Blog Post

Power Up and Shared Decision Making Toolkit: an introduction


Sarah Davies from A New Direction introduces two new companion resources on power and shared decision-making

Local cast in newly commissioned musical Danny Hero, Made In Corby. Photo: Adam Balcomb

"Creating a space where we can work together. And producing something. Whether that something is the conversation we share or a full length play that puts the world to rights is up to us and our collaborators". Chrissie Tiller, Power Up

As Creative People and Places (CPP) has developed over the last four years it has become clear that at its heart CPP is about forging new types of relationship between individuals, communities and arts, culture and place. We have been learning a lot about participatory decision-making and the complex intersection of power, accountability, professionalism and authenticity within our programme and we therefore wanted to spend more time unpacking these themes.

The CPP National Evaluation programme (managed by A New Direction) commissioned two pieces of work to explore these themes in more detail, drawing on the first three years of the CPP programme. The first is a think piece by Chrissie Tiller that explores some of the complexities of sharing power and decision-making with participants, placing this work within social and theoretical contexts. The second is a resource of examples, tips and tools that offer a more practical view of how CPP Places are creating opportunities for people to steer and participate in project-level decisions.

These are intended as a both a useful provocation and set of questions and challenges for those working in this area and more practical guidance on what CPP projects have learned and what other arts projects could adapt to their specific context. We would stress that these questions remain open, there is not one right way to do things, but the more we share, the more we learn and these pieces are offered in that spirit.

Chrissie Tiller’s think piece Power Up unearths and explores some of the complexities and challenges of sharing power, drawing on thinking from CPP directors, community managers and other team members, artists and project critical friends. Some of the main big questions that underpin many collaborative practices and programming are unpicked: power, reciprocity, cultural capital, participation, values, ethics, collaboration, and politics. What has been created within and across this landscape of complexities surrounding sharing power, is a collection of pertinently themed chapters for the reader to navigate their own journey through. Throughout are contextual social reminders and cautionary notes to think about when aiming for truly participatory relationships in the arts.

The Shared Decision-Making Toolkit, by Louise White for MB Associates, is an opportunity to bring together some of the models and case study examples that we have been developing to date across CPP, and to share our learning with others who may be interested in the practical approaches we have been exploring. In pulling together these examples we acknowledge that a resource simply cannot address the multitude of issues of politics, class, hierarchies of need or any other considerations one must take on board when they seek to create truly collaborative relationships with local people.

Indeed, many of the strategies that CPP places have developed would not be sourced from a text book or resource around how to ‘do’ co-creation, for example. Rather, the multitude of approaches are instinctive, and respond to each unique place, with each unique person or group. They are offered as examples to aid one’s practice in similar circumstances. One cannot quantify the amount of time to develop meaningful relationships or the degree of flexibility needed and the subtle negotiations and modifications for example, that CPP Places have put into their projects when working closely with local people. How one balances this with the desire for excellent artistic product is specific to each context. And how and when does one decide this approach is no longer the right one to take?

The resource cannot answer all questions, but it does present an array of practical examples and learning that we hope will help inform your thinking. Woven throughout the resource are questions and quotes drawn from Chrissie Tiller’s Power Up, posed as thinking points as you make your way through collaborative project development.

Download Power Up here

Download the Shared Decision-Making Toolkit here

Sarah Davies,  A New Direction

Further reading:
Mark Robinson and Consilium’s research report on excellence and quality across CPP, including models, approaches and examples of community engagement and sharing power from the CPP network.

Image: Local cast in newly commissioned musical Danny Hero, Made In Corby. Photo: Adam Balcomb