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The power of partnerships on our journey to scale

Recently on our journey to scale it’s become apparent that unlike many other sectors, the humanitarian sector rarely works with or learns from private organisations and their ability to bring new innovations to market that go on to have universal impact.

Learning from the private sector

If new innovations are to truly get to a scale that begins to ensure self-growth, sustainability and therefore viewing its beneficiaries en masse as equals, then the question arises, “Wouldn’t we need to include the private sector as well? Wouldn’t we as a sector eventually exhaust our pool of resources and expertise if we didn’t?” This especially began to ring true when sharing and promoting the music from our Healing in Harmony music therapy sites. For quite some time I was bothered by the hypocrisy of touting our beneficiaries as true artists as an integral part of their healing journey, but when it came to the release and promotion of their music, it was done with little fanfare or gravitas. This was the impetus for Make Music Matter formalizing a partnership with Warner Music Canada in order to release and promote our artists’ music on a global level.

Watch our video blog and meet some of the people behind our partnerships.

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From patients to recording artists

In January of 2018 we launched our own record label and publishing company with Warner Music Canada. This private sector partnership sees all albums produced at Healing in Harmony sites, released globally on all major digital storefronts such as itunes and streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Google Play alongside other world-class artists. Furthermore, our artists are treated as any other musician signed on a label with an ethical recording contract that sees the rights to their master recordings explicitly and legally articulated and all publishing rights adhering to them as songwriters. Mechanisms were also created to properly aggregate all subsequent royalties and disseminate them back to the artists positively through our local partners.

Levelling the playing field

However, the primary point of this piece of the Healing in Harmony model is not for economic benefit but instead to put our artists on a level playing field with any other artist in the world. Their understanding of this and the notion of their stories going out to the world unfettered, unredacted through beautiful works of art encapsulated in a pop song is a material piece in their healing journey, which helps to rebuild their self-worth. Furthermore, it speaks to and upends the stereotypical ideas of power. When you are a survivor of sexual violence in a conflict or post-conflict zone, one of the results is that you feel as if all your power as a sentient human being has been taken away. The ability to write and produce a song that is subsequently available globally, is a way of symbolically and concretely rebalancing the idea and definition of power.

Recording their music. Photo credit: Jeppe Schilder.

Another key aspect during this phase of our journey to scale was the need to set standards in the musical production and recording equipment that comprise our studios. As new Healing in Harmony sites have developed, it became increasingly apparent and important to provide levels of studio equipment that were modular for various settings and contexts but could also deliver a similar standard in terms of quality and formatting. While the value of quality control is easily identifiable, the idea of formatting was not until we started managing multiple program sites that delivered an increasing number of albums that needed to be quickly mixed and mastered. For this we formalized new partnership/sponsorship agreements with HHB Canada and Long and McQuade.

These two companies represent the premier supplier and retailers in music production equipment in Canada and have helped us with preferred procurement and pricing on equipment that we wish to universally employ across all Healing in Harmony sites. Furthermore, while this output grew we also created a team of 90 professional mixing and mastering engineers who deliver the final polish to these albums before they are released on our label. Many of these engineer volunteers are Grammy and Oscar award winners and represent the best in their industry, further inculcating our ideology that we treat all our beneficiaries as artists.

Working locally to embed sustainable partnerships

The third key milestone in our journey to scale to date, which I feel ultimately is crucial to the program’s sustainability, has been finding good local music producers and psychologists to complement the studio session team. For example, it is commonplace for INGOs, NGOs and even CBOs (Community Based Organizations) to employ psychologists and therapists in their programming and therefore organizations have a strong understanding of standardized and appropriate terms of references that are culturally appropriate, and a lexicon to communicate that is well entrenched. This is quite different when recruiting music producers where there has been traditionally no familiarity of employing someone with that particular skill set in the NGO field

Music therapy session. Photo credit: Jeppe Schilder.

Furthermore, vetting a robust set of terms of reference for the procurement process is more difficult to do so by definition as music and art are somewhat subjective. This has been further compounded by the need to find appropriate candidates that understand the rhythmic, melodic and sonic nuances of the community they are working in. Also, once a possible candidate has been identified, he or she still has to be able work well across disciplines with the psychologist. We also found that as the number of sites has grown, the ability for our administrators to effectively communicate with the producers became challenging. Simply put, as is the case with a lot of specialized fields, music producers think and process differently compared to most other people being utilized in an NGO setting. As such, part of our journey and prep for scale has been train our administrators on how to communicate and work with the growing number of our producers.

What we have learned recently in our journey to scale is how the iterative process for the model itself exists on a continuum and each opportunity to further create within an innovation is an opportunity to broaden aspects that were previously unidentified. For instance we’re noticing more than ever that combining new factors such as strong private sector partnerships and local on-the-ground expertise can yield exciting and sustainable results as our music therapy innovation grows.

Have a watch of our latest video blog and see our latest work come to life

What’s next?

Stay tuned over the coming months as our journey to scale develops and we fully introduce this franchising model to share our Healing in Harmony therapy programme with more people who need it.

Our blog and vlog #4 will showcase our next steps on our journey to scale.

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