DARE: Opera North & University of Leeds.

Created in 2006, the DARE partnership is built on a shared ambition to have a positive influence on practice and scholarship in the cultural sector.

One significant factor for success has been allowing the relationship to breathe, with minimal bureaucracy. The partnership is facilitated by a dedicated project director tasked with motivating and enabling individuals and departments to explore collaborative ideas, and tasked with identifying external opportunities through which the partnership can make a difference. Initiatives, created and delivered by teams of interested staff from the University and Opera North, are funded from existing budgets or by securing external resources.

Another key success factor has been not only having buy-in from the top from the start, but also cultivating ownership amongst staff at all levels across both organisations. At the outset, cross-organisational, multidisciplinary workshops identified four key areas of work.

Over 200 initiatives, many of which have become embedded programmes, have involved over 100 academics and arts practitioners and over 2000 students directly. Activity ranges from international research projects and accredited fellowships and scholarships, to a public lecture series, sandpits and conferences. See the DARE Review for a glimpse of the scale and scope of the programme.

The value of DARE to the University and Opera North

Now in its ninth year and having recently committed formally for a further five years, DARE has grown in scale and content because Opera North and the University of Leeds recognise the value of the partnership to respective business objectives.   In summary: –

Learning is two-way, internal and external: for staff, students, audiences and the cultural and education sectors.

It helps to secure new funding: DARE fits funding agendas in the higher education and cultural sectors and provides a unique proposition to philanthropists.

It supports profile raising and audience development: enabling each organisation to engage with sectors, influencers and audiences not previously accessible.

Factors for success

In addition to a dedicated facilitation function and buy-in at all levels of both organisations, with minimal governance, the University and Opera North recognise a series of factors that have a positive influence on the success of the partnership.

Together, staff identified common ambitions and areas of frustration, and designed a programme around them, aiming for quick wins as well as medium and long-term impact. Those involved at the start were prompted to engage because of their willingness to communicate and make things happen. Geography also proved important. At a brusque twenty minute between sites, staff can make frequent face-to-face contact and see each other’s operations first hand.

Celebrating success and maintaining profile has proved fundamental to keeping momentum going. As we have learned, staff changes and changing organisational priorities necessitate ongoing communication across the full estate. So in spring 2016, we will be revisiting the cross-disciplinary workshops which kick started the partnership in 2006, in order to develop a five-year plan fit for the environment we are now in.

For further information please contact Lesley Patrick lesley@dareyou.org.uk

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