Doc. by Dishub Surabaya

Talking about a creative city, it seemed that Surabaya was not one of the cities which immediately came to mind and became an association of that predicate. Bandung, Ambon, or Yogya would most likely come to mind when discussing this particular issue.

Surabaya was better known as an industrial or trading city, given its dominant trade and industrial activities, plus its status as the gateway to the economy of East Indonesia. But that didn't mean the capital of East Java had a small number of creative workers. So, was it necessary for Surabaya to have its own place for creative workers?

Article written by Nadia Maya Ardiani

Hafshoh Mubarak, or familiarly called Hebz, believed in the importance of this. Driven by anxiety about the absence of a large umbrella organization for creative industry players from various sectors in Surabaya, Hebz and friends started to pioneer the Surabaya Creative Network (SCN) in 2016.

Hebz felt that the absence of a large umbrella was what caused creative workers in Surabaya to tend to walk independently. "You could say this SCN is a 'knitter'," she said, "we are looking from the helicopter view, so we can see which things need to be "knitted". With the presence of an entity that was tasked with "knitting" existing individuals and communities towards the same big goal — solving urban problems through creative solutions — it was hoped that the creative industry landscape in Surabaya would be easier to grasp the situation."

That was also why SCN existed as a network, not an association. Everyone could be part of the SCN network, because SCN wanted to be a hub for all communities and individuals engaged in creative fields. Now there were 120 individuals/communities on the SCN radar, and that number would certainly grow in the future.

The establishment of SCN itself was inspired by a conversation with the BEKRAF (Creative Economy Agency) team about the importance of a large city-based community. Because with a more structured condition, the community could become an extension of the government, in the sense that SCN became an 'aggregator' of the aspirations and situation of the creative industry in Surabaya. From the government's point of view, this could make it easier for the government to interact and facilitate existing needs. That way, the mapping of creative ecosystems could run more effectively.


Doc. by Dishub Surabaya

Supported by the British Council through the DICE (Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies) program, SCN held a series of Focus Group Discussions (FGD) with the community and creative industry players which culminated in the first SCN Annual Work Meeting, January 2020. In the meeting, SCN also invited representatives from 5 elements of Pentahelix (ABCG-M; academics, business, community, government, and media) so that the five of them could work together with one another. From this series of FGDs, SCN then prepared a draft roadmap for the next 10 years.

One of the points in the roadmap was the plan to create an academic forum or research center. Hebz felt that one of the things that was still very minimal was research related to the creative industry. In the SCN network itself, there were already several lecturers from 10 campuses in Surabaya. There, SCN would communicate to academic colleagues about issues that need special attention, so that then between SCN and academics could work together to carry out the research.

Pentahelix synergy was important because according to Hebz it would greatly affect the economic wheels of the creative industry.

"When we can educate (residents) Surabaya, (and) the public and the government begin to understand what a brand is, the media appreciate it, then automatically the quality of education and the quality and structure of people's mindsets will begin to change. So from there the financial side of the creative industry friends will also go up. Everything is related,” explained the woman who was active in the theater.

"And the creative industry cannot stand alone. Must collaborate between creative industry sectors, as well as with businesses — both with industry and conventional business — to increase value and selling value. So that later creativity will be a solution to existing problems," she added.

But it turned out that the challenge came from the creative industry players themselves. Hebz said that the first two years were "exciting times" for SCN because at that time most of the communities were still wait & see, so the SCN team had to approach the existing communities one by one. One of the ways that Hebz did was by taking the time to hang out for coffee after work at the "headquarters" of the Surabaya communities. "I visit them one by one, for us to talk about one spirit, build a foundation, get acquainted with the brothers and sisters," she said. This habit had made Hebz nicknamed the 'mayor of the night shift' by the creative activists of the city of Bonek.

According to Hebz, it would be naive if the government still forced Surabaya to become a creative city. Because trading was already in the DNA of the people of Surabaya. Why not just become a creative industrial city? Because being a 'creative city' doesn't have to be as artistic as Bandung or Ambon, for example. "From the Majapahit era it was a market. So we are in the (realm) creative, but also talk about money. We talk about the trade, but the creative ones,” explained Hebz. Strategic access to investors and export-import further supported this thinking.

Now, the city government is projecting Surabaya as a historical tourism city. SCN also supports this agenda, and is currently exploring collaborations with historical city networks throughout Indonesia. Hebz realizes that Surabaya is rich in stories, and narrative is important. Tourists who explore every corner of Surabaya will always feel as if they are being told by these narratives.

So last year SCN accompanied the government to inaugurate the Heritage Walk of Lawang Seketeng, a historic village tour in North Surabaya. The work on Lawang Seketeng was also a laboratory which became proof that if Pentahelix elements work together, many solutions could be accomplished. There, from a business perspective, a paint company carries out Company Social Responsibility (CSR) in the form of providing materials; Meanwhile, from the government side, the form of support was in the form of policies, including licensing and management of copyright or patent rights. SCN was also working to oversee the ratification of the creative economy local regulation at the Surabaya Regional People's Representative Council, with a target of 3-4 years to complete. Because with sufficient legal facilitation, it was hoped that Surabaya's creative industry could develop better and SCN would be able to 'knitt' more optimally.