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This week's editor

Olly Huitson, Editor

Oliver Huitson is Co-Editor at OurKingdom and a freelance journalist.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

We did it! The openDemocracy Editor-in-Chief, Magnus Nome, says thank you to all of you for helping us reach £250,000 and keeping openDemocracy open.

If you were intending to donate during the campaign and missed the chance to do so, or if you would like to set up a standing recurring order, consider giving a monthly donation to openDemocracy.



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Saturday, April 6, 2013 - 12:03am
Andrew Hyde

We thought this image would be apt for our final campaign blog. The horse on the left, Pearls Legend, is in a midday race at Ludlow on Wednesday January 20. What's significant about this?

One of our supporters put £10 on it for openDemocracy at 20-1. And it won! The picture shows him jumping the final hurdle, his ears pricked forward in anticipation.

We're very pleased that the ears, nose, and backside all made it across the line. The support you have given us is also a legend. A cheque with the winnings was sent to Magnus made out to openDemocracy.  

We want to thank you again for the collective effort to keep openDemocracy open, whether you donated, spread the word or provided us with moral support.

In earlier posts we included comments and suggestions from those of you who had donated, including comments asserting that oD needs to enter a dialogue with its readers about its future priorities, and calling for a lively debate about how oD could be put on a sustainable footing.  

Next week we're going to start up a new blog - the oD blog - and we hope some of those issues can be discussed with you there. 

In the meantime here are some other comments that we received during the campaign: 

What would I read when I'm pretending to work if you guys closed. 

[oD] hosts important voices. I don't by any means always agree, but that's the point, isn't it?

Unbiased and open...

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 1:50pm
Jo Tyabji

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...

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Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 1:23pm
Magnus Nome

We did it!

It´s great news: openDemocracy broke through our £250,000 target a few days before the deadline of March 31. This means we won’t have to close and will continue to publish writing, thinking and debates on the world we live in.

And by ”we did it”, we really mean all of us – especially you: readers, writers, donors and supporters who have dug deep into pockets, time and imagination. We can exist only because of your interest and commitment.

Thank you for your solidarity, your funding and your messages.

With a stronger financial foundation, we will not only stay open, but keep developing openDemocracy into what we see as a digital commons, open, accessible and well organised, with our focus where it should be: great and original coverage.

And we want to work with you, listen to what you’ve got to say, especially on what you think we should do better. The Campaign blog will continue as an Editors blog: an informal window into the oD office where we will also share what you tell us is on your minds.

Not a few of you have mentioned that our design and navigation system leave something to be desired… we don’t disagree! With the crisis weathered, this is now a top priority, and as spring comes to the northern hemisphere, you’ll notice some upgrades of our site. You can also look forward to a new section launching this summer: Transformation.

Again, thank you – and watch this space…

Magnus Nome, Rosemary Bechler, Anthony Barnett, Oliver Carroll, Jane Gabriel, Oliver Huitson, Niki Seth Smith, Jo Tyabji, Clare Sambrook, Felicity Cave, Tom Cowan, Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, Bassam Gergi, Shilpa Jindia, David Krivanek, Alex Sakalis, Charles Shaw, Jonathan Bowles, Andrew Hyde, Stuart Weir, Tony Curzon Price

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 10:50am
Magnus Nome

When we faced the challenge of raising a quarter of a million pounds for openDemocracy to stay open, we knew it would be hard. The possibility of closing was very real.

We would fight tooth and claw to survive and grow but we all knew that success or failure would ultimately depend on how much you – our readers - value openDemocracy.

Two generous donors pledged the first hundred thousand, on the explicit condition that we reached the full sum. 'Almost' wouldn’t and won't cut it, it was all or nothing.

It still is, but we put our faith in you all and your wonderful responses have left us touched, honoured and at £240,000 – only £10,000 left to the finish line! 

We just need a little bit more help, and we’re there. We’ve got 11 days.

I hope you want to be part of the final thousands and walk with us across the finish line – whether it’s by donating (or topping up your donation), asking a friend to step up and do so, pestering your circles on social media (#keepODopen on Twitter) – or all of the above.

And should you for a moment waiver in your belief that openDemocracy is important, I urge you to read founder Anthony Barnett on the foresight and clashes of argument of oD's coverage of the Iraq war, it pioneered our approach but two oD writers paid a terrible cost.

The world is just as fallible now as it was then, and the need for an open, passionate and intelligent platform like oD is still as great.

And if (dare I say ”when”?) – we reach the target, I’d like us to do something else: to grow with you, your voice and your support into something better.

Help us climb through the final thousands here. Thank you.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 10:26am
Anthony Barnett

What matters is less knowing what you think than being able to think well. openDemocracy started to learn how to do this when 9/11 happened leading into the Iraq war. They became our baptismal waters, less than four months after we launched. Unprepared and underfunded we should have drowned in them. Instead, we lived through these extreme events with passion, fury, commitment and many differences, but without prejudice. Perhaps because we shared a sense of tragedy and suspicion of triumphalism we got it right, in the way that Tony Curzon Price, reading us in San Francisco recognises in a powerful, personal memoir, how he got it wrong.

What we created was an editorial space rather than a line. Today, there is a new fight to keep it open. I’d like you to give 50 or 100 dollars, pounds or euros to the new generation taking up openDemocracy, please give it now, if you have not done so already. There is nothing else like openDemocracy and no one else has covered the invasion of Iraq in the way we did. Alas, the journey we took then stretches ahead of us still and I have been asked to take you on a few of those steps as an encouragement – let’s keep it going!

We saw the invasion coming clearly and very early, especially Paul Rogers.

“Given the hard-line nature of President Bush’s international security community... it is highly likely that more attention will now be given to the possibility of taking action against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad”.

That was November 2001, as the US began to gain the upper hand in Afghanistan – with cool irony the piece was headlined Breakthrough – to a broader war?

I won’t go through the extraordinary international coverage of 9/11 but less than a month later we had to respond to the conquest of...

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Monday, March 18, 2013 - 2:15pm
Marcus J. Gilroy-Ware

In the last few weeks, we’ve watched as openDemocracy races to secure a make-or-break last £50k of donations from its community of readers and supporters. Some of us have made donations, many have tweeted and helped spread the message, and everybody in that community has been worried, almost incredulous that openDemocracy might really not survive. I began my journey into the world of publishing ideas online with openDemocracy when I was barely 20, onto a very different Internet than exists today.

One of the things about that internet that has persisted however, is the immense vulnerability of those who believe it is important not to demand money in exchange for what they publish online, as though it were a bunch of bananas in the fruit market. This way of distributing ideas is often referred to as “free content,” and in my own experiences of digital entrepreneurship it can indeed be precarious.

Yet the term has come to symbolise an entire industry with its own cultures and cynicism. Although there may still be lessons openDemocracy needs to learn from this industry, in this case I found myself annoyed by the idea that anybody might characterise openDemocracy or its present circumstances simply as a possible casualty of the “free content” model.

In the context of online media, “free” and “content” are both words that need to be heavily problematised. “Free” is already subject to the ambiguity from which we suffer, in English, between the sense of “free as in free beer” and “free as in liberty.” This dual meaning, and in this formulation especially, is old hat to many familiar with the difficulties of digital ownership, for whom it can be a crucial distinction.

But even before you get to that, the word “free” smacks of advertising campaigns that seek to exploit a greedy, something-for-nothing expectation that we are apparently supposed to wholeheartedly embrace.

The concept of “content” commoditises and unifies our ideas, our work, emphasising its status as a product that can and should be quantified and contained, rather than the actual implications of what it asks us to think about. The “...

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 1:40pm
Magnus Nome

As an openDemocracy reader you’re in good – but not exclusive – company. 2,3 million people (unique visitors) have read us since this date last year, up 15% from the previous period.

And that readership is global, coming from 225 countries and territories. They’re not always legion of course, but no less important for that, so a shout out to our single reader in Tuvalu: hi there! - we know of and appreciate you!

The countries with the largest oD readerships are the US and the UK, not surprising since we publish mostly in English, and the same goes for the next countries; Canada, India and Australia. Then follow the Europeans: Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain.

Readership has increased in all of these countries, most so in India and the US, but the list of countries where oD has seen the strongest growth looks very different; in Mauritania, Ethiopia, Qatar, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Lithuania and Bahrain visits are up 210% to 52%. Our proliferation in the MENA region is no doubt down to the changes that have happened – and are still happening – on the ground there, and our coverage of them in Arab Awakening and 50.50.

Our readership is spread thin across the world, and many don’t have the opportunity to contribute any money, so we depend upon more of you who can afford it to make a donation. Many of you have done so already, and maybe you could nudge a friend who also values openDemocracy. But if you haven’t, please consider helping us secure our future.

I enjoy seeing our reach extending, but quality trumps quantity, and nothing beats an article or debate that changes the world – even if it’s just the mind of a single person. For an account of an evolving mind and the influence of an early but key openDemocracy debate, read...

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 8:05pm
Tony Curzon Price

10 years ago, I was of the party of the invasion. With Roger Scruton, I believed that American interventions would be truly liberal. With Philip Bobbitt, I thought that the geopolitics of the Middle East would be transformed - including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - after the successful implant of plural democracy in a onetime murderously threatening tyranny. And with David Hayes, I could only look forward eagerly and joyfully to the Iraqi people taking control of their own destiny.

The facts just didn't turn out that way, and all of us who mistakenly imagined these sunny uplands should now ask, if we haven't asked it before, whether our mis-forecast was accidental or fundamental. My conclusion is that it was pretty fundamental, and it is a conclusion that in many ways I owe to openDemocracy's 10 years of debate around this and related questions.

I was living in San Francisco in 2003, and openDemocracy was the way that I kept in touch with the debate that - despite my set views - I knew needed to be had. My neo-connery of the time was met with blank disbelief in the uber-liberal Bay area, not with deliberative engagement. When Christopher Hitchens argued for the war at a meeting in Berkeley, there was only deep division, not conversation. A year after the invasion I remember reading Roger Scruton's piece on the Kantian justification for war. I still basically agreed - though raised a philosophical objection: his retelling of the categorical imperative seemed very contingent and consequentialist to me. And I wondered whether war had not better be seen as a problem of "dirty hands", of moral risk, than of Kantian certainty.

I was already, maybe, feeling that the contingencies on which the case for the invasion was made were looking shaky. By 2005, my sense was not only...

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Monday, March 11, 2013 - 8:00pm
Rosemary Bechler

I’m glad that Andrew is calling for ‘a new, transparent and better back and forth with you our readers and contributors’ about what’s happening at openDemocracy. I’d like to echo this. It has been one of the real paradoxical pleasures of this crisis, to be back in touch with so many contributors, talking to supporters old and new and making new friends.

On March 8, Jobardu commented on the lead article in our International Women’s Day coverage, that one way for openDemocracy to ‘move ahead from where it is now’ is ‘to provide a platform where men can describe their experiences of being a male in today’s world, and their views on fatherhood, marriage, social controls and gender specific issues.’ He urged us to move beyond feminist articles written for feminists, and warned us that since, ‘openDemocracy is known as having a feminist orientation… extra care will be needed to assure male readers that they are encouraged to participate.’

I agree such an open debate for men and women, bringing readers and contributors together would be a fine thing and I think we should look into the possibility. Extremely delicate of course, since look no further than Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce today to see how reliant men and women often are on each other for their happiness, and how easily this can go wrong. But also because gender is constructed around binary opposition - a recipe if ever there was one for wholly unilluminating mutual accusation and reductive stereotyping.

Still – it’s just the sort of debate, bringing readers and contributors together, that I would love to see happen, and I think we must look into it with the help of ideas like those from Jobardu and fellow-commenters. In the meantime, I would just like to point you back to the archive for...

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Saturday, March 9, 2013 - 9:03am
Andrew Hyde

On February 18 our Editor in Chief, Magnus Nome, launched our public campaign to raise the last £50,000 of a £250,000 target we need to meet by March 31 to keep openDemocracy open.

So where do things stand nearly three weeks on from that call?

Well, to date, we've raised £32,000 of the £50,000 we need to survive. We're incredibly grateful for this tremendous response from our readers, authors, commenters, supporters (many of whom have multiple and varied relationships with openDemocracy, so applying any one category does not do their involvement justice).

As of this morning 350 of you from 24 different countries have given to the campaign. Some of you are already known to us. Others have decided to give anonymously. But we consider all of you great friends and thank you for inspiring us. Those of you who have given email addresses will start receiving our Week in 1 Minute email, written by the front page editor, as a token of appreciation.

It is heartening to receive and read comments that reflect the way that you see openDemocracy - as a public resource, a digital commons, built by all of us who contribute to it and open to anyone who wants to read it:

openDemocracy is an important, trusted on-line news source that carries informed comment - it is a resource we cannot afford to lose.

(Carl Parker)

openDemocracy is a brilliant forum and community of people, demonstrating a deep understanding of the world as it is, while also eloquently illustrating how it could and should be.

 (Anon)

And it's clear from what you say that people come to openDemocracy for a richness that they can't find in the mainstream:

I admire your...

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Friday, March 1, 2013 - 7:29pm
David Krivanek

As you know, we need to raise £250,000 by the end of March, or openDemocracy will close.

In 2013, these crowd-funding efforts couldn't possibly not include a social media element. But how can a small publication such as openDemocracy, with its limited resources, develop an effective social media strategy?

Frankly, when I offered to coordinate the social media side of the campaign, I didn't expect this to be too much work – after all, I'm on Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis, and I was already using our Facebook page and Twitter account to promote the articles I publish on our Can Europe make it? project. Certainly I could just send a couple tweets in the morning, and let the social media do its magic to instantly make the crowd-funded monies come in, right?

Boy was I wrong. The truth is that, for all its claim of horizontality and lack of a pre-established hierarchy, gaining people’s attention among the millions of other equally interesting tweeters and Facebook pages is incredibly difficult, and requires almost undivided attention.

Every 60 seconds, 175,000 tweets are sent, and 293,000 Facebook statuses are posted. How do we, then, engage with enough readers to make the small fraction that will actually support us add up to a decent number? One of openDemocracy's problems is that while we are big enough to have a fairly respectable social media followship (18,500 fans on Facebook, 16,500 followers on Twitter), we are too small to afford a full time social media strategist. It is therefore all about making more with what we already have, which is not much. We started by doing some research as, it turns out, social media strategizing is now a big industry, and not something...

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 2:37pm
Alice Bell

openDemocracy, the digital commons that's been providng news and opinion articles since 2001, have announced that they need to raise £250k by March 31st, or they’ll close. They’ve raised much of this already, but are asking those of their readers who can to help them raise the crucial last £30,000.

As their Editor-in-Chief Magnus Nome put it in a post last week:


We know you want fresh investigation, strong ideas and good writing to address the extraordinary events of our time.  We also know you don’t want to pay for it. We don’t either. We like our web free.

 

Web publishing is increasingly dominated by giant corporations and lone bloggers. To keep open and independent spaces like openDemocracy alive with a richness of content and a variety of voices, we need the help of those of you that can pitch in.


We whole-heartedly agree with this. We’d also be devastated to lose oD from the growing cadre of not-for-profit, independent, public interest web publishing groups which offer something more than mainstream media or individual bloggers can alone.

Where else could you have seen pieces like their painstaking report on the level to which the BBC failed to properly inform the public of the nature of the coalition NHS bill? And considering this failure of the mainstream media, where else would have provide the sort of coverage of the NHS we’ve seen at the oD’s “Our NHS” series?

Discussing the issue over the weekend, the NLP editors remembered a lot of other bits of oD’s content we’ve been grateful for recently. Other things that came to mind include their thoughtful discussion of the role and future of the BBC in British public, OurBeeb, which the report on NHS reform coverage came out of, and a great series on ...

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 7:51pm
Magnus Nome

Dear supporters,

Since we launched the public part of our urgent £250,000 appeal last week, the openDemocracy team and I have been overwhelmed by your magnificant response.

Many of you have given so it hurts – that particular kind of pain that’s mixed with the pleasure of knowing you’re part of something bigger: ensuring that oD survives as a free and open space. Without you, it could not.

You’ve already helped us get half way to the last £50,000 we need to release the full £250,000. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

But with your pounds, dollars or euros many of you also sent comments, telling us just why you’ve decided to contribute. And while we need money at oD, we love words… here are some favourites:

I am occasionally enraged by OpenDemocracy, often stimulated, and much better informed.

- Alexander Walkington

We need to #keepODopen - closed doors close minds.

- @shelleydeane via Twitter

oD is an unique source of news and opinions and we can't let it die.

- Eric Cavalcanti

With ever increasing concealed and centralized control over so called free press and so called democracies throughout the world, openDemocracy is probably one of few bastions left for future hope.

- Morten Lind

If you haven’t supported us yet, please consider doing so – we still need £24,000 to reach our target and release what the donors have pledged.

If you’ve already pitched it, maybe you could email our appeal to someone you know who appreciates openDemocracy, asking them to match you. Or spread our...

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Monday, February 25, 2013 - 9:58am
Julian Sayarer

An article is a formula. Fabricating a good article from words is the same as fabricating a good table from wood, you take your time, you follow rules, it will stand. In order to do this, you start writing with a certain style, ease towards the subject that you mean to broach, something gentle, easy to read, so that before your reader realises it they're interested in your article and might as well carry on reading. This is what I'm doing right now, following a formula. I'm about to stop doing it.

openDemocracy is set to close. openDemocracy is set to close unless they can raise the last £26,000 of a £250,000 needed to clear the foundation's debts. I'm abandoning journalistic protocol and the subtleties of a good article because... well... frankly, this is important, and whilst hijacked oil tankers and horse meat and bankers' bonuses are also important, openDemocracy is more important because it is a media by which we can discuss problems in a way that seeks to address them, rather than merely to create real life cinema or high-brow gossip.

I've contributed around a half dozen articles to openDemocracy in the last two years... I've received £0 in return for my work. Over the years I've been paid to write for magazines and journals, and of all the work I've produced, it's that which appears on openDemocracy that means most to me, I'm most proud of, and is most important to the world. oD does not abandon an issue after the 48 hour window in which newspapers seek to profit from it, oD is committed to ideas that mean something to how we live, rather than only the quick titillation of a headline scandal. oD does not play to the lowest common denominator, and it believes humans are on this world to do more than just buy stuff... it is for these reasons that writers contribute their work for free, and it is for these reasons that oD does not make profit.

If you care about the world you live in, and are not a regular reader of openDemocracy, then start reading. If you want to go on reading openDemocracy, if you have enjoyed the articles I've written for them, then ...

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 1:22pm
Magnus Nome

This has not come out of the blue. In December we realised we must put openDemocracy on a better footing. We had redoubled our efforts to secure funding through project funding and editorial partnerships. This is showing great promise but is not quick enough – and our Board has judged that we need £250,000 to secure our future.

We have raised £200,000 of this, thanks to very generous donors. But this is conditional on achieving the target we need - and now we have a deadline: March 31.

We know you want fresh investigation, strong ideas and good writing to address the extraordinary events of our time.  We also know you don’t want to pay for it. We don’t either. We like our web free.

Web publishing is increasingly dominated by giant corporations and lone bloggers. To keep open and independent spaces like openDemocracy alive with a richness of content and a variety of voices, we need the help of those of you that can pitch in.

We are not asking you to pay for content, but to make sure we continue to exist.

Every £1 or $1 or €1 that you give will be worth £5 or $5 or €5. Every £10 will be worth £50. A monthly commitment of $20 counts as $200 over the year and will be worth $1,000 to us.

At openDemocracy we give you a depth and originality that is all too rare, and we don’t charge a penny. We never will – oD is a not-for-profit digital commons made possible by the thousands of authors and contributors who donate their time and thoughts because they believe in what we do and the space we’ve created.

We will never hide their work behind a pay-wall. We will always make sure it is freely available for everyone, including the impoverished, young and old across the world.

You can read our appeal document, which explains our situation and sets out our very modest budget.

The generous pledges we have so far secured mean that for...