We received nearly 500 Creative Economy applications. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
There was tremendous interest in this program from the very beginning.
When the City of Sacramento opened the application period in June, we only had two workshops planned. As we observed workshops filling to capacity, we quickly organized additional workshops on a rolling basis to accommodate the demand.
We expected 200 applications and hoped for 300. To our surprise, we received a whopping 480.
In fact, more than half of the total applications received were not submitted until the last day.
The demand for Creative Economy funding is clear and exceeds available resources by 12X.
The City recognizes that arts and culture have been underfunded and took a particularly hard hit during the Great Recession. That’s why the City Council authorized this $500,000 initiative. Data collected from the projects we fund will inform future creative economy investment decisions.
The probability of getting into Harvard is higher than the odds of receiving a $25,000 grant.
Competition is fierce in the larger $25,000 grant category, with only 1 in 27 applicants likely to be awarded funding. Those applicants who applied for the smaller $5,000 grant are nearly seven times more likely to get funded than those who applied for the larger grant.
The City should explore how to align the work of social entrepreneurs with citywide priorities.
Not only is the creative community is interested in spreading arts and culture into underserved communities, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a large share of projects focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship. That is, many applicants have proposed interesting concepts that address issues such as food deserts, youth violence, and social justice.
One of our key objectives is to test a place-based approach to community and economic development.
That means spreading the energy and excitement from the Downtown/Midtown core to all of Sacramento. According to the grant guidelines:
“The City recognizes the significant impacts the creative economy contributes and is interested in testing the hypothesis that a place-based approach to developing small scale economic hubs through arts and culture can sustain or create investment and jobs in a localized area.”
How did we do when it comes to geographic interest?
Not surprisingly, most applications were focused on Downtown/Midtown. However, Oak Park comes in at a close second. And each Council district received a minimum of 36 applications.
The number of grant applications exceeded microgrant applications in every geography.
We included a “Citywide” category, but will need to conduct a deeper analysis on how applicants interpreted that term. Some Citywide applications propose a mobile, physical presence in every Council district; while other applications are digital in nature and, therefore, have the potential to reach the entire City and beyond.
Nearly 8 in 10 applicants are willing to site their project in a location other than the one they proposed.
This will enable the Review Panel to recommend that some high-scoring projects in a saturated area be sited in under-represented areas of the City.
So what’s next?
The Review Panel currently is in the process of evaluating all 470 eligible applications. Due to the unexpected volume of applications received, we do not expect being able to announce final awards until October.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who were expecting to be notified this month. Ultimately, we believe it’s better to get this right than to do it quickly. And we think this is a good problem for the City to have. It means that you’ve told us how much you value the City’s investment in the Creative Economy and we hope to do more in the future.
Ash Roughani is Bureaucracy Hacker in the Mayor’s Office for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the City of Sacramento and serves as Program Manager for the Creative Economy Pilot Project.