Arts Collaboratory was established in 2007 by two Dutch foundations, DOEN and Hivos, as a funding program and as a platform for knowledge-sharing among artist initiatives in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Its aim was to support the growing number of artistic organizations providing alternatives to the oft-lacking or inflexible arts scenes in their local context, and to strengthen the South–South connections between these initiatives. Soon the Mondriaan Fund joined, supporting the exchange between Arts Collaboratory–linked organizations and the Dutch arts field. In 2013 the program of Arts Collaboratory was redesigned with a revised mission to promote sustainable, collaborative, and open visual arts practices that contribute to social innovation and emphasize building translocal communities among participants. From here, twenty-three participating organizations were selected by the funders to constitute the core of the community. To better facilitate the knowledge-sharing and relation-building process within the network, DOEN and Hivos initiated a collaboration with the arts organization Casco Art Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The phase following 2013 focused on building trust and sharing through face-to-face meetings in assemblies, “tents”, and institutional residencies. These gatherings produce and develop collaborative projects between the participating organizations. From 2015 Banga meetings merged the previous tent and institutional residencies strategies as a method for organizational care, knowledge exchange and tooling. Following the 2015 Senegal Assembly, Arts Collaboratory members agreed to go further in their collaboration and develop a common vision, articulated in the Future Plan. The Future Plan was also used to negotiate self-governance and mutual accountability that values transparency around struggles and failures instead of dressed-up reports that satisfy trajectories of progress, selection, and evaluation. In light of the paradigm shifts, the position of DOEN, Hivos, and Casco were revisited. Both DOEN and Casco became members of the ecosystem. Hivos remains as an observer for the time being with potential interest in joining in the future. In this process, key areas of enquiry are the rethinking of funding models; methodologies of working with art locally and transnationally while unlearning the current modalities of working; and, most importantly, devising a self-sustainable and open system of translocal collectivity.