On July 15 I participated in the Digital Humanities 2013, an international conference hosted by Ken Price, Kay Walter, and their colleagues at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. The four-day conference featured hundreds of compelling papers and posters about digital humanities theory, practice, projects, and tools.

The day before the conference, I hosted a half-day workshop for eighteen digital project leaders seeking to develop sustainability plans. We had a diverse and engaged group of eighteen, with participants ranging from graduate students to senior professors. The group shared their experiences creating and sustaining digital humanities projects, as well as ways to make their projects better.

What is “sustainability planning,” you might ask? At Ithaka S+R, sustainability planning is a not just about helping projects identify funding sources or assuring preservation, although both are important. We see sustainability planning as a holistic process of developing a virtuous cycle of support. Leaders of digital projects—whether a crowd-sourced database, a digitized special collection, or an online journal—can identify what makes a project valuable to their target audience and how that audience might offer support through donated money, time, or even fees.

Figuring out how to do that is not easy! 

Over the course of four hours, our workshop helped participants to:

  • Define the impact they want their projects to achieve
  • Identify the specific activities needed to achieve that impact
  • Think analytically about the audiences they have now and the ones they might want to attract
  • Consider the environments in which their projects operate
  • Develop a hypothesis about what system of activities and funding sources will be sustainable over the long term.

In January 2014, we will be hosting a more intensive version of this course where participants will work with S+R staff to more fully develop, research, test, and refine their sustainability strategies. Project leaders may choose to explore sustainability issues such as

  • securing support from host institutions and other stakeholders
  • understanding your audience and developing robust plans for reaching them
  • testing and prioritizing potential revenue-generating ideas

For information about the January intensive course or attending the next half-day workshop, please email info@sr.ithaka.org.