ASC Partnerships Blog Series Post #1: Welcome to the Conversations

November 20, 2018 by Tracey Leacock and Judith Marcuse ASC!, Resource / Partnership Capacity-building

ASC Partnerships Blog Series: Post #1
Welcome to the conversations!

In this blog series we’d like to start conversations about what meaningful community-engaged participatory arts for social change (ASC) partnerships can look like, how they can be effective and enriching, while also discussing some of the challenges and difficulties.

The content of this series draws primarily on research conducted by Judith Marcuse (Principal Investigator on the ASC! Project) and Nicole Armos (ASC! Research Assistant) during the 2013-2019 Art for Social Change (ASC!) Research Project, but the content of these posts is meant only as a starting point. We want to hear your thoughts too! 

Read the other episodes in the series here: Post #1 > Post #2 > Post #3 > Post #4 > Post #5 > Post #6 > Post 7 > Post 8 > Post 9 > Post #10 > Post #11

At their heart, partnerships are about connection, about relationships. Partnerships bring together people and organizations that have a shared interest and help them to acknowledge and understand each other’s perspectives. For many community-engaged arts practitioners, partnerships are an integral part of their work; however, the importance and complexity of partner relations, the fine art of making and sustaining mutually beneficial working relationships, can be unexamined or simply overlooked.

In this series of blog posts, we’d like to start conversations about what meaningful partnerships can look like, what it means for a partnership to be effective (and how to achieve this!), how partnerships enrich community-engaged participatory arts work, and how to recognize and prevent some common pitfalls.

The content of this series draws primarily on research conducted during the 2013-2019 Art for Social Change! Research Project, but the content of these posts is meant only as a starting point. We want to hear from you! What about our findings resonates (or doesn’t resonate) with you? What questions do these posts raise? What answers, suggestions, and examples can you share from your own experience to help fellow ASC practitioners create meaningful partnerships?

We’ll get things started today with a brief scan of the field and description of the research. In the following posts, we’ll address topics such as relationship building, creating a shared language, power dynamics, navigating the policies of different organizations, and stewardship. We’ll then step back to suggest some models for partnerships and wrap up by revisiting the importance of partnerships in ASC work.


Partnerships in ASC

In our 2016 State of the Art report, we noted that ASC organizations partner with a wide range of other types of organizations from those whose primary focus is a local community (community centres, libraries, not-for-profit social services organizations, etc.) to large mainstream arts organizations (museums, ballet companies, etc.). In addition, ASC organizations often partner with other ASC organizations to achieve shared goals.

As the field expands, non-arts organizations are increasingly interested in the benefits participatory art forms can bring to their work. The arts are being integrated into:

  • justice systems (e.g., with incarcerated individuals and in conflict mediation)
  • many forms of work in health (e.g. to address addiction, mental health, public health education, and medical training)
  • social justice agendas (e.g. Truth and Reconciliation, LGBTQ2+, rights of Indigenous peoples, etc.)
  • environmental justice
  • social innovation projects
  • community and economic development processes
  • …and the list goes on

ASC! Project – Partnerships Research

Our research into partnerships in ASC consisted of conversations with artists, academics, representatives from ASC organizations, and representatives from major funders that support ASC partnerships.

We conducted 48 semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with participants from across Canada in which we asked them to reflect on specific ASC partnerships that they had been involved in and answer questions such as: What partners participated and why? What were the major challenges and successes? What is your advice to those contemplating new ASC partnerships?*

We also hosted a total of 19 Chataquas – arts-infused dialogue sessions in groups of 15 to 45 people at a time – in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. Discussions covered partnership development, sustainability, and evaluation. The Chataquas provided a forum for ASC practitioners to engage in dialogue and knowledge exchange with their peers.

We’ve analyzed the interview responses and input from the Chataquas and used this to create a series of vignettes illustrating key considerations that participants identified as core to meaningful and effective partnerships. You’ll see the first of these vignettes in the next post in this series.


We encourage you to tell us a bit about your ASC work and why partnerships matter to you. This is a highly rewarding and rich public dialogue, join in on social media (share/comment via facebook and twitter badges below)!**
In our next post: We’ll share an example of an ASC practitioner who is seeking to establish and build successful relationships with a local high school and the local arts council.

*For the full list of questions >>> Partnerships Questions

**See post on Twitter – see post on Facebook.

For those of you who just do not do social media, please feel free to contact us directly!



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