Annually, at Bristol University Press, we nominate a charity of the year. In 2020, we chose Julian House, which offers support to people experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse, addiction recovery and more. In a year that has been tough for everyone, on and off the streets, we raised a company record of £13,268.
A proportion of the money was raised through the efforts of our in-house team. Back in February, pre-lockdown one, we ran a bake sale, and in September, many of us took part in a 20-mile sponsored walk, organised by Julian House. By necessity, many of our fundraising activities moved online: we had a company quiz early on, before ‘zoom fatigue’ became a thing, and our Strictly sweepstake provided much-needed entertainment in the dark months of winter.
Yet the larger share of the money raised – over £10,000 – came from the broader academic community, for which we, and Julian House, are extremely grateful.
As one of our core business practices, we solicit peer reviews for all our new books and journals. This involves sending out proposals for new books to colleagues in academia and practice, to ask for their input. What contribution will this book make to the field? How might the planned content or structure be improved? Has the author missed anything important? And our review process doesn’t stop there. We operate a double review system, which means that once a manuscript has been written, we ask an expert reviewer to read the whole book before it goes to press. Authors, editors and readers all benefit, as issues are ironed out and impact is increased before a word is printed.
When we consider a new journal for publication, this review process is, if anything, even more important. Does the field need a new journal? How might we develop the journal to reflect new ideas and trends in a particular area? Obtaining feedback from potential readers at an early stage is crucial as we develop publication and marketing plans.
We do offer an honorarium, in cash or books, to our reviewers. The margins in academic publishing do not allow for these honoraria to be very generous – really they are a token. Academic colleagues take on such reviewing as a service to their community, as much as for any other reason. For the past two years, we have been able to offer a third option to our reviewers – that they donate their fees to our charity of the year – and in 2020, their generosity has meant that a sum of £10,756 has gone to support the work of Julian House.
This money has helped Julian House offer work experience and training to adults experiencing homelessness, and specialist support and refuge to adults and children escaping domestic abuse. This has been particularly important in a year where so many fundraising activities have had to be cancelled, and when the pandemic has exacerbated housing issues for those with precarious accommodation or who are experiencing domestic abuse. It has also demonstrated the power of business to play its part in supporting services for the most vulnerable in our society, by adapting a core practice to a charitable end.
When we started this initiative at Bristol University Press, I don’t think that anyone expected we would raise an annual sum of more than £10,000. We were hoping for a few thousand at most. Yet on reflection, this should not have astonished us. Our reviewers and readers have core values that align with ours – a shared commitment to social justice and progressive social change. It is not surprising that so many have elected to support Julian House as recompense for their hard work in reviewing proposals and manuscripts.
Not surprising – but still wonderful.
All of us here at Bristol University Press offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has so generously supported our new ‘review and donate’ scheme, and may we take the opportunity to wish all our authors, editors, readers and reviewers a very happy 2021.
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