Who? Four Audencia researchers from different departments, Sandrine Stervinou (Business and society), Catherine Morel, Dominique Billier, and Carole Le Rendu (Communication and culture). What? Cultural entrepreneurship in the French cultural industries, and more precisely, what are the pros and cons of cooperatives. How? Long work sessions together to get to know and understand each other’s field of research, and collective writing of conference communications, for now.
The idea met the research field when these four researchers interviewed cultural entrepreneurs at the Forum “Entreprendre dans la Culture”, debating about the cooperative model as an alternative approach for their activity. Several forms of co-operatives are available to a cultural entrepreneur wishing to break away from the usual association model. Indeed, these cooperative structures open a “third route” between traditional cultural organizations relying heavily on public subsidies - which are dwindling - on one hand, and money making businesses in the creative industries on the other hand. So, why do cultural entrepreneurs choose this kind of status? What are the advantages and disadvantages? To begin with, Audencia researchers believe that collective cultural entrepreneurship might be a relevant model to bring together complementary entrepreneurial and creative skills whilst offering a specific legal frame allowing a reduction of the tensions between the cultural value of the activities and the economic and market constraints.
This exploratory research reveals that very few cultural and creative organizations actually choose this kind of co-op legal status, despite its apparent suitability to the sector’s ethos and needs. Why then doesn’t it appear as an easy option? First, it seems that peers in the cultural industry do not always respect the choice of organizing as a co-op that they still regard as a capitalist/money-making type of business; there may be something like a loss of identity for cultural entrepreneurs to do so. At the same time, amongst entrepreneurs generally speaking, cultural entrepreneurs are somewhat despised. Moreover, co-op support agencies lack expertise (or interest?) to understand their specific needs. The existing legal status is now too rigid to allow the flexibility that cultural entrepreneurs need, for instance less access to subsidies or volunteers.
Still, Audencia researchers are fascinated by the fact that cultural entrepreneurs also display creative skills and astonishing capacities to innovate, here too, when legal status and economic development are concerned. The creation of the adapted status for the cultural organizations’ of tomorrow is a work in progress.