Finding and Working With a Community Partner

We lead and support PJP residencies in a variety of sites, including middle and high schools, juvenile justice centers, and residential foster care sites. These sites are often state-mandated for young people in some way, making them critical places to collaborate with youth to better understand and shift the systems shaping their lives. Every site has advantages, challenges, and priorities—all of which impact the process of choosing and nurturing a community partnership in PJP. In this section, we detail our process of finding a community partner and collaborating to create a PJP residency. For a more extensive examination of building project partnerships, we appreciate the depth and breadth of Stephani Etheridge Woodson’s thinking and recommendations in “Section Three: Partnering, Project Management, Planning and Evaluating” in her book, Theatre forYouth Third Space (2015, pp. 161-236). Her book offers approachable and thorough frameworks for thinking through community partnerships, including barriers to partnering, possibilities for change-making, proposal writing, evaluation, and project management (Woodson 2015).

Table 3.1 lays out steps and questions we ask when finding and developing a PJP partnership, from looking for a partner to engaging youth to maintaining open lines of communication.

Finding a Community Partner

Our first step in finding a community partner is to identify and research a variety of sites that work with youth ages 14 to 21 years old and whose mission or programming could align with that of PJP. Sites that already engage young people, such as schools, juvenile justice centers, residential foster care sites, youth support or drop-in centers, recreation centers,arts programs,and leadership or service programs for youth, often have support systems in place for youth and understand what is required to offer youth programs (such as time for snacks, access to youth counselors, transportation, alignment with school schedules, etc.). After identifying potential partners for gender and racial justice work—through internet searches, recommendations, and previous contacts—we send an email with a descriptive PJP flyer to a contact whose position or biography suggests alignment with youth programming or justice-based programming in some way. In our initial emails or cold calls, we offer a clear, concise overview

Questions that guide PJP partnership development

Finding a

Research possible

• Which organizations serve youth?

community partner


Contact site staff with interest

  • • Which organizations have justice-based missions?
  • • Which organizations do we have relationships with?
  • • Which organizations would we like to have relationships with?
  • • Which organizations of staff are potential allies for youth, us, or our organizations?
  • • Who on staff might be a good contact for partnership development?
  • • What can we offer to get the conversation started?
  • • What does the organization need to know about PJP? About the PJP staff?
  • • Why are we interested to partner with this organization or staff person?

Assessing and building a partnership

Informational meeting

Assess potential for partnership and reciprocity

Memorandum of understanding

  • • What can we share about PJP to help an organization imagine partnering?
  • • What collateral, history, or vision will assist a potential partner to get on board?
  • • What questions do we have about the organization or the staff?
  • • What information will help us envision a possible partnership?
  • • What are the strengths, challenges, and questions that came out of the information meeting?
  • • What kind of support and compromises would need to be made to partner on delivering a PJP residency?
  • • What kind of staffing, space, and other resources are needed to support a project with this partner?
  • • What are the goals and deliverables of the PJP residency?
  • • What roles and responsibilities will each partner hold?
  • • What will communication look like?
  • • How will families, guardians, and supportive communities be engaged in PJP?
  • • What will the final performance look like?

Youth recruitment and



• What information do youth need in order to determine if/how they will participate in PJP?


"invitation” with youth participants

  • • How will we invite youth to a pitch session?
  • • How will we give participants and partners a sense of our process and approach to performing gender and racial justice?
  • • How will we learn about our partner and participants in a short workshop/pitch session?

Table 3.1 Cont.


What kind of permissions are needed? Youth, guardian, site, copyright?

How will permission forms both give information about PJP and gain consent from guardians and youth participants?

How much time is needed to gather consent and from whom?

Who will hold permission forms?

What kinds of permissions are needed— participation, video-taping, photography, audio, travel?

Maintaining open Ongoing

communication communication

What systems of communication are in place prior to the start of PJP residency?

Who are the main points of contact on each side of the partnership?

How much involvement will a partner have in the residency?

What information needs to be communicated or approved throughout the residency?

What will communications with the partner and the participant youth look like?

of PJP and ask to follow up in person or by phone. Our goal with any initial reach out is to find the best contact and to work with that contact to assess the possibility of a productive partnership. Whenever possible, we aim to meet with a potential partner for an informational meeting, where we get to know a staff contact, learn more about their organization, explain the work of PJP, and respond to any concerns or questions. We often begin looking for a community partner three to nine months before we wish to begin a residency with youth participants. Finding a compatible partner can take several months, and the process of building necessary relationships, setting up a PJP residency, and finalizing funding and logistics can take another few months.

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