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Graduate Studies

Strategic Foresight and Innovation (MDes)

Ali Milad

Creative Culture Making: Policy Directions for Arts Sector Development in Bahrain

The study seeks to inform cultural policy-making in Bahrain and beyond by examining the fundamental challenges affecting the Bahraini arts sector and providing evidence-based recommendations that address them. It is the culmination of a year-long (Sept 2020-2021) design research project conducted in Bahrain by a local researcher. Data was collected through interviews which tapped into the lived experience of Bahrain’s Art Makers (filmmakers, visual artists, and musical artists), as well as the expert opinions of Decision Makers (individuals working within governmental entities). In total, 37 interviews were conducted with over 1,800 quotations coded for analysis.The study is distinct in that it approaches the arts sector as a complex social system (as opposed to a market or industry). Through systems analysis, the study was able to examine the structural conditions and causal relationships shaping the current context. As such, the report offers a more holistic understanding that moves beyond highlighting “what things happened when” to explaining “why things happen”. The report posits that the Bahraini arts sector currently exists in a state of arrested development, it goes on to thoroughly detail why this characterization should not be attributed to population size or the overabundance of creative imports. Rather, the report centers the discussion around structural voids, strategy making, and policy making on ground. In response, the report provides policy recommendations aimed at transitioning the sector towards a state conducive to its flourishing.

“Despite a storied history of artmaking, Bahrain’s arts sector currently exists in a state of arrested development. A recurring explanation for this claims that the country’s small population is simply unable to yield a sizable arts market and industry. However, research findings prove otherwise. This study directly engages arts sector stakeholders to contextualize the current state. Arts sector governance, environmental conditions, and artmakers’ ways of working are analyzed through a systems lens – revealing a lack of active development processes, along with an amalgam of challenges that span across sociocultural, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical boundaries. In their totality, these challenges impair Bahrain’s creative value chain, thereby nullifying Bahraini society’s ability to engage in bottom-up creative culture making processes. This report seeks to inform cultural policymaking by uncovering challenges and distinguishing between fundamental and symptomatic issues. Moreover, it identifies openings for change, and proposes a set of alternative policy directions aimed at transitioning Bahrain’s arts sector towards a state conducive to its flourishing.”

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Work by

Ali Milad

Strategic Design