• gitandwsf farewelltowsf discussion input7

last modified September 30, 2019 by facilitfsm




Farewell to what?

This discussion is provocatively named “Farewell to WSF”?. This question could be provocatively answered “Farewell to What?”

Indeed in this discussion, those ready to be “undertakers of WSF”, whether happy or sad, have not developed much what is this WSF” or “Forum” they are ready to say farewell to“. 

A fundamental activity between ‘those willing to continue to use or develop this process’ has been and remain formalizing the collective experience of WSF process.  That means developing exchange of ideas and evolving notions and vocabulary about “what WSF is meant to be”, “how it can be communicated”, “How it can be what it is meant to be” and "What can be collective “ways forward” between those caring for it".

 Preliminary note: This input is resorting to two other texts

- FW   WSF  future of what?   and has several sections referred to as FW1 to FW8

- C7I0 comments on input#0 from perspective of input#7  in the discusion  and has several sections referred to as C7I0PI to C7I0PC    


Throughout those twenty years, current economic hegemony has remained the same and the politics backing this hegemony have added darker values to the sad passions of competition, greed, envy, consumerism.

Throughout those twenty years it is a fact that “WSF process” has been visible through significant events  but has  not grown to counter hegemonic scale, nor to a steady “counter Davos” format.

Throughout those twenty years, there have been proposals/calls for bringing together transformative forces, such as PGA (dating back to 1996)  PIA  (started 2019 in Caracas) and others developing dynamics around climate justice and post development issues.

At the same time, unless evidence is brought for the contrary, so far no comparable decentralized, horizontal, and scalable multi-thematic counter hegemonic “process” proposal is in sight. Insisting here on the difference between the words “process” and “movement”.

In a mid-long term view, the WSF, as social process, remains, formally speaking, a valid “proposal” for “massive horizontal self-organizing, based on voluntary dialogue and participation acts in a common open space and not based on vertical representation and leadership”.




(See C7I0PA "looking back" section questions)

Collective short-sightedness or under-activity about WSF process methodology

It can be easily argued that there has been a collective conceptual under-activity  about developing “WSF open space process” methodology, as a collectively shared knowledge and vocabulary, inasmuch possible easy to communicate, about this innovative “WSF format”, emerged from practice in 2001 and first formalized in the WSF charter of principles.

Indeed, more conscious WSF participants “communicating the forum process” better to more people and organizations, is a condition for the proper usage of the manifestations of this WSF process, and for its progressive upscaling to counter hegemonic dimension.
see FW9.

First decade

The notion of “WSF event” has been more concrete in participants’ minds than the notion of WSF process which has remained fuzzier. The “WSF” (mixing here event and process) had a comfortable start, and its first facilitators received significant donations, as world WSF events, which have been its main manifestations to date, were trendy at the beginning.

However, the mortality of many of early social forums process-events lower scale replicas  of the world event has been high, in good part because many of their corresponding “facilitators” did not understand, or want to understand, the implications of “ horizontal open dialogic space ideologically positioned by the charter of principles“.

This has been showing the necessity to formalize better the process and spread it in clarity. ( FW1) 

Second decade

Instead of this, collective permanent reflection about methodology and ways forward has been low since 2011.  Reflective of this is the stoppage of methodology commission discussion in WSF- international council . Discussions have taken the format of exchanging papers, more than having in depth continued discussion. Also  younger generation are not active in it.

Current situation

Now WSF process is nearly 20 years old, which is a good indicator of relevance, but the transmission of ownership from the founding generation, active in 1960/70s to next generations is not secured. WSF process is not so trendy currently and entities committed to its promotion can mainly count on their own resources, which requires a higher level of motivation.

The notion of “WSF process-event” tastes also somehow “stale” today, because the collective efforts to propose participation formats or implementation options to tackle 1/  issues of "visibility of actions promoted by coalitions of participants" and 2/ issues of "accessibility of participation world wide beyond events" have been weak.

Indeed; there is wide gap between the WSF social initial potential or ambition, and its reality two decades after, which is also reflecting the actual situation and level of investment of citizen organizations and social movements participating in it, and that is where a WSF facilitating community acting realistically and persistently  in a mid-term perspective can make a progressive difference (FW7);  



(see also C7I0PB "crossroad" section questions)

The permanent crossroads of WSF facilitators

The notion of “crossroads” is quite adapted to the situation of those individuals related to collective entities that are contributing to the “facilitation” in WSF process.

They logically think themselves as “facilitators”, and this vision is backed up by their effective level of inclusion in the facilitating committee of some concrete “WSF process manifestation”, or in the present WSF-IC (FW7)  .

They have the permanent options to 1/ “quit or continue” as facilitators according to the relevance they see for the WSF process, 2/ to involve or not  other people from their respective organzations,  and 3/ to resist or not, for a variety of subjective reasons, the temptation of “making the open space speak” though “spokesgroup-ism, asamblyi-sm,  agenda-ism, ventriloquism (FW2) 

This situation of permanent crossroads generate tensions and non cooperative efforts and is also commented in the section C7I0B  and FW10;

Tasks of a needed WSF facilitating community

In the last decade the erratic dynamics of a “WSF international council”, too quickly instituted in 2001, after the success of the first WSF event, is one visible cause for the fact that to date, there is still not an effective “facilitating community” of those willing to care for this WSF process along its intended nature: an international horizontal dialogic process, among civil society organizaations that is positioned in a mid and long-term perspective by broad set of values of its participants described in a reference document (in this case the WSF charter of principles).

Indeed, those who might have been perceived as having to “care about this WSF format/idea/invitation, that is the “WSF international council”, have not been focused and dedicated enough to be collectively up to a double task.

Task 1 : acting to develop a lively and self-sustained motivated world scale “WSF facilitating community” inclusive (beyond the WSF world event), along a common vision of what is the process, implemented in many thematic and geographic contexts and viewed as a continuous global WSF process.

The global WSF can be viewed as made up of independent processes, interrelated horizontally by cross participation of participants in respective activities, by exchange of experience between facilitators having demonstrated some lasting commitment to the process.

Task 2: acting to develop formalization, i-e notions and vocabulary about the various manifestations of WSF process, in various directions,in coherence with the basic principles expressed in the charter, and disseminating those notions and vocabulary for “ownership through discussion” among “WSF process participants”.

WSF process participants,  owning the process, would take then the task to spread the idea of the WSF process, in clarity, as a tool for those acting collectively for another possible world,  in and around their organizations. This would develop the counter hegemonic potential of WSF in content and in scale .

This WSF process facilitating community would be:

1/ inclusive to people and or organizations having shown mid-term commitment and gained experience in facilitating” lasting” social forum processes of a certain scale.

2/ self-sustained, acting through agile permanent or ad hoc on line working groups with human resources invested by its members entities in the WSF process facilitation, as part of their entity strategic commitment to the WSF process.

This absence of an effective “WSF process focused facilitating community” has hindered the collective work of exchanging experience and formalizing and exploring the formats of various “manifestations” of a general WSF process..Reminding that WSF process was form the start presented in the WSF charter as a global counter hegemonic dialogic “process”, not as a periodic face to face “event”, and neither as a global “movement”.

A contribution in this potential facilitating community about task 2 : sharing a formal view of WSF process.

Here is a quick overview of the text “FW Future of "what?" . This text is presenting some elements evolved throughout this last decade trying to answer questions asked  since the beginning “what is this process? How can it be what it is meant to be?

Readers of the present input7  are then invited to go through this FW text including also some diagrams, the content of which is open for discussion http://openfsm.net/projects/gti-and-wsf/gtiandwsf-input6-formal-view-wsf

This FW text has 8 parts  and is referred to also in C7I0 text comments from perspective of input 7 on input0. 

FW1/Formalizing the open space concept.    
Initial formal consideration what is this process? How can it take shape?

FW1A/ visualizing a WSF process-event : The layers and phases diagram.    
This graphic presentation allows to place  facilitating activity  in time/phase  and in the three layers  the online intercommunication process based on encounters using social networks (corporate or not), the preparation and follow up of the event relying on the event website , the event itself 5 days. A corresponding diagram could be proposed for the overall process development and not one WSF proes-event manifestation.  

FW2/ Distinguishing participation and facilitation and describing faciltiators temptations (one diagram).    
This part reviews fast track temptations to “make the  open space talk” faced by facilitators understandably willing to obtain (in the name of who?) short terms political results in the next upcoming event.

FW3/ Developing more formats of participation to balance information and action (one diagram).    
This part describes a methodology of initiatives designed to complement the methodology of activities and to make visible to participants and outside the forum space the initiatives and actions present in the participants intentions or existing agenda and foster dialogues around them.

FW4/ From participation in dialogue to participation in actions : The disk and circles diagram.    
A proposal for a diagram that summarize basic methodology description and the various formats of participation maturing alliance buiding for shared initiatives.

FW5/ Factors of quality of dialogues in the forum.    
This part can be developed a great deal. It does not appear as crucial in the discussion about WSF future which is driven by “political” consideration. However the popular education dimension of WSF is probably important in the development of ownership of WSF process by its participant and a condition of the social sustainability of the process.

FW6/ Caring about quality in WSF process-event : ( two diagrams) working on relevant formats/methodology and on “communicating the forum” in order to improve its political significance. 
Some main goals for developing methodology involving a great deal of work are placed in the layer and phases diagram. The combined result of a quality implementation of work plan defined to reach those goals would be more coalitions from below (FW7)  / ways forward caring about overall WSF process. A corresponding  diagram could be proposed for the overall process development as being a list WSF process-event manifestation which is somehow visible in this WSF calendar of events.

FW7 hints about overall process facilitating community.   
Little has been collectively evolved on this issue in IC . IC has remained focused on WSF world event in the passenger seat.

FW8/ a ways forward  proposal for a compact among facilitators to move away from current neutralizing tensions.
Exploring the risks and redundancies of a splitting scenario those keeping focused on sustaining WSF open space and those willing to start a WSF movement and arguing that a cohesive synergy scenario remains a better option with complementation between those focusing on renewed participation formats and those focusing on helping coalitions from below.


FW9 quick methodology discussion history.   
Replacing in context the absence of significant collective methodological activity from 2008. It can be developed and commented in many ways.

FW10 relation between formats, contents, and political intentions of faciltators.
Discussing the options available in a WSF process event to facilitators willing to convey their political intentions and visions onto the WSF process event they facilitate - Discussing the relative independence between format and contents in the WSF process –Away from formalism and depoliticization.

FW11 about "neutralization" between facilitators.   
About a recent concrete case of how  different visions cooperative or not, can lead to poor implementations. A little more discussion along the cohesive compact FW8 could avoid neutralization. 

FW12 some practical experiences of contribution to WSF facilitation as a praxis the reflect upon with others         
A record of facilitating contributions on occasions of WSF process event or around extension dynamics, and how they can stimulate formalizing methodological concerns and envisioning way forwards about the WSF process. It could be interesting that facilitators draft a commented record of their facilitating contributions and exchange around those in the facilitating community.

Formalicism? Depoliticization?

Some may brand the present input "  made  from the kitchens of WSF"  and the accompanying two texts as being globally uselessly "formalistic", and basically intended to “depoliticize the forum” and they may argue that “methodology should be at the service of politics”.   

That raises the question:  What does politicizing the forum mean and how is this done? And by who? The faciltators?  This is discussed in C7I0PB (point7C),  (FW2) ( making the space speak)  and  FW10 (relation between formats, contents, political intentions of facilitators. 

De politicization? : This WSF open space process is ideologically “positioned” in a broad way, and at the same time it is designed to be empowering its participants, because it is horizontal and  the participants and the coalitions they build  are considered as the relevant political actors. So it is not depoliticized. It is just that it is meant as a process, welcoming to movements, and not as a movement.

WSF is not  meant as a political subject, even though if emontionnaly and subjectively this vision is seducive for some facilitators.  “Making the WSF space speak” in a diversity of ways (FW2)  is a temptation that is necessarily impinging on the political autonomy and diversity of those that are participating in it.  

Formalicism?: An horizontal process is not sustained by vertical leadership but by being able to share and own widely  a common horizontal  view of the process with notions and vocabulary . This leads to valuing  methodology and formalization as a political tool..

To summarize : If  facilitators can agree on entries and their description of a “lexicon of WSF”, then  they  are in the same horizontal process, and able to cooperate. Evolving a base lexicon could be a priority task in the methodology workgroup of a WSF facilitating community.



(see also C7I0PC "looking ahead" section questions)

Assess a "cohesive proposal among WSF facilitators" 

An "intra facilitating community compact" for easing the tensions is 
exposed as a  way forward for caring together despite diferences about WSF process.

First possible step : Discuss the splitting scenario  between a WSF openspace and a “WSF related movement”. and explore its counterproductive effects 

Second possible step  Balance the argument for a cohesive scenario, with a cooperation between those focusing on the clarity and quality of participation formats to sustain expansion of the open space process and those focusing on accompanying the building from below  of coalitions to develop attarctive  political content in the forum space, and thus the  political significance of the WSF  process 

Two first permanent work groups

If this compact proposal would be well  received,  Spaces for discussion about experience and methodology could be started , and a permanent methodology workgroup could be set up again around WSF IC,  in perspective of the consolidation of a WSF facilitating community .It could be interesting that facilitators draft a commented record of their own facilitating contributions and exchange around those in the facilitating community. 

Also another group could be started to care for a WSF calendar of events and a WSFcalendar for WSF extension dynamics ( another type of format of WSF process manifestation aiming at giving possibility to include local activities outside of bigger event in the common WSF frame).  

Get back to work!

Alleged fast tracks solutions to political significance of WSF porcess, amount to either going back to classical representative mechanisms or venturing into implosive or divisive scenarios in the facilitating community, weakening the potential of the WSF process. Cohesive option should can be a rational choice for all concerned with this process.

The lost years, energies and opportunities in WSF facilitation can be deplored, but there is first a need to look ahead, while agreeing there is no way for miraculously catching up on the lost years in the development of the process. So there is no expecting fast results and resorting to fast tracks. A narrative can help sustain this vision.

The perspective of a next  possible WSF process event in Mexico  with its many initial uncertainties is worth being contributed to.  (see http://openfsm.net/projects/pfsm20  A space, among other possible spaces, for informatin,  inputs and participation)

It can still be argued that the potential of this WSF concept for creating a counter hegemonic process is there, and is in good part untapped. Just look at the WSF charter of principles as a facilitation program , and assess how much of it has been convincingly  implemented      

In this perspective, intellectuals and academics are also challenged, some  tend to consider themselves as guides or some have mainly considered the forum as a convenient object for study. They  could also consider creating "collectives" from where they would, horizontally, propose dialogue support or accompaniement to some other participant entities. 

There is a critical taks of communicating the forum to younger generations, so that they come and use a WSF process and space friendly to youth, with their formal or informal groups active in recent mobilizations. A "participant to participant outreach" use of social networks in the "initial participation phase of WSF mexico " would help outreach to more of them and invite them to consider themselves as informed and thus empowered participants in WSF process (FW1A and  FW3)  ( see C7I0PC  @10 about inclusion of youth)

So,  from the perspective of this "hands-on "input  from the kitchens of WSF faciltation,  there is no “farewell” to express  about WSF , rather it is an invitation to “get back to work” and sustain the implementation of what can be realistically prepared and achieved, leaving the discussion about “what it could have been if … “ for the end of the working day,  in a refreshed  WSF facilitating community.