End of the summer, start of the new season

It’s pouring with rain as I write and the sky is that classic Yorkshire grey.  So much for the summer of 2011, I guess!  But actually, despite our early misgivings some months ago, it’s proved to be a frenetically busy and exciting time for us all in Cida Co.

I think it all started with the University of Leeds – the Arts and Humanities faculty. Keith and I met with them around Easter to explore with them the idea of a collaborative piece of work. It was a good meeting and we quickly found common cause. But after it was over, their  Business Development Manager, Richard Keegan, came over to discuss another idea:  could we help the Faculty’s post doctoral researchers to maximize the impact of their research?  We were immediately intrigued.  The kinds of things we were looking at turned out to be research into Boccaccio (‘not the Da Cameron, that’s too popular’, the researcher told us); or into the culture of the East African Gujerati community; or into the use of knitting to explore the use of colour and light.  We were certainly into deep breath country!  But, in fact, it’s turned into one of the most interesting pieces of work we’ve done – the quality of the thinking of the individual researchers is extraordinary, and the passion they bring to their respective subjects is inspirational.  I think the Cida Co input has been useful in helping them to think of new ways of disseminating their work and we are gently taking them into new territories – we are even using our innovation process, COSTAR, with some of them and it will be fun to see how this develops over the next few months.

Talking of COSTAR, our partners in Silicon Valley, Herman Gyr and Laszlo Gyorffy, are writing a pamphlet about it, and have asked us to contribute.  This is great and we’ll have the pamphlet available through our Cida Co and InSmartCompany websites in the autumn.

The new Cida Co website is on the way – we hope to launch it on 1st September but, as our designer (QT Creative) keeps saying to me: the website should never stand still; we can add to it all the time.  So I guess that’s what we’re going to be doing.  It’s been an interesting journey, developing this new one.  The work has made me realise how things have changed since we set up CIDA in January 2000.  When we set out back then, we were focused on ‘helping creative people to realise their dreams’.  That is still true of us, but the ways in which we do that now, working on both grassroots and strategic levels, across the UK and internationally, is fascinating.   In a couple of weeks, I start training courses for artists in Middlesbrough and York, and in Lagos and Abuja.  We’re working with Apprentice Producers in Yorkshire and Carnival producers from the Caribbean. We’re discussing access to finance with banks from Nigeria and, potentially, creative entrepreneurialism with universities in China; we’re exploring the development of creative business networks across Europe and creative economies in Brussels and in Harare. Alongside all of that, our team is working with UK businesses in both the creative and other sectors to help them innovate creatively and systematically, and then to manage the implementation of that innovation which often means real business transformation.  It’s a wonderful life!

I was at a seminar early in the summer and the facilitator asked how many people really enjoyed their jobs.  In a room of a hundred people, I was one of four who put their hands up.  It just reinforced what a privilege this is.

But of course you have to earn it – and then keep earning it!  As a colleague once said to me, you are only as good as your last job.  For those of us running our own business, whether as a sole trader or as a company, once you get on this treadmill of winning contracts, you can’t get off – so the absolute necessity of loving what you do is critical.  Eleven years down the line, Keith and I still talk of Cida Co with the passion we felt when we first started.   There have been ups and downs, of course; things we wish we had done differently; a rollercoaster in terms of keeping the company going sometimes; sometimes we’ve felt like the proverbial amoeba, constantly changing our shape, but always we’ve retained the essence of who we are and why we exist – which is still to help creative people realise their dreams.

So, on to the autumn with renewed heart.  New work, new partners, new goals – and  the continuing rich relationship with long established partners who have been so important to us and so supportive of our work.  We are deeply appreciative of them all.  We’re moving into challenging times, in the UK especially.  It is our aim that Cida Co will continue to play a significant role in supporting and helping the creative sector to be a key player in addressing some of the multifaceted economic and social issues of our times.

Anamaria Wills  Anamaria@cida.org