Last year, just 9 months ago in fact, the DPC declared itself open for international membership – that is to say members based outside the UK and Ireland, where we have our roots. In the months that have passed, we’ve seen six new members… including additions from Canada (official announcement coming later today!), Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US.
Hooray! It was a good time to make that announcement it seems, and all the more timely when the shifting sands of political discourse are tending away from internationalism.
Well, possibly. It was certainly a long time coming. The DPC has never denied membership to organizations based outside the UK and Ireland, but never formally advertised its openness in the way we have done now either. And I think that is because we just weren’t sure whether international members would get enough out of their membership. Based in Glasgow and York, we spend much of our time on the road as it is – travelling to run training events and briefing days, providing member support and doing the myriad other odd jobs that make the DPC tick. So, unless we had teleporters or body doubles, globetrotting any more than we already do didn’t seem feasible. Hence the anxiety; almost a shyness about inviting international members to join the Coalition. Just to note, lots did anyway and the DPC is all the richer for their superb contributions.
But now, by the wonders of technology, we’ve found a way towards improving our membership offering to overseas organisations. And no, that doesn’t mean we’ve invested in a teleportation device. And yes, it’s good news for those closer to home too.
We’ve just had a re-think, about what we do, and how to make these activities more accessible to all members.
Digital preservation is a challenge that transcends borders – and so should its solutions. Our members are a large part of that solution, so it stands to reason.
So, to make our membership offering more universally accessible, we’ve had a bit of an upgrade.
We have a shiny new website. Ta da – here it is! This is THE place members and non-members alike come to find out about the DPC and digital preservation, so we wanted to make it better. We wanted to make it more user friendly, easier to find information, make it less text heavy and more approachable, whilst remaining professional, and, most importantly for building our community, we wanted it to be a place members could connect.
This is the reason we’ve given such prominence to the blogging platform on the site, why every member who blogs for us is asked to complete their profile information and add a picture of their smiley face. It’s why we’ve added more and more sessions to our webinar programme, and why we record each and every one and make these available online after the events. It’s why we’re battling away with audio visual technology to try and record, if not live stream, all of our briefing days. Once we’re confident with these new tools, we will roll out the ‘Community Builder’ elements of the website that will enable each member organization to own and update their profile, and to share information like strategies and workflows and policies. The possibilities are endless, so long as we don’t re-invent that proverbial wheel.
It’s all about visibility and accessibility. We know not all members can come to all live activities, even if they are UK/Ireland based. We know that UK members also find it hard to travel, even relatively short distances. So these facilities enable members to access and share information wherever they are.
Nevertheless, while all this online stuff might be enough for some members, UK based or otherwise, it’s not going to be enough for everyone. Despite the flurry of international memberships post-announcement last year, we know there is more we can do.
So this is where we are now. Our online offering is imperfect but it is steadily improving. We haven’t arrived but we’re confident about our direction of travel. We are hopeful that members will welcome this and we’ve built it and tested it against what members have asked for in the past.
But needs change, and technology too. Those with keen eyes and longer memories will recall that our plans are based on a commitment to continuous quality improvement. So, having delivered the new website and filled it with lots of goodies, we immediately ask how can it be improved? What is the best way forward? Short of teleporting/body doubling – are we missing a trick? Is there something else we could do that will bring us closer to the ideal? Which, by the way, is for access to be configured around the needs of our members, unconstrained by geography, time or technology, so that every member can derive the very best value from participation in a Coalition as diverse and as dispersed as ours. And for this standard to be just ‘the way we do things.’
Is that even possible?