25 June 2020

WRITER: Chloe Byrne

Social enterprise speaks to the evolution of capitalism and the desire to do better to support communities. In the arts, Carclew’s Creative Consultants are leading this change.  


Despite the undeniable benefits of the arts, creative industries have often struggled to prove their worth. Starting out is also very difficult, with young artists finding it hard to maintain the arts as their primary career.


A social enterprise model - Creative Consultants - is providing solutions for businesses and artists. For young creatives, the program helps them focus on a career in the arts while also gaining mentoring, training and support. For businesses, the program delivers innovative ideas and fresh perspectives from talented new artists who are working on business solutions.

The emergence of social enterprise speaks to a broader evolution of capitalism and the desire to do better to support communities. In the arts, Carclew’s Creative Consultants are leading this change, breathing new life into old ways of doing things.

In 1956, a teenage John Lennon was gifted his first guitar by his mother. At the time, he was living with his aunt, who disapproved of his early aspirations to find fame through music.
The guitar was subsequently delivered to an alternate address and practised in secret to avoid the derision expressed by John’s aunt, who famously quipped, “The guitar’s all well and good, John, but you’ll never make a living out of it”.

While John Lennon went on to epitomise the cultural revolution of the 1960s as one of the lucky few to break into the music scene, the stigma associated with pursuing a viable and profitable career in the traditionally ‘unstable’ landscape of creative industries has lingered.

For those with ambitions to pursue a career in the notoriously exclusive realms of music, visual art, creative writing and the like, the work is often sporadic and the wages unpredictable. As the pressures of rent, bills and childcare costs mount, the lure of stability can eventually relegate would-be Jackson Pollocks or F. Scott Fitzgeralds to practising their crafts as a hobby, or potentially, abandoning the field all together.

his was the worrying trend faced by Paul Mayers while working at Contact, a Manchester-based theatre and arts company, fostering the fledgling careers of young creatives through skills-based training and mentorship.

Now the Senior Manager of Social Enterprise at Carclew – South Australia’s only multicultural organisation focused on merging commercial strategies with grassroots community impacts – and concurrently a UniSA Masters of Arts and Culture Management student, Mayers says the path to commercialising creative work has been challenging.

“The heart of Contact’s mission was about exciting young people working in the creative industries,” Mayers says. “But the problem was that this encouragement and involvement was not translating into actual careers.

“The company was struggling with the fact that young people were deciding not to pursue a future in the arts because they didn’t have the support and skills to make it a full time career.

“Simultaneously, arts funding was cut across the board, so we needed to work out how to maintain our KPIs and essentially run at zero-cost.”

The solution came in a social enterprise model – Creative Experts – created by Mayers and hinged on the mutual interests of providing real opportunities for young creatives while supporting the ever-present requirements of sustaining
Contact as a business.

The Creative Experts program, which initially operated under philanthropic seed funding, trained an inaugural cohort of young people to deliver their creative services in both community and corporate settings.

The opportunities afforded by connecting young, unknown creatives to projects within large organisations and networks were exponential: businesses immediately recognised the value in engaging up-and-coming talent and innovative vision, and valuable relationships and experience were gained by young people struggling to get a foot in the door.

“Businesses are waking up to the value that young people can provide to organisations and the world at large,” Mayers says. “In a world where we want to attract the best talent, we need to ensure our workplaces appeal to young people. Who better to advise us how to achieve that than young people themselves?”

When Mayers decided to export the model to Australia, the Creative Experts program had become income generating and had seen 93 per cent of its participants secure full-time sustainable employment within the creative industries.

Now at Carclew, Mayers is responsible for the highly successful Creative Consultants program, a new version of his social enterprise initiative stemming from his work in the UK.

“Carclew's Creative Consultants are talented young people aged 18-29 who present an ethical alternative for businesses wanting to support Adelaide's local creative community.”

With backgrounds in film making, costume design, visual art and music, they offer fresh, innovative approaches and solutions for businesses and communities.

Commissioned for myriad projects, ranging from facilitating training and providing tailored consultations, to executing large-scale creative projects, the Creative Consultants also meet regularly to train and collaborate, to learn from industry professionals and one another, and to get support as they establish themselves as successful creative professionals.

 The James and Diana Ramsey Foundation, which supports youth programs strengthening the arts sector, provided the philanthropic backing. Having witnessed the success of the social enterprise model in its conceptual iteration, Mayers was not surprised by the interest as applications for the first intake of Creative Consultants opened.

“Everyone told me that Adelaide was not going to embrace this idea – that Melbourne and Sydney were the artistically progressive cities and that Adelaide’s less dense economy wouldn’t support the program.

“I was told that young people in Adelaide wouldn’t commit to the program, and that we would be lucky to get a handful of applicants. Yet, in our initial call-out for Creative Consultants, we had 65 applicants for 12 available positions.”

The first cohort of Creative Consultants commenced in February 2019. But after just six months of working with organisations such as the City of Adelaide, Purple Orange and SACAT, it was clear that the demand for services would need a second cohort, leading to a mid-year wave of recruits.

For aspiring film-maker Eloise Holoubek, being involved with the Creative Consultants program has played an integral role in laying the foundation for what she hopes will be a successful and illustrious career.

After graduating from a Bachelor of Communications Media and Culture at the University of South Australia in 2017, Eloise was fortunate enough to land a camera attachment role through the South Australian Film Corporation, working on Upright, a series written by Chris Taylor and Tim Minchin.

“This experience was incredible, and it really cemented to me that this is the industry I want to work in. As someone just starting out in the industry, it can be difficult to make a name for yourself and to get your work noticed. I’ve been told before to have a Plan B to fall back on, but I know now, that this is where I really want to be.”

“Being able to identify creative services for businesses means that this program is challenging how the creative arts are valued in our community and what they’re capable of contributing to society.”

Although only a few weeks into the program, Eloise has already worked on two film projects for Carclew – one documenting an 8-day writers’ workshop in the Flinders Ranges, and another filming content for the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

She has also recently established a production company with a focus on providing a platform to untold stories. Her latest work sheds a raw light on the life of young mothers.     

Mayers says that encouraging emerging talent like Eloise to build a network in Adelaide serves several important purposes.

“Adelaide has an incredibly vibrant and unique culture, and it seems such a shame that creative talents feel they need to relocate interstate or even overseas to realise the full potential of their career.

“We hope that programs such as the Creative Consultants not only encourage creative young people to stay in their home town, but also, attract creatives from elsewhere to move here.

“It’s also vital that we close those gaps in the market where Adelaide businesses may be seeking out these services through interstate consultancies,” he says.

The value in merging Carclew’s creative social enterprise aspects with a hub of artistic exploration was immediately evident to Dr Kristin Alford, Director of University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD.) who enlisted the Creative Consultants to facilitate a training workshop to build the skills of the museum’s guides, aptly called MOD.erators.
The sessions, run by Creative Consultants, focused on enhancing the MOD.erators’ customer service and collaboration skills, to help them map their space through a creative lens as custodians of artistic exhibitions

“Carclew’s values align perfectly with MOD., so I was really keen to explore opportunities for collaboration,” Dr Alford says.

“MOD. is conscious about providing direction for young people and helping them build skills. The fact that Carclew’s program provided training workshops from a fresh creative perspective, meant that the experience had a richness that I don’t think a purely business perspective could have provided.”

Long-term goals are still modest for Carclew as the early structure of Creative Consultants continues to solidify, with hopes of becoming financially self-sufficient over the next three years and remaining true to the ethos of providing a launch pad for creative minds.

Already, Carclew is performing strongly with its first-year results more than doubling their financial targets. Yet Mayers acknowledges that there is still a way to go.

“When young people hear that the creative career, they aspire to is not realistic, it’s really down to a lack of understanding of what’s actually possible,” Mayers says.

“When I was young, I had a hard time trying to figure out how to get to where I wanted to be, and now that I’m here, I’m on a mission to be the adult that I needed when I was younger.

“We all have a responsibility to support young people in what they want to be.”

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