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Affiliates: Models of Interdependency

Editor’s note: This blog is the first in a series focusing on CLIR Affilates. Subsequent posts will describe some of our international Affiliates in greater detail, noting the rationale for these partnerships and the transformative potential of working together.

During the last few years, CLIR and DLF have established a new category of organizational partnerships that we call Affiliates, a term that is purposefully flexible, connoting alliances with various strengths of cooperation. These range from incubating the current transition of NITLE (the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education) to deeper engagement with management and strategy-setting (National Digital Stewardship Alliance, or NDSA). Recently we have reached out to international projects and programs, creating affiliations with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), Jisc in the United Kingdom, the African Information Association and Institution (AfLIA) and, through our Digital Library of the Middle East project, the Qatar National Library. While quite distinct in their focus and constituencies, these affiliations nonetheless share many qualities and characteristics that align with the mission and goals of CLIR and DLF.

We reach out to, or are approached by, potential Affiliates though mutual programmatic aspirations. DLF and CLIR strive to advance research and learning in service to social justice and the public good across our agendas. No single organization or institution can achieve this: our salient challenges today are complex to the point that no single profession or area of expertise can adequately address them.

We thus choose to promote discussion and action on issues that can be addressed only through collaboration that is deep, coherent, and coordinated, having long recognized the prevalence of fragmentation and isolation among institutions of higher education and culture, a splintering which has produced an environment that is costly and replete with redundant efforts, especially relating to technology and technological solutions.

In this regard, the broadening of our remit to include new Affiliates is intuitive. Parcel to these alliances are recognizable criteria. On the technical side, these include adopting open digital library standards, software, interfaces, infrastructure, and best practices; recognizing the integral importance of digital stewardship and curation, including research data management and aggregation and preservation services for digital collections; designing projects that encourage education, professional development, lifelong learning, and the growth of a field of inquiry; and strengthening connections across disciplines and areas of interest while always alert to the social contexts and human and environmental impact of these projects.

A longer-term term goal is behavioral. Expanding Affiliate organizations is meant to provide a more encompassing community of practice to effect in the coming years a higher degree of interdependence among the hundreds of institutions and programs that CLIR and DLF support and mentor. The term interdependence is chosen to signal our objective of working together in ways that go well beyond collaboration or cooperation. It will entail integrating services, tools, platforms, research, and expertise across these organizations that reduces costs, creates greater efficiencies, and better serves our collective constituencies. This will probably require reorganization, redeployment of staff, and new investment strategies at a global scale, but this seems less a disruptive flip than a long-held promise of digital technology when it is employed thoughtfully and deliberatively: not as a virtual surrogate for traditional services in support of orthodox professional praxis but as a well-architected, functional ecology facilitating more sophisticated interrelationships, beneficial collective action, and innovative reimagining. The Affiliates are an extension of the vision our sponsors and member organizations sustain, a wider constellation of enlightened cooperation that our core institutions of support will engage with and benefit from as we seek new permutations, keener ties.

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