Collaboration: dates before marriage

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.

Some context

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?

Digital dates

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.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.