How we work

Many of the Alliance’s activities are carried out by groups of members who come together to work on specific issues in participatory arts that cannot be tackled by any of us working on our own. Any member can propose an area to work on and then develop activity in collaboration with others.

Activities in action

Training and sector development

We know that there are lots of organisations out there providing training to emerging community/participatory artists and CPD for those already practising. We’re particularly interested in training that’s happening outside the formal university sector, and that’s aiming to extend the diversity of the arts workforce, providing opportunities for people who might not have access to more formal training routes. Some mapping of this has already been done through AWA, and we’re keen to take up the reins of this again, to continue the mapping exercise to see what’s out there and where, how it’s been delivered, how it’s being received.

Partly it’s about sharing practice and learning from each other – finding out what works and what doesn’t, seeing if there are core principles or elements. It’s not about finding a one-size-fits-all, but about understanding more clearly what’s already happening and working, seeing where there’s common ground and not reinventing the wheel every time.

There’s also an interest in exploring the possibility of kite-marking the training. Are there key components that the sector agrees should be a part of anyone’s training if they’re going to work in communities? Are there core principles that should underpin the training? What might kite-marking look like? Might there be an opportunity to develop some kind of certification? Who would award a kite-mark? AWA?

It’s the beginning of a conversation that we hope will have legs and lead to meaningful sector development. We think that this is more important than ever: as ACE and other funding bodies increase their focus on participation and engagement we need to reinforce the understanding that quality participatory arts isn’t something that any artist can do without training or sensibility, it’s a specific and professional practice and we believe that AWA is the right network to push this agenda. Get in touch to find out more via


Digital participation

John Whall from Derby QUAD is championing this activity (and you can see Blogs from him on our News & Views page). In July 2018, Derby QUAD and East Midlands Participatory Arts Forum launched a Digital Participation Expedition, the first of a series of events exploring digital practices and what we mean by ‘digital participation’. Read more about the launch and subsequent events here.



Jane Sills, Engage, Rhian Hutchings, ArtWorks Cymru and Chrissie Ruckley, Creative Scotland (for ArtWorks Scotland) have been exploring the quality debate and developing tools, resources and guidance. Quality frameworks have now been published in Scotland and Wales, which you can find in our Knowledge Bank. These resources are being rolled out for use by the sector and there have been key conversations with national funders on quality appraisal, so participatory arts work is understood and appraised appropriately. Check out the Quality in practice page for more information.

ArtWorks Fellowship

Under the previous Paul Hamlyn Foundation ArtWorks special initiative, ArtWorks London, led by Alliance partner Barbican Guildhall, tested a bespoke Fellowship scheme to support an established artist working in participatory arts to design their own professional development and make a mutual learning journey with a ‘host’ organisation. They subsequently worked with Baltic, Literature Wales and the National Glass Centre, Sunderland on three more Fellowships. Next came working as co-champions with another Alliance partner Creative Scotland to pilot the ArtWorks Fellowship in Scotland.

The Fellowship was a year-long opportunity for five mid-to-large scale organisations and artist partnerships to develop their knowledge and experience in participatory arts and creative learning.

The Fellowship provided, over the period May to December 2018

  • a financial grant of £2000 to be spent on artist CPD
  • a two-day induction
  • six mentoring sessions for the lead organisational staff member and mentoring for the CEO

The five partnerships selected were:

Platform and Jordan & Skinner

Fruitmarket Gallery and Juliana Capes

Dundee Contemporary Arts and Jonny Lyons

The Stove Network and Katharine Wheeler

North Edinburgh Arts and Alice Betts

You can find summaries of the Fellowships and key learning from the pilot here. 


Events and advocacy

Through our monthly newsletter and social media, we promote members’ events and other strategic initiatives developing practice in participatory arts; advocate the sector; and encourage participation in relevant surveys, consultations, research and report comment so the sector has a collective say. While all members, supported by the Secretariat, are champions in this activity as they go about their ‘day job’, a new Advocacy Group was established in August 2020 to develop a strategic UK-wide ‘nations & regions’ approach with key funding bodies and government at all levels. Get in touch to find out more via

Featured Resources

All Resources

Case Studies

Evaluations & Reports




Toolkits & Guidance


Power Up

Explores the complexities and challenges of sharing power.

Author: Chrissie Tiller

Shared decision-making

Practical resource for involving local people in decision-making.

Author: Louise White