This year, we achieved a milestone at the Inter-American Development Bank: we hit 10 million downloads of our publications available to the public via our knowledge repository, since we began measuring the indicator in 2013. We reached this figure thanks in grand part to our strategy for disseminating knowledge online with communications campaigns, which has driven exponential growth in the number of downloads over the years. Just to illustrate, 40% of these downloads (4 million of the total 10 million) occurred since the middle of last year.
The IDB is known for its work financing development projects in 26 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. Additionally, the IDB invests a significant amount of time and resources into capturing knowledge from its experiences and research, producing hundreds of high-quality publications including books, technical notes, and monographs. All of these products are available for free and open use by academics, public officials, or anyone else interesting in learning about topics related to development.
Key elements of our digital knowledge strategy
As a result of this organizational milestone, we wanted to take the opportunity to share and reflect on the key actions, turning points and lessons learned over the years in our effort at the IDB to strategically, systematically and massively disseminate the technical knowledge acquired regarding the socioeconomic development of Latin America and the Caribbean, with the intention that these actions can be used by other organizations with similar objectives.
1Establish an open knowledge repository
The first thing the IDB did in 2011 was to design and launch a knowledge repository where all official publications are stored and cataloged, totaling more than 9,750 works. This served to centralize dispersed knowledge, align standards, and provide the user with a powerful platform to find quality information generated by IDB researchers and specialists.
Specifically, we wanted to design a repository that would be open and accessible to everyone. Anyone can download the publication that interests them, without barrier to entry, and we prioritized publishing in a format accessible to a broad audience (PDF).
2 Understand and monitor the reach of our downloads
Later in 2013 we began to measure and disseminate, within and outside the Bank, the number of downloads of the PDF of each publication. This sensitized the authors and their heads about the importance of measuring the digital reach of their reports.
While we are aware that the download is not the optimal indicator to measure the true use of the publications, it has nevertheless been key to measuring our progress in dissemination.
Later on, in 2016, we created a dashboard for internal use to measure the number and origin of the downloads, as well as the popularity of the different topics of the publications. To give an example, the countries where people have downloaded the most publications are the United States, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Argentina.
3 Activate knowledge dissemination via targeted campaigns
Around 2014 we introduced the our so-called Knowledge Dissemination Strategies, a methodology that has helped our authors and editorial teams to consider key questions in advance such as objectives, target audiences, messages and preferred communication channels, taking into account that the IDB has a variety of channels at its disposal to disseminate its publications.
Around the same time, we also began to systematically design communication campaigns to promote publications among target audiences, including organic and paid promotions through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as segmented e-mail marketing.
4 Adopt an open license
La adopción de estas licencias hace parte de la estrategia del Banco por impulsar el conocimiento abierto como una línea de trabajo, Como parte de estos esfuerzos, el Banco lanzó el blog Abierto al Público (2014), la oferta de Cursos Masivos Abiertos en Línea a través de la plataforma de edX (2014), el portal de datos abiertos Números para el Desarrollo (2015) y el repositorio de código abierto Código para el Desarrollo (2017).
In 2015, the IDB adopted two Creative Commons licenses, a key step in the opening of its knowledge that allows the public to use, reuse, edit and distribute, free of charge and legally, the contents covered under these licenses.
The adoption of these licenses is part of the Bank’s strategy to promote open knowledge as a line of work. In extension of these efforts, the IDB launched the Abierto al Público blog (2014), began offering Massive Open Online Courses through the edX platform (2014), launched the open data portal Numbers for Development (2015) and the open source repository Code for Development (2017).
5Fine-tune campaigns to the interests of the public
With the aim of aligning and systematizing the dissemination of publications, in 2017 we created a daily editorial meeting, where the IDB communications team meets to analyze the impact of the communication efforts and make adjustments to campaigns. In these meetings, we discuss daily headlines throughout the region, analyze trends in social networks, and observe the patterns of downloads of particular publications. This helps inform decisions about what contents to publish or promote through the IDB’s digital channels or other means of communication.
One of the main beneficiaries of these strategies and campaigns has been Development in the Americas (DIA), the Bank’s flagship publications series. To give an idea, while the book Collecting is Not Enough from 2013 achieved 14,640 downloads, the 2017 edition Learning Better already has over 60,000 downloads.
6 Adopt more sophisticated tools
Finally, in 2018, after a detailed study of our needs to better connect with our clients and specific audiences, we implemented a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, which we are using to manage the IDB’s external contacts and to improve the type of campaigns of email marketing that we send to our subscribers.
Over the years, these efforts have brought us good results: when we began to measure downloads of publications in 2013, it took us 536 days to accumulate one million downloads, a figure that in 2018 is only 72 days.
Needless to say, the dissemination of publications requires specialized teams, including authors, researchers, editors, graphic designers, librarians, team leaders, communicators, digital marketing specialists and data analysts, among others.
Even with these results in mind, we still face multiple challenges when it comes to knowledge dissemination that we are in the process of addressing. Among them, the strategic selection of the topics of the publications, how to connect with younger audiences, exploring new alliances with external partners, and how to take advantage of emerging digital channels to package and disseminate knowledge in a fast-paced and information-saturated world.
Those who have innovative ideas of how to achieve these goals, we invite you to share them with us.
By Andrés Cavelier from the Knowledge, Innovation, and Communications Sector at the IDB