• gtiand wsf farewelltowsf discussion input7c

last modified October 27, 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 on 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 remains 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 from the WSF facilitation perspective is resorting to two other texts
- FW text  , meaning  "future of what? of future of WSF"   It has several sections referred to as FW1 to FW8 and annexes described below in the at the crossroads section
C7I0 text   meaning  "comments on input#0 from perspective of input#7  in the GTN discusion" ; It has several sections referred to as C7I0PI to C7I0PC  corresponding to intro - looking back -  at crossroads - looking ahead

Tina to WSF? 
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  peoples global action (dating back to 1996)  PIA  people international assembly (started 2019 in Caracas) and several 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 dialogues and participation acts, in a common open space, and not based on vertical representation and leadership”.
(See C7I0PA   commenting on "looking back" section questions from Paul)

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 better the forum process”  to more people and organizations, is a condition for 1/ the proper usage of the manifestations of this WSF process, and 2/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 WSF 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 from them a higher level of motivation.

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

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/  involve or not  other people from their respective organzations,  and 3/  resist or not, for a variety of subjective reasons, the temptation of “making the open space speak”, though either “spokesgroup-ism, asamblyi-sm,  agenda-ism, ventriloquism (FW2 
This situation of "permanent crossroads" may generates tensions and non cooperative efforts among faciltators not taking the same options. It is also commented in the section C7I0B (point 7) 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” gathering 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 ( 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 process can be viewed as made up of independent processes, interrelated horizontally by 1/ cross participation of participants in their respective activities, and 2/ 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 WSF charter of principles, and disseminating those notions and vocabulary for “ownership through discussion” among “WSF process participants”.
WSF process participants,  my more ownership of  the process, would take then the task to spread the idea of the WSF process, in clarity, as a tool for those acting  for another possible world,  in and around their variuos 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, from 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.
Herebelow 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 contribution are  invited to go through this FW text which is including also some diagrams, the content of which is open for comment http://openfsm.net/projects/gti-and-wsf/gtiandwsf-input7-formal-view-wsf

This FW text "future of what?  future of WSF" has 8 parts  (and is referred to also in C7I0 text  comments from perspective of input 7 on input0).
FW1 Formalizing the open space conceptWSF participant identity    
Initial formal consideration:  What is this process?  

FW1A Visualizing a WSF process-event : The layers and phases diagram.    
This graphic presentation allows to place facilitation task in time/phase and in the three layers : 1/ the online intercommunication process layer, based on "encounters" using social networks (corporate or not), 2/ the layer for  preparation and follow up of the event relying on the event website, the event itself  lasting only 5 days. Another diagram is proposed about the overall process development and not on one WSF process-event manifestation.  

FW2 Distinguishing participation and facilitation and describing faciltiators temptations (one diagram).    
Facilitation is the back office of WSF. This part also 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"( struggles campaigns alternatives projects)  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 alliance building dialogues around them.  Also the format of on line encounter is described which is used in the base intercommunication layer of the process.

FW4 From participation in dialogue to participation in actions : The disk and circles diagram.    
This diagram is an attempt to summarize basic methodology description , visualize the open space and  the various formats of participation maturing alliance building for shared initiatives.

FW5 Popular education and 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 inasmuch  it is driven by “political” considerations. However, the popular education dimension of WSF is probably important in the development of ownership of WSF process by its participants, 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 a work plan defined to reach those goals would be more coalitions from below / ways forward caring about overall WSF process. A corresponding  diagram is added for the overall process development as being a list of 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 International concil . IC has remained focused on WSF world event in the passenger seat.

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

Annexes  of FW text  
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 participation formats and contents produced by paticipants in the WSF process .An approach way from formalicism 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  the process with other facilitators         
A record of facilitating contributions, on occasions of WSF process event or around extension dynamics.  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  WSF facilitating community.

Formalicism? Depoliticization?

Some may brand the present input " made from the perspective of facilitation of WSF"  and the accompanying two texts - FW text   and  C7I0 text    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 questions:  What does politicizing the forum mean and how is this done? And by who? The faciltators?  This is further discussed in C7I0PB  (point7C),  (FW2 /) ( making the space speak)  and  FW10   (relation between formats, contents, political intentions of facilitators. 

De politicization? : The WSF open space process is ideologically “positioned” in a broad way, by the Charter, 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, emotionnaly and subjectively, this vision is seducive for some facilitators and participants.  “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 entities that are actively participating in it. 
Formalicism?: An horizontal process is not sustained by vertical leadership, but by ability of participants 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   about "looking ahead" section questions from Paul)

Assess a "cohesive proposal among WSF facilitators" 
An "intra facilitating community compact" for easing the tensions between facilitators is exposed, as a  way forward for caring together despite diferences about WSF process. FW8
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 1/those focusing on the clarity and quality of participation formats to sustain expansion of the open space process, and 2/ those focusing on accompanying the building from below of coalitions to develop attractive 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 among facilitators,  some 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 such a  WSF facilitating community .It could be interesting that facilitators draft a commented record of their own facilitating contributions and exchange  around those  records 
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 events in the common WSFprocess frame).
Get back to work
Alleged fast tracks solutions to political significance of WSF process, amount to going back, sooner or later, to classical representative mechanisms (FW2 ) and to venturing into implosive or divisive scenarios in the facilitating community, thus weakening the potential of the WSF process.  This wha a "Cohesive option"  can be a rational choice for all concerned with this process.(FW8 )
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 solutions. A specific narrative could 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 information, inputs and early participation through encounters on line). I

t 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, dissminate ideas, and propose dialogue, support, or accompaniement to some other participant entities.
There is a critical task 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" usage of social networks in the "initial participation phase of WSF mexico " would help outreach to more youth 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 contribution, there is no “farewell” to express  about WSF, rather an invitation to  extend to “get back to work”, and to 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.