[okfn-discuss] new brand, new website: coming up next week

Laura James laura.james at okfn.org
Sun Apr 13 16:07:17 UTC 2014

Hi Tim,

On 13 April 2014 14:57, Tim Davies <tim at practicalparticipation.co.uk> wrote:

> A brand may not *be* the theory of change or strategy, but it needs to be
> coherent with it. If the way you are communicating about the broad Open
> Knowledge community does not represent the values held in that community,
> you make it hard for people to stay within that community - or you force
> people to distance themselves from the messages you are communicating
> whenever they talk about what they are doing.

Sure.  We're a diverse network, as you know, and I think it's fair to say
each group communicates the way it wants, today - and will continue to do
so. Our messages are all quite different already! The groups forming the
network are pretty autonomous and that isn't changing. The brand material
we are discussing will help 'central' do our work, and we hope and believe
it will assist the groups, too, even though of course we don't know yet how
the local groups and working groups might choose to work with the brand -
that conversation is starting (which is why the single wiki page which
we're referring to exists).  We don't want groups to feel they need to
distance themselves from our messages, and we want to help all the groups
by building up the open movement with new people, ideas and energy, which
is what we are working on with the brand.

I'm sure many of the local and working groups have different strategies.
That's part of being a decentralised, autonomous network. It's good for
these to have some shared elements (I'd hope our values and vision are
shared, roughly) but creating one single overall strategy may be difficult,
or may not even help (I'd rather see a local group pursuing open knowledge
in its country according to a strategy designed for that country's needs,
than according to one centralised strategy which may not apply well to
them). Of course, these are two extremes; we could also have a set of
template strategies which can be customised and repurposed for local needs
which could make creating a local group strategy easier without forcing
adoption of any one thing. So group strategies may differ, and similarly,
messages will differ, I expect.

> I see that you have updated the wiki to say "Our core *brand* purpose" but
> it does not read as a purpose statement for a brand - it still reads as an
> organisational core purpose - and any outside party is going to understand
> it as such.

That's useful feedback. Perhaps we should just rephrase that section of the
wiki page - "core purpose" is language from our brand experts to describe
the words in that section - if it said "some words to describe for a broad
public audience what we want to achieve" would that be better? That's
really more the intent :)

> I don't see how a data-centric brand and tag line on the main OK(F)
> websites and presence meets the goal of making "it more appealing for many
> people to get involved (eg joining your group, forming new groups, creating
> new tools, sharing skills around lobbying, etc)" for those working groups
> and chapters who work within a broader notion of open knowledge. It
> actively harms this.
> If the good suggestions about a more flexible tagline made on this list
> are not factored into the *core* brand ideas (which they can - but which
> would require a pause for more discussion before rolling out a new core
> brand), then we don't get greater clarity at all.

As mentioned above, I think there will be some difference between the brand
of "Open Knowledge" central (the UK-incorporated organisation), and the
local groups and working groups. There is such a difference today - we each
use different graphic variants, names and words and have quite different
icons and websites in some cases. The website we are updating is the
'central' website, about what the 'central' organisation does - there is no
change to what local and working groups do or how they present themselves.
I am sure the groups will continue to present themselves as best they can
to attract new folks to what they do - whether that's Open Knowledge in
Brazil or open science or whatever.  At 'central' we have the very
difficult task of balancing all these different aspects. I'm sure we won't
always get it perfectly right, but we do the best we can to work towards
our shared vision whilst balancing the needs and interests of the all the
various groups in the network, plus other stakeholders such as our own
team, our funders and collaborators, and so on, within our resources.
Inevitably there will be compromises because there's so many different
interests here.

In the coming weeks and months I expect there will be lots of discussion
about how the groups want to adopt and/or adapt the graphics and words,
which is fine and as expected :) And the great ideas from Heath and others
will definitely be part of that - and I personally will be delighted to see
that happen.

> I also do not see how you can claim "All of you have helped create the new
> brand through your activities in open knowledge" if the new brand does not
> represent the breadth of the knowledge community, and when the brand has
> been presented as a done deal, not as something for consultation. There is
> no problem with drawing on outside branding expertise - but it would be
> very possible to have a process of broad community consultation around
> draft brand ideas developed by those experts.

We followed the advice of the experts and did the broad consultation at the
start of the process - through the community survey and other methods.
 Design, of both graphics and words, does not usually work well if done "by
committee," and we were advised to do the later stages in smaller group
consultation, which is what happened. We had to balance quite a few factors
in developing the brand process too. Pragmatism has always been an Open
Knowledge value.

In terms of representing the breadth of open knowledge, I don't deny this
is difficult. For instance, a tagline is just one very short phrase which
needs to be clear and compelling, and so I think it's inevitably going to
represent something less than the full diversity of what everyone does. I
really don't think we could capture everything in one short phrase, using
commonly-understood terms, but I feel the tagline does a reasonable job of
representing the common essence of it all.

> However I'm hearing quite a lot of concern across the community about how
> OK(F) and chapters, WGs and others are relating right now - and potential
> damage to the community model that has been a great success of OK(F) over
> recent years. Is it worth considering a pause-for-thought before rolling
> out the new brand, and planning for that wider conversation on values &
> strategy?

We are definitely going to be having a wider conversation on values and
strategy for the network - and look forward to it.  In terms of the brand
roll-out, there is no planned roll-out for the local groups and working
groups (but we have quite a few groups pressing for materials as soon as
possible because they are eager to use the new brand!). It's something
groups can opt into as and when and if they wish.  The website launch is
definitely going ahead, though; as noted above, this is the website for
'central' and our current site receives quite a bit of criticism and
confuses people. To enable us to do our work as coordinators of the network
(and our many other activities to further our shared vision of openness) we
need to have a better website.

If there are concerns about how the local groups and working groups are
relating, we'd very much like to hear them so we can understand the issues
and respond appropriately.  Are there forums where these concerns are aired
which we might not know about?

On a slightly related note, we do know we can do better with community
governance - and a survey will be going out to the International Council
very soon to start to explore how we can improve this. I've personally been
talking to the leaders of many of our chapters and local groups
individually this year to hear their hopes and worries, and I'm happy to
talk with any I've not spoken to yet, especially if there are concerns we
might otherwise not have heard about.

Best regards,

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