Networks, partners and collaboration are trendy buzzwords from policy memoranda, subject to all sorts of interpretation. Who is currently a partner, what is a network and what constitutes such collaboration?

So far, over the past several years, the Prince Claus Fund has concluded long-term collaborative agreements with nine organisations from its international network. That collaboration it not limited to financial support, but must also result in a collective production. In addition, the organisations in their turn have an extra-national network, they represent different disciplines and they prefer to be active in 'neglected' areas, which has resulted in an extensive web of contacts. "Donor relations have an old fashioned design. We want to break through that pattern," declares director Els van der Plas. "We do not provide money because someone is underdeveloped, but rather because someone does fantastic work. We want a relationship with such people and they, in turn, can also help us. That makes for a more balanced relationship and delivers much more for both parties. We want to connect people to one another."

The network agreements lead to new initiatives. Via the Brazilian VideoBrasil, the dance company Jant-Bi from Senegal came into contact with different organisations that specialise in the history of slavery and the African diaspora. With the help of the Prins Claus Fund, the Bolivian Asociación Pro Arte Y Cultura (APAC) brought its baroque music to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. The DRIK Centre for Media Art from Bangladesh came into contact with the Zanzibar International Film Festival: the two organisations organised a series of exhibitions during the film festival.

Currently the Prins Claus Fund is working with Caribbean Contemporary Arts (CCA) from Trinidad on an exhibition of the work of Peter Minshall, that will be exhibited in June 2006 in the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. Els van der Plas: "Through us, CCA is now in contact with the Kunsthal and the Zomercarnaval in Rotterdam. It’s about more than just money."

CCA is also registered as a partner with Hivos. At the organization, Hivos finances a few artist-in-residence sites for artists from developing countries. "CCA plays an important role in the region and is also a place where artists can learn," says Paul van Paaschen, program manager for Art and Culture. These two criteria are important for Hivos when it concludes a three-year partnership. Moreover, Hivos is looking for organisations that play a prominent role. "It is important that the organisations produce high quality, trend-setting productions," says Paul van Paaschen "We also look at the makers' involvement in social issues. They must be innovative and dynamic." In addition to the long-term support for partners, Hivos has a fund for smaller-scale projects. "Frequently this involves one-time activities; the contribution never exceeds 10,000 euros. It is frequently a first sample. Sometimes organisations then become partners."

Hivos has a relatively large number of partners and their number has grown steadily over the past years. In 1995, Hivos began with 34 collaborative ventures in the 30 countries in which it operates; in 2004 there were 97. The development organisation, which also focuses on other sectors, attaches great importance to culture as demonstrated by the fact that its budget for culture is currently almost 5 times its original size and is still growing. In 2006, seven per cent of the total – or about 5 million euros – will go to the arts in developing countries. Even though networks are not a formal policy, Hivos helps create networks through its support of regional network organizations. Within the various disciplines, contacts exist between the partners. "They go their own way for the most part," according to Paul van Paaschen. "Sometimes we attempt to stimulate them. For example, we suggested that Red Sudamericana de Danza, a South American dance platform, expand its work domain to Central America."

For the European Cultural Foundation, networks are a logical consequence of its support on collaborative ventures. Take the capacity expansion program for 25 cultural managers in the southern Mediterranean Ocean region, set up in collaboration with a partner in Egypt. "We have always given many trainings in the Balkans to people who run cultural organizations," explains vice-director Odile Chenal. "These people are now training colleagues in the Middle East and North Africa. Thanks to their own experiences, they know much better than experts from Western Europe what it is like to run a cultural organization under difficult circumstances. Such efforts create networks in a natural way."