Fall 2006, IHEYO decided to rebuild its current website (www.iheyo.org) into a Content Management System1-powered webspot. While providing information on humanism as a life-stance in a format tailored to youngsters, this renewed website would also integrate the already existing IHEYO-forum (www.iheyo.org/forum) and allow for the management of the email-lists. These technical concerns obviously emanated from the growing importance of virtual communication in people’s lives. Therefore, a powerful website can be a major tool to facilitate the spread of humanist thought and humanist organising.
The renewal of IHEYO’s website within an integrated communication strategy thus became a foremost project for the organisation. Since early July I (Joris Verschueren) have been appointed Communication Officer of IHEYO. The implementation of IHEYO’s new communication ambitions presents me with some challenges. I’ll hover over some of those quickly.
First and foremost, our organisation’s website should provide the interested internet surfer with up-front information on humanism and our organisation. As an organisation for young humanists, it should provide the curious and uninformed with accessible reading bits on humanism. At the same time however, the thirst for information of the more knowledgeable humanist must equally be quenched. And last but not least, our website must be an inviting portal for these humanist individuals and organisations to become involved with our organisation.
To these ends, the architecture of the website is being redesigned. The already existent highlights, such as the “humanism??”-, the “humanist thinkers”- or the Youthspeak archive-sections, to name but a few, will of course be retained. But the overarching idea is that they will be extended and complemented with information on the functioning of our organisation, on our campaigns, our members, and the like … Not only will the new architecture be more intuitively navigable, the content will be largely expanded – especially the thinkers and education sections could use some updating – and supplemented with other resources and links.
But, as said, our website should not limit itself to the unidirectional provision of information. It ambitions to become a platform for exchange on humanist issues between our member organisations, their members and members of the general public. Moreover, it is to become a tool in the hands of our member organisations, a tool that they can use to organise and discuss on the world-wide web (see also the interview with Lars-Petter Helgestad in this issue). Dynamics that come about on this web-portal can result in material advances for our member organisations.
Therefore, the already existing forum will be integrated in the website. It will gain a more prominent position alongside the other information provided. Pages on humanist issues, thinkers or education will include space for discussion and link through to corresponding forum items. The provision of more topics for discussion intends to make the forum more vibrant and thus to draw more visitors of the website into conversations on humanism. In order to attract more participants to our forums, we will experiment with the integration of discussion groups of member organisations into the overall IHEYO website – following the idea that our website should become a tool in their hands.
This strategy touches upon a third concern – sustainability. The renewed IHEYO website is to become the result of a participatory endeavour. The expansion of fora throughout the website is an implicit invitation for visitors to contribute content to our website, content that subsequently becomes part of the information provided. As this participation is fundamental to the vibrancy of our website, my aim is to set up website working group to maintain the website, be it by providing content, be it by managing the website’s architecture, be it by moderating one or more fora. This aims to kill two birds with one stone; first of all, as soon as the website is no longer authored by one single person, it better reflects the international humanist community – a group will always provide more, and more diversified content – secondly, as things are now, IHEYO can only count on my work as a communication officer until the end of December. From then on, the maintenance of the website has to be handed over to a group of volunteers. The website working group will gain full prominence once the new website is taken on-line and has replaced the current one, but a small number of volunteers has already taken up this work. So, take this as a warm invitation to become involved in the creation of IHEYO’s public image! If you want to contribute, in any way, to the new website or the new communication strategy, please contact me ASAP!
A fourth, but therefore not less important concern – it’s based on my experience when I lived in Africa – is the accessibility of our website. As an international organisation, IHEYO cannot afford to boast a website that is only accessible over a high-speed connection such as broadband. This implies that the design, the “fanciness” of our website, however important, may not hamper the transfer of the information it contains. We are now working on different lay-outs, for our visitors to choose according to the speed of their connection. We hope that a leaner design will undergird the openness, the vibrancy and the liveliness of our foremost communication channel.
This, of course, has been a lot of talk on a project that is not finalised yet. We hope to get it up and running in a few weeks time. I, for one, hope that this project may have enthused you, and the sooner you take part, the sooner it will be ready! So: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Joris Verschueren, Communication Officer of IHEYO