by Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz
Higher Education for Good: Teaching and Learning Futures is a book (soon to be published) that offers ways of thinking, conceptualising and creating possibilities for (re)making higher education, focusing on futures that foreground inclusion, equity, social justice, care and sustainability.
In this post, we describe how we set out to create and curate the book as a cohesive collection, enacting the editorial principles of heterogeneity, care, and community (which we explored in our previous blog post). Conceptualising and curating the collection, it was important to us that the book not be simply a bundle of chapters with an overarching theme, or a publishing spot for existing chapters on tangential topics, in need of a home.
Laura and I spent a good six months in deep discussion about our vision, our hopes, and our ideas for bringing them to life, before publishing our call for proposals. With the intention of a diverse, global authorship for the book, we worked hard to share the call for proposals far and wide. This required several “waves” of sharing and invitations. Initially, we shared with people, organisations and networks with whom we were already familiar – publishing on our blogs and social media, always using the hashtag #HE4Good. After this, we searched for names and contact details for regional and national organisations and projects in relevant areas, speakers at relevant conferences, and UNESCO chairs in higher education-related areas, inviting them to share the CfP and perhaps to submit a proposal. We also took the opportunity to present our ideas, through for example GO-GN, a network with international reach. And we reached out personally to invite individuals whose perspectives and ideas we found valuable and which aligned with our vision.
The required proposal was longer than usual (about 1000 words) and required a clear alignment with the book’s themes. To our delight, within two months we had received nearly 100 proposals. After a thorough review (and much more discussion – this book has been an ongoing discussion!), we invited the authors of 32 proposals to submit chapters for HE4Good. While awaiting proposals, we created a set of criteria by which to assess each. Firstly, each proposal was assessed to see how well it met the details outlined in the call; this included exploring key principles which speak to “good” and including a focus on teaching and learning. Secondly, we prioritised proposals indicating creative approaches. Where specific projects were described, we prioritised proposals that considered projects in wider contexts and as catalysts for broader issues. Where proposals were based on individual reflections, we prioritised those that were linked to broader issues, specifically, how to create better futures. Even with this set of criteria, we found that there were more proposals than we could accommodate in the book. Thus, in a final, difficult round of selection, we considered the book as a whole, prioritising diversity of geographic location, HE context, and authorship, so that the book would represent as wide a range of standpoints and HE contexts as possible.
In all communications with authors, from the start we made it clear that we intended the project deadlines to be real. In order for the book to come out within a reasonable timeframe, both we and the authors had to do our best to stick to deadlines.
Once authors were writing, we turned our attention to building personal, collaborative partnerships with all authors. Whether authors had been known to us previously or not, and whatever each author’s position, location or circumstances, we sought to support each author so that their voice and chapter would be the best it could be.
At the same time, we also sought to create a community of authors. This was important for two reasons. Firstly, it would lead to a more coherent book, with echoes and themes running across chapters. Of course, we could do some of this work as editors, but it is more authentic when authors speak directly to one another. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this book has never been simply a book. For us it has been a contribution to coalition-building, for making connections between dispersed voices, too often isolated from one another, and all sharing deep concerns about the state of higher education. It is not enough to feel or point out the problems, it is essential to explore and create alternatives, and to build momentum towards alternative futures.
To begin building such a community, we initially invited the 70+ authors to share their chapter titles, abstracts and contact details, so that these could be shared across the entire author community . We created shareable folders so that authors could share their drafts, if they wished. Several authors made contact with one another this way, to engage in discussion and to share their work as it developed. As we describe in the next blog post, the fact that authors peer reviewed one another’s work made a real difference too.
In addition, we organised two online meet-ups at different dates/times, necessary because authors were dispersed globally across nineteen time zones. These provided spaces for getting to know one another, for identifying shared themes and gaps. Building on ideas from authors, we also scheduled two subsequent ‘Drop In and Write’ sessions; while functioning as allocated quiet spaces for writing, these also included opportunities for fruitful discussion.
In terms of organising this as an editorial project… yes, it is all time consuming. And yes, there is always more that can be done. And yet. Over the course of twelve months, from acceptance of chapter proposals (February 2022) to submission of the book manuscript to the publisher (February 2023) – and beyond – our vibrant author/editor community has fueled ideas, imaginations and spirits. As editors, we have been continually gratified and humbled at the level of dedication, scholarship and kindness of the HE4Good authors – and look forward to sharing the fruits of this community of scholars when the book is published, openly, in just a few weeks.
In the next blog post in this series, we will describe the peer review process with the option of open peer review, as well as the mentoring offered to authors.
Image: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash