From the future, what we want is….

An invitation to readers, commenters and contributors...
Rosemary Bechler
12 May 2011

Dear openDemocracy readers and friends,

This is the year of openDemocracy’s tenth birthday. Technically it is this month. But like many a project there is quite a time between conception, going public and learning to walk. openDemocracy started to walk in response to the challenge of 9/11 four months after it went live, when we immediately abandoned the initial idea of fortnightly publication, published daily and became, in effect, a global website.

Editorially we stood out against the vicious stupidities of the ‘war on terror’ and the foolishness of nostalgic opposition to it; both in their ways forms of closure. We can be proud of emerging from a bruising decade vindicated by the movement for an open, free democracy around the world. As a website we have changed, improved and grown a lot. Now, as we celebrate our tenth anniversary year, I am asking you to help us open up openDemocracy itself, so that we can figure out the next ten years together. I want you to help shape and participate in a planetary conversation which, if possible, leads to a conscious network or community of interest that supports openness, democracy and human rights around the world - and frustrates our enemies!

To do this we need to be clear, interesting and economical with everyone’s time. I am therefore asking you to help me in an exercise in participation. If the experiment works it will visibly demonstrate how an editorial strategy can be reader-generated. Those of us taking publishing decisions are not planning to abandon responsibility for the range, quality and clarity of our posts and articles that have established openDemocracy’s reputation. I simply want to work out ways in which our coverage and priorities are shaped by an open feed-back process that encourages us to be inventive and shares our overall creation while we remain a platform for different perspectives that make clear, honest and if possible constructive contributions.

The aim is ambitious. We want openDemocracy to become more of an influence on world opinion. Others will specialize in breaking news and revelations. But policy is still shaped by global elites and corporations who are investing their resources in what they call “full-spectrum dominance” of public opinion. We can’t successfully resist this by trying to outspend them but we can organise ourselves to out-think and out publish them (including images and video) thanks to the enormous democratic potential of the web.

Invitation to participate in agenda-setting:

I have been asking our authors to kick off a process of networked agenda-setting with an invitation: Would you write to us (in words that would fit on one side of a postcard) your response to the following question:

“Imagine that it is the year 2050, and against the odds, open and pluralist forms of democracy prevail over vast swathes of the earth’s surface. What is the single most welcome shift, expected or unexpected but transformative, that made this happen in the intervening years? What did that change have to overcome? Talk about the world, or your own neighbourhood, or anything in between.”

“Would you also select one image to go with your postcard - we are preparing an attractive page on the website that will collect these virtual postcards for browsing. Send us an image, or just point us to an image on the web that you like”.

The only additional request is that contributors eschew motherhood and apple pie. So - don’t say: “In 2050, world peace and prosperity prevails all over the world, thanks to an end to all wars.” Or, “the world’s environment was saved by the adoption of sustainable energy”. Because nobody could possibly disagree.

On our tenth birthday on May 12, 2011, we published our first batch of postcards. And with these we issue the same invitation to you as an oD reader, whether a regular over ten years or a first time newcomer.

You can submit your postcard and picture directly to the website by clicking here:


Or you can just send us an email with your text and accompanying photo to mailto:[email protected]

Why contribute? Have a look at what has come in so far. Already we can see three emergent clusters of concern: a search for energies that, in the words of one contributor, can counter the powers of the “pervasive State and all-powerful Capital” including a move from competition to cooperation; a related theme on what many invoke as “the new pluralism” or “decentered globalism” of democratic politics and the forms it could take beginning with the neighbourhood; thirdly, free movement, enhanced communication and the contest of ideas and its impact on science, justice, and democracy. But there are many more outrider convictions that you might find more stimulating, whether this is the need to “defeat the left” once and for all (Faisal Devji) or an end to the motor car (Christophe Harvie).

Our aim is to move towards twelve or so editorial priority themes with as much nuance and richness as you can muster: and so you could either think of a way to tuck your idea into a cluster; or strengthen the support for an idea until it turns into a cluster; or fill in a glaring gap and hope that it gets further support.

So, the request is for you to send in a postcard.

We are not going to ask readers to vote. This is not about candidates. We are asking for guidance. But we will tell you how we are exercising our judgments and responses and we pledge to make the process transparent and not time wasting.

We will be looking for champions of emerging clusters over the summer. By autumn, we hope to have a rolling ongoing discussion about openDemocracy’s publishing priorities and how these can help us exercise greater influence.

If we get to an open and democratic 2050, what will it look like? What will it have taken to achieve it? How can openDemocracy help to achieve this?

So please don’t just browse or lurk. Get in touch. Share a postcard with openDemocracy readers, editors, commenters and authors and we can frustrate our enemies!


Best wishes, Rosemary Bechler, openDemocracy Editor

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