Principles and bases

I.  What is a partnership?

II. Key principles of partnerships

III. Actors in cultural industries

IV. Challenges in developing countries


I. What is a partnership?

A partnership may be generally defined as a relationship in which two or more parties agree to work together on a project. A formal cooperation agreement establishes how the partners must share responsibilities, risks, losses and gains.

A partnership is a complex concept covering a wide variety of situations.

In the cultural industries, partnerships should involve cooperation between public, private and non-profit partners working to achieve the same goal: building capacities in the culture sector (developing infrastructure, formulating cultural policies, promoting cultural goods and services, etc.).

Working together, each partner contributes its vision, resources and unique experience, while gaining access to new markets, networks and distribution channels and other expertise and know-how. Partnerships also enhance understanding among different cultures and sectors and inform the general public and governments about the distinctive features, needs and potential of the cultural industries.

However, partnerships require more than a simple management structure. Different stakeholders have different objectives, which means that the interests of one may not be those of another. Similarly, a partnership must continuously adapt to the particular geographic, social, and/or political contexts of the country(ies) in which it operates.

Partnerships can be encouraged by adopting specific attitudes, values and skills that stimulate the sharing of ideas and the application of the insight gained by so doing.

For these reasons, it is important for partners to know basic facts about partnerships before they decide to work together.

II. Key principles

A partnership is more than a mere contractual relationship: it is founded on a series of ethical principles and practices that facilitate collaboration and foster sound relations between partners. These principles and practices are the "cement" that holds the group together.

The key principles of a partnership are:

  1. Mutual respect – the resources and expertise of each party are recognized;
  2. Transparency – decisions and actions are led with candour, honesty and steady, open communication between partners;
  3. Dedication – a specific assignment of roles and a shared vision facilitates the commitment of each stakeholder;
  4. Equity – each party has the right to participate in and to validate every contribution.

III. Actors in cultural industries

A great many local, national, regional and international organizations are dedicated to promoting the diversity of cultural expressions.

These organizations fall into one of three categories:

  • Private sector: any company (i.e. artists and other cultural industry professionals, audiovisual or music producers, publishers, etc.) capable of contributing artistic insight, new audiences, cultural initiatives or technical components to the project. Profit-oriented, the private sector focuses on the effectiveness and economic viability of projects.

  • Public sector: regional authorities, government and international agencies. Non-profit in nature, the public sector ensures access, information, stability and legitimacy in the form of cultural policies and advocacy.

  • Civil society actors: NGOs, associations for artists and cultural entrepreneurs, collective copyright management organizations, pro-diversity cultural movements, training institutes and cultural networks. Civil society is value-oriented and composed of formal and informal groups outside of commercial or government spheres. These organizations work closely with communities and provide support at the local level.

When these sectors work together closely, they can pool their skills, resources and know-how to build programmes that meet the needs of the cultural community by developing more effective on-the-ground initiatives. This is particularly true for the promotion of cultural expressions with regard to the culture cycle.

IV. Challenges in developing countries

In many developing countries, cultural products and services represent around 2.6% of GDP, even though only 1.7% of development aid goes to culture. The potential of cultural industries in and for sustainable development remains largely unexplored, making universal participation even more essential to promote the growth of dynamic cultural industries.

Experience from partnerships that the Global Alliance has led since 2002 reveals the major challenges faced by stakeholders:

  • Insufficient training: Because they cannot afford to outsource, many culture professionals are obliged to perform multiple tasks for which, in some cases, they have no initial training – despite the fact that developing a cultural activity requires highly qualified people at each stage of the culture cycle (in artistic, technical and management fields). In addition, low incomes often force artists into other money-making activities, preventing them from exercising their profession full-time.

  • Insufficient infrastructure: Many countries are confronted with aging infrastructure and the challenges of adapting this infrastructure to new technologies. Major structures such as cultural centres, national theatres and other performance venues are very often accessible only to established artists for financial reasons.

  • Hostile institutional and normative environments: without regulation that is clear and/or suited to the realities of the culture sector, and a lack of institutional capacities and implementation of policies apt to support development in the cultural industries.

  • Limited access to funding: Because the culture sector is viewed as high-risk, financing is difficult to obtain and aid and subsidies continue to fall short of needs.

  • Uncertainty in cultural industry markets: Changes in preferences and trends oblige artists to continually bend to market demand, forcing them to focus on short-term profits rather than longer-term, strategic approaches. Often, market demand is not visible and is difficult to gauge as a result.

  • Insufficient information: Some culture professionals – artists in particular – lack information on crucial aspects relating to the profitability and sustainibility of their work (how cultural industries work, markets, agreements/regulations, copyright laws, etc.). They often work without being aware of the processes that ensure the success of their products. Limited means of communication and isolation are the main causes.

If they are not foreseen and kept in check, these challenges may hamper the partnership process and even jeopardize its long-term development and success. Such challenges can, however, be the driving force behind partnership projects aimed at:

  • enhancing the skills of culture professionals in the public, private and non-profit sectors;
  • enhancing cultural institutions and infrastructure;

  • promoting cultural policies and advocacy for cultural industries;
  • creating, supporting and developing viable local, national and regional markets;

  • facilitating access to international markets and the free movement of professionals and cultural activities, goods and services.


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