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Creative Spark - Kyrgyzstan


British Council



Project team

Professor Charlotte Waelde

Duration of project


Project Overview

Our activity addresses the often-neglected segment of the creative enterprise sector based on ‘intangible cultural heritage’ (ICH), or ‘traditional cultural expressions’ (TCEs). We help young entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan develop more sustainable businesses through tailored intellectual property and marketing strategies, enjoy more targeted access to markets for TCE-related products through better institutional support, and foster broader community cohesion through heritage safeguarding.

Heritage-related businesses celebrate the heritage, cultural expressions and traditions of a community, giving them a sense of identity and belonging as well as creating jobs and generating income. Yet most entrepreneurial training material does not consider IP and marketing strategies in relation to heritage safeguarding. In Kyrgyzstan, as elsewhere, despite efforts by organizations such as CACSARC-kg, creative entrepreneurs in the heritage sector experience significant difficulty preventing misappropriation. It is particularly hard to protect IP rights for TCEs, as they are considered ‘public domain’. Young entrepreneurs struggle to position their products (including performances) effectively in the market. Ensuring that the TCEs remain viable as heritage within the broader community is often forgotten in the emphasis on commercialisation. Capacity-building workshops on creative entrepreneurship and Heritage-sensitive intellectual property (IP) and marketing strategies’ (HIPAMS) will be run in year 1 for young creative entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan such as artisans, epic narrators, traditional musicians and dancers, and designers of heritage-related products, and some art students. Selected participants will then be assisted with the development of business strategies in years 2-4. Our analysis of institutional marketing supports will be more easily communicated and addressed through project partnerships with government agencies (KyrgyzPatent, Ministry of Culture and UNESCO Natcom).

The HIPAMS materials will be useful in other countries, including the UK. In the UK, the heritage crafts sector receives relatively little attention either from heritage or business agencies, although it contributes more than £4.4 billion GVA to the UK economy (Mapping Heritage Craft 2012). IP and marketing strategies are needed to support local businesses producing artisan beer, cider and cheese, while maintaining traditional production techniques, especially with the challenges of Brexit.

In the long term, the workshop materials and case studies will be included in a planned globally-useful open-source resource on HIPAMS. These practical tools and support networks will help creative entrepreneurs sustainably and ethically commercialise heritage-related products and experiences. We propose a cross-border learning exchange for the development of locally-appropriate solutions rather than a conventional skills transfer in the Kyrgyzstan project; the partners both bring deep and valuable experience to the table.

Impact statement

The project will help young Kyrgyz creative entrepreneurs in the heritage sector develop a better understanding of how they can apply and adapt entrepreneurship skills to their work. With the skills and knowledge gained in the two workshops, participants may be better able to understand how to reduce the potential negative impacts to their businesses posed by misappropriation or marketing deficiencies, while protecting the heritage skills themselves from over-commercialisation. The workshops could also help creative entrepreneurs build networks among themselves and with supportive agencies.

The project will review existing institutional support for the sector to inform activity and lobbying by organisations such as CACSARC-kg. Project partnerships with the Ministry of Culture, UNESCO Natcom and KyrgyzPatent could encourage interagency coordination and cooperation in addressing barriers for entrepreneurs. This could help entrepreneurs market their products locally and abroad, integrating better into value chains and markets (Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 9.3). The project (and its subsequent development of HIPAMS in the second phase) could thus promote the creation of more stable jobs in Kyrgyzstan (SDG 1 (no poverty), and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth)). The project could help to reduce inequalities in Kyrgyzstan (SDG 10, target 10.1) by contributing to income growth. By helping creative entrepreneurs in the heritage sector develop the knowledge to design commercial strategies that sustain and safeguard their cultural heritage, the project could contribute to social cohesion and foster sustainable human settlements (Target 11.3 of SDG 11).

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023