At Tate St Ives, we primarily work with two community partners through the Circuit programme, with a focus and emphasis on consistent and longer term engagement, and the benefit of this to the Young People who access our joint projects.
Over the past two years, key questions consistently emerge that form the basis of good partnership working (particular to our experience), primarily in understanding the overarching question we keep returning to of “Why do we work together and what is the wider benefit”.
Whilst we unpick our Learning through evaluation and reflection, shared through various media from blogs and website to Annual and Interim reports, perhaps it is useful to share some of the questions we begin to ask each other during the creation of a partnership and in devising our projects together. Some of the questions form our initial discussions, other appear throughout the process of creating a partnership project. This is not to say we always can articulate a definite response at the point the questions are raised, but that the questions inform the conversations and actions we may then take:
Why are we offering what we offer, and why would partners work with us? Who is the project for (young people, the partner, the organisation, the funder) and who sets the aims?
What does the partner need? Where does their expertise lie? What do they currently fulfil and what are the gaps? What are their embedded aims and why would they work with us? How could a project/offer fit with what they already deliver? What is their capacity to support? What could a partnership achieve that we couldn’t achieve alone?
Know your offer boundaries
This could include budget, skills, contacts and experience audit; affecting number of sessions, duration, timescale, objectives etc. Which aims do we want or need to meet? Where do our Aims meet, and where do they diverge? What can’t we offer? Where’s the boundary and where is this flexible?
Flexibility and change
Where does the flexibility lie? In budget, capacity, site, schedule? In aim or focus? What can change and what needs to remain constant?
What can we and the partners commit to? What time, capacity and resources do we have? Who holds the specialism at what point? Who else needs to be involved?
Our capacity and of the partners. How do we work to best capacity and to the best satisfaction of all stakeholders? Where can we be generous and where do we have to pull back? How do we measure quality and how do we know quality?
Is there a need for a predicted outcome, if so who defines? Is the outcome material, conceptual, emotional? Is it part of a longer process or does it see the end of a project? Can the Learning outcome be predicted? How do we embrace tangents and be responsive?