Stratford Arts and Culture Collective : Adventures in Feasibility Studies

The following post was written by Ron Dodson, a member of the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective, who received support through SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program as they completed a feasibility study.  

To learn more about the projects the CCI program has supported, log into the Member Network site, and click on “Collaborative Community Initiatives” in the menu on the left! 


Taking on a feasibility study is a major undertaking, as the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective found out. It involves a lot of preparation, clarity and commitment, as the project moves from the “How do we know if this project is a good idea?” stage, to the “Now we know we are on the right track” results.

That was the general evolution of the process which the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective followed. Of course, each project is slightly different, and depends greatly on the project’s scope, the people involved, finances and many other factors. Our situation was unique to us, but generally similar to many others, we suspect.

The Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC) is an umbrella organization that comprises 30 community-based arts groups of all kinds (community-based, semi-professional, professional) in all arts genres: theatre, dance, music, visual arts, media, interdisciplinary arts and emerging arts – in fact, all of Stratford’s arts groups are members, except for the Stratford Festival, which is very supportive in other ways. Our goal is to create an arts hub for community use, where local and touring talent feel equally at home and where the theme “Healthy, Wellness and Learning” unites its programming on many levels.

This idea surfaced in late October 2016, and a steering committee of interested supporters has been working quietly in the background to create the right conditions for its development. It was logical that in the past year, our idea needed to be tested: is there enough interest in our arts-rich city to build and support an arts and culture centre? A feasibility study is the best way to find out.

We did a lot of groundwork and asked a lot of questions. Who funds such studies? What conditions are placed on them? Who would do the work? A lead partner was found. In our case, it was Stratford Summer Music, which volunteered to administer the funds, should we be so fortunate to get them. Several funding sources were identified: the Ontario Trillium Foundation would supply the bulk of the funds, plus SPARC, and the City of Stratford. Some of our own budget would top off the needed funding.

After identifying and pre-qualifying several consultants, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was written and distributed. The proposals we received were uniformly excellent! They were scored against pre-established criteria, and the winner was identified: TCI Management Consultants of Toronto. They had provided a thoroughly professional response to the RFP with three levels of inquiry, a multi-faceted line of research and clear deliverables.

After a very long delay through no fault of our own, which caused the SPARC funding to expire and ultimately be reduced, we found out in mid-July that the Trillium application was successful. TCI got down to work in early September and wound up the project at the end of November, 2019. The final report (less the appendices, because of privacy issues) has been posted on our website: stratfordacc.com. We invite you to take a look. Contact info for the SACC is also posted there.

The answers we got to our questions about viability and sustainability were answered in clear, contextualized form. We found out a lot more about our own community and each of our member organizations. The proposed Arts and Culture idea has legs! We are moving to the next level of development, finding out which of two possible sites has the better chance of serving the community’s needs. We have the confidence in ourselves that we can do the work, and we have the backing of a dispassionate, well-organized and well-researched study.

We are very grateful to SPARC for being a partner in this work. Without SPARC, it would have been much more difficult to leverage money from Trillium and others. The work increased the capacity of our organization to work collaboratively and to move such a large project to the next level of development. As a result, we look forward to building the Centre as soon as possible.

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