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Robert Cornford, Communications Manager
Oxfam was researching a new generation website to handle its policy, practice and research materials for professional audiences. An initial position paper stated that “while researching the new website, we tried to discover what Oxfam knows, and realised that it had no registry of physical or digital assets”. The importance of a single secure deposit place for digital assets was realised because “for an organisation whose credibility depends on its learning, experience and knowledge, it is dangerous not to know what we claim to know”.
As a result we wanted a repository that could do the following:
There were no dedicated or experienced resources in Oxfam to develop, manage and support a repository. And, in the grand scheme of Oxfam’s communications and digital work, the specialist professional audience and technical content would never have a high priority for internal resources. And finally, it supports Oxfam’s aspiration to work in partnership and learn from others.
The project was initiated and led as part of wider three part digital project to (1) digitise backlist and selected archive content; (2) develop a digital repository to hold digitised assets; and (3) create a new professional website to showcase Oxfam’s programme, policy, and research work that would be fed from the repository.
Development of the repository was led by one person within PPCT (Policy and Practice Communications Team) who also led the website development, so integration of the repository with the website was in hands of one person.
Now, responsibility for day-to-day operation lies with our content creation sub-team in PPCT, because they work on the centrally-managed documents that go into the repository. They also offer support and training to creators of remote content. Responsibility for ongoing development, integration with the P&P website, with intranets and others’ websites and for all technical issues remains with the original development sub-team.
We are just starting, but judging from initial enquiries while the repository is in beta testing, we will not have a problem in securing content. We started off with over 3,000 files in the repository (mainly from the digitisation project) so we are adding to a recognised (and useful) collection, not starting from scratch.
Our model encourages users to deposit their own material, to provide all the basic metadata and evidence of organisational sign off for external use. Currently, PPCT project managers are checking submissions, but most of their time will be spent on checking the metadata and bibliographic details, and on legal issues.
To encourage users to add items to the repository, we have implemented the following:
Although it is too early to tell, we expect it to be useful in the following areas:
Although too early for detailed response, we have been approached by two other members of Oxfam International to host their research and learning materials in the iLibrary. From trials, it’s obviously useful and valued across the organisation - in the Research team, in the Monitoring and Evaluation Team, in country and regional programmes, in policy/advocacy teams, and in programme quality teams. Test feedback has also been very positive.
Oxfam has a new Open Information Policy which says that all donor-funded outputs should be made available to stakeholders and the public (with a few specific exceptions), free of charge. The Oxfam iLibrary enables us to deliver this policy as a consistent part of our work.
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