Platforms for Collaboration

Emerging creative and cultural practice places increased emphasis on collaborative, cross-sector and multi-platform approaches to creation, production and distribution.
Much of this is driven by the capabilities and potential of new “technologies of collaboration,” as well as by the assumptions and lifestyles of many artists. At the same time, there is an increasing blurring of distinctions between amateur and professional, audience, participant and artist. This trend towards more collaborative and interdisciplinary creative practice has been reflected in a range of recent studies and Artscape research. What were once considered set-in-stone distinctions between not-for-profit and for-profit cultural and creative enterprises are now increasingly unclear.

Collaboration and convergence across creative, artistic and technological activities and between cultural, creative and environmental spheres creates scope for the development of innovative cultural experiences and creative products. It also means that we need to think about our cultural and creative infrastructure in new ways.

As new models and new combinations emerge, the ways in which cultural activity is organized and the sorts of cultural spaces that are required is also evolving. The final report of a three-year study exploring Canada’s cultural infrastructure, Under Construction identifies the emergence of new, multi-disciplinary and cross-sector models of cultural facilities, including multi-use cultural hubs, “arts incubators” and convergence centres.

In 2009, Artscape published , the Convergence Centres: Building Capacity for Innovation, the result of a year-long research project and collaboration with our partners, Toronto International Film Festival, The Martin Prosperity Institute, Evergreen, MaRS and the Canadian Film Centre. In part, the research sought to understand the dynamics of Toronto’s portfolio of convergence centres. This new generation of institutions in the region reflect the complex social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges our cities face and collectively offer a model for addressing these overarching challenges.

These “convergence centres” are defined as multi-dimensional and are designed explicitly to build capacity for creativity and innovation. Through dedicated and specialized platforms for collaboration, these centres leverage investment at the intersection of place, culture, technology and entrepreneurship to generate economic and social dividends. Located strategically to stimulate favourable clustering conditions, convergence centres align sector development opportunities and broader public policy objectives within a sustainable, not-for-profit business model.

While recognizing the different missions of these organizations and the different sectors they operate in and serve, the report illustrates the common approaches to convergence – of values, leadership, partnerships, talent, networks and place – that has brought these unique enterprises together as a community of practice focused on collaboration-based innovation.

Creative convergence centres aim to purposefully translate serendipity into synergy and facilitate convergence through these shared approaches:

  • Values: the strategic intent of the centres reflects shared values that underpin effective collaboration at the intersection of diverse capabilities, perspectives and ideas. They are multi-dimensional in nature, fuelling innovation within and between economic and social spheres.
  • Leadership: these centres attract a range of cross-disciplinary leadership, formed around a common purpose of innovation. The leadership teams are able to bring together different disciplines for constructive engagement by connecting the diversity of knowledge, entrepreneurship and expertise required to drive a values-based culture of innovation.
  • Partnerships: the centres are established through an entrepreneurial, not-for-profit model that facilitates purposeful collaboration and provide a “neutral sandbox” for the exchange of value, convening of ideas and shared risk among public, private and third sector partners.
  • Talent: the centres seek to bring together different domains of knowledge, research and practice to build capacity for collaboration across a critical mass of individuals and enterprises. They are hybrid institutions where interaction can occur between multiple disciplines, enabling depth (within specific capabilities) and breadth (across disciplines) of skills and experience.
  • Networks: as conduits of knowledge and idea exchange, convergence centres function both as physical and virtual hubs that draw on and facilitate collaboration at multiple scales. Their footprints are both physical and virtual – they generate local “value engines” and regional buzz through place-based interactions. As well, they often facilitate the development of global pipelines that extend their connectivity internationally.
  • Place: as the physical manifestation of the organizations’ core values and strategic intent, these convergence centres encourage flexibility, interaction, collaboration and permeability, connecting on multiple levels to their urban context. These domains of convergence reflect the critical role that this new generation of institution for collaboration provides in driving entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.
Learning from our own experience, most notably at the Artscape Wychwood Barns, and from the wider lessons from these convergence centres, Artscape now conceives, designs, develops, tenants and programs our projects with a view to them becoming platforms for collaboration, between disciplines and sectors and between our tenants and the wider community. Artscape projects currently in development, including the Regent Park arts and Cultural Centre, Artscape YOUNGplace and the proposed Centre for Creative Sector Entrepreneurship, all build on these principles.

Click here to read Convergence Centres: Building Capacity for Innovation.
Click here to read more about the proposed Centre for Creative Sector EntrepreneurshipArtscape Launchpad.
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