Where do new ideas come from? Strength in diversity. Power of place.

Jane Jacobs thought that diversity was essential to a community’s ability to thrive economically, socially, and culturally. When different people live and work and play side-by-side, safe and vibrant urban spaces can grow which, in turn, stimulate sustainable and equitable economic growth.

In this same spirit, Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) continues with its annual Experience the Creative Economy (ECE) conference, bringing together a leading group of early-career scholars from around the world to workshop the latest research methods and ideas for the creation of diverse urban environments.

When people from different academic disciplines come together in a small and conceptually cohesive way, new insights and ways of thinking emerge. ECE’s goal is to encourage, identify and distill the best of these emerging methods and ideas. The many different institutions and geographies represented at ECE are illustrated below.

This year’s conference saw several themes emerge. Arts and culture were very present as participants reflected on do-it-yourself trends in music and public spaces, the economic resilience of visual arts, and the development of creative industries beyond top tier economies or cities. Creative labour was discussed in relation to networks, locations, organization, and quality of work. Architecture, design, and the creation of spaces were also prominent topics, as were discussions centered on technology and the digital economy. Other discussions focused on innovation and entrepreneurship and their relationship with clustering and location.

The conference also featured a session by Richard Florida where he reflected on the process of updating his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, for its tenth year since publication.

Beyond presenting, critiquing, questioning and commenting on other people’s work, the conference also engaged participants in a variety of networking and career development activities, experiential sessions, and team contests. To kick off the conference, participants took part in five-minute sessions of ‘Academic Speed Dating’ where they got to know each participant better while identifying research commonalities and sowing the seeds of future collaborations. It is these future seeds which are setting ECE apart as a venue to watch.

The particularity of ECE may be owing to both its international character and its objective of being an arena for knowledge transfer between disciplines and practices. But the true success was in the identification of those sharp junior scholars whose work is starting to get out there and promises to add major contributions to the existing literature.

In addition, MPI is fostering the development of these leading-edge scholars through the opportunity to collaborate on research methods, disseminate their work to wider audiences, and establish an ongoing network for collaborative learning and exchange for years to come.

Over the years, ECE has become an exciting forum where participants are building a community and lasting relationships, where the spirit of the conference continues long beyond this one week. Watch out for this new generation of scholars as they carry forward their promising work.

Download this Insight (PDF)

For more information about ECE, including information about this year’s participants and their presentations, please visit

ECE 2012 will be held June 19–22. For information about ECE 2012, including participation, please contact Brian J. Hracs at

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors—location, place and city-regions—in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.