We work with local people across all areas of our programme. It’s about much more than inviting an artist in to co-create new work, it encompasses planning, budgeting, commissioning, evaluation and everything in between. Communities are involved on their own terms, we prioritise the decisions that they want to make and arrange the co-creation process around their needs.
Our process can be broadly split into the below building blocks. It is not a linear process, and it looks different for each project, depending on the needs and circumstances of the communities we’re working with. But all projects encompass all of the blocks, sometimes more than once.
Decision making: The community take the lead on developing all parts of the project, sometimes as a formal panel/forum group and sometimes in a much more informal way. The community have as much involvement with this process as they want to, but essentially the key decisions lie with the community, not us.
Delivery: The project engages a wider audience/participant group, with regular check-in points with the community panel.
Evaluation: All co-creators, including additional participants, evaluate the activity, and the co-creation process.
Exploration: We have exploratory discussions with community partners working with our priority communities.
Identify who: Priority communities (geographical and demographic) based on local data and intelligence, alongside previous audience/participation statistics, are identified in our business plan. We then identify further target audience through community conversations and decision-making structures.
Legacy: Ownership of any physical work created and discussions around planning for future projects takes place with all co-creators, sometimes leading to further community conversations.
Listening: We hold community conversations with the priority community exploring their needs, hopes and delivery models that will work best for them.
Reflection: As an action research programme, we are continuously reflecting on our processes and delivery and making changes as we go.
Whilst commissioned artists are expected to work to a brief created by the community panel, we also expect artists to work to their own co-creation methodology during delivery. At a minimum, we would expect artists to work equally with participants on creation on both artistic decisions and the physical creation of any work.
We’ve spent many years considering what makes a community-led cultural programme ‘excellent’ and have discussed what this looks like with our communities through our co-creation process. From this, we have created the following formula as a guide:
Excellence = (skill + ambition + access) x community dialogue
Skill relates to the ability of the lead artist/s. It’s of upmost importance that we work with artists that have a deep understanding and practical experience of both creating amazing works of art and engaging with communities.
Ambition is relative. The ambition of an established artist with years of experience should be very different to that of someone picking up a paint brush for the first time, but both are equally valid. For us, it’s about stretching beyond what you thought possible and grasping the magic of creativity.
Access encompasses everything about a project. It’s about everyone feeling welcome, comfortable and included. This covers physical access, such as space, transport and materials, alongside language, marketing, food, cost and ensuring that a wide range of people can see themselves reflected in our programme.
Community Dialogue can make or break a project. It’s an ongoing process between everyone involved in the project that happens through conversations, decision making and evaluation. It’s about connection in all its forms; deep listening and honest talking, sharing experiences and emotions, and making sure that everyone’s opinion is equally valued. It defines the aims and intended outcomes of each project and plays an important part in measuring our impact.
Whilst this formula can be used mathematically through scoring each element, we have never done this as we know that in reality excellence is more nuanced than a numerical score allows for.
Published 3rd October 2022