An Oral History of the Modern Commonwealth

Lead Research Organisation: University of London
Department Name: Inst of Commonwealth Studies

Abstract

The current project seeks to disseminate the findings of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies' AHRC-funded Commonwealth Oral History Project. The follow-on grant will fund an early-career academic to act as Project Officer on a full-time basis for 9 months. Working in close collaboration with the PI, they will have day-to-day responsibility for the organization of dissemination events and liaison with the Institute's partner bodies in the UK and in Malta. They will also produce the associated educational materials, reports, and will collaborate in producing the script for the public-engagement documentary. The project officer will also take a proactive role, in conjunction with the SAS Communications office, in liaising with journalists to link material from the COHP to current developments in the Commonwealth or anniversaries of major events in order to ensure that it feeds into news reporting.

Engaging a broader non-academic audience with the 'high-level' interviews of the COHP, we will introduce the project at the Bloomsbury Festival in October 2015. During the event we will ask local Bloomsbury residents and workers from Commonwealth countries to record on video how the Commonwealth's historical links have shaped their own lives. We intend to use some of this footage in the public-engagement documentary which will be part of the follow-on project.

A key event will be a launch seminar in Malta towards the end of November at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). All national delegations and civil society organizations attending the meeting will be invited to send representatives, as will the global media. The event, which will be hosted by the University of Malta, will seek to identify possible lessons from the COHP interviews for contemporary policy-makers. The event will be filmed and included as a podcast on the COHP website.

The follow-on project has the enthusiastic support of the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Members of the COHP team have been invited to offer a presentation on the website at the CPA's 'Westminster Workshop' in London in November. The CPA connects senior parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth including MPs speakers and parliamentary officials. The Westminster Workshop provides another important opportunity to disseminate the findings of the project to a genuinely global audience of policy-makers.

The project will draw upon the networks of the ICwS's sister institution, the Institute of Historical Research to organize a training seminar for teachers of History at post-GCSE secondary and tertiary level to demonstrate how the COHP website can be used as an educational resource.

In January 2016, the Institute will host an afternoon training seminar for staff at the Commonwealth Secretariat drawing out the key findings of the oral history project. The same month it will organize a seminar at Marlborough House, in collaboration with the communications department of the Commonwealth Secretariat, aimed at the London diplomatic community from both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries.

The project officer will liaise with staff from the FCO's Historical department and Commonwealth department to produce a short report on the relevance of the COHP findings for contemporary British foreign policy. This will be presented to officials and ministers at a special seminar at the FCO, which the Foreign Office Historians have already agreed to host.

The project officer will also be responsible for developing the script for an internet-based 90-minute public-engagement documentary video (in partnership with Impact Media Specialists Ltd). This will feature interviews with the PI, CI and principal researcher of the COHP and will include excerpts from the COHP recordings and other historical materials, as well as footage filmed at some of the dissemination events.

Planned Impact

This programme aligns precisely with the aims of the FoF funding scheme: it explores unforeseen pathways to impact by feeding into current developments and debates about the Commonwealth among its member states, particularly about the leadership of the organisation and the scope of its activities; it reaches well beyond academia; and it encourages a range of interactions with political and civil society groups and the general public; it engages with new audiences as well as building upon existing relationships.

Engagement with the media, and in particular the development of the documentary will help to maximize the value and reach of the outputs generated. The benefits to be gained from a better understanding of the Commonwealth among a range of user-groups will, by their nature, be long term and difficult to relate back directly to the impact of the dissemination project. It will, however, be possible to gauge its effectiveness through an appreciable increase in the use of the COHP project over the course of the year, and also by the citation of the COHP material in a range of outlets including academic works, the media and reports by policy-makers and think-tanks.

The fact that this project will operate out of the ICwS will ensure that the impact of the project extends well beyond the 9-month duration of its funding. Exploring and explaining the history, role and nature of the Commonwealth is an-ongoing part of the core business of the ICwS. It is expected that the events organized in concert with the FCO, the CPA and the Commonwealth Secretariat will strengthen their relationship with the ICwS, and will demonstrate the value of the COHP website to their staff and associates. As such, these and other organizations will be even more likely to call on the academic staff of the ICwS in subsequent years to participate in similar training events, again making use of the materials on the COHP website.

Each major activity undertaken will target a distinct constituency:

* The Bloomsbury Festival event will engage with the non-academic general public.

* The event at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association 'Westminster Workshop' will discuss the findings of the COHP with parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth.

* The event for Commonwealth ministers and officials at the CHOGM in Malta will deepen an understanding of the recent history of the Commonwealth among current policy-makers.

* The event at Marlborough House for staff from the Commonwealth Secretariat will demonstrate the relevance of the COHP interviews to some of the challenges currently faced by the Secretariat.

* The seminar held at Marlborough House for members of the diplomatic community in London will increase the awareness and understanding of the Commonwealth among overseas diplomats, particularly those from non-Commonwealth countries.

* The seminar for post-GCSE teachers of History will suggest ways in which the COHP material can be used as an educational resource, both for teaching and for the use of students in projects, essays and dissertations.

* The presentation for visiting students sponsored by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission will increase an understanding of the Commonwealth and its history among the next generation of academics, professionals and policy-makers.

* The presentation of the report on the COHP at special seminar for officials and ministers at the FCO will deepen policy-makers' understanding of the Commonwealth and demonstrate how the organisation's recent history is relevant to current policy issues. The FCO is keenly aware that it is vulnerable to a loss of 'institutional memory', and is enthusiastic about collaborating with the ICwS in this project.

* The documentary produced in partnership with Impact Media Specialists Ltd will introduce the findings of the COHP to a much wider audience both nationally and internationally.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Video Podcasts on the Commonwealth Oral History Project 
Description Four separate videos were created and posted on a specially designated section of the Commonwealth Oral History Project website. They feature commentary by Professor Philip Murphy and Dr Sue Onslow, and written excerpts from the project transcripts. The podcasts cover four separate topics: 'Introduction to Commonwealth Oral Histories', 'Challenges of Elite Interviewing', 'Commonwealth Secretaries-General and Leadership' and 'The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth'. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Viewings to be added. 
URL http://www.commonwealthoralhistories.org/videos-and-podcasts/
 
Description The Key findings are those of grant AH/J006548/1 (An Oral History of the Modern Commonwealth). The purpose of the current follow-on award is to disseminate those findings to a variety of audiences. The grant will continue to run until August 2016, but we have already met a number of objectives. These include public-engagement events at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta and at the Houses of Parliament, a training partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat and (as of 10 March) 8 topical blog articles relating the COHP materials to issues currently in the news, including the election of a new Commonwealth Secretary-General, proposed changes to the New Zealand flag and elections in Uganda.
Exploitation Route In addition to our established collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, we are exploring additional ways in which the COHP material might be used for training purposes by organisations related to or dealing with the Commonwealth. By the end of the follow-on grant period we will have carried out a similar training programme with the FCO, and we are in talks with them about how COHP materials might be incorporated in FCO-sponsored online training resources. Our regular blog pieces produced by the research officer funded by the follow-on award, point to ways in which these materials might also be used by journalists to provide background information to current news items. Members of the team have been working actively with publications such as The Economist and The Diplomat and with news organizations such as the BBC and Channel 4 to ensure that the material also informs news broadcasts and documentaries relating to the Commonwealth.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.commonwealthoralhistories.org/
 
Description The follow-on funding paid for a launch event for the COHP on the fringes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in November 2015. The event attracted attendees from the media and a range of Commonwealth civil-society organizations including the Commonwealth Business Forum. A report in The Times by Valentine Low on the Queen's visit to Malta cited material from the COHP. Professor Murphy and Dr Onslow also delivered a presentation on the COHP to the December 2015 conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which brought together parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth. We have been developing a series of training events and materials based on the COHP findings. The project team has participated in training events for Commonwealth diplomats organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat. It has also prepared the "Multilateral Organisations: The Commonwealth" Practitioner Module for the FCO Diplomatic Academy on-line learning. This is a major contribution to FCO's Diplomatic Academy material, focused on learning outcomes, on the history, evolution and modern realities of the Commonwealth . It comprises 4 units, and draws directly on insights and comments gained in the Commonwealth Oral History project.The viewing figures for the website as a whole for the 12 months up to 13 March 2017 were impressive, and we believe they were boosted by the publicity generated by the blog posts. The figures are as follows: Sessions 15,555 Users 13,525 Page-views 23,426 Pages / Session 1.51 Avg. Session Duration 00:01:07 Bounce Rate 82.19% % New Sessions 86.47% Views by country: Country Sessions % Sessions 1. United Kingdom 3,817 24.54% 2. United States 1,490 9.58% 3. Sri Lanka 1,296 8.33% 4. India 965 6.20% 5. South Africa 804 5.17% 6. Australia 791 5.09% 7. Nigeria 708 4.55% 8. Malaysia 517 3.32% 9. Canada 495 3.18% 10. Kenya 406 2.61%
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Authorship of 2 podcasts for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in-house Diplomatic Academy, entitled Multilateral Organisations - The Modern Commonwealth
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Participation in Commonwealth Secretariat Staff training
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat to use the Commonwealth Oral History Project (COHP) as a training tool. 
Organisation Commonwealth Secretariat
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research and dissemination team of the AHRC-funded project 'An Oral History of the Modern Commonwealth' are collaborating with the Commonwealth Secretariat to produce a Human Resources Training Workshop, to be open to all staff at the Secretariat (currently 306 strong) entitled 'The Commonwealth: Finding a Role'. This will draw on interview material from the COHP to explore the institutional background and evolution of the Commonwealth and the Secretariat, and to examine recent trends of Commonwealth diplomacy on a) human rights; b) women and the Commonwealth; c) the Commonwealth and policy space; d) The Commonwealth and good offices. It is intended to hold this workshop during the Commonwealth Secretariat's 'Learning Week', 16-21st May 2016. The session will be prepared and led by members of the research team.
Collaborator Contribution The Secretariat will provide the venue and administrative support for the Workshop and will advertise it to its staff.
Impact Outcomes will follow the holding of the workshop
Start Year 2016
 
Description A series of Blog articles linking the Commonwealth Oral History material to events in the news. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As part of the engagement activities funded by the follow-on grant, the team posted a series of blog articles written by the project officer, Dr Eva Namusoke. These linked the material in the Commonwealth Oral History project to issues currently in the news. The articles were as follows:
The Maldives Leaves the Commonwealth, 21 Oct 2016,
Hon. Julia Gillard speaks on the Future of the Commonwealth, 7 Oct 2016
August 1979 - The Lusaka CHOGM, 9 Aug 2016
What Brexit means for the Commonwealth, 11 July 2016
The Commonwealth and Brexit, 21 June 2016
On the 90th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, 20 April 2016
Commonwealth Day 2016, 11 March 2016
Although we do not have separate figures for hits on the blog page, the viewing figures for the website as a whole for the 12 months up to 13 March 2017 were impressive, and we believe they were boosted by the publicity generated by the blog posts. The figures are as follows:

Sessions
15,555

Users
13,525

Page-views
23,426

Pages / Session
1.51

Avg. Session Duration
00:01:07

Bounce Rate
82.19%

% New Sessions
86.47%


Views by country:

Country Sessions % Sessions
1. United Kingdom 3,817 24.54%
2. United States 1,490 9.58%
3. Sri Lanka 1,296 8.33%
4. India 965 6.20%
5. South Africa 804 5.17%
6. Australia 791 5.09%
7. Nigeria 708 4.55%
8. Malaysia 517 3.32%
9. Canada 495 3.18%
10. Kenya 406 2.61%
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.commonwealthoralhistories.org/category/blog/
 
Description Launch of the Commonwealth Oral History Project at the 2016 Malta CHOGM 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact An AHRC follow-on grant for the project 'A History of the Modern Commonwealth' funded this formal launch event for the Commonwealth Oral History Project (COHP) website on the fringes of the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. This was held in the Cavalieri Art Hotel, St Julians, Malta on Thursday 26 November 2015. It was attended by representatives of the media and a range of Commonwealth-related organisations including the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Business Council. The PI, Professor Philip Murphy, and the lead researcher, Dr Sue Onslow, presented the major findings of the project and answered questions. Ahead of this event, the research team prepared a booklet for distribution to the media and other attendees. This served to ensure that a Times article on the presence of the Queen at the CHOGM cited material from the COHP website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Organisation of Witness Seminar on the 1997 Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Organisation of a Witness Seminar (group interview) including former British civil servants, and Commonwealth Secretariat officials, on British organisation and hosting of the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh. The event was recorded, and transcribed. The authorised text will be made accessible via the Round Table (the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs) website, and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies website (the Oral History of the Modern Commonwealth). The purpose of the event is as background guidance for current FCO officials, and wider awareness of Britain's historic engagement with the Commonwealth.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation in ITN Production for Channel 5, Elizabeth Our Queen 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A series of interviews in the 8-part documentary series on the Queen, and her contribution to the modern Commonwealth. This has been broadcast on national television in the UK, Australia and Canada.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.channel5.com/show/elizabeth-our-queen/
 
Description Presentation on the COHP at the 64th CPA Westminster Seminar, 3 December 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was an opportunity to present the outcomes of the AHRC-funded project 'An Oral History of the Modern Commonwealth' to an international gathering of politicians. The PI, Professor Philip Murphy, and the lead researcher, Dr Sue Onslow, gave a presentation on the Commonwealth Oral History Project (COHP) at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's (CPA's) 64th Westminster Seminar on Parliamentary Practice and Procedure, which took place at the Houses of Parliament from 30 November to 4 December 2015. This annual conference organised by the UK CPA for first-term parliamentarians and newly appointed procedural/committee clerks from across the Commonwealth brought together 46 parliamentarians and 22 clerks from 32 legislatures. They were addressed by prominent UK parliamentarians including the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.uk-cpa.org/news/formal-westminster-seminar-programme-closes-with-reminder-of-commonwealth...
 
Description Producer's Friend for the BBC commentary of the Commonwealth Multi-Faith Service, Westminster Abbey 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contribution to the live commentary of the Commonwealth Day Multi-Faith Service in Westminster Abbey, in March 2016 and March 2017. Both programmes were broadcast live in the UK, and abroad; and was available afterwards via Iplayer.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017