Back from the brink


Our openSecurity Editor reflects upon the extraordinary wealth of projects in the different sections of openDemocracy and thanks you for supporting the platform that ensures this growth

Jo Tyabji
3 April 2013

Working at openDemocracy over the last six months has been truly extraordinary. As the editor of one of the sections, funding concerns are ever present: in the autumn I was laying plans for openSecurity that placed the emphasis firmly on expanding our capacity to keep up with our ambitious ideas.

So when it became clear that core funding was in jeopardy and closure – rather than a daily but distant concern – was a real possibility, I felt like a cartoon character, legs whirring as I ran out over thin air, eyebrows rising comedically above the confines of my forehead in surprise before The final plummet.

Except the plummet never came. Instead, faced with the brink, openDemocracy reacted with increased energy, fulfilling project after project while simultaneously fighting for survival. Our Kingdom, the UK section, launched OurNHS, a major debate on the future of the National Health Service.  openDemocracy Russia launched Russian rights at the crossroads and a unique new year feature looking back, looking forwards; while the section on gender and inclusion, 5050, covered Women in the Arab Spring, the UN Commission on the Status of Women and won plaudits for quality coverage in the wider press.

openSecurity hosted a conference in February that asked Syrian experts, activists and civil society actors to join international analysts in daring – amidst war – to think what peace might be possible. We launched a new series, Cities in Conflict, on seed funding and the enormous energy and vision of its editor. We recruited a new co-editor, and applied for a UK visa for her to work with us in London (that's a whole other story!)

The different sections of openDemocracy, each with their distinct regional or thematic focus, have autonomy within the structure of the whole. We are a 'federation', one of the things that makes our website unique. Each section has different priorities, so the success that you have made of us over the last month means different things to each of us. At openSecurity I can now look forward to consolidating the extraordinary growth that has taken place under extreme circumstances, continuing to seek and publish voices marginalised by conflict and global political circumstance.

When I look back at the past six months I'm astounded at what we have achieved. It has only been possible due to the hard work of the entire openDemocracy team, and your unstinting support - as contributors, volunteers, advisors, and readers.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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