Working with Diverse Partners

Creative Placemaking is complex, expensive, time consuming and risky. The successful develoment of a project is heavily dependent on the strength and diversity of the innovative partnerships that are built with public, private and not-for-profit organizations.
What Do We Mean by Partnership?
Partnerships come together to address specific challenges or problems with identified, desired outcomes. Partnerships are built out of organizations and individuals with specific skills, capabilities and resources suited to solving the problem. At their heart, partnerships are structured, often formal, relationships between two or more parties (individuals, organizations, businesses, institutions, etc.) who agree to work together towards a common, specified goal.  

Partnerships involve participation and the exchange of resources, goods or services with real value and which add value to each partner’s goods or services, or to their strategic position.  Partnerships are expected to achieve measurable outcomes as well as more intangible benefits. They can grow each partner’s business, enhance profile and reputation, leverage new partnerships, marketing opportunities or investments and help reach new audiences.

Because partnerships are contractual in nature, they are often based on a formal relationship, with formally expressed roles and responsibilities between the partners. They may be founded in a legal agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding or letter of intent. Partnerships, as a result, may evolve from a collaborative process, but are somewhat different from collaboration which, by its nature, is more exploratory and consensual.

Why Partnerships Are Important to Your Project
Like any relationship, a partnership takes time and care to develop, nurture and sustain. The greater the number of partnerships involved, the more time-consuming and complex the management of these partnerships will become. So, why enter into partnerships? There are many reasons for entering into partnerships to support your project, including:

  • Sharing risk and responsibility
  • Building confidence, influence and credibility
  • Creating a sense of ownership
  • Brokering diverse interests
  • Attracting resources
  • Attracting expertise, skills and knowledge
  • Building capacity
  • Eliminating duplication of effort
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What’s in It for Your Partners?
Partnerships are built on a shared understanding of the tangible and intangible benefits that the project will create. When reaching out to potential partners, you will need to assess and demonstrate the benefits the project offers, as well as how your project aligns with their needs and interests.  

The research and stakeholder engagement work that you undertake in pre-project development, including cultural asset mapping and community engagement, to develop your project vision will help you identify and frame your approach to partners in a way that addresses their values, goals and priorities. For example, this may include thinking about how your project can:

  • Advance the social or charitable mission of organizations
  • Help advance the commercial demands of a business partner
  • Help advance cultural policy objectives locally, provincially, federally
  • Help advance economic development policy objectives, locally, regionally, provincially
  • Serve the education, training or skills development priorities of your community
  • Help fulfill a long-standing and identified need in your community
  • Serve environmental and community sustainability objectives in your community

The Types of Partnerships That Support Our Projects
The types of partnership we enter into to deliver any single project are diverse and include:

  • Capital project consortia and joint ventures
    • For example, the development of the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre through a joint venture between Artscape, Toronto Community Housing and real estate developer the Daniels Corporation.
  • Partnerships bringing together public and private sector interests
    • For example, section 37 agreements between the City of Toronto and Cityscape Developments resulted in the regeneration of the Historic Distillery District and the creation of Artscape Distillery Studios. Similarly, the section 37 agreement negotiated by the City of Toronto with condo developer Urbancorp resulting in the development of Artscape Triangle Lofts. 
  • Partnerships with private developers
    • For example, the development of Artscape Triangle Lofts and Artscape Distillery Studios.
  • Partnerships with sub-tenants
    • For example, the individual artists, arts organizations and other tenants who program everything from individual and group classes and open studios and shows to festivals and major cultural events including Nuit Blanche,as well as other events like the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns, which is run by The Stop Community Food Centre and Gallery 1313 exhibition programming at Parkdale Arts and Cultural Centre.
    • For example, the involvement of sub-tenants in aspects of the governance of our projects.
  • Partnerships with community associations and groups
    • For example, Artscape’s partnership the Wychwood Barns Community Association (WBCA), created in 2008, following a call for board members circulated in the local neighbourhood. The WBCA is responsible for curating the community gallery at the Artscape Wychwood Barns, which features the work of artists living and working in the facility as well as artists from the local community.
    • For example, Artscape’s partnership with the group of Toronto Island activists that fought to save the Island Natural Science School who later became the founders of the Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts Advisory Committee.
  • Partnerships with funders, donors and sponsors
    • Artscape’s funders, donors and sponsors are drawn from an increasingly diverse circle of agencies, foundations, businesses and philanthropic individuals who see their mission, goals and priorities reflected in the vision for our projects.
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What Makes a Strong and Sustainable Partnership?
Strong and sustainable partnerships can survive the inevitable rocky patches, challenges and occasional disappointments that may affect your project if they are founded on:

  • Complementary goals
  • Specified outcomes and measurable targets
  • Structured agreements
  • Effective communication
  • A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities
  • A clear understanding of risk
  • Clarity of purpose and a strong, shared vision

Useful Resources
The Partnership Resource Centre: Learning Centre
The Partnership Handbook, Flo Frank and Anne Smith, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2000
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