A Community Partnership is a relationship between your arts collective or organization and a non-arts organization or collective. This differs from a corporate sponsorship or private funding relationship as there is generally no exchange of funds or goods. Community partnerships often meet a more social service or community-oriented purpose.
Some examples include partnerships with: collectives, schools, social service non-profits, and community organizations. Community partnerships are an excellent opportunity to deepen your artistic practice and connect to causes and issues that you care about. These kinds of partnerships can be incredibly impactful and memorable, and affect your practice in profound ways. They can also be a source of revenue.
We will discuss four key themes around creating and sustaining these relationships:
- Defining your purpose for creating these partnerships
- Level of Engagement
- Budget Considerations
- Collaboration agreement and communication
A very important guiding question for creating partnerships is to be clear about your intention. Why is this partnership important to you, your collective, your project, or your organization? Some examples of possible intentions:
- Partnering with this organization is synergistic with the themes in my project and will lead to a deeper engagement with what is being explored
- The organization is tackling a cause or issue that I feel deeply connected to and I feel my artistic practice can be a supportive force for their work
- The organization approached me or my collective or organization for a partnership and their values align with my/our values
- Community engagement is a key part of my/our practice as an Indigenous or racialized person and integrated into how I/we work
Partnerships can take many forms and should be guided by what is best for everyone. We have defined partnerships by the level of engagement required. This is a framework that can help contextualize different types of partnerships and their scope.
Requires a smaller amount of effort and engagement, usually a fairly straightforward exchange.
Suggested planning time: 1-2 months
- An organization sharing information about a show on their social media and/or newsletter
- Including information about an organization in a show program
- Raising funds for an organization through a pre- or post-show activity
Requires a more engaged level of activity and communication, but is usually manageable within a normal project cycle.
Suggested Planning Time: 3-6 months
- An artist facilitates a workshop for an organization related to the themes of a particular project
- Engaging with an organization to do a show talkback or series of talkbacks
- A team member from an organization visits your rehearsal to share information
Requires a longer term commitment, may need to be a significant portion of a team member’s time.
Suggested planning time: 12 months +
- Working with a collective of neighbourhood activists to create a performance that will be shared
- Incorporating both non professional and full time artists in a long term performance project
- A series of creation workshops for a youth group
- A group of artists traveling to another community to share and exchange knowledge on devised creation
For deep engagement projects that work with and in the community, be prepared to alter your approach. These types of projects can differ slightly from a “typical” framework for engaging artists in creation and performance. Live performance often expects a high level of commitment (often referred to as “professionalism”). Most of the time, there is a shared vocabulary about how we work together and a series of unspoken expectations. It’s important to have an open mind and ensure that your budget and process meets the needs of the participants when working with and in the community.
Some expenses to include in your budget that wouldn’t normally be included in artistic budgets are:
- Honouraria for community members’ participation
- Public transit tickets and/or taxi vouchers for participants
- Meal stipends or food available at sessions, ranging from snacks to meals
- Accommodating absences and late arrivals
As well, for deep engagement projects, the artist or collective may have to consider:
- Working during evenings and weekends
- Planning for travel and accommodations if going to a community outside of your city or town
- Accounting for inconsistent communication and/or attendance from the partner
It is always important to continually revisit your or your collective’s values and rationale for the partnership as this will help guide the project through challenging moments.
There are various ways to fund community partnerships. Community partnerships may also open up funding avenues outside of traditional arts council funding. Some activities may be covered by your funding asks to arts councils, so you may want to include a budget line in your project budget for these activities.
Depending on the nature of the partnership, the organization or collective may have funding available in their budgets. They may also be open to applying for funding to resource the activities.
Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts have funding available for community engaged partnerships:
Finding this kind of funding requires some research and consultation with the partner organization. Some foundations will require non profit status and a charitable number, so, depending on your own status, you may be looking to a partner organization to meet those eligibility requirements in order to access the funding. In Ontario, here some of the more popular funding sources for community engaged work:
When the key details of the partnership are clear, it is important to have an agreement. Depending on the depth of the engagement, this could look like a simple email outlining what was discussed, or, for a more in depth collaboration, this may look like a more formal contract. Key elements to identify inf the collaboration agreement include:
- Key contact people at the organization
- If any funds are being exchanged between you the artist/collective and the organization, when and how those funds will be administered
- Embedding evaluation into the process and a debrief after the project has been completed