• dibco1 2020 discusionfsm input36 en

last modified September 20, 2020 by facilitfsm

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This text  is a contribution made in the context of a online round table " World Social Forum Today" organized as a self organized activity in the context of 2021 edition of finnish social forum  http://openfsm.net/projects/espacios-oe/evento2020-suomi-social-forum

it concentrates on the notion of “facilitation” and “format of participation in a manifestation of WSFs process". So this is a frame for looking back on 20 years of WSF process, and also for  looking to the immediate future of WSF 2021 event and process. Three proposals for new format of participation are made.




Since   2001, the principles for the continuity of the “word social forum process” shape, based on Porto Alegre first experience, a conceptual vision of this “process of WSFs”:

  • “What it is and is not” : it is not presented as an actor but as a space,
  • “what it is designed for”: it is designed for “articulating actions” among other functions, so it is already conceptually a space for action (%1) and
  • “who are its participants :The WSF charter text describe them extensively (%0)

This is the formal conceptual frame we live in since 2001.  

  • These principles, which can be updated by a International council  WSF, instituted with them, have been meant to guide those willing to organize new editions of the World Social Forum  taking collectively a role of “facilitation” in a manifestation of WSFs Process (i-e the sequences of manifestation that takes place in direct legacy from the WSF 2001 event)

Here is a crucial observation ; The principles guide the implementation,   but they do not specify the “how” they are to be implemented



 4 notions will be successively commented:  “facilitation” ,“formats of participation“ ,“narrative for participation” ,“manifestation of the WSFs process


it is this skill and craft  and experience about “how": how  to implement, in practice, the diverse possible “manifestations” of this world scale WSF process, while respecting those principles, this vision of a space of encounters

  • Facilitation role is a collective role. ( IC WSF as facilitating collective, WSF event organizing collective as facilitating collective).
    • It requires a political vision and compromise to develop the  WSFprocess and the acceptance of self-limitation of political expression of the facilitating body, because there is shared conscience that
      • 1/ political diversity inside the facilitatiing body is such that this expression is not realistic,
      • 2/ political expression of this  facilitating  body it is not meaningful, nor useful, nor legitimate.
  • The deep responsibility of the facilitating collective   is to produce, or validate, through consensus decision making,  formats of participation proposed to all participants, that make up a participation frame coherent with the WSF principles .Noting that participants can be one hundred times more numerous than the facilitating collective.  Hopefully supported by mobilization/invitation efforts, supported by a participation narrative  explaining "why and how" participate, this participation frame will make the WSF process attractive and relevant to the potential participants.
  • The decision process in the facilitation collective about  its facilitation related decisions is consensus /consent,   which is not necessarily considered a "democratic" protocol,  as it is not imported from parliamentarian practices .
    • This consensus option  is specifically because, despite the political diversity inside the facilitation collective, there is one open space that need to be sustained in consensus/together by this facilitating collective, as a common service proposed to invited participants. So there is no point to ask for “democratic decision making” inside the facilitation collective, if this means traditional democratic decision making with vote and majority decision inside the facilitation collective .
    • Indeed the deep shared political responsibility of a facilitating collective is not to produce political statements, or  political objective for the forum: powerful articulations of participants entities, inside the forum process-space that the facilitating collective “co-produces”   can make statements,  with much more legitimacy and impact. 
  • The realistic challenge of WSFs process facilitation in practice is reaching consensus about implementation of WSF vision inside the politically diverse facilitation   collective : one common open space to host our political diversity, and stimulate many effects through relevant participation formats. 
    • The ultimate  assessment criteria for the facilitating collective is the perception of participants, not the opinion in the facilitation collective about its own work.  It is whether participants feel and express that the process, in its formats of participation/implementation, is giving them more possibilities to reach their own participation goals, so they will gladly re-participate in a next implementation of the process.
    • Criticizing the WSF principles is an easy escape from the responsibility of a poor quality facilitation and implemenation of those principles, that is "not up the what it could be or should be". There is a need for a self-critical view on implementation, and for persistent care and creativity about this implementation.
    • Social forum processes die when they do not attract new participants, and disappoint those that have come , Longevity is not guaranteed, see the processes that have faded away : European, Americas, USSF to cite the most important. Also, what about the many WSF events, where the facilitating collective have left no visible local legacy in the city country where those events have taken place. This high mortality rate of social forum processes invites self-critical examination and humbleness.
  • Notion of implementation:   in practice, facilitation consists in “Implementing” WSF vision in a given manifestation of the WSF process. It means that the facilitation collective will be exploring , defining, preparing and proposing concretely, to real participants (who are described generically in the charter) a formal participation frame for their horizontal, diverse, and empowered participation.
  • Notion of frame for participation : It is a set of formats and times for participation, whether self-organized, or common, which make the “WSF open space of encounters” vision” become a palpable experience.



So far, the basic self-organized format of participation in the forums is “ face to face activity of dialogue”.  It has been the unique ingredient in the  WSF facilitation kitchen   (any assembly is an activity).   One can argue that there is a lack of other self-organized formats, that would make the participation experience more inclusive and relevant, according to three dimensions.


a/ ON ACCESS TO THE FORUM PROCESS : Format related to online dialogues,  and remote participation in distant activities

  • The on line dialogue experience, has accelerated in the 2020 pandemics. It is equitably accessible across the planet,  inasmuch the digital divide is overcome with solidarity, funding in countries with poor connectivity, and local organizing-   ( eg organizing "WSF cafés", where a group of people both interact face to face, while they take part in several possible online dialogues.
  • This on line  dialogue experience is different from face to face interaction. It allows to go deeper in dialogues, especially between people that already had a face to face contacts.
    • It  makes sense to define a specific format of participation to reflect this difference with activities:   self-organized “encounter on line”, (%2),with at least two sessions, with by a chatroom   between   those sessions. Also this format of dialogue is more intricate with everyday action for another possible world. It is possible to envision "encounters" spanning over a long period, which have no equivalent in face-to-face interaction. 


b/ ON ACTION OUTSIDE THE FORUM SPACE  : Need for a format more directly related to action. it could be “self-organized initiatives by WSF participants. Initiatives can be resistance or advocacy struggles and campaigns, transformative projects.

  • This idea is “on the table of IC WSF, through the conclusion of a working group end of 2017 and waiting for a serious and focused discussion. Meanwhile, It is being implemented in other processes of global WSF process:  pan Amazonian SF  and transformative economies SF (%3)   
  • Introduction of this “initiative”  self organized "action focused participation format" would also allow creating new range of possibilities inside the forum space of a given manifestation of WSF process.
    •  A common space : “inter-initiative space” , A common participatory moment : “agora of futures”. (%3)   A common aggregative document : Calendar of futures, with public action dates from all initiatives placed in a manufestation of this process, comparable to the other main aggregative document which is the program of all activities  placed in that same manifestation.
  • Also, existence of this "initiative participation format" would stimulate in the forum space, a popular education exchange of experience about action plans and  the various"forms of action", that can be coexisting in some powerful decentralized public action dates.
    • To give an example of those exchanges: a generic categorization of "forms of action" could be discussed, to be used  in the Calendar of futures, with a growing level of commitment required from participants committing to perform those actions :   refl-action, manifest-action, argument-action, involve-action, expose-action.



 One format more directly related to communication could be   “news from WSF,  format published in participants name. (%4)

  • It is a “format, through which both the many participating entities and the facilitating collective, its commissions and working groups,  can produce equitably, and clearly, in their own names,  news about “what they do in the forum” , and “how they see the forum”.
  • Those news would be equitably published and made visible in a specific news from WSF repository website, and be made available for self-organized dissemination by participants in their various social networks.  



A narrative for participation can be told and communicated on the basis of that participation frame. The narrative can be a main didactical tool , to popularize basic distinctions, popularize a vocabulary, and ways of expression that do not “actorize” the forum as a “big helping brother”. The narrative can propose to participants a clear vocabulary to describe what they can do in the forum space, how to use the forum process as a tool, how to participate actively in it.

The narrative can be didactical about some messages: 

  • a/ Participants are the political actors in WSF space, and are invited to articulate themselves, in the ways and up to where they can and want.
  • b/ “Participation acts” in the forum space are in principle voluntary, they can be formalized  and made explicit   In the implementation proposed in "its" given WSF process manifestation, the facilitation collective can encourage/request  to formalize them (for example : fill an online form to announce an initiative) and/or encourage to  explicit them ( signing a document expressing a political agreement, made in an assembly).
  • c/ Participants have three main type of relationships in the forum space: they can coexist, they can dialogue, they can articulate, ally, form a coalition for a specific scope of action .
    • Articulation  does not imply that their visions and goals are "converging". The notion of convergence may not be helpful here. Convergence is not a precondition for articulation while mutual political willingness to find an agreement about some level of alliance for joint action is.
  • d/ There is a fundamental distinction participation / facilitation : .facilitation is about producing the formats in which participation is made, and participation, is about producing political contents  in one's name using those formats of participation.
    • Any participant in a certain manifestation of the WSFs process can contribute to facilitation tasks , in the “frame of facilitation” that is produced by the facilitation collective  preparing this manifestation.  
    •  Entities present in the facilitation collective of this manifestation are also participants without privilege, political actors speaking in their own name. 



These manifestations can be diverse, they are not in principle limited to just “ face to face event “, which have been the dominant format since 2001.   For instance, WSF2008 which appeared as a “global week of action” was the first WSFs manifestation without physical central event.

  • The current situation with the pandemics obliging to postpone the face-to-face event WSF in january 2021, is an opportunity to formalize a online process phase,  which can be another manifestation of the WSF process , placed before, around, under, after, the face to face  WSF 2021 event manifestation.
  • Also , there could be  a “transmutation” of a WSF event facilitation collective and its event website, into the facilitation collective  and website of an eventless extension dynamic,   proposed in particular to the participants that came in this WSF event and opened an account in its website. It would be a way to invite them  to a new experience of participation, more focused on local activities and inter local dialogues.



Focusing, inside a WSF process manifestation facilitation collective, on the irrelevant issue of importing democratic protocols for taking democratic political decision, which are out of its legitimate scope, will only be leading this collective to tensions, neutralizations , or dislocation. And it it will divert its members from their core responsibility: which is to  implement the WSF vision together.   

What is strategically important for the facilitating collective, willing to implement a given manifestation of the WSF process, is to focus on quality of implementation of WSF vision through  relevant formats of participation, and a carefully crafted and disseminated “participation narrative”. Three proposals for such participation formats have been made. 





This input focused on facilitation tasks and formats of participation, is contributed as input 36 in DIBCO1 dialogue initiative

DIBCO 1 is a frame of “written Discussions Based on COmments”. Those interested to access 30+ inputs, and possibly comment some of these, are invited to go to www.openfsm.net website, and search for the expression _dibco1intro”  ( http://openfsm.net/projects/dibco1/)