By joining the expertise and knowledge of economists with that of artists, Gladstone “Fluney” Hutchinson of the Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP) at Lafayette College and Appalshop, Roadside Theater’s parent organization located in the central Appalachian Mountains, are developing an investment plan to simultaneously support the economic development of Appalshop and its Appalachian region.
Lafayette faculty, students, and artists have been identifying and testing entrepreneurial strategies for wealth creation that tap Appalshop’s region singularly rich cultural traditions. For example, a for-profit business for software development is being incubated, and its strategic advantage is proving to be its orientation to the cultural strengths of its location.
The collaborators’ approach resonates with the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, which points to the emergent intellectual coalescence around the principle of inclusive growth as a critical pillar for achieving sustainable economic development and social justice.
By treating poverty as a problem that can only be solved by government and outside experts, Hutchinson and Appalshop argue that the previous wars on poverty have not sufficiently supported the development of individual agency and a latent collective spirit of entrepreneurship.
The Appalshop—EEGLP partnership represents an asset-based alternative that leverages the special ways in which cultural organizations create civic space and how culture, and its offspring art, shape individual and collective identity, bound or expand imagination, and ultimately contribute toward determining economic behavior.