What will your residency look like?
In the initial planning stages, there are some key questions to ask yourself while developing your residency. What does your organisation hope to get out of the residency? Why are you running it? Who will benefit? What are your organisation’s intended outcomes? Who from your organisation will manage this residency? In developing ideas around a possible residency, consider:
- The purpose of the residency
- Reach and engagement – will you be working with a community you haven’t worked with before, or extending current reach?
- Beneficiaries – who are they, and what will they get from the residency?
- Are you planning a specific project or a programme that culminates in an event or series of events or the production of something tangible?
- Profile raising of your organisation – among users? peers? within your sector?
- Capacity within the organisation to manage the residency
Choosing your writer
What sort of writer are you hoping will apply? How will you attract that person? How do you assess those who apply? When you have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve, this will inform the call you put out for the writer in residency (WiR). You can see a number of different calls on the Open Book blog. Depending on your reason for the residency, you may want to ask for:
- A CV (to see how established the applicant is, or how much experience they have running similar programmes)
- A cover letter asking for their thoughts and ideas on how the residency might run
- A writing sample
Think too about whether you will need interviews, and how you might score applicants. Who within your organisation will be responsible for choosing who gets the post and on what criteria?
Communicating with your writer
What early discussions do you need to have with your newly chosen WiR? It is vital to the success of the residency to set clear expectations on outcomes at an early stage. This can take the form of a follow up conversation with a chosen applicant to be sure that the agreed plan for the residency (timeline, output, engagement) is understood clearly on both sides from the outset. This is also a good time to discuss any additional expectations around agreed output (content, form, materials used, types of participants etc). For example, at Open Book we need our materials to be as positive as possible, and this is the time we flag that again to a new WiR.
Practical questions for running your residency
Once you have your writer, it's time think about how you will go about setting up the residency together, be sure to cover:
- Publicising the residency
- Regular meetings with the WiR to check in on progress and support any engagement needed
- Setting mid-residency check in times so you can establish how the project is unfolding and identify any problems/tweaks required
Payment and delivery
You also need contractual arrangements that cover payment and delivery. Important connected decisions include:
- What is to be delivered – word length for a piece of writing, delivery dates. You could go as far as specifying a genre of writing
- When delivery will take place – if it is not possibly to specify dates at this stage it can be helpful to identify a residency end date
- How delivery will take place – e.g. e-form to a specified person within the organisation
- Are there any additional commitments that you are seeking – group/participant engagement? social media engagement? in-person/online event? Can you agree dates or a timetable for these at the start of the residency?
- A copyright licence from the WiR in respect of the use you plan to make of the materials
- Do you have a process for the WiR to let you know that something is taking longer than agreed (in terms of delivery timetables, or just time in terms of cost to the WiR of that time)? Do you want to establish a mechanism for compensating for that extra time or extending deadlines?
Think about outputs
What are the outputs you expect? And how do you plan to use them?
Things to consider for workshops and events
- Attendee numbers should be agreed
- How will you advertise/get the word out? How involved do you expect your WiR to be in advertising them?
- How do you communicate your expectations around materials used or the purpose of the event or workshop?
- What happens in the event a session has to be cancelled (both around rescheduling/payment)? Does the session get rebooked or is additional payment expected?
- Which platform will the workshop be delivered on?
- How will you manage bookings?
- Do you intend to charge?
- How will you handle distribution/sharing of any workshop materials?
Things to consider if you plan to commission writing
- See above in relation copyright licence
- How long do you intend to make use of the materials for?
- Will they appear on your website?
- Do you expect use of the material to be exclusive for the period of the licence?
- Do you intend to use them in person or online or both?
- Do you intend to produce any publications including the material? If so, when agreeing these, give yourself 6–12 months longer than expected, as publication dates often slip
- Do you intend to broadcast/ podcast the material? If so you will need specific permission to use the material in this way
Ways to get the most out of a residency
Feedback can be a really valuable part of a residency, allowing you to make changes to your programme where needed. Think ahead to see where and when you might be able to gather feedback.
- How do you intend to evaluate the residency?
- Will you gather participant feedback – if so how, when?
- Will you seek input from those involved within the organisation? What form will that take? How will that information be collated? Will you ask your WiR for feedback on their experience, and if so what form will this take (e.g. informal, formal, a blog or other piece of publishable writing)?
- Will you share participant feedback with your WiR?
- If so how and when in relation to the project and any mid-point review?
- When gathered what will you do with the feedback you have/how will you make sure it has value in informing future residencies?
- How will this information be stored within the organisation?
Ways to conclude your residency
It’s useful to think about how to wrap up a fixed term residency so both the organisation and the WiR get a sense of completion. This could take various forms:
- An event or a session to celebrate/conclude the residency
- A reading by the WiR: of their own work (historical or that created during the residency) or of work created by others during the residency
- A reading that includes those the WiR has engaged with during the residency
- An online event on a social media platform where the WiR can engage with audiences or participants one last time
- A publication
- A closing /internal feedback meeting between the organisation and WiR
- A blog or other piece of publishable writing noting highlights of the residency, and what was achieved
This article was commissioned as part of our digital events training for authors Industy Lab. Check out the companion article with Jan Carson for insight into a writer's side of the table.