Principles of co-creation?

Three years after it began, the Traction project is finally complete. A review meeting with the European Commission two weeks ago has left us with some loose ends to tie up and a glowing report. It’s been an extraordinary journey for me—learning about opera and digital technology, doing co-creation in a pandemic, and personal griefs. I’ve crossed a stormy ocean and find myself on the shores of a new country, equally hopeful and uncertain. My thinking about community art has been stretched and I don’t yet know how that might influence my work—I’m not even sure what that work might be now.

Before I say goodbye to the ocean and start working out where I am, I want to share Traction’s legacy. The project website is still up, and it contains all the research reports and other materials we produced, but the project’s scale and complexity don’t make it easy to find your way around. So we’ve made a new website, particularly for people who work in opera and the arts. It presents what we’ve learned about co-creation from the perspective of performing arts in a changing world.

The site hosts many resources including a 90 page book about Co-creating Opera that proposes some principles for co-creation:

  • Aware   because a conscious, informed understanding of people, context and actions is the foundation of good co-creation 
  • Equal   because each participant has the same right to contribute to co-creation 
  • Ambitious   because everyone deserves to benefit from the best process, artistic work and human outcomes 
  • Honest   because integrity is the foundation of trust, learning and empowerment 
  • Responsive   because complex situations require flexibility to meet changing needs and opportunities
  • Patient   because relationships, learning and growth all take the time they take
  • Hopeful  because hope in uncertainty enables us to work towards the outcomes we want

This is as far as I could get at the end of last year, but I think there’s a lot more to discover—hence the metaphor of a new country. Perhaps the most useful thing these principles do is defend the idea that unless co-creation expresses certain fundamental values it may bring more problems than progress.

Download Co-Creating Opera: Guidance from the Traction Project (PDF 5.5mb)

Finally, there’s a short film about the Traction experience. It’s worth watching because the book is silent, and thinking about opera without experiencing the music is like enjoying a cake through the patisserie window.

And finally, work and personal pressures have led me to neglect this website in recent months. I’m planning some changes, including closing my other websites and concentrating my work here. If you’d like to be kept up to date, please subscribe to the blog and you’ll get an email when new material is posted.

SAMP (June 2022)