• Comcom Report draft

last modified June 8, 2010 by jnardi




The Communication commission met on the 5th of May and had an intense day of work, discussing and preparing the meeting for the second day of the IC. As the suggested methodology of having meetings between all commissions, one-to-one, on the first day had been only partially included in the IC agenda, it was decided that the best way to work on all issues involving communication in the other commissions was to have those exchanges included in the plenary, as a way to start a more intense interaction and exchange of ideas within the IC.
Three main goals of the plenary session where proposed: assessing the work done until now, in particular for the wsf 2010; laying the grounds for the preparation of a seminar on communication policies and strategy in the Dakar IC; building together the elements for a 2011 communication plan.

The IC plenary on communication was thus structured with a dialogic method using words, music and dance, to allow a concrete circulation of ideas, in three parts:

  1. a presentation of the work and proposals of the Com Com for 2010 and towards the Dakar WSF (see annex)

  2. a “face to face” dialogue in groups split according to the IC Commissions (Methodology, Expansion, Strategy and Resources) to share ideas, priorities and suggestions to start building a new strategy on communication on a mid-term basis

  3. a debate in plenary starting from feedbacks coming from the dialogue groups.

The presentation was based on the activities of the Communication commission in 2010 and the tools which have been implemented up to now. The concerns discussed revolved around issues of internal and external communication and the politics of communication and explored some alternative methodologies to interact and generate debate and transformation, while producing useful material for the communication practices of the IC member organisations.

Though it was pointed out that the WSF in itself is no longer news – after 10 years of history -, issues of concern were explored on how to broaden and deepen the reach of the WSF idea, both within its space and to a larger audience. It was highlighted how the communication among the different spaces that make the WSF could be further developed on the principles expressed in its Charter and with a view to generate a new culture of politics.

The presentation highlighted history, process, values and outcomes of the work of the Communication Commission and its members, such as the shared projects of Ciranda, WSFtv and radio, Terraviva, the experiments of Social Forum Expanded (such as the successful Mexican one), the Virtual Media Centre, the work of the techies involved in generating tools and opportunities of engagement, as well as potential collaborations towards Dakar 2011 such as that with Flame of Africa. Communication hubs as those presented are different ways to establish virtual spaces of convergence which resemble in their virtual form the spaces facilitated by the WSF events.

Establishing a connection between the two dimensions of the WSF, the real and the virtual, could generate virtuous cycles of exchange between spheres that at the moment are not fully explored. At the same time, such hubs could contribute to document the expressions of the new culture of politics in fieri, its challenges and its opportunities.

But websites are only a part of the work; international press facilitation, alternative press articulation and informing a larger number of potential participants, in different countries, contexts and languages, are all challenges that need to be taken steps further. The general vision of the communication commission is that of being a means to help make the WSF process visible worldwide, to help facilitate the dialogical and participatory practices, to promote the exchange of information between different actors and the accumulation of experiences, in other words to promote a culture of transformation.

The following issues have been discussed and emerged as priorities from the second part of the plenary:

Strategy and Communication

- Communication is political, not because it is an expression of power, but because it is a way to mainstream the WSF issues. This is the reason why there is a strong need to share WSF movements' and participant organisations’ (in particular, IC members) views on communication to build together effective strategies.

- STRategy and COMmunication commissions can work together to open different spaces to sollicit and host views and analysis from different movements and thematic issues

- A first concrete example is the Strategy project to collect analysis from “strategy debates” occuring at different levels/topics/subjects:

     > The «strategies debates of movements» telected questions (situation and crisis; development of movements; alternatives; expectations of the process and of Dakar).

     > The «stategies debates of events» related to questions and discussions presented by participants In 2010 events.

     > The « thematic policy debate » twith a list of topics determined by the the Working group of the Strategy commission. It will consider the strategic axes of the WSF 2011 in Dakar.

The strategic debate could be further extended by the creation of a socialforumpedia, a WSF Wikipedia - together with the Communication Commission.

- The group affirmed that a permanent debate between STR and COM is needed, to search together for new ways to make the WSF more visible and relevant for social movements and civil society worldwide and to understand how a strategic use of the internet can help it.

Methodology and Communication

Communication and Methodology have to understand how to present the WSF core message “Another world it’s possible” in a more attractive, updated and meaningful way.

Among the major concerns / priorities to debate and solve, the following emerged:

- How to make the successful alternatives more visible

- How to reach different political cultures

- How to use different modalities to communicate: not just media, but also music, dance and other cultural and artistic dimensions.

- How to invite and give space in Dakar to other networks and perspectives which havent's participated in the past.

Members of the Methodology and Communication commissions agreed that:

all WSF IC members should implement one/some of those priorities - both are engage to create inside WSF process a space of good practices of communication - they will work to empower the communication between commissions in WSF process through the IC agenda. 

A simple decentralized communication strategy was proposed in the working group consiting in inviting wsf process participant organizations to
disseminate actively 4 common messages:

1- Another world is possible
2- There are alternatives and successful experiences showing this
3- We in WSF process are trying to  build a new political culture
4- We invite you to participate in WSF2011 to discuss these three messages with us

This communication effort that can be adapted in many forms (non verbal, music etc ). The group proposed to start exploring this communication strategy with the organizations engaged in the methodology commission list. Some questions will be circulated about how the organisations intend to be
active on these 4 messages towards Dakar and what kind of support they expect from IC communication commission. Answers will be shared in a "space for good practices of communication on WSF" where organizations can exchange and share links to informative material.

Expansion and Communication

- Expansion posed the question on how Communication commission could support the WSF communication process more than communicate it by itself. A different approach is needed, with the help of Methodology, to mix together small training events, caravans, traditional communication tools, virtual expansion of local events.

- There is a perception of too many WSF communication tools in place

- How can Communication empower EXP work with a more active use of the e-lists (list/regular meetings)?

- Internet access is limited: how to mitigate this imbalance? Community radio, satellite tv, cellphones technologies can help

- There is a challenge with the plurality of languages to face with accurate translations, allowing local translators/organizations to support the WSF process

Resources and communication

- Tools: linked to the process (Openfsm), event (Dakar). The use the common websites and tools is positive, but poses problems around the table in relation to accountability, responsibility,technology.

- Two approaches: look what’s key for Dakar as immediate needs, but also on a long term.

- How to reach a broader view than the WSF events (events like Cochabamba or Cancun, which are not directly linked to the WSF).

- Mainstream media: good media team especially for Dakar

- Seminar in July to finalize a workplan for Dakar: how to resource it.

    In the third part of the session, after sharing back from the workgroups, several issues were discussed in the debate. These are the main topics which emerged:

    - The “WSF message”: should the IC shape it? The focus on “alternatives”
    While the role of the IC is not that of determining which is the most important topic or the central issue of the WSF, it can help to give visibility to the common messages, where the more universal focuses emerge from the debates. Yet there is a general contradiction in the fact that the IC cannot prioritize issues, but realize that each forum has its main histories and approaches. Since no one can “speak on behalf” of the WSF (Charter of principles), what the IC can do is try to give impulse to methodologies and ways of communicating that favor synergies and convergences, and help keep the focus on broad trends (the focus on existing alternatives, which is part of the main vision of the WSF: “Another world is possible”). The Charter of principles doesn’t impede to the “WSF movement” in general to communicate itself. The needs we face are to establish the relationship between message and communication. It’s not a problem of the Com Commission but of the IC. How the “message” can be elaborate in a new way, linked to our “public”: WSF movements, Movements outside WSF, General public.

    - The role of the Communication in the WSF process

    Communication does not start and finish with a Forum event and is a responsibility of the whole IC as well as of the organising committees. All IC members' organisations should take into account in their everyday operations how to relate to the WSF process and make it visible to their contituencies. Concerns were expressed on how to help the visibility of the multiple realities inside and outside WSF process. And how to make evident that the WSF is the space/dynamic that could help solve the crises by bringing together and helping network civil society actors and citizens worldwide. Some also find a permanent tension on how to make struggles and alternatives more visible and on who is in charge to communicate this: the IC or the organisations participating in the WSF?

    - The role of the Com Com to support the WSF process

    Members of the Com com see their role as not to be the communication of the WSF itself, but to facilitate and to support who does it (be it mainstream or indipendente media, organisers or participants of the events, etc.), making sure it is not dispersed, by stimulating convergence and sharing platforms (hubs) and resources. The role of the IC Communication Commission, some argue, is not merely that of a technical group, but is to be a support Commission. The challenge is how to use all the technical skills we accumulated to elaborate and disseminate issues and how to push it and stimulate WSF Organisations to contribute as well.
    Some have pointed out that the Communication and Commission works more for the WSF process, than for the IC itself and that there is a need for more dialogue and communication between IC commissions.

    - The “tools” to make an international facilitation concrete

    While the development of common tools at the international level have been positively commented, stressing the need for more cooperation between the Forum tools and the concrete dynamics of the movements; some see too much focus about tools (and too many of the latter), whereas they would concentrate on defining issues and priorities for the communication of the WSF process. As this is a work in progress, it will be an issue for further debate in the next IC meeting, as well as the necessary increase in collaboration with the work of the WSF office and the challence of solving the language and interpretation issues both during WSF events and for the WSF process in general.


    - The Communication process towards Dakar
    The Dakar forum, as people of its organising committee affirm, needs to have materials and means to communicate it as soon as possible. We have to identify different tasks: the Com Com has its responsibilities, but it’s not enough. The local organizing committees have their own responsibilities for communication and the key is cooperation. We have to identify task/tools/resources to be transferred to local groups when needed by event’s promotion and communication.

    A seminar will be organised in Dakar in July to discuss the collaboration and cooperation needed. The date still needs to be found.

      The debate ended with the agreed proposal to continue discussing in the next IC and to open it even further with a special seminar during the Wsf 2011. Final remarks pointed out:
      - the need to evaluate the relevance of the WSF for movements and how it can be renewed.
      - we need to strength the cooperation among us (starting by members of Comcom participating in mailing lists of other commissions)
      - we need to clarify responsibilities
      - communication is not just a technical matter but a matter of a vision
      - the challenge is not just to elaborate a “message” of the Forum, but how we can renew the spirit of the Forum and communicate it