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Creativity is a crucial competence for indivdiuals. It is the core ingredience for becoming able to act proactively as an active citizen, for finding new visions or for fixing concrete problems, for increasing understanding of complex problems and for cooperation with other people or groups. Creativity is a process innate to our brains, one that can be stimulated through activities, for example in groups, or by creating the right conditions for it, through facilitation. Here the creative challenge for education is beginning.


The notion of creativity is often framed by discourses on social or economical innovation or educational modernization. Creative industries are viewed as a solution for post-industrial societies. Creative citizens are seen as innovators who find social solutions to problems that classical politics and businesses cannot deliver, whether that is creating new jobs, lowering unemployment rates, or resolving political or social problems. Creativity may also be perceived as a key competency that helps individuals navigate a complex world by adopting new technologies and using them to tackle global developments in their social field - as a kind of tool for adaptability to respond with smart ideas to the modern world and pressing global issues, like climate change. These intentions often appear in a top-down format, for example as a demand or request: we need more creative citizens and employees.

An alternative perspective on creativity is articulated by actors who emphasize creativity as an instrument to support individuals for developing their individual freedom and autonomy from the bottom up. In this context, creativity helps as many people as possible explore their capacity as creators. They wish to unleash creativity in humans by removing the barriers and limitations that society imposes on us.


In reality, creativity is a mix between all these intentions. As the interest in creative societies, creative industry, and creative citizens grows, a diverse group of actors are influencing teaching curricula and educational approaches. Many educational methods and approaches advocate for governments and grassroots activists' involving creativity more consciously in their competency development programs– from Entrepreneurship Education to Education for Democratic Citizenship to Cultural Education. This has consequences for facilitating creativity insofar as the predisposition of our values is affected.

Facilitating creativity is a deliberate activity, and facilitators should be aware of how specifically they want to influence education. In this handbook, we would like to emphasize the facilitation of creativity as a process of empowerment.

Creativity and Freedom

Beyond any utilitarian intention - whether implemented bottom up or top down – we see developing creative individuals as standing front and center. The Latin “creare” means to shape. People throughout all ages of history, and likely in all cultures, have commented on the ability of a person to start things, to create and therefore to change their environment. It was seen as a kind of special privilege of humans, often even legitimating their closeness to god(s) and their responsibility for the earth. The deep roots of this term also underpin our idea of democracy. In democracy, each individual is legimated and should be allowed to become a co-creator. Hannah Arendt built a bridge from Aristotelian thought to the conditions of democracy today: “The miracle of freedom is enclosed in this ability to begin.”[1]

Freedom is the fundamental goal of human social activities. The participatory revolution of democracy sought to change power systems based on the idea of a self conscious citizen. As such, it is precisly democracy's self-conscious citizens and their ability to initiate change by envisioning, connecting, discussing, deciding, and working on common issues that should be strengthened and supported by schools, civil society organizations, and governments in order to contribute to and foster democratic ideals.

One can see this as a responsibility to the community or a personal challenge. Before treating creativity as a burden or as something that leaves us too exposed to the complicated world around us, we should not forget to have a positive impact on the individual in mind. A person who starts to work with his or her creativity in a conscious way will realize that it leads to greater mental flexibility, an attitude of trying things out, critical thinking, and the ability to deal with social diversity in a constructive way. Creativity can even lead to greater resilience to stress or crisis.

Creativity and self-empowerment

The concepts of co-creating, participation, and independence have direct consequences for education: if everybody should be a co-creator, then the goal of education is to empower individuals to be involved and ideally to innovate, which in turn means having a bigger impact, one which may even affect the creativity of the social system. Creativity should be perceived as an instrument for the self-empowerment of self-responsible, socially minded, and individual citizens. It starts with the attitude of seeing oneself as capable, powerful, and with the legitimacy to create.

Empowerment for creativity's sake also poses a challenge for facilitators and teachers. For example, it requires them to shape a participatory and resourceoriented learning culture, actively involving participants in the learning process. Facilitators and teachers must further develop an attitude that appreciates non-conformism, divergent ideas, and proactive learners. Allowing learners to add new insights in the form of noise, altered needs, disobedience, or new insights. Opening the process, allowing participants and facilitators to shape it together. As such, they need both an ability to communicate and negotiate goals and processes with learners as well as the decisiveness to carry it out. Last, facilitators or teachers need methodological competency in opening learning processes up to creativity, and at the same time to aligning these with other learning goals. The authors of this handbook believe that a competencycentered approach and holistic learning (as described in the second handbook for facilitators on Holistic Learning) can help achieve this end.

What is creativity?

Creativity is an ability that helps us process the wealth of information that our minds collect and forge connections between different pieces of information in order to find a solution to a problem in a new way, or to come to a new understanding of the problem itself.

Often, this involves establishing new connections where there have been none, and exploring the potential of seemingly unrelated topics. Creativity is as much about providing answers to particular needs as it is about redefining the questions that guide the search for answers. Ultimately, building upon previous knowledge and experiences is the essence of most creative deliberation.

Therefore, in many ways creativity is about exploration: exploring the knowledge that we already possess, exploring our environment and the rules within it, and exploring the problems that we face in order to understand and tackle them in new ways. Learners must overcome their discomfort with unclear situations, and any tendency to go into "fight or flight" mode or avoid uncertainty and ambiguousness. That means constructively dealing with 'mental disorder' and disruptive processes. That means to constructively deal with 'mental unorder' and disruptive processes.

Children are often creative – they are constantly training to deal with exploration and reasoning. Ideally, they would connect this with an attitude of curiosity. In this way, all creative processes begin with curiosity, or a willingness to explore. Since learning about the world and trying to understand the connections that guide it are connected to personal development and social experience, one could conclude that creativity is an essential competence required in the processes of learning.

Facilitating creativity cannot be done by simply putting knowledge on the agenda. Rather, creative learning processes also need to address the skills, knowledge and attitudes people will need in order to act as self-responsible and active citizens in the society. Together, these form a creative competence.

Creative Competence

Creativity requires an attitude of curiosity to explore social surroundings. Basically, it is the ability to connect new things with old things, to build unexpected connections, and to develop new solutions to a problem or challenge.

Within the context of groups, communities, or society, create individuals' ability to make connections means a proactive adaptability to social change and ability to recognize synergies and create some new quality out of what already exists in discourses and groups.

Crucial for this social dimension of creativity is a mindset that demonstrates a willingness and ability to generate ideas and a motivation to think and share new solutions.

Creativity includes certain analytical and reflective skills required for exploring new insights, as well as an ability to to implement these insights through activities – here creativity is understood as a methodological competence.

Modelling Creative Competence

Modelling creative competence for educational purposes can try to articulate the essential aspects of this key competence in a systematic way. One option is to distinguish between the factual, methodological, social and personal competencies included in creative competence. This allows for the facilitation of creative competencies in a targeted and conscious way. It helps with planning and during learning processes, and can assist faciliators and learners in developing criteria for evaluating achievements.

Task-specific Factual Competence

Identifying adequate solutions for tasks and problems based on the knowledge of a specific field, as well as how that field is systematically organized and externally related to other fields:

  • Applying knowledge and practices from different domains
  • Transferring knowledge from other fields to the specified learning field

Methodological Competence

Acting consciously, competently, and in a goal-oriented way. The ability to choose methodologies and to evaluate outcomes:

  • Adapting approaches and concepts to the needs of the circumstances and actors
  • Structuring and visualizing complex topics and seeing them from multiple perspectives
  • Assessing and combining information and experience
  • Experimenting with innovative approaches
  • Perceiving several ideas and opportunities
  • Assessing and evaluating different solutions according to criteria such as success or needs fulfillment
  • Shaping spaces and organizing processes to unleash creative potential
  • Organizing and moderating creative and targeted processes

Social Competence

Living in relation to other people and actively shaping social relations. Reflecting different interests, needs and tensions. Team and conflict management skills:

  • Developing analytical, reflective, and empathic listening skills
  • Finding solutions for situations that pose challenges to communication
  • Participating in collaborative ideation processes
  • Developing a diversity conscious and constructive attitude toward others’ thoughts, needs, and ideas
  • Developing an ability to deal constructively with nonconformist, contrary, and divergent opinions
  • Involving others in the creative process in a participatory way

Personal Competence

Acting autonomously in a self-organized and reflective way: observing and evaluating challenges, requirements, or options. Assuming responsibility:

  • Maintaining an attitude of curiosity toward others and the world
  • Developing an ability to find inspiration in different ways
  • Envisioning a future goal
  • Keeping a proactive attitude of adaptability to social change: perceiving oneself as able to influence change
  • Thinking inside and outside of norms
  • Fostering a playful attitude , open for disruptive processes
  • Balancing an ability to process divergent and convergent information
  • Thinking of challenges and problems in a solution-oriented way

Inspired by: Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) [2]

Inspiring Handbooks and Sources from the Community


  1. H. Arendt: Denken ohne Geländer – Texte und Briefe; 2005 Munich; p. 85
  2. Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB): K.Hensge, B. Lorig, D. Schreiber: Kompetenzstandards in der Berufsausbildung; Abschlussbericht Forschungsprojekt 4.3.201 (JFP 2006)

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann

Editor of Competendo. Coordinator of the project DIGIT-AL Digital Transformation in Adult Learning for Active Citizenship. Secretary of the DARE network. Topics: active citizenship, civil society, digital transformation, non-formal and lifelong learning, capacity building. Blogs here: Blog: Civil Resilience. Email: