About this good practice
The Valletta Design Cluster (‘VDC’) opened its doors in March 2021 after years of regeneration of its building. From an Old Abattoir building, the project was converted to a Design Cluster, which now hosts a variety of facilities including the Makerspace, the Coworking Space, Meeting Spaces, a Foodspace (Training Kitchens), the Roof Garden, Creative Studios and more. Opening in the middle of a pandemic was certainly not an easy task, but we decided to take this challenge and create a program for our communities to work together in our space for cultural and creative practice. Activities we organised were linked to food, arts, design, placemaking, entrepreneurship and social wellbeing and took place partly in person, partly online. One initiative that certainly attracted a lot of interest was the Business Mentorship Program for Start-ups active in the Culture & Creativity sector, run in collaboration with the Malta Business Bureau. The Program aimed at providing practical skills to five creative practitioners who are at a crucial state of developing their start-up, with the support of qualified mentors. Eight sessions focused both on business principles applied to the creative sector, as well as on implementing supporting measures in response to the disruption created by the pandemic. Participants in the Program joined from different creative sectors and were exposed to the practices and expertise of other creatives attending the Program and working at the premises.
For the Business Mentorship Program for Creative Startups: One project coordinator; two session facilitators; budget to buy program materials and to pay for the facilitator services
Evidence of success
Participants made their businesses more sustainable, increased the sale of their products and services, managed to start new projects with other participants in the Program and received practical tips to support their businesses in pandemic time. One of the companies developed a new business concept (emerging from the original start-up) which became official in 2022, while another company won the Malta Creative Business Cup, and represented Malta at the European Creative Business Cup.
Potential for learning or transfer
The Program is considered a good practice because of the nature of its content and the time in which it was implemented. The practice of gathering together to share knowledge and practical skills was found particularly important, as this became a resource in times of normality and, in particular, in times of emergency. This practice is applicable to all regions and sectors, and is particularly relevant to the creative sectors, where financial sustainability can be a serious issue for many practitioners. The practice also offers the opportunity to reflect on the specificity of creative businesses, and on issues affecting this sector. Similar practices could be adopted in other regions in the post-pandemic era, where businesses are still in a recovery phase and need longer-term support, including from local business experts and mentors. The provision of coworking co-creative spaces to allow creative businesses to flourish is also key success element for the practice.