oD Blog

Editorial partnerships and the importance of impact

Why we do editorial partnerships, and are looking forward to two or three new opportunities in 2014.

Andrew Hyde
20 January 2014

openDemocracy Editorial Partnerships are joint publishing projects in which the openDemocracy Editor and Publisher work closely with a partner organisation on an agreed project which may last for three months, up to a year, or anything between.

These are important to us on two counts: firstly because they allow us to offer our platform and expertise for the creation of audiences for new projects and themes, working with a partner well qualified to deliver a high standard of content on a subject of interest to openDemocracy readers. Secondly, because they provide a revenue stream for openDemocracy as a media platform, the costs of the partnership either being covered in the partner's project budget or through a successful joint funding proposal.  

openDemocracy has various mechanisms for opening up new worlds of thinking for our growing global audience. Editorial partnerships with outside bodies, including think tanks and academic projects and departments, began with the success of our guest editor weeks, such as Ivan Briscoe’s thought-provoking series on Killing times: violent lives and social change across the world in 2011. A week of prominent front pages featuring a new area of concern, introduced by a ‘guided walk’ from someone with great knowledge on the subject, ensures that this theme enters into the bloodstream of openDemocracy. This enabled us to launch a dedicated page and know that our readers will be interested.

Our guest editors were amazed at the hard work that went into their week (not least their own) and eager to build on what they had achieved. It occurred to us that there were many more think tanks and academic projects who would welcome such an opportunity, and not begrudge us a useful revenue stream from what was rapidly becoming a new area of site expertise.

This has turned out to be correct for all sorts of different reasons. One of our first large partnerships came our way when an Open University research group led by Engin Isin was seeking an interesting platform for a recently completed archive on new forms of citizenship for a post-orientalist world.  This was a debate we wanted to have. And one of our readers wrote in to agree:

“ I thought the Citizenship after Orientalism partnership was excellent - exactly what OD does best, staying close to current news, and at the same time getting behind it to look much deeper.”

Martin Evans, at Sussex University, thought that we could help him dent the Anglophone silence around Algeria and build a vibrant discussion for his students to access. As he said, we discovered that revisiting the film, the Battle of Algiers, made an excellent starting point:

“Already students at Sussex will be using the articles alongside a special screening of the film. This is going to be a great resource.”

Mary Kaldor’s team (LSE) exploring ‘subterranean politics in Europe’ helped us define our new ‘Can Europe make it?’ space on openDemocracy, which now attracts 5% of openDemocracy’s readership.  

openGlobalRights, a multi-lingual platform for discussing global human rights launched in June 2013, achieved such rapid success that there are plans for it to become a major topic section on openDemocracy.

Smaller partnerships have been formed out of conferences that deserve a much wider public than the lucky participants on the day, triggering rich clusters of commentary on Shock and awe: one hundred years of bombing from above; Neoliberalism, crisis and the world system; Nick Mahony’s workshop on Creating publics; or Shirin Rai’s on Political Aesthetics, power and protest.

Think tanks are also looking for wider audiences for expert discussions. Counterpoint’s fascinating project on populism in Europe today – The Reluctant Radicals - offers our readers cutting-edge, in-depth analysis and some rather different conclusions, not least about Europe, as we head towards this year’s European elections. The guest editorship of Jack DuVall has turned into a partnership dedicated to exploring the achievements of civilResistance at exactly the moment when this is becoming an innovative area of study in universities – we like to think we may be in at the birth of a major new catalyst for change.

The challenge for us has been to match such a treasure trove of new expertise with one of our own - in building audiences using social networking alongside traditional editorial and publishing skills, and being able to communicate the results to what seem to be more and more interested parties. This is most clearly demonstrable when it comes to the huge range of emerging technology enabling us to learn about the audiences which have been drawn to any particular partnership feature. Since each project is adapted to the guest or partner’s own vision of what they want to share and who with – Andrew Hyde, our publisher, finds himself in a process of constant innovation in helping them to curate their oD space. He will give you some sense of this work in his next post.

There are less manifest editorial skills also asking to be evolved. openDemocracy has always been in the business of ‘knowledge transfer’- not only in terms of transferring knowledge across national silos to a growing global audience, but also in the important sense of ‘translating out’ expertise with the help of the experts, so that much wider audiences can be made aware of these ideas – the  kind of thinking that may influence future governments, or simply tell us more about ourselves and our lives. Transferring knowledge from and about those who have power to those who have rather less is a deeply democratic challenge today, up there with the ever-increasing saliency of ‘less is more’ – the need to deepen knowledge rather than just add to it.

CALL OUT FOR 2014 EDITORIAL PARTNERS: openDemocracy's editorial partnerships with institutions such as universities, think-tanks, museums and organisations have had tremendous success in 2013 - our main 2014 projects will be decided in the next four weeks - please contact us on [email protected] for a chat if you want to know more. 

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