The UN has estimated that 195 million jobs will be lost by the covid pandemic. A recent survey by the UK’s Creative Industries Federation (interest declared) has shown that 42% of creative businesses have already lost 100% of their income.
In thinking about what next, there are the immediate responses by various governments to protect incomes, housing and food. Often flawed and with big gaps, but also temporary. What might come afterwards? To use the phrase, what will be the new-normal?
All the talk of business scale-up and growth will now feel very dated. I think we’ll be dusting down our start-up resources, not least because even when the same people in the same company try to continue with the same work with the same clients … the reality will be that it will be start-up tools and methods that will be needed, but maybe called re-booting to acknowledge the natural human desire for continuity.
It tells you just how much of a crisis the world is facing when a UK Conservative government gives press conferences with phrases such as “working with our friends in the trade unions”. Of course they are right to do so, but just check how far we have already changed. The common cause and grassroots volunteering will not just fade away, and I guess I want to believe that at least some of this new co-operation will endure. Consider, for example, a so-called blockbuster movie. Traditionally the investors would work with producers for a return on investment (profit, or sometimes loss) and the staff would be hired and fired as needed. In the make-up department they are called ‘dailies’. But imagine everyone works with co-op contracts, a living wage at the time plus a % of future income. And investors get a fair return, not super-profits. Of course, many creative projects do struggle to get funding as a rule, and to cover costs, but that doesn’t mean that a fairer, cooperative model isn’t possible.
I worry that the public sector – the world of local authorities, LEPs, DCMS, etc etc – and its orbiting moons such as BFI, Arts Council, National Lottery – will find it hardest to adapt to the new world we find ourselves in.
The public sector staff culture might be something like saying, “well, we’ve done a lot of working from home, and put some new apps on our phones, but now it is back to the office, the 7.27 train, and making more spreadsheets on the server for clients to fill in”.
Whereas creatives in the private and independent sectors will probably be saying, basically, “You know what, that office was mostly a waste of money anyway, let’s spend the rent instead on a summer camp and bring the kids and elders along” or whatever.
In short, I think there is a risk that the next innovations will act as a cultural wedge where the public sector risks being stuck in the past. But possibly some public sector leaders will start to look beyond the old model of command and control, centralisation, outsourcing essential services, and unsustainable pay differentials.
And if innovation means we’ll never have to hear again about KPI seminars, well friends, wouldn’t that be something!