Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Collaborating to share the dull stuff

Convener: Alyn Gwyndaf

Participants: Kathryn, Dee, Bridget, Kate, Sam, Jon

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Alyn outlined the 'Open arts' online space he's developing, as a means for artists and organisations to avoid duplicating effort and share a common workload where possible. While we like collaboration, there seemed to be agreement that there is a competitive dimension, in that we're often chasing the same funding or development opportunities, or simply want to make our work distinctive. The philosophy of the project acknowledged this, and provides collaboration in administrative space, so differentiation is focused on creative work. A particular challenge/irony is that, though intended as collaborative tool, it's starting as a solo project and needs help to start getting other people involved.

Electronic diary
Very useful discussion testing out the concept of an electronic diary feed, available to and updated by the community. This would allow chronologically structured dates and submission deadlines, to be merged into existing electronic diaries (iCal, Google, Outlook etc). That is, work that people already do to plan for deadlines (i.e. put in diary) could be shared to avoid everyone doing the same things.
ñ What's the scope? Theatre or wider arts; festivals, development programmes or wider funding sources.
ñ Who's it for? Recognition that needs differ, so unlikely that one diary could suit everyone. Question of whether there's enough commonality of need that a single source would serve enough people.
ñ Filtering/vetting information is itself a time-consuming task, i.e. reading details to decide whether it's appropriate for one's own need. Probably wouldn't help with this, which is very much an individual choice.
ñ Need common standards to avoid creating extra work through adapting to  inconsistent ways of working. e.g. may be simplest to use ACE classification of artforms: even if it's reductive and/or imprecise, it's an established taxonomy.
ñ What to include: name of event/fund, who to contact, URL for details. And dates, obv.
ñ Suggestion that it's useful to have notifications when new entries pop up. But also caution that this can cause mail deluge, so best that it's optional and/or a daily/weekly summary.
ñ Conclusion that it's probably best to start with a very specific scope/community focus to create initial support, then broaden as appropriate. Possibility of adding different diary feeds for different purposes.
ñ Big challenge may not be getting people involved at the start, but maintaining support and commitment over time.

Other possible areas for sharing
ñ Distributed inventory: who's got what, where. Not attempting to be a physical prop-sharing, with associated space, transport issues, simply a list of who's got what available, where it is and how to get it (a laminator was a popular example). c.f. Couchsurf or similar sites. Two different possible models: project timescale (bulletin board ofhelp I need thisappeals and responses); permanent timescale (list ofwe have these available to share, whenever you need).
ñ Jargon dictionary: take an arts buzz-word, explain what it means, and give other words for the same thing in other sectors (e.g.marketingin theatre =salesin business;marketingin business =audience developmentin theatre). May be subjective, but just having the conversation helps us clarify what we really think we mean by the jargon we use ourselves. Some examples cited:
ñ Methodologies
ñ Bauprobe
ñ Collaborative
ñ Fringe (as noun, adjective or possibly even verb)
ñ Community: people in the local community (or other related definitions) often those we're [theatre] not reaching, as opposed to social mediacommunitywhich is the customers, and more deliberately managed.
Many suggestions, typically services that organisations/artists need in small amounts but for which the smallest 'unit' available is too big or costly for the need, so more feasible or cost-effective to buy in on a collective basis.
ñ Accounting
ñ HR
ñ Financial/business planning
ñ Marketing
ñ Strategy
ñ Internal file sharing/groupware/project tools
ITC offer (companies) advice on these areas.

Theatre Bubble / London Theatre Network (Alex Parsonage) suggested as possible source for information on existing collaborative work.

Follow-up Actions
ñ Kathryn to email Katie to find out about existing inventory swap mechanisms then email Alyn
ñ Alyn to email invitations to the group to test out diary and website

Some more interesting tangents we then went off on...
ñ Pay levels: arts much worse than charity sector; impressive job titles often come with pitiful pay; possibly aiming to compensate.  Any validity in the idea that women go for a job title while men go for money? Little overall support for that.
ñ The 'theatre pound'aiming to make more explicit the subtle currencies and means of exchange e.g. time, help, favours. A more portable/explicit manifestation ofif you look over this funding application for me I can get you some comps for this show
ñ Simply getting money on the agenda, creating a more open dialogue about means of exchange and value of what we do
ñ 'I can' thinking vs 'sense of entitlement'another blurry term used both for those who feel they're owed a living (e.g. benefits), and for those who believe they can achieve great things.
ñ Models of valuing time: fundamentally different mindsets for salaried and freelance people, and its relationship to earning a living. May underpin some tensions between artists and organisations.
ñ Translating theatre skills into business. Not simply about doing corporate role-play, but abstracting the more subtle qualities that we bring. Example of typical corporate job might involve 30% of time on 'work' with rest on politics and the process of being in an organisation; theatre typically more project-focused and disciplined about use of time.
ñ Different dimensions of diversity: ethnicity, sex, sexuality, age, class etc. May have comparable patterns of emergence, legislation and cultural change. Possibility that tribal humanity will always seek out new forms of exclusion, so these patterns can help us look out for what's coming up next as prejudice/discrimination factors.

Do have a look at the work in progress. It's at and if you've any thoughts or want to get involved, send them to

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