I’ve used this analogy a few times in various chats, meetings, steering groups and so on over the past few years and thought I should probably commit it to blog:
Collaboration’s like marriage. Before getting wed it’s a good idea to go on a few dates
Of course, it’s sensible to spend a bit more time together than that but I’m sure you catch my drift. I’ve been known to extend the simile much further than may be advisable, so count yourself lucky.
I’ve seen a fair few funding programmes recently that have tried to foster collaboration, especially between creative industry SMEs and/or arts organisations. The current ACE/NESTA Digital R&D Fund is a recent example – applications featuring a collaboration between a digitally experienced org and a less savvy one will receive greater weight.
Whether it’s a good idea to shoehorn collaborative working into such a scheme, I’m undecided (pros and cons are pretty balanced, to my mind). However, a project costing hundreds (or even tens) of thousands of pounds is a significant undertaking for a small organisation and not one to be entered into lightly.
Before tying up significant resources (time, effort, expense, etc) any right-thinking organisation will want to be confident that they can work with the other on a large project. How are you supposed to know if you’re compatible?
What I’d like to see is some provision for more, smaller collaborations. These could take a huge range of shapes and formats, not just another funding stream (although that’d work). The important thing is to give people more of a chance to rub up alongside each other. Friction creates sparks, and all that.
I’ve said before I like the idea of hack days and, to a lesser extent, geek-in-residence schemes (see previous post), partly because they provide a low-risk space for people to try things out.
I liked hearing how the Media Sandbox/Theatre Sandbox programmes at Watershed regularly brought participants together for lunchtime talks and presentations of work-in-progress – the sort of opportunity I felt was missed with the recent DCD programme in the West Midlands.
I also think there’s a lot of scope for creative industries networking events to partner with each other too – simply holding separate meet-ups in different rooms at the same place and sharing breakout areas might be enough.
I think it’d be valuable to give people more chances to:
- meet others;
- get to know how other industries work;
- build relationships and trust;
- work on small, low-risk projects
and all that kind of stuff. Maybe the work they turn out will be good enough to be worth making into a full ‘thing’. Maybe not. But I think the process would be valuable and when larger pots of cash come along it might lead to fewer ill-conceived and hasty marriages of convenience.