
Enrique Avogadro
Secretary of Culture

Minerva students meet with Argentina’s Secretary of Culture.

Strategizing Within Constraints

To help inform his decision-making, Avogadro sought the advice of several professional teams, including the World Bank and Accenture Consulting. Through a connection with Minerva’s Managing Director for Latin America, members of the Class of 2019 had an opportunity to form the only student team to consult with the Secretary, as his administration moved to scale Argentina’s network of Creative Cities from four to 50 in less than nine months.

The project required a deep analysis of the information provided by the Ministry, the gathering of additional information from other public sources, and the guidance and expertise of Arts & Humanities Professor Taylor Jardno. Together, the Minerva team selected an area of focus: identifying a set of variables for the Ministry to consider when growing Argentina’s network of Creative Cities. To do this they decided to analyze other cities around the world that had successfully developed creative economies and attracted investment from public and private partnerships.

Establishing Best Practices

The team began by conducting a regression analysis on a large set of public data, aiming to identify correlations between cities. This, they hoped, would highlight connections between economic growth and other development indicators, as well as the direct benefits cities would receive if they were to invest in their cultural development. However, due to a lack of reliable data and an inability to narrow the data to be specific to cities, rather than broader regions or provinces, the results were inconclusive; they needed to rethink their approach.

Rather than focus on empirical research, the team decided the best way forward was to research and analyze the strategies that successful global creative cities — particularly in the southern hemisphere — have implemented. Students elected to first learn about the historical and cultural context of each city they were researching. Analyzing them on multiple levels, they hypothesized, would enable the team to better understand the extent to which they could translate their learnings into recommendations for Argentina. Because of this, students avoided studying cities with cultural and historical contexts far different from Argentina’s own. The team also knew to be cautious when drawing conclusions from their research, since the case studies were representative of only some of the creative cities around the world. Understanding historical and cultural context, and learning how to design and interpret case studies are two of the habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs) students learn at Minerva. 

“The work we did was a good starting point for longer-term projects that can deliver great value in Argentina’s efforts to strengthen its creative economy.”

Alberto Martinez de Arenaza, Class of 2019

Based on their analysis, the Minerva team created a list of best practices:

  • Collect more economic and social data specifically measuring the effect investment in culture can have on a city
  • Determine a focus industry for each city so clusters can form, achieving economies of scale and creating a collaborative ecosystem
  • Increase collaboration with other Ministries, including Labor, Production, Tourism, Social Development, Science and Innovation, and Education, to be more efficient and effective, as well as increase the likelihood of receiving government funding
  • Align with educational institutions and ensure technical, trade, and other vocational schools are prepared to train students for careers in the focus industry
  • Partner with the private sector to support government initiatives and invest in job growth

A Promising Start

After conducting extensive research, the Minerva team met with Avogadro to present their findings and recommendations. Their work established a solid foundation for his administration — as well as future Minerva classes — to build upon, once new Creative Cities are developed and more data is available for analysis. To help lead this continuation effort, one member of the team, Class of 2019 student Ailén Matthiess, was brought on as an intern to work with Argentina’s Ministry of Culture in the information and statistical department known as SInCA. There, she is developing tools to help Ministry officials and other local decision-makers better analyze and act upon data — enabling them to gain new insight, understand opportunities for growth, and mitigate risk. Just as students learn at Minerva, being evidence-based and creative are not mutually exclusive; the two can work in concert. In fact, the most complex challenges demand both modes of thinking across multiple dimensions.