Some would suggest that a shared structure, objectives and measurement are the key to a successful relationship. What do we mean by this? When is it the right thing to do (or not)? And how can we achieve it?
This symposium session explored the ways in which formalising an HE/cultural partnership can support and hinder a relationship, and the processes of developing a model that enables it to flourish.
Two minute case study: DARE, the collaboration between the University of Leeds and Opera North, reaches its first decade in 2017. It started with a contract and now has a Memorandum of Understanding with room to breathe. Other University relationships are at the honeymoon stage.
Session hosts: Liz Harrop, Impact and Innovation Project Manager, Cultural Institute, University of Leeds; Tim Wheeler, Arts Consultant.
Initially DARE was seen as a risky activity for both partners though it may be that it was Opera North who was taking the bigger risk. At the end of the first agreement, both committed to a further agreement effortlessly. The partnership works on an institutional level. Initially it was transactional, and focusing on the impact agenda, the changing economy and adding-value with the advent of student fees. There has been a side conversation to the formal agreement that has fostered the relationship and sought a collaborative approach which benefitted both institutions. Liz outlined some difficulties working at this level but felt the venture worthwhile also was keen to stress that partners “shouldn’t be frightened to rattle the cage”
Points raised in discussion
- Universities are a fertile ground for cultural connections.
- Discussion is broadening around the Civic Responsibilities of HE and Cultural Industries as the role of Local Authorities is diminishing.
- There needs to be flexibility at the beginning – Institutions are inherently risk-averse
- What is the importance, or otherwise, of partnership agreements? There is a tendency towards developing MoUs with little understanding of the difference between informal MoUs and more formal contracts. It is important to know what s being signed up to.
- Any Industry/HE collaboration benefits need to be noticed regularly. Much of the DARE partnership activity was advocacy and activity was public facing.
- Smaller Universities appear keener to engage as they have more to benefit from the association with high quality arts and cultural institutions.