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The Power of Partnerships

Partnerships are the fuel for community engagement for arts organizations. There is always added value in partnering with other organizations and businesses to achieve community-based goals. For one thing, there is strength in numbers:  working in partnership will increase the number of people working on the cause. 

Since a partnership is a collaboration between organizations to work towards a shared goal, one has to be comfortable with shared leadership.  If one partner rides roughshod over the other either by failing to utilize consensus decision making, by regularly operating autonomously or by failing to be an effective communicator, the partnership cannot hope to succeed.

Good partnerships happen when organizations have a common understanding of the culture, values and approach of each other and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities within the partnership.  It is important to be a good listener, and try to understand your partners' motivations and interests.   At the same time, good partners are accepting of the differences in ways of working that will arise in any partnership. 

Be clear about who does what, as well as when and how updates to the “to do lists” will be communicated.

Work together to create the measurements that will be used to evaluate the work of the partnership being sure to include memberships that are about the working relationship and functionality of the partnership as well as those that deal with the actual outcomes of the program in which you are partnering. 

Each organization will be bringing some resources to the partnership including financial and human capital, skills and knowledge. Do not expect that both organizations will be bringing equal resources but be clear about what you can bring and they can bring and document it.

As the founding principle of community engagement is to build longer-term relationships with the community, the organization’s programs and activities are undertaken in partnership with community organizations that do not have an arts-related mission.  That is why one of the first steps in making a commitment to community engagement is getting to know your community and meeting the leaders of organizations, associations and social service agencies in your community to learn who might be interested in incorporating an arts activity that relates in some way to their mission.

 The community engagement process must come from the organization’s beliefs and values about the role of the arts in people’s lives along with the understanding that the arts and artists need to become more central to the communities they serve.  Presenting organizations are uniquely positioned in their communities to begin the work to break down the barriers, both economic and social, that stop people from accessing or participating in the arts.

The Values of Building Partnership Relationships - Successful partnerships have a clear purpose, must be carefully planned and monitored so they add value to the work of all partners.

How to Find Community Partners - Finding community partners means exercising your curiosity and go out and about in the community.

The Partnership Agreement - Negotiate a shared understanding of protocols so that everyone involved has a shared understanding of the values, expectations, and priorities that are the foundation of the project.


Why - community engagement with youth and community Choreographer Keira Martin


Kala Seraphin - Kingston, Ontario


Judith Marcuse

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