What to do when things go wrong?
Social practice projects rarely go completely to plan. Change in inevitable and to be welcomed and failure is as much a part of social practice as success. A key requirement of a social practice practitioner is adaptability and being open to learning. It should be remembered that there is much more to be learned from failure than there is from success.
When things go awry to greater or lesser extent, as they inevitably will, it is recommended that all stakeholders take stock and return to the various starting points. This is why the toolkit places so much emphasis on planning and preparation and where a good evaluation process and risk assessment will provide early signals that the project has shifted off its original course. If the original plan did not work, and contingency planning does not offer a suitable solution, the core principles that underpin the original agreements can provide pathways to other possible approaches. It may be that a new course is a better option and resistance to change the impediment to the successful completion of a project. Wherever possible, it is encouraged that all negotiations be conducted in good faith by all stakeholders.
In the rare instance of a complete breakdown in understanding and communication, it is advised that steps be taken to mitigate against further negative impacts by whatever means necessary with the approval of governing bodies. This may include enlisting mediation services.
What if the application is unsuccessful?
Do not feel disheartened. In the first instance it must be recognised that funding processes are usually highly competitive. This does not mean that the project is without merit or potential. The merit of one application may be very high but lose out to another of lesser merit but which addressed the criteria of the scheme or funder more closely.
It may be that your project as it is may be eligible for funding from another source or that funding could be sourced for a research phase to develop the idea further. Time is a factor of key importance in all aspects of social practice.
Efforts should be made to set appropriate expectations for all stakeholders from the outset in such competitive processes. When being invited to input into an application process, all should be made aware of the likelihood of return on any investment made in terms of time and resources.
It is good practice that not all ‘eggs be placed in one basket’ and that more than one source of support be identified and pursued. Funding is likely to be more forthcoming if match funding can be sourced and should one source drop out at any stage in the project, all is not lost. Social practice projects in particular settings or on specific themes are likely to be eligible from grant aid and support not just from arts funding sources but also through the social, community, education or even corporate sectors, through local investment or crowd-funding. This diversified approach to funding is one of the great merits of social practice. It speaks to potential social, cultural and economic benefits and reflects the integration of these kinds of inter-disciplinary artistic approaches. As with many aspects of social practice, success securing funding is also often dependent on good relationships and networks built over time. There is a lot of collegiality in the sector and it is advisable to maintain contacts with those who can advise and advocate for your practice.
Feedback on unsuccessful funding applications will always be forthcoming from decision-making bodies. Always seek feedback on your successful as well as your unsuccessful applications. It’s as important to know why you were funded as much as why you were not. Sharing this feedback can provide valuable learning for all and create an opportunity for a successful future application.
For some projects, applying to competitive funding schemes is simply not appropriate. This can be the case for projects that are political in nature or pertaining to historically underserved communities. It is also the case for successful projects that have already received funding but wish to continue. It is recommended that you seek advice about other forms of supports and suitable sources of funding from your local arts office or other advisory body.
Change is positive and inevitable but how much is too much?
It is recommended that flexibility be in-built into such projects but it is equally important that artists articulate boundaries around their availability and needs with regard to timelines. By doing so, all stakeholders will be clear on the parameters of a project and can adjust their own expectations accordingly in the event that time slippage occurs within a project, or conversely that factors contrive to accelerate achievements or provide previously unforeseen opportunities. The value of clear and respectful communication in these circumstances cannot be overemphasised.