June 26, 2017


Networked Creativity (“NetCreate” in short) is an ESRC-funded Transformative Grant project hosted at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity that investigates collective creativity among entrepreneurs who use hubs and co-working spaces in London. The project launched in mid-2016 and is set to continue into 2018 when key findings will be submitted to top management and entrepreneurship journals.

Using an original methodology that mixes monthly in-depth interviews, mobile surveys and episodes of shadowing, NetCreate traces the evolution of early-stage business ideas with attention to different types of creative interactions that unfold in co-working spaces and beyond. In search of ‘the creative interactions that matter’, the project seeks to identify the ways in which certain interactions co-shape emerging ideas through novelty, challenge and serendipity.  

Specifically, we are linking generative interactions to changes in participants’ business models, which we evaluate through creating cognitive maps of such models at monthly intervals. This two-track methodology is expected to surface new patterns of “networked creativity”. While contributing to our understanding of creative interactions in the context of the relevant organisational (scholarly) literature, our findings will speak directly to the question of how coworking spaces catalyse creativity and knowledge-creation among their members (i.e., the ‘creative added value’ of coworking spaces).

NetCreate strives to reach beyond the mainstream of organisational creativity studies, most of which have either been conducted in conventional organisational settings or focused mainly on structural network characteristics rather than the content and quality of interactions. We are also committed to making a useful contribution to existing coworking communities and the wider industry by evidencing the intangible, invisible value these spaces generate as they support innovation by startups and small enterprises.

Why did we choose this research topic?

While some scholarship exists on the basic features and cultures of hub organisations (coworking communities), little credible evidence has been generated on “the creative added value” of such settings. Insofar as hubs themselves wish to stimulate creativity among their members and are expected to do so by various stakeholders (incl. funders), we believe it is crucial to research this dimension, both at the person-to-person and group levels.

From an organisation science perspective, this opportunity is of special interest as collective creativity has so far been mainly studied within large, established firms and at the group level; the kinds of sequential patterns of person-to-person creative interactions that we are setting out to study have been almost entirely overlooked.

What is the purpose of this research?

Our purpose is to generate rigorous academic knowledge that is (1) methodologically innovative; (2) practically relevant from the perspective of entrepreneurs and hub leaders; and (3) theoretically transformative. Regarding the latter point, our ambition is to change the way collective creativity in urban entrepreneurial communities is understood by shaping and progressing the study of creativity and organisations more generally.

What will be the output?

The findings from this research will be published in well-regarded organisational studies journals as well as via newspaper articles, blogs and other online platforms. Several as events with participants and stakeholders will also be held. Previously, members of this project have published high-impact articles in outlets such as the Stanford Social Innovation Review and the Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, for instance.

What can this research offer you if you are a co-working executive, host or policy-maker?

For hub leaders, NetCreate is a unique opportunity to gain a deeper, embedded understanding of collective creativity. Through engagement with cutting-edge research and peer engagement, it offers a space for mutual learning on how to nurture collective creativity in your everyday work.

Entrepreneurs participating in NetCreate will gain from having their creative journeys systematically tracked and subsequently shared through individualised and confidential creativity reports. They will also benefit from the opportunity to frequently explain the development of their business model and reflect on their journey through regular check-ins with the research team (conducted in person as well as through our Innovation Diary App).