Thriving through Thick and Thin: Partnerships for Our Cultural Life 

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This report demonstrates how partnerships help to ensure that all Australians can access and enjoy cultural and creative experiences, even in these tough times. It explores pathways for effective collaboration to help the cultural sector to evolve, meet future demands and drive social, cultural and economic benefits now and into the future.

Strong partnerships between the cultural sector and governments, community organisations, philanthropic trusts and business deliver many diverse benefits. They matter for cultural and creative value chains as they can produce practical resourcing benefits as well as improved returns on investment and results beyond those that can be achieved by a single entity. They can also foster cooperative behaviour and provide solutions to some of our nation’s biggest challenges.

This new report presents tools to help partners navigate adversity and elevate collaboration as Australia’s competitive advantage. It is essential reading for those that are new to the cultural sector, those navigating new challenges within this sector, and for those from outside seeking to partner with the sector.

Intentional and informed efforts to strengthen people’s and organisations’ capacities to work in partnerships using a constructive, purpose-focused approach are essential to securing Australia’s place as a cultural powerhouse.

Summary of findings 

Finding 1

Partnering opens new ways of delivering cultural and creative goods and services to the public.

While creative pursuits may involve people and entities operating alone, and original ideas and expressions may require protection, partnerships generally produce results beyond those that can be achieved by a single entity. These results can benefit creators, co-investors, communities, the cultural and creative industries, and nations.  Collaborating produces practical resourcing benefits, improved returns on investment and more social capital benefits, including social cohesion, reduced transaction costs and cooperative behaviour.

Finding 2

Effective partnerships actively anticipate and manage the challenges that can test the resilience of entities and workforces.

As with other industries, partnerships involving cultural and creative industries require active management to prevent derailment or failure due to adverse internal and/or external conditions, as well as to negotiate known trajectories of change. If the goals are to support continued opportunities for arts, culture and creativity and to generate income and long-term sustainability, then developing strategies for meeting these challenges is necessary.

Finding 3

Effective planning is critical for sustainable arts, culture and creativity partnerships.

Partnerships can draw on general business approaches that help operations deliver goods and services, such as strategic planning, formal operational and investment agreements, risk management, communications and dispute resolution mechanisms.

Finding 4

Sustainable partnering requires developing cross-disciplinary skills and knowledge.

Entities and people in arts, culture and creativity partnerships can draw on existing laws, ethical infrastructure and personal and interpersonal approaches to support their efforts to work better together and navigate adversity. External expertise and advice can help with this task.

Finding 5

Sustainable partnering involves acquiring robust information and learning from experiences.

The most important work in any partnership begins with understanding each partner’s objectives, considering how they may change over time, delineating roles and responsibilities and identifying mechanisms for dealing with disputes. Structured reflection and discussion about a partnership using the available mechanisms and at appropriate review points can help build more resilient organisations, processes and systems for delivering cultural and creative experiences and opportunities for expression. Examples of these mechanisms include board meetings, advisory committees, consultation processes, and policies and plans.

Summary of opportunities 

Opportunity 1

For entities in arts, culture and creativity partnerships to leverage the available mechanisms for coordination, reflection and discussion using questions and prompts that:

  • Make visible the benefits and challenges of working in partnership
  • Build awareness of internal and external environments, including legal, ethical and interpersonal considerations
  • Support negotiations, communications, and feedback or evaluation.

Opportunity 2

For people, including board directors and workforces, to consider applying the discussion and reflection-based questions arising from ANA’s research and its review of published sources when establishing, overseeing or providing advice about arts, culture and creativity partnerships.

Opportunity 3

For entities and people to learn from each arts, culture and creativity partnership experience and share their knowledge about successes (‘what works for whom in which circumstances’) as appropriate by, for example:

  • Collecting data about the partnership and its impacts
  • Documenting specific collaboration processes
  • Publishing evaluations and audits
  • Offering training, coaching and mentoring in collaborative skills and knowledge.

Suggested Citation

Angela Vivian, Sari Rossi, and Kate Fielding, “Thriving through Thick and Thin: Partnerships for Our Cultural Life.” Insight Report no. 2024-02 (Canberra, Australia: A New Approach, June 2024).

Report Design

Swell Design Group (@swelldesigngroup)


ANA acknowledges the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia and their continuing cultural and creative practices in this land.

This report was produced by ANA. The overall direction was provided by CEO Kate Fielding, with co-authorship by Researcher Dr Sari Rossi and Director of Research Dr Angela Vivian.

ANA thanks all the people who generously reviewed this paper for their time and excellent feedback, including Emeritus Professor Jennifer Radbourne, Professor Ruth Rentschler OAM, Adjunct Associate Professor Wendy Scaife and members of ANA’s Board and Reference Group. However, any errors are our own. If you notice any errors, please get in contact at the contact details below.

The opinions in this Insight Report do not necessarily represent the views of ANA’s funding partners, the individual members involved in governance or advisory groups, or others who have provided input.

© A New Approach (ANA) 2024. This work is copyright. All material published or otherwise created by ANA is licenced under a Creative Commons – Attribution – Non-Commercial 4.0 International Licence.

This report is the 13th in ANA’s Insight series. Our Insight Reports provide a deep dive into research and analysis of a particular arts and cultural policy topic or other areas of interest.

New Approach acknowledges that it meets, works and travels on the lands of First Nations peoples. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and to all First Nations peoples.