Partners can support your project with money, venues, time, distribution portals, audiences and participants, but they will want to know what benefits they will gain. And you will need to work out what benefits they bring. Here are a few tips on how to build mutually beneficial partnerships.
Before you start the partnership process, be clear about what the benefit is for all parties. First what value do you bring to the partnership and how can you add value to your potential partners? What is unique about you and your way of creating? Do you have life experiences that put you in a better position to understand a certain issue? Do you have unique access to a story, a community? Do you have in kind support or cash funding confirmed that you could bring to the table as leverage? As most arts managers now look at arts and culture through an economic and risk-avoidance lens, it is important that you understand their language – you don’t need to agree with them – but if you want their support you need to be able to convince them that working with you and your team is a good investment for them.
We recommend you do a SWOT analysis, to get a clearer idea of what you can bring to the table and what you expect of your project partners, regardless of how much they bring.
S for Strength: What is your strength, anything specific that you are really good at or that stands you apart from other teams? This can be tangible [ie. a documented skill you have, awards you have won, committed funding, a signed form granting you exclusive access to a potential story] or intangible [100 years of film making, a unique life experience, passion] - whatever it is, be clear about it, apply it generously and make sure your partners are aware of all your strengths.
W for Weakness: What are you not good at? Identify this so you can turn it into an opportunity, delegate it or find a solution for it, before it becomes a problem. For example, you find a film has been made recently about a similar issue, so you will need to convince your funder that your project is going to be totally different and fresh.
O for Opportunity: A new technology has just become widely available but is not fully utilised [suddenly everyone has a camera but doesn’t know how to use it – can you teach them?]. A new funding strand has been announced [and fits your project perfectly…can you get a meeting with the decision makers?]. You had a chance meeting with someone influential [and now can pitch your idea to them].
T for Threat: What could disable your project or your ability to deliver or to secure the job? Will your delivery platform be dead next year [you may want to swap from DVD delivery to online video… think dinosaurs…]? Is your closest competition getting better than you [time to innovate…]?
In summary: Use your strength to turn your weakness into opportunities that enable you to identify and utilise threats and turn them into new strength.
It is kind of funny - we thought ‘innovative disruption’ was a great concept for our community arts practise, until we found out it is an old entrepreneurial business term… but as long as we make work within capitalism or other ideologies using injustice as key structural elements [patriarchy, able-ism, empire, age-ism and so on], it can be useful to understand the language and politics of power and use them to your project’s advantage.
Common stakeholder agendas of CACD digital media projects
Participants: Individuals who have pushed for a media workshop, or are offered to participate to share their story - you need to be clear, can you make it alone, what support do you need, are the organisers/ partners able to provide that, and what don’t you want to happen. This is your chance to make an amazing video, even if it is your first time, and once your work and image [photos, video, artwork] is broadcast [YouTube, TV] it is next to impossible to recall, so at the start, work out how you want to be represented, and how you want to participate.
Project Manager: This person manages the project on behalf of a local organisation – they select and work with the participants and liaise between the stakeholders. If they are good at their job and on board, great, you have found yourself the best ally you can get! If not, unspoken stakes, agendas, risk adverse behaviour and other fears may make them another barrier to overcome… But they may come around if your project is good for their career, or if this project runs well, it will ensure the organisation gets more funding.
Local community organizations: Organisations that want to run projects with marginalized group, support individuals to share important message, support them to gain skills/career pathway, create a community activity. Clarify the unspoken agendas, who benefits? If this project runs well it will ensure the organisation gets more funding? Even if it is hard, make sure that you have the ‘bricks and mortar’ middle management support - if they go who will provide the venues, staff time, liaising with other parties… In your budget, this is where the real value of in kind support sits, so make sure everyone involved in the project understands this and values this. On the other hand, it is important to remember these organisations only exist because social injustice prevails, if their imperative is justice then they need a clear plan to hand over the controls and become obsolete, otherwise they are profiteering from this inequity.
External organisations: These organisations can be great allies in your cause to bring your project to life. Just make sure you have a really clear agreement with them on what they need from the project and why they want to get involved. Remember that not many people or organisations see themselves as tokenistic or exploitative, but behave like colonial bullies anyway. In any case, the beauty about an agreement is that all parties involved will need to negotiate. The clearer you are, the more respect you will get and the easier it will be to build strategic partnerships. Many partners may mean lots of leverage and great looking in kind budget figures, but more partners means also more work and more hand holding. Make sure you can deliver on your promises, so keep it real, for everyone’s sake.
Government Funding Agencies: Make sure you understand the politics of the funders you are getting involved in. They, not your community, are often the actual clients, you deliver to them and they deliver up the chain to their respective ministers. Unfortunately many arts and culture managers still see it as they job to make the minister look good, instead of supporting artists and the communities they work with. Don’t get paranoid, but keep an open mind and be carefully not to trust too easily. Just keep in mind the gross difference in wages, arts managers often make a high five to six figure income, while the artists and communities they serve struggle to survive – and in the end, without the artists, there is nothing to be managed...
Change Media has worked with hundreds of communities and supported them to develop relevant partnership models. We have received requests from youth groups, local councils, health services, Indigenous agencies, government departments, educational institutions, schools, and individuals. They recognize the benefits of community based video production and want support for community building, social archiving, artistic expression, to document events, promote issues, raise awareness, raise funds, engage individuals in their community, link groups, increase school retention, share stories, access and transmit skills and knowledge.
When does the light turn on? This project was developed through a series of workshops with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and over 20 cross-cultural communities in Melbourne. Fed Square Pty Ltd and the Light in Winter 2013 came on board as partners, as we all saw synergy on the key issue of ‘race based discrimination, democracy, voice and power’ – which fit well with our brief to increase awareness on the issues of racism and prejudice against asylum seekers.
PARTNERS: Australia Council for the Arts CCPI; Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Fed Square Light in Winter Festival 2013; VicHealth; VCA Centre for Cultural Partnerships; Tallstoreez Productionz
Flow – Life giving Lands and Waters
We partnered with the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority and the SA Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, to produce a collaborative community-driven documentary about the Ngarrindjeri lands and waters and The Living Murray Initiative’s ICON sites. The work has been seen by the federal minister and has become a benchmark on environmental media representation in the context of cross-cultural community collaboration.
PARTNERS: Indigenous Cultural Support, Office for the Arts, Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport; Australia Council for the Arts; Arts SA; Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority; South Australian Government Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Tallstoreez Productionz.
We worked together with the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority and the Regional Arts Australia conference 2012 to produce three distinct keynote videos, each presenting a slightly different angle on respect, resilience and reconciliation, with a challenge for the festival’s audience to re-frame the colonial mindset.
PARTNERS: Indigenous Cultural Support, Office for the Arts, Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport; Australia Council for the Arts; Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority; Kumwuki conference – Regional Arts Australia; Tallstoreez Productionz.
10×14 Bricks – Stories from Youth in Lock-up This school based project in a juvenile secure care facility ran over 5-weeks, during 14 sessions, to train the students in digital film making and produce a crime prevention DVD resource.
PARTNERS: The Australian Government through the Attorney General’s Department; Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; the Australia Council for the Arts Creative Community Partnerships Initiative; Arts SA Partnerships for Healthy Communities; Department of Families and Communities; Cavan Secure Care Training Centre; Youth Education Centre Cavan DECS; Tallstoreez Productionz; Apple Australia
Nukkan.Kungun.Yunnan, Ngarrindjeri’s Being Heard, This community project included a 4-day train-the-trainer production with a newly formed group of youth leaders, who were keen to set up a media hub to produce their own stories and record their Elders.
PARTNERS: Indigenous Cultural Support DEWHA; Indigenous Coordination Centre SA; Australia Council for the Arts Creative Community Partnership Initiative; Arts SA Partnerships for Healthy Communities; Ngarrindjeri Land & Progress Association; Ngarrindjeri Ruwe Contracting; Tallstoreez Productionz; Apple Australia
Culture Shock – Australian Refugee Association This community based project was developed through a series of consultations with the Port Adelaide Enfield City and the Australian Refugee Association, to engage new arrivals within their council area.
PARTNERS: Australia Council for the Arts Creative Community Partnership Initiative; Arts SA Partnerships for Healthy Communities; City of Port Adelaide Enfield; Australian Refugee Association; Tallstoreez Productionz; Apple Australia
What’s Yours is Mine…d, This community project included a 4-day production with a newly formed group, who were interested in film making, but mostly had no previous experience.
PARTNERS: Australia Council for the Arts Creative Community Partnership Initiative; Arts SA Partnerships for Healthy Communities; Arts NSW; Arts Upper Hunter Inc; Gloucester City Council Youth Centre; Tallstoreez Productionz; Apple Australia
Wurramooka News, This school project included a 4-day train-the-trainer production with selected student leaders, who were each responsible for learning specific digital media skills they could then share with the whole school.
PARTNERS: Australia Council for the Arts Creative Community Partnership Initiative; Arts SA Partnerships for Healthy Communities; Department of Education and Children Services; Warooka CPC – 7 School; Curramulka Primary School; Yorketown Area School; Tallstoreez Productionz; Apple Australia
Riverland Youth Theatre, edit-in-camera, This community project was a Sunday-one-day introduction session for interested community members, who were looking to meet others, learn about film making, create and have fun.
PARTNERS: Australia Council for the Arts Creative Community Partnership Initiative; Arts SA Partnerships for Healthy Communities; Country Arts SA; Riverland Youth Theatre RYT; Tallstoreez Productionz; Apple Australia