Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Lamenting the End of OpenCanada

is not dead, but it is no longer alive either.  Hiatus means coma or something like it.  It has served since 2011 as THE place for smart analyses and commentary on international relations and Canada's role in the world.  Sure, I am biased as I used to be a columnist there, and I would still occasionally write stuff for them from time to time since then.  But it was one of a kind--a real portal to the world for Canadians, one that was not stuck in any particular perspective or focused on a specific sector.  It was great for non-Canadians to read as well--it was not limited to just pondering Canadian things.

And now it is "on hiatus."  Why?  I don't know all of the history, but financial troubles have been a challenge for a while.  OpenCanada, if I am right, started out as an outgrowth of the Canadian International Council (which is like the World Affairs Councils in the US), which is an association aimed at providing interested Canadians with fora to meet and discuss the world and to hear speakers.  Anyhow, CIC and OpenCanada went their separate ways due to, I think, previous financial problems* with CIGI, a think tank based in Waterloo, funding OpenCanada.  While I have occasionally suggested that CIGI is the Borg of Canada, assimilating that which it can, this particular effort was quite a productive move.

CIGI is famous for having been funded by Jim Basillie, founder of RIM (Research in Motion), the company that produced the Blackberry.  CIGI has been known as the richest think tank in Canada (not saying much since there are few think tanks in Canada and fewer still have much of an endowment).  OpenCanada was such a great opportunity for CIGI--to have an asset that would facilitate the transmission of research to the wider public.  Alas, in cutting back, CIGI didn't think so.  I am pretty bummed and pretty critical because I thought CIGI was getting more bang for its buck supporting OpenCanada than anything else it has done. 

Of course, I am also sad because OpenCanada was (is?) a partner of the Canadian Defence and Security Network.  It was a natural partner for helping provide an outlet for the research we at the CDSN will be producing.  They needed content, we have content, and need outlets.  Alas, it looks like we will have to find other ways to get our stuff out to wider audiences. 

Colleagues have suggested that we take it over, but we don't have the funds to keep the OpenCanada staff employed, and that is the key.  The people behind the site did great work, were smart, super creative, and diligent.  I'd like somebody in Canada to fund it, but there simply is not the same kind of incentive structure here as in the US (no taxes on inheritance, for example, here in Canada so less creation of foundations by rich people). 

Hope, as they say, is not a plan, so my hope that someone or some entity can come along and bring OpenCanada back to life is just that--hope.  Maybe another rich person will want to make a difference and find it to be an established way to inform Canadians and others about the world.  I hope so.  Thanks to Eva and Cat and Taylor and the rest of the gang for doing such great work.  Good luck finding the next thing for yourselves.  Based on what you accomplished, I am sure you will land on your feet.

*  I stopped being a columnist because, well, OpenCanada's challenges meant that they could no longer pay me on a regular basis.  I found writing weekly posts to be a challenge--that spewing is far easier than writing a post that is new/original and speaks to larger audiences about Canadian foreign/defence policy or about international relations in ways that interest Canadians.  It was not impossible--it was just work.  Which meant, well, I wanted to get paid for it.  Since I quit columnist-ing, I would write for OpenCanada when I had an idea that I wanted to share with a Canadian audience.  As I got busier with creating the CDSN, I wrote less and less, which is kind of ironic since a core part of the CDSN is to share research with wider audiences

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