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Lesson 8: Developing positive relationships in socially engaged art project

Contributors: Paul Wilson, Kiwoong Nam, Tang Tang University of Leeds, UK


Socially-Engaged Arts (SEA) is complex in both theory and practice. SEA projects are built on the collective practices and power of individuals and communities and depend on teams of artists, researchers, participants and other stakeholders to succeed. The associations, relationships and partnerships which underpin effective and sustainable teamwork is often underexplored and experiences aren’t shared, which does often means that common challenges faced by SEA project teams can often be disruptive and that teams would benefit from building on previous successful cases. This lesson will introduce students to a range of research which explores strategies, tools and methods for collaboration which aims to build sustainable relationships within the contexts of interdisciplinary, entangled and diverse teams. Building on the concrete experiences of artists, educators and researchers – and with a focus on the value and potential for positive impact on SEA teams and their projects – the lesson makes use of lectures, assigned reading to reflect upon examples of successful working partnerships within SEA. By learning and applying the ‘relationship-as-process’ tool for managing research partnerships, learners will obtain practical knowledge about initiating and maintaining sustainable SEA partnerships.

Learning outcomes:

Within this lesson, students will come to understand how art researchers and educators can build their relationships with partners through a structured process of orientation and collective work which is essential ahead of the preparation and delivery of any SEA project. Through two imaginative case studies, and a series of interactive activities, learners will acquire a practical knowledge of tools and their application, understanding how individual motivations, skills and experience can be harnessed for the benefit of the project team and, ultimately, to generate successful SEA projects.

The successful completion of this course will enable participants to:

  1. Understand the complexity of stakeholder relationships in arts-based research; 
  2. Understand and experience arts and design-ethnography tools for SEA projects; 
  3. Identify practical challenges in potential research partnerships; 
  4. Plan their own strategy for managing stakeholder partnership as any SEA project is being prepared and ahead of it being carried out.


This lesson is based on ongoing reflection and the application of knowledge and ideas to students’ own ideas and motivations. Through self-study, guided reading and short quizzes, learners can negotiate a narrative for building relationships around SEA projects. Illustrated case studies are central to bringing the research to life through stories of one artist’s experiences of working to build her own SEA ideas to life. The lesson consists of the following 4 sections with 12 Units:

Section 1: Engaging with each other: key concepts in developing positive partnerships

Unit 1: Introduction

Unit 2: Key concepts

Unit 3: Key tools

Section 2: Relationship as process: a participatory tool for connecting with others

Unit 4: Review of the Stakeholder matrix map (Activity 1)

Unit 5: The Relationship as process tool

Section 3: Partnerships in practice: stories from the field of Socially-Engaged Arts

Unit 6: Review of the Relationship map (Activity 2)

Unit 7: Case 1 – Fatima as a student: Introducing the journey map for sustainable partnership development

Unit 8: CASE 2 – Fatima as a Museum employee

Unit 9: Summary & Activity

Section 4: From relationship to partnership: planning for your future work

Unit 10: Review of the Relationship as process (Activity 3)

Unit 11: Summary of Lesson 8

Unit 12: Ending notes