Albert Einstein said that we can’t solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them, and in this turbulent age, in which many of the problems that afflict our world—and especially the most vulnerable among us—would appear to have no solution, his words take on another dimension… Get set to expand the reach of your imagination: we are about to present a study that will challenge your capacity for amazement.

Creativity makes what is apparently impossible possible, and during the decades of work of the Inter-American Development Bank, and especially since our launch in 2013 of the Demand Solutions Ideas for Improving Lives movement, we are witnessing how the talent and innovation of entrepreneurs allows them to discover ingenious solutions to problems that often appeared impossible to overcome on almost all levels. We invite you to get to know the most incredible aspects of the cultural and creative industries (CCI) of our region.

In 2015, CCI (the orange economy) created 1.9 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean, and generated revenues of $124 billion, and it is estimated that by 2020 creativity will be the third skill in greatest demand by companies when they decide to hire employees. Based on these indicators, and in response to the challenging task of giving visibility to all those talents who are perhaps little known, today we present the e-book, The Orange Economy: Innovations you may not know were from Latin America and the Caribbean”, which you can download without charge here.

The e-book highlights 50 of the 300 business ventures of greatest social impact in the region, grouped according to some of the leading sectors of CCI: Architecture, Handcrafts, Design, Media, Fashion, Music, Creative Services and Software/Digital Platforms. The ventures originated in 12 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico and Peru.

Creativity as a driver of innovation can contribute to diversification as a necessary tool for achieving a globally competitive knowledge-based economy. One of the areas of development of diversification is the so-called Orange Economy, based on the fundamental pillars of creativity and talent, which produces high-value goods and services, jobs and social impact, transforming sectors such as hotels—with Airbnb—or transportation—with Uber—and competing at the same level with markets such as automobiles or mining.

One of the cross-cutting sectors of the Orange Economy is entrepreneurship. In the region, we have seen the emergence, and continual strengthening, of a new generation of entrepreneurs who have given creativity a central value in their productive and commercial activities. They have redefined their functions and challenged the myths that surround creativity as a phenomenon, building multidisciplinary teams that bring together atypical innovative abilities.


In the thick of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, creativity plays a leading role

in confronting changes in the methods of production and work.


In the thick of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, creativity plays a leading role in confronting changes in the methods of production and work. The future of businesses, independently of their size, will lie with their ability to give up the way they developed their products and services in order to invest in attracting new talent capable of designing other approaches for creating value.

Among these 50 innovations, stand-outs include a series of technological and analog products and services that highlight the culture and roots of native Latin American peoples and commit their clients to social causes such as sustainability, women’s empowerment or civic responsibility regarding climate change. As the renowned cardiologist Franz Freudenthal has said, “There is no machine in the world capable of producing the handwork of Aymara women who, with their ancestral techniques, are able to fabricate a device for treating childhood heart disease.”

It is worth pointing out that in Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast with what happens with startups in other parts of the world, the majority of CCI innovations seek, overwhelmingly, to improve lives and produce a high social impact. To this end, our entrepreneurs rely principally on empathy, that cognitive capacity that allows a person to step into the shoes of the other and help him or her to overcome difficulties, paving the way for more inclusive solutions.

Latin America and the Caribbean make up a creative region full of talent and imagination. We even venture to say that those are the region’s most valuable assets. The region’s creative and cultural industries are already capable of competing in global markets, generating jobs, emphasizing the cultural heritage and identity of its peoples and improving the quality of life of its inhabitants. These are merely a few of the examples of enterprises you can find in the e-book:

  • Proyecto Pietà (Peru): A brand of urban ecological clothing of high quality produced by men and women in three jails in Lima. Each prisoner is given a reduction in their jail term and a percentage of the sales in order to favor their reincorporation into society.
  • Machina (Mexico): A brand of clothing of an irreverent social nature that integrates innovative technology in a functional and intuitive way, leading towearable technology” or “intelligent clothing”.
  • Torre (Colombia): A crowdsouring platform endowed with a database of 135,000 voiceover and narrator actors. Its proprietary algorithm identifies the best talent for each project, sorting through hundreds of thousands of voices, in less than 10 minutes.
  • Popular de Lujo (Colombia): A digital platform that promotes research and dissemination of popular Latin American graphics as visual culture (publicity, posters, signage for buses, murals, etc.).
  • Elemental (Chile): The renowned architect, Alejandro Aravena, has designed an esthetic and functional model for low-cost housing that is replicable and scaleable and can be expanded in line with the resources of each family.
  • BabyBe (Chile/Alemania): A device for incubators of newborns that connects the voice, breathing and heartbeat of mothers with their premature babies through simulated contact with their bodies.
  • The New Denim Project (Guatemala): Fabrication of textiles recycled from assembly plants that make jeans, focused on producing high-quality fabrics free of chemicals and reducing to a mínimum the consumption of water and electricity.
  • Posibl. (Argentina): A multimedia company that produces and distributes content with high social impact based on four pillars: the power of social networks, crowdsourcing, philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.
  • Ánima Estudios (Mexico): The animation studio with the most experience and recognition in Latin America and a reference for the industry worldwide. It is the first Latin American studio to have produced an original series for Netflix.

There remain many opportunities to explore in the intersection between science, technology, art and creativity. From this convergence, new innovative products will emerge with functions that go far beyond our imagination. We invite you once again to download the e-book and learn in depth about the astonishing advances in CCI in our region.


By Alejandra Luzardo, Cofounder of Demand Solutions and Strategist for Innovation, Creative Industries and Entrepreneurship with IDB (Twitter: @Alejandral)

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