Why do we Document and Archive?
Dialogue believes that documentation of, and archived materials about, Community Performance practice contributes a wealth of knowledge to the field. As significant ways of knowing about the field, such resources act as a tool through which meaning and understanding about Community Performance are constructed, produced, contributed, shaped, revealed, communicated and disseminated.
Documentation and archived materials are a means by which examples of Community Performance practice may leave a legacy and can be used as learning and reference materials for those who did not participate in the original project. In being involved in the production of knowledge about the field, documentation and archived materials do not merely reflect upon the past. Documentation and archived materials also have the potential to play an active role in the future development of Community Performance practice.
Dialogue believes in the importance of recording and sharing the knowledge, skills, and passion of practitioners so that they may be used to their full potential within the sector – to inform Research and Teaching, boost Advocacy initiatives, assuage the fears of funders, stimulate Learning Opportunities, encourage Innovation, foster Networking and Collaboration, save unnecessary duplication of work, advance Monitoring & Evaluation initiatives, and offer ideas, inspiration, reference points and case studies of aesthetic quality and best practice.
However, Community Performance practice often goes undocumented due to projects’ funding and time limitations. In cases where documentation does occur, this is not often disseminated or shared among the practitioner community because, currently, there is a lack of a central ‘network hub’.
Dialogue runs various programmes in order to meet these challenges. We operate an international Online Resource Library platform, containing evidence and documentation about the field of Community Performance, which we curate for the use of numerous stakeholders, including practitioners, academics, funding bodies, and students. We also run in-person training and mentoring programmes to help practitioners generate their own evidence and documentation, in order to demonstrate the value of their work and its impact. Such resources are also shared on the online platform, alongside materials that we create to document international conferences on Community Performance. These allow our members to engage in the conference events, even if they are unable to attend in person. Combined, all of these publicly accessible resources are intended to provide a great depth of insight into the work going on in the field, allowing our hub to develop further international collaboration between stakeholders.
Our Documentation Programmes
Documentation of Community Performance is essential to communicate its value and impact to funders, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, students, and members of the public.
While there is a wealth of knowledge and skill within the Community Performance field worldwide, the sporadic nature of documentation efforts means this is often not formally recorded. Whilst this does not stop organisations and individuals from producing high-quality work with local communities, it can inhibit communication and collaboration with others working in a similar field. Practitioners and performers can feel isolated, under-resourced, misunderstood or unrepresented, and efforts can sometimes be unnecessarily duplicated. To address these needs, we use documentation as the basis of collaboration with Community Performance stakeholders around the world.
Dialogue offers a training and mentoring scheme that builds capacity around best practice Archiving, Documentation, Monitoring, and Evaluation approaches within the field. Consideration of different audiences, purposes, and publication platforms of documentation is fundamental to ensuring that records are collected, translated, and communicated in the most effective manner. Audience segmentation, the tailoring of different resources to suit the needs of different stakeholders, is key to ensuring that the materials being produced by practitioners remain relevant to those working in the field. As such, Dialogue’s scheme supports practitioners to better record and share their work with each other, their participants, staff, funders, and members of the public.
Dialogue’s typical model of engagement includes a two-week intensive training period, whereby local practitioners who work in various contexts come together to learn about how to implement creative, participatory processes and strategies of Documentation, Archiving, Monitoring & Evaluation. The training, which is in the process of becoming a formalised university-accredited qualification, involves being led through a creative process of documenting and archiving materials that relate to the trainees’ own practice. Teaching is delivered through communal workshops sessions which offer opportunities for the exchange of ideas and provocations, tasks for trainees to complete individually, and mentoring sessions whereby Dialogue advises and supports trainees in groups and on a 1-to-1 basis.
Throughout the process, trainees use examples from their own work to complete various tasks so that by the end of the training they are not only confident in using the techniques, but also have a comprehensive portfolio of original documents (written, photographic, video, and audio materials), contributing enormously to communicating the value and impact of their work to others, as well as the knowledge base of the wider Community Performance sector as a whole. This produces vital evidence and validation of their work, which practitioners will find useful when seeking funding, publicising and advocating for their work, or training fellow practitioners.
After the intensive training period, Dialogue facilitators are on hand in the project locations for 6-8 weeks afterwards. They are able to visit and support the practitioners at their project or school locations, providing ongoing assistance to the trainees who continue to document, archive, monitor and evaluate their projects.
It is important to clarify that Dialogue’s focus on this programme is to facilitate a creative and collaborative process of documentation. Many practitioners assume documentation to be a dry and repetitive task but the training will demonstrate how it may be completed in a creative manner, and the many ways in which documentation may be used to support their work. Whilst Dialogue facilitators are on hand to support and assist trainees to create the most meaningful documentation for their needs, the focus is very much upon practitioners getting actively involved and being given the experience and skills necessary to complete such tasks independently in the future.
Our Archival Programmes
Dialogue is engaged in archiving existing materials about past and ongoing projects from various outlets, in order to collate existing resources about Community Performance.
Whilst our documentation programme creates new materials, about our partners’ ongoing and new projects, our mission is not to reiterate the knowledge and skills contained in other pre-existing resources, but rather to build upon them.Existing resources can be difficult to access for individuals or organisations that do not have the capacity to do so themselves. Our archival program was created to ensure this bedrock of pre-existing materials is easily available to our partners.
Our archival programme tends to work around four major themes:
- Increasing the accessibility of archival materials through the digitisation of resources.
- Publicising awareness of archival materials through comprehensive cataloguing (according to recognised international standards).
- Boosting engagement in archival materials by creating meta-resources that summarise and signpost materials.
- Disseminating archival materials on our international Online Resource Library.
What can we achieve with Documentation and Archived Materials?
We believe that by curating and sharing knowledge and skills about Community Performance through documentation and archived materials, Dialogue can support and build the capacity of organisations and individuals worldwide who currently use, or who are interested in using, Community Performance in their work.
Specifically, the documentation that Dialogue co-creates with our partners, alongside the resources which we collate on our archival programme, are used to develop and foster an international collaborative network of stakeholders through which we:
- Undertake Advocacy work, promoting, defending and representing the methodology of Community Performance to stakeholders.
- Act as a Community Noticeboard, keeping stakeholders abreast of recent news, events and job opportunities in the field.
- Offer capacity building Consultancy to assist stakeholders in developing strategy, implementing projects and undertaking Monitoring & Evaluation processes.
- Offer Education and Training opportunities, whereby stakeholders can learn from the documented models of practice.
- Act as an Evidence Hub, supporting stakeholders to create better documentary evidence of their work in order to achieve better internal & external Monitoring & Evaluation materials.
- Act as a Networking Hub, whereby we can identify and support possible relationships and areas of collaboration between stakeholders.
- Act as a Resource Bank, to assist stakeholders in conducting their work effectively, so that efforts already undertaken elsewhere are not unnecessarily duplicated.