We're almost ten years into openDemocracy's life – that's practically primeval by Web standards – and, on the eve of our summer fundraising campaign, there has been a flurry of reflection into what it is we do and why to defend our independence.
Our chairman, David Elstein, has written about the rational altruism of a reader-supported model. I have weighed into that discussion with my own account of why, especially in the case of openDemocracy, our finances should be based on the principle of "from each (of our loyal readers) according to their ability (to pay)".
Rosemary Bechler has written a very thoughtful piece on what pluralism should mean for a publication like openDemocracy. She has done so in 50:50, our section dedicated to gender equality as part of its ongoing debate.
Anthony Barnett, who co-edits the OurKingdom section, in a brilliant and wide-ranging interview, has many important observations about what openDemocracy has done, might still do and has not yet achieved. Quoting just a few of the very arresting sections of the interview, Anthony says:
The web made it possible to try and start a global conversation which didn’t express the interests of one particular nation. But would become, if you like, the vehicle for a discussion of world affairs of a critical kind, in terms of looking at all of the political and democratic costs, gains and the opportunities of ‘globalisation’. To put it in a grand way, we set out to do the opposite of what The Economist magazine does. It tells its readers what to think about everything, from the point of view of the internationalist capitalist system. Very intelligently, but it is like a weekly directive on how you should look at things as a shareholder in the global system. What we wanted to do was address the global readership who don’t feel they own the world in that sense, who are on the side of the great majorities. People who are educated and very interested in global affairs, but with a sense of openness, asking how it can change, wanting debate, discussion and exchange (of course, some of them are Economist readers too). That’s why we started it.
This is the new and internationally shared experience: what will it be like to live in and on an open planet? Openness does not mean neutrality, for example. It is not about being balanced or indifferent to what is said or argued, it means taking a point of view in a way that is open to being engaged with, surprised and influenced by opposing arguments.
All of these are important components of what openDemocracy must strive for during its next decade: reader-supported, plural, and true to openness, democracy and human rights.
What more, what else, and - above all - how?
Please join in the discussion. Take a look at the open circles initiative where we are experimenting with readers meetings (feel free to start your own wherever you are in the world) and do help our funding campaign if you like the direction we are taking.
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