Disseminating learning throughout the partnership.
Sharing the learning from a programme of work is an invaluable opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen this area of work. It adds value when it involves participants directly; their testimony makes others listen more attentively. And for people who often have to ‘take’ things, having a chance to ‘give back’ can benefit their self-esteem. It also develops their understanding of the different things that make up a weekly drama session and why each is important.
There has been a major focus on sharing good practice in year three of the partnership – including the national event, Backstage? Me? and the creation of this online resource. But the sharing of practice has happened throughout the three years of the programme… in year one through participation in With 1 Voice and through a joint workshop with Contact Young Actors Company who were creating a play about Youth homelessness; in year two in partnership with the Royal Exchange’s Young Company (looking at playing games, and delivering a collaborative session for members of the public at an Open Day); and in year three by engaging with students from Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University on ‘live’ projects.
5 Top Tips
1. Look for opportunities to work across programmes of work as well as within programmes – community participants don’t just want to engage with other community participants: they can get a sense of pride from being the ‘experts’ when working collaboratively with other groups and individuals, particularly young people.
2. Whenever possible, make time to respond to requests about this area of work from students or people at the early stages of their career. It can influence their understanding, which is important in changing perceptions of homelessness (as ‘just’ beggars, street sleepers, Big Issue sellers). It can also help their professional development; ‘on the job’ training is hard to gain in this area of work.
3. List performances in mainstream print, have information about the partnership in the programmes for professional productions and hold exhibitions in public places, to help raise the profile of this area of work and challenge perceptions and misconceptions about homelessness.
4. Look for regional and national partners who can support and influence the work you do: everyone enjoys the feeling that their individual contribution is part of a bigger jigsaw and participants will really enjoy meeting other people from a different town or city.
5. Be transparent and open about the practice you’re engaged in and make a point of being outward looking as part of a learning organisation – none of us need to reinvent the wheel!
“Backstage? Me? was really good, very inspiring and gave me a greater understanding of the importance and the successes of engaging disadvantaged adults in the creative arts. It was also great to meet delegates and learn about the work of organisations all over the country.”
Backstage? Me? delegate