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Growing future innovators

Growing Future Innovators is the first study into the potential for contemporary arts organisations to profile the theory and practice of innovation through schools’ education programs. Its primary aim is to generate, trial and evaluate the most effective mechanisms for promoting the culture and dynamics of innovation to young people and teachers within primary and secondary school contexts and across arts and non-arts disciplines. An intended outcome is the creation, discussion and public dissemination of guidelines, exemplars, and rationales for how arts organisations and schools, in Australia and beyond, can work together to grow future innovators. In doing this, the research partnership addresses the following needs:

Building the creative workforce: The project was first conceived in response to the Review of the National Innovation System, which stressed that growing future innovators is crucial to Australia’s cultural, civil and economic prosperity. The arts, it is well argued, are able to play a significant role in this endeavour. Researching ways in which to harness arts knowledge to the development of innovation programming for schools is a tangible way to encourage and build this creative workforce. While many arts education programs look generally at creativity, this exploration focuses explicitly on programs for innovation; the generation, application and uptake of good ideas.

Placing contemporary arts in the innovation debate: A core challenge for the arts sector identified by Venturous Australia is to capitalise on ‘the contribution of the creative and liberal arts to Australian innovation’ (2008:38). Towards this end, arts academies, professional and representative bodies, and public agencies are being encouraged to work together. By offering students and teachers greater access to arts practices and the creative or multidisciplinary processes that lead to innovation, the research will articulate and champion this connection.

Pioneering systems of innovation for arts and education institutions: This project investigates ways in which arts organisations can operate more dynamically with education, industry and community partners. Just as innovation, creative thinking and risk taking are being demanded across disciplines and professions, the study considers how arts organisations can be more reflexive, inventive and successful in the way they engage with institutions and audiences.

Developing metrics in arts education research: There is a documented lack of quantitative and qualitative metrics that effectively evaluate the design and impact of arts education programming, especially through longitudinal research. Through its fieldwork and case study approach, this project will identify and extend methodologies and metrics that can better serve the evidence-base for the value and effects of arts education, and its capacity to address innovation.

A year-long scoping study is currently underway (Phase 1: Oct 08-09), lead by ECU and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, with support from the WA Department of Culture and the Arts and the Department of Education and Training, and the Fogarty Foundation. Its threefold emphasis includes: a policy and arts education review that maps the arts, innovation and education nexus; case studies of best-practice education programs by international arts organisations; and consultation with education sector representatives towards designing an optimal and viable arts and innovation program to be trialled in Western Australia.

Final results of this scoping study will be documented and disseminated in a published report and will provide the groundwork for an ARC submission in November 2009 proposing a four-year investigation. This would start with a one-year pilot program, Phase 2: April 2010-2011, followed by full implementation and evaluation over the next three years, Phase 3: April 2011-April 2014. The project’s ongoing viability will then be assessed. Research questions include:

  • What are the existing best-practice school programs delivered by arts organisations in Australia and internationally and how/do they specifically promote innovation?
  • What can a progressive arts and innovation program built for the 21st century look like?
  • What are the needs and opportunities for Australian schools to engage with the innovation agenda and contemporary arts organisations?
  • How might an optimal arts and innovation program be delivered?
  • Are there better ways to measure and evaluate arts education programs and their impact?
  • How can contemporary arts organisations and schools work together to grow future innovators?

The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) is an independent, not-for-profit multi-arts organisation funded by the State through the Department of Culture and the Arts and the Australian Government through the Australia Council. It plays a key role in Perth’s creative community and provides support to artists at all stages of their career, providing resources, mentoring and support for emerging and established artists whilst promoting new and emerging ideas, forms and practices to the broader community. PICA was established to: creatively and critically engage with contemporary ideas and arts practice with a local, national and international focus; to nurture and encourage experimental, innovative and high quality work; to support West Australian and Australian contemporary artists at all stages of their careers and across art forms; and to facilitate debate and dialogue.


Dr Julie Robson
Professor Mark Balnaves
Professor Lelia Green
Partner Investigator Amy Barrett-Lennard

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