GCDN Commissioned Research: Governance Models of Cultural Districts

Oct 2017

Governance Models of Cultural Districts

Each year, the GCDN embarks on a major research project on a topic of significant interest to our members. Our next piece of research for 2017/2018 is on the governance of districts, a high salience issue for our members.

Cultural districts, geographical areas with a high concentration of creative and cultural organizations or amenities, exist and are being created around the world with the aim of revitalizing downtowns, attracting tourists and residents, retaining those residents and/or providing a positive economic impact on local cities.

As these cultural districts grow and come into existence, various models of governance and oversight have been put into place seeking to ensure their success, and gather the appropriate representation of stakeholders in decision making. Each type offers lessons to be learned for future cultural districts or to improve current ones.

The Global Cultural Districts Network, in collaboration with University of the Arts London, is undertaking a major research project to identify the various models of governance and oversight that have been developed around the world, to compare their respective strengths and weaknesses, and to develop a typology of the different structures of governance of cultural districts that exist. The White Paper will contain case studies and explore the governance needs of districts in the preliminary planning phases and those existing and operating at full capacity. While the focus will be on cultural districts, defined as geographical areas with a high concentration of creative and cultural organizations or amenities, the research will also look at innovation districts and design districts as points of comparison.

The research will summarize good practices around each typology, focusing on identifying which stakeholders should be ‘at the table’ for informed and equitable decision making and oversight. The research will also reveal the range of business models that underpin these governing entities, reviewing how cultural districts are generating revenue and expending it.

The research will be fully international in scope, intending for both the examples and lessons learned to be applicable to GCDN members and other practitioners across the world.

The research report will seek to answer the following questions:

  • What governance models have been adopted by cultural districts around the world?
  • How do these different types of cultural districts relate to their adjacent municipalities?
  • What are the formal responsibilities of the governing bodies?
  • What range of legal models have been adopted? How have these evolved for new and emerging cultural districts as they have moved from conception to operation?
  • What are the revenue raising and spending powers of these bodies?
    • How and from what sources are cultural districts generating the resources to animate the public realm and ensure that the sum of the anchors is greater than the parts?
    • Where is expenditure focused for these bodies, and how is this expenditure delivering strategic and operational benefit for the district’s anchors?
    • Are there any shared services benchmarks that we could learn from around the world, and where are these shared services focused? Are there examples of shared services being rooted in shared spaces?
  • What advisory, partnership, and stakeholder management models exist around these entities and how do these balance the voices of the district, its anchors, its political, commercial, cultural and community stakeholders?
  • What are the mechanics of representation?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of the main types of model?

The Research Team:

Dr. James Doeser, freelance researcher, Principal Investigator

Dr. Anna Kim, Research Fellow and Affiliated Scholar, Thriving Cities Lab, University of Virginia and Visiting Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, University College London

The project is being overseen by a research steering committee consisting of the GCDN director and deputy director, the GCDN Advisory Board, consultation from international experts (specifically in Asia) and the primary research partners (University of the Arts London, London Legacy Development Corporation, and others to be announced soon).

The final research report will be presented at the GCDN Annual Convening in Dubai in April 2018.

Interested in participating in the research? Do you represent/manage or are planning a cultural district? We’d love to hear more about your governance model. Please contact info@gcdn.net


Image: Night Festival, National Museum of Singapore