BitDepth 706 - November 17

A TTCSI panel on intellectual capital travels over some familiar territory.
Measuring intellectual capital

Josanne Leonard speaking on the importance of intellectual capital. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

It was a tempting topic to be sure. "Putting a value on Intellectual Capital" was a late evening session on the second day of The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) seminar series for Services Week, 2009.
Some confusion was in play on the web before the event, originally listed as costing $200, it was freshly promoted on Facebook as a free event.
On that basis, it seemed a win-win value for money proposition, but as it was, it mostly broke even.
I arrived in the middle of Josanne Leonard's well-practiced dialectic on the disconnect between politically directed pronouncements on culture and the reality for creative professionals in Trinidad and Tobago.

Leonard's essential argument was that the creative potential of the people of Trinidad and Tobago represented a reliable, non-wasting resource that was being underestimated.
"We need more community-led initiatives in culture and less university programmed research," Leonard said. "We must reinvent our culture and our communities for ourselves, not for tourists."
Along the way to dismissing "a lazy, lack-of-vision private sector," Leonard lamented the lost opportunities for exploring "avenues of prosperity" in "the culture economy."

Lloyd Yearwood, CEO of Nedco, the government's formal arm for funding the kind of small to medium enterprises that constitute the majority of creative effort in this country, acknowledged the value of intellectual capital. But after sharing a lot of accounting-speak, it still wasn't very clear how intellectual capital factored into a conversation, let along a financial application on an applicant's balance sheet at Nedco.
This was the forum for Yearwood to make clear the value of ideas in creative entrepreneurship, but he couldn't seem to articulate a clear, quotable position on the premise.
This seemed to be at the core of the mismatch of perspectives between the audience and the financiers on the panel, among whom was invited guest, Kyran Grant, the CEO of the Venture Capital Incentive Programme.
The gulf between the expectations of the homegrown creative talent attentively listening to the panel and the money men trying to explain the machinery and requirements of traditional business seemed to grow wider as the discussions continued.

It's the same old song
The representatives of the creative sector bemoaned the lack of support for local creative enterprise, the difficulty of getting work on television and the challenge of explaining the intimidating hit to failure ratio that investors find so difficult to surmount in the business of making up stuff.
And this, ultimately, seemed to be the sticking point in the discussion of intellectual capital as it was batted back and forth between panellists and audience –  who takes the risk. Creative folks are, clearly, annoyed at being the only ones expected to walk the fiscal tightrope on every project.
There were some suggestions from the floor that seemed to find some traction with the money men on the panel.

Nedco's Yearwood seemed interested in a proposal to reverse the traditional flow of coaching by engaging his staff in training sessions led by creative practitioners on the nuances of the process and, hopefully, the value of ideas as intellectual capital.
Patti-Anne Ali noted that some creative projects do not necessarily result in a financial return. They may deliver social and inspirational returns that have to be leveraged in different ways.
Yearwood suggested that funding of that kind is best addressed through grant mechanisms that focus on the creative process, but that isn't what Nedco is setup to do.

Nobody at the event seemed empowered to move these discussions to another stage, though TTCSI CEO Nirad Tiwarie offered to facilitate more talks on the subject. What seems to be needed now isn't so much more talk as it is the development of more infrastructure that speaks directly to the development of a sustainable creative industry. But that's a conversation that hasn't even begun.
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