Advantage Creative

Posted on 11/07/19 UPstart project


British Council Creative Spark project


Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme is a five-year initiative to help develop the creative economy and enterprise skills across seven countries in Central Asia, (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan), South Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) and Ukraine.

The programme has been developed in response to an underdeveloped creative sector and a demand for entrepreneurship training in these countries. Creative industries have driven economic growth in the UK. We want to use this experience and expertise to support sustainable development and social welfare.

Creative Spark is managed and funded by the British Council.



Our UPstart Creative Spark project has been designed and delivered with three strategic partners in Georgia: Tbilisi Academy of Arts, Creative Georgia and Creative Solution.


Georgia is a beautiful country, one of the earliest seats of Christianity in Europe and has a fascinating ancient history, with its Golden Age in the 10thto 12thcenturies under David the Builder and Queen Tamar the Great.


Image courtesy of Lonely Planet

More recently, Georgia gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and experienced a turbulent transition to democracy over the following 12 years. Georgia now holds regular elections and has shown significant improvement in democratic processes in recent years.



The first stage of our UPstart Creative Spark project ran from September 2018 – July 2019. The British Council facilitated a Creative Spark conference in Georgia in November 2018 which brought over 100 delegates together from the UK and all seven participating countries. The conference examined case studies and best practice in the teaching and development of entrepreneurship in Higher Education settings and how these models will be adapted and developed in each project.

This is a particularly fascinating time to be working with partners in Georgia on student entrepreneurship. In recent times, English has overtaken Russian as the second language in Georgia. Young adults and students preparing to leave University now are amongst the first generation to prepare for their future a knowing that the State will not provide. They have the freedom and the responsibility of carving their own path in a capitalist society.

We have been consistently impressed with the enthusiasm to learn and apply entrepreneurial skills in the young artists and creative entrepreneurs that we have met.



The Creative Spark programme has three key aims:

  • to develop partnerships involving universities and creative institutions in the UK and programme countries to drive enterprise training and establish enterprise centres.
  • to deliver enterprise skills training packages to students and creative entrepreneurs - ranging from pitching ideas to starting a business and protecting intellectual property.
  • to deliver English language skills through a range of new British Council digital learning content. This will include digital learning platforms, online courses and a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) courses focused on English for entrepreneurship.

Advantage Creative chose to take part in this programme to support our aims - to be at the forefront of developing innovative and effective models that support creative entrepreneurs and start-ups.

We have developed considerable expertise and experience in delivering enterprise and entrepreneurship development projects and this project gave us the opportunity to share this with new partners.

Working with new partners in new settings, we also aim to further develop our expertise in enterprise development.



Our UPstart Creative Spark project focused on:

  • Developing the Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Curriculum at Tbilisi Academy of Arts, creating a new team of Academics, Readers and staff to create and deliver a suite of entrepreneurship courses and making entrepreneurship support available to all students across all Faculties.
  • Developing skills and professional development amongst a team of trainers in Georgia who now have knowledge, skills and experience in delivering enterprise training to student and young entrepreneurs.
  • Working with institutions and successful creative business founders in Georgia to increase awareness and credibility of creative industries entrepreneurship.

Our activities in Year 1 included:

Curriculum Development

We supported colleagues at Tbilisi Academy of Arts in establishing a team of Academics, Readers and supporting staff to research and prepare new teaching materials – working towards our goal of establishing an Enterprise syllabus available to all students, tailored to each of the five Faculties at BA and MA levels. This team was led by Big Idea Challenge in a new role as Entrepreneur in Residence.

New structures

We created a new Project Board and Project Team structure at Tbilisi Academy of Arts to involve senior leadership at the Academy in sponsoring, supporting and authorising the enterprise development activity delivered by a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team. The enterprise programme engaged with Academy students and also reached out to include a wide range of student entrepreneurs from other Universities and young entrepreneurs from other networks.

New models

We created a new model for supporting the development of enterprise and entrepreneurship at Tbilisi Academy of Arts. We designed an intensive four day Enterprise Bootcamp, trained a team of 12 trainers at the Academy to deliver this, opened this up to a wide and diverse range of students and young people from outside of the Academy to attract 74 applications.

We assessed these applications to shortlist and select those with the strongest business ideas and skillsets and managed team building sessions to assemble teams from the participants. Of those who attended, 12 teams entered the British Council Creative Spark Big Idea Challenge - a student enterprise pitching competition with a prize fund of £50,000. 3 of our teams reached the National Final of this competition.

New processes

We developed a new way of training the trainers. After the initial 2 days of training, we developed a series of 10 further training sessions with supporting training materials in English. These were translated into Georgian by our partner, Creative Solution, who also conducted the training in Georgian with the trainers. This enabled us to engage 12 trainers over a period of 4 months through in-depth training and professional development activity.

New materials

In Year 1 we created a complete set of training materials to train trainers in how to deliver a 4 day enterprise Bootcamp. These are consistent with the nesta Creative Enterprise Toolkit which will be made available in Georgian soon. These materials were written in English and translated into Georgian.

We also created a suite of 8 short videos on how to create and how to deliver a 1 minute business pitch, specifically designed for young and student creative industries entrepreneurs. These are delivered by UK experts and are prepared in English with English subtitles. They were designed and used as part of our training resources to prepare student entrepreneurs for the Big Idea Challenge student pitching competition.


We conducted qualitative evaluation interviews with the team of Trainers at the Academy who – under our guidance and support - delivered a new four day enterprise Bootcamp for young and student entrepreneurs in May 2019. They reported that they learned a great deal about the different aspects of entrepreneurship and how this fits with building a business as a successful artist or creative industries entrepreneur. They also described very high levels of interest and engagement from student entrepreneurs in the bootcamp they delivered and the other aspects of our project. Some of this feedback is included in 6 short video interviews with these Trainers, provided with this report.

Click on the thumbnail below to open each short video interview:




What we learned


We learned a great deal about how to develop and deliver “train-the-trainer” style programmes and especially how to overcome language and culture barriers in this process by working closely with local partners to help facilitate the process over and extended time frame.

We also learned a lot about how to reach wide and diverse audiences for entrepreneurship projects like this. We achieved this by working with a wide range of partners and networks; identifying and celebrating successful creative business founders as role models and ambassadors; developing and supporting a new Entrepreneur in Residence role; and using the power of social media to reach out to new audiences.

We made considerable efforts to teach staff and students using a blend of translation and translated materials and also the development of video materials that students find more accessible. However, we did not achieve everything we hoped for on the take up and use of English Learning tools and we have learned from this Many students at beginner level found it difficult to engage with content that is written in English, and we will adapt our approach in the future to use a wider range of accessible supporting materials and language teaching approaches.

Most importantly, we have learned that developing a more entrepreneurial mindset is the big issue both staff and students involved in this programme. Our work in Year 1 with the Academics, Readers, Trainers and other staff involved in the project has given us a much deeper understanding of the ways we can help develop a more entrepreneurial mindset with staff (through engagement with our Entrepreneur in Residence, special guest speakers, and the use of research and case studies) and students (through mentoring, coaching, training, events and curriculum development). We will build on this learning as we progress with this project from Year 2 onwards.

This Creative Spark UPstart project is just one of many enterprise and entrepreneurship development projects that we manage. If you would like to discuss how we can help you with similar project you can contact us here.

Written by John Holmes

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