Involving the community

'Renew' projects work best if they involve more than just the arts community or one part of the arts community. 

The level and ease of success will often be defined by how wide a group of people are actively supporting, representing and advocating the idea.

A good place to begin is by talking to local businesspeople, councils, artists, community groups, and political leaders to gauge the level of interest. 

It is not necessary to have all these individuals and groups actively involved, but it is important that a wide range of people know about and support the idea. While many people may not be particularly interested in the idea, those that are can provide vital contacts, networks and support. 

Unless you are targeting one particular site or building, you will not be dependent on a particular public or private sector partner to succeed. There are many potential allies and strategies that may be effective. Don't spend too much energy convincing those that aren't interested, but invest it instead in talking to and building up networks of those who are. 

Each part of a community may have a different reason to be involved in such a scheme and it is important that each understands what they can and cannot benefit from. Newcastle demonstrates that it is possible for business, the arts, and the wider community to all benefit.  

In Newcastle, the project that became Renew Newcastle had the support of everyone from the regional Chamber of Commerce, key people at the university, and people within the local media, to the body that represents inner city business groups and of course the local arts community even before the Renew Newcastle company itself was formally founded. When the company was created, some of these interested parties were invited to hold positions on the board. 

An easy mistake to make is not engaging with the whole community. 

A project like this will not work if it is just about a local council, or arts or business trying to push an agenda through. While it mustn't be trying to please all the people all the time, it must have the respect and engagement of all stakeholders and a clear reason and mechanism for them all to be involved.