January 24th, 2013
07:44 AM GMT
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Editor’s Note: Members of the Young Global Leaders forum at the World Economic Forum in Davos share some of their ideas for innovative ways to boost the economy and unleash intellectual capital.

(CNN) – Is 20% youth unemployment in the western world inevitable?

Will generations of young workers be condemned to precarious work conditions in developed economies, or persistent poverty in the emerging ones?

This doesn’t have to be the new reality.  If we consider that just as the “knowledge economy” defined the 20th century, the “creative economy” will dominate the next.

We must accept that in a world where traditional skills and labor will be outsourced and automated, logic will take us from a to b, but creativity will take us everywhere.

The lure of visual culture is pervasive – fuelling phenomena like Facebook, Instagram, Vice Media and the like.

But the state of culture-based education is in crisis. The arts are being carved out from curricula, at the very time...

  • When creative industries are growing at a faster rate than the world economy.
  • When the rate of joblessness in America’s creative sphere is half of what it is for other professions.
  • When music, fashion and design in Britain, so brilliantly showcased at the Olympics, employs more people than its financial sector.

To stimulate innovation, we must re-invent the way we study humanities. And to achieve that, museums must be put in the picture, not just in the frame.

I want to convince you of three ideas:

1. That creativity will be a survival skill of the future

2. That the props and people within museums are essential resources for learning

3. That by embracing technology and forging innovative partnerships, museums will become the fiery muses that set the world’s innovation alight, and not the mausoleums where art just goes to die

You may already buy into the first idea, given widespread data from urban theorists like Richard Florida, confirming that culture brings economic benefit in very measur­able ways.

It’s not surprising that governments from Singapore to Sao Paolo are racing to “teach” innovation. China too has started championing this premise; recognizing that long-term, being cheapest may carry too high a price.

  • But can innovation be imposed?
  • Can creativity be taught in classrooms?
  • Can economies built on perspiration shift to being fuelled by inspiration?

This is where I see the vital role of the museum.

For 2,000 years museums have held an exalted place in society, built on the belief that through objects, they tell the history of how humans shape the world – and have been shaped by it.

In 2012, just over half of youth in the UK attended a museum or public gallery – that’s more than go to football matches. The same is true in France.

But how can museums stay true to the educational premise on which they were conceived - in the face of tighter budgets and global recession?

How can they teach record numbers of people philosophy, history, literature and art, in a way that leads to a greater understanding of the world?

The answer lies in partnerships with entrepreneurs and industry to forge co-collaborative models and prototypes, like those emerging in the sciences and maths

As you know, the spiraling cost of education has driven universities and visionary educators to pioneer massive open online courses:

  • In the past 12 months, Udacity and Ed-X have been accessed by over a million students.
  •  Since its launch five years ago Khan Academy delivered over 200 million lessons.

So why can’t the pillars of arts education be similarly reconstructed?

In fairness, select museums are responding slowly, but demand far outstrips supply.

  • For example, New York’s Museum of Modern Art has 2,400 online students, but there’s undoubtedly demand for 10-times that number.
  • The Smithsonian is experimenting with augmented reality and GPS; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles with digital TV.
  • A podcast of the BritishMuseum director’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects” has been accessed by over 10 million people.

And visionary museums like Tate are encouraging Google Art Project to come in and digitize great artworks online, bringing masters to the masses.

This is not about supplanting the quasi-religious experience of seeing Rothko’s RED in jpeg format. Nor is it calling for the demise of the physical museum any more than Coursera is calling for the death of the university. It’s about bringing the assets of museums to unprecedented numbers in unprecedented ways

It’s time for museums to change the face of education.

It’s time for the private sector and for governments to recognise the true value of the arts.

Yana Peel, CEO, Intelligence Squared, Hong Kong

Filed under: BusinessDavos

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Jeff Gates

    Being creative is one of the most powerful things someone can be engaged in, no matter which discipline one applies it to. This is where artists have a great deal of experience and we should use their expertise.

    While museums are changing and adapting to the times more work needs to be done. More leadership in moving from a 19th century-based "conservation of history" to a 21st century one of engagement. And, while large museums, like MoMA may have the funds to move into this realm, many medium and small museums are barely getting by. So more funds need to become available to accomplish these new tasks.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  2. Samuel Joseph

    In fact since the 1980's museums in the US have been making the changes that the writer has advocated for so elequently in this article. I invite you to contact AAM, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), and Association of Children's Museums (ACM) to find out more about the creative grassroots educational initiatives museum of everydiscipline around the country have been undertaking. This kind of innovation is costly and as the last commentor mentioned "more funds need to become available to accomplish these new tasks". Herein lies the dilemma!

    January 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  3. owen

    Much of this article is thought provoking and much is false dreamery.
    Accepting the outsourcing of primary/trades related 8ndustry will signal the beginning of the end for this or any country that doesnt put due resources into securing such skills that are so vital to GNP and a stable economy.
    While art IS the human condition and is a testament to our abilities as cerebral spirits caught between our actions snd thoughts and we strive to create that which can only be imagined, this means very little when economics are concerned.

    January 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  4. ricama

    Owen – i believe you are confusing the "arts" with creative thinking. The latter resides in the arts, athletics, heavy industry, computer sciences, et al. Creativity is necessary in all of human endeavors.

    February 9, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  5. Hector Alveraz

    Art has been characterized in terms of mimesis, expression, communication of emotion, or other values. During the Romantic period, art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science".:

    Our web blog

    April 20, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  6. NYC fitness events

    Is 20% youth unemployment in the western world inevitable? Is it bad if I say yes?

    February 21, 2014 at 3:34 am |

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