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FUTURE OF "WHAT" ?   
ELEMENTS ABOUT "FORMAL" VIEW OF WSF PROCESS AND WAYS FORWARD FOR ITS FACILITATION

LINK TO SECTIONS

  @FW1 open space concept - @FW1A layer and phases diagram for a WSF process-event- @FW1B overall view -  @FW2 facilitation and participatin/ format and content -  @FW3 new formats not just activities -  @FW4 Disk and Circles Diagram -  @FW5 popular education- quality of dialogues -  @FW6 Caring about WSF process  areas of methodological work to enhance the political significance of a WSF process- event -  @FW7 hints about overall process facilitating community @FW8 ways forwards for caring about overall WSF process  -   @FW9 Quick histoy of WSF methodology dscussions -  @FW10  relations beween formats and contents  -  @FW11 about neutralization   -  @FW12 some themes of contribution fo facilitation  

CONTEXT

This text is referred to  in the inpput#7 text to GTN discusion (https://greattransition.org) FAREWELL TO WSF?  which can be of interest to those thinking themselves as  WSF participants entities or individuals 


INTRODUCTION

Here are some elements on a formal, but not formalistic, view of the forum process,  that has shaped throughout years of participation in “the kitchen” of the world social forum process “facilitation” since 2003.. They evolve with practice and discussion of course.

This “formal” view on WSF process has been developed, trying to answer the nagging questions “WHAT is WSF "process"? and HOW can it be what it is meant to be” . 

This view  has been evolved through continued practice and discussions, about WSF process understanding and implementation, performed and held with fellow social forum facilitators/participants, in WSF international council, and in facilitating committees for various WSF process manifestations.

There are two groups of anwers to the WHAT  question 

1/ WSF is a tool, a space, an event,  a intercomunication process, "something genuinely new", that is collectively "understood" and "owned" by  a community of participants out of which develops a faciltating community,
or 
2/ WSF is a "political subject", an actor, a mouvement of mouvements, an organization, or something that is no so different from an organization, hence with a " political leadership", that is at the end of the day qualifying to speak on its behalf  in direct or indirect ways ( see point 2) 

This “formal view”  clearly takes answer #1 and  provides a basically optimistic perception about WSF potential to be a “ politically significant and relevant counter hegemonic intercommunication process towards another possible world”, based on quality and mutually dignifying dialogues between its participants,  many of them inmersed in altruist and socially creative and rewarding and exposing collective processes of struggles, campaigns, projects, initiatives for resistance and alternatives. 

So let us get  into this formal view about WSF process , in search for "ways forward" for the facilitation of said process , which would be in coherence with the initial formal  formulation of WSF  made explicit in WSF charter document. 

 

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1/ WSF open space:  a formally coherent and powerful concept, useful for emancipation and counter hegemonic organizing, based on self-organized dialogues held in horizontality

A first dimension of this formal viewpoint is about considering the “WSF open space” explicated in WSF charter of principles as a formal/organizational “innovation”. This innovation deserves being formalized, and developed further, as it opens a series of innovative practical perspectives linked to its horizontality and the permanent invitation to self-organization inside the participation formats. Which in turn allows a broad “ownership“ of the process and its decentralized “implementation”, based on a common understanding, developed through practice and formalization of the WSF open space global concept.

Indeed, WSF open space concept can be implemented  at different scales, local, national, regional, thematic, world, between people and organizations aspiring to another possible world, considering themselves as “participants” in this “process”, as both notions are described explicit in the Charter of principles, which is meant as reference document for this WSF process.

The WSF Charter is a mere two page text with great coherence. Article 1 defines WSF as a “meeting place” and article 3 as a “process”. In the formulation of “nearly all” of its 14 articles the forum stands “syntaxically” as a space, a place, and not as an actor. (1)

“Common understanding” implies hands on praxis, and developing discussions and understanding about some “notions” and a “vocabulary”. That is what “forum methodology” is about.  Something like producing a common “lexicon” or “glossary”,(2)  shared between a community of facilitating entities  or persons, with a diversity of hands on experience about “WSF process manifestations”, agreeing on this lexicon or glossary beyond their ideological, cultural differences, their diversity of goals and focuses. 

And methodology is to be taken “seriously”, as clarity in notion is a condition for dissemination of a common understanding between as many people as possible, in order to upscale the size of the WSF process up to counter hegemonic dimensions.

Indeed, in the past twenty years, and beyond many important changes in the world situation, hegemony of neoliberalism based on extractivism, inequalities and consumerism has not changed, and no other “potentially” decentralized  multi thematic and multi scale global counter hegemonic process has emerged.  

WSF methodology and political identity of WSF participant

Methodology is about the formats and planificacions in which, and through which the participants will bring and develop their social and political “contents” towards "another possible world".

“Contents” of all kinds, from exchange of experience, counter hegemonic information, alliance building, transformative initiative definition and action planning. With the understanding that each content that is collective enough, whether a solemn statement, the description of a resistance or transformative initiative, a dialogue report in a workshop, is issued in the name of, or under responsibility of, a specific array of participating collective entities.

Considered formally, this WSF process is a collective tool, an interrelation format, based on the individual and collective transformative virtues of dialogic situations. WSF is a place where collective organizing is promoted, with transformative dialogue occurring both at individual and collective level. "Dialogic situations" are at the heart of this "counter hegemonic process", which can be useful to those participants willing to develop alliances between wide arrays of movements and NGOS.

Asserting oneself as a “WSF participant” implies sharing the “generic participants values and goals”, made explicit in the Charter of principles that ideologically locates the WSF forum space and process. Also it implies accepting the format of “open space that no one can speak in the name of”, as a behavioral methodological-political “compact” between participants and facilitators.

At the time of internet, the identity of WSF participant can be concretized by inclusion in interactive groups regardless of distance ,and practice of online participation on activities that are far away from  one.   

WSF process manifestations

WSF process may have various “manifestations“ of various “format”, proposed by a variety of facilitating committees. The most frequent is the “process-event”, organized around a concentration in time and space (called “event”) of dialogic situations (called “activities”). There is a pre-event phase of several months, an event phase of a few days, and a post event phase (usually so far too weak). Another format of manifestation is “extension dynamics”, whereby a frame is proposed to make mutually visible and accessible, through online participation, a series of local encounters, that are placed by their respective organizers as “activities” in WSF process, in a decentralized manner, without a central event to relate to.

The decentralized and  horizontal combination of WSF manifestations  ( "process events" and "extension dynamics collecting local activities") constitutes the overall WSF process, and the gathering in one common info /working space of (delegations of) existing facilitating committes stimulating those manifestations constitutes the  " WSF faciitating community" ( FW7) 

 

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1A layers and phases "pyramid" diagram for a wsf process-event 

 

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Facilitating committees, and a potential "WSF facilitating community"

Specific groups of “facilitators” get together and propose to participants, and implement, a “WSF open space process manifestation”, specific in time, place, and themes, to be used by WSF process participants, without being themselves, as facilitators, entitled to speak “in the name of that open space”. This looks evident, considering formally  the WSF format, but in practice there are the “facilitator’s temptations” to “be ventriloquist that make a space speak“(see point 2)

WSF process manifestations are viewed as a tool-process-event-dynamics that are co-cared for by their respective “facilitators”, i-e those willing, beyond their “participation”, to contribute to the existence of the process and not just use it, taking it for granted. Facilitation tasks are many, from organizing a facilitation committee of a WSF process manifestation to just being a volunteer for interpretation in an activity for instance.

 In that sense, WSF process appears as  a world scale  “common”, co sustained by a possible “WSF facilitating community”, qualified through practice and collective results obtained in implementation, and  which is held cohesive by a common understanding of what is WSF process.

A strategic goal for promotion of WSF process is reaching inside this potential  WSF facilitating community: 1/a high enough familiarity through exchange of experience, 2/ a high enough level of common views around a formal understanding of WSF process, 3/ a high enough capacity of cooperative work on identified common interetst facilitation tasks ( such as updating a WSF process Calendar) ,4/ a high enough coherence of views about  criterias and protocols for inclusion, discussions and decision in the community 

The WSF international council, has been so far a fairly frustrating vehicle for developing this WSF facilitating community. It could be moving in this direction, inasmuch its "member entities" would avoid “fast track temptations of representation” and focus decidedly  more facilitation energies on dialogue between facilitating experiences and on a global process facilitation work plan. The inclusion "in principle" of confirmed WSF process manifestation facilitating committees, as member "entities" in the IC, next to original "supportive but not necessarily proactive "  participant networks , is a step in this direction.

This formal description of WSF process is that of a conceptual dialogic frame and space, it is thus distinct, in substance, from a «movement of movements". Considering oneself, individual or collective entity, as a "WSF process participant", as the notion of “participant” and “process” are described in the WSF charter, become a “political identity” of its own new kind.

 

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WSF participant entities, investing in the forum space and tool

Those entities willing to build or help build broad and powerful alliances for powerful broad scale nonviolent citizen resistance and alternatives strategies and actions are welcome to use the WSF tool/common.

How entities view this WSF tool and space, from their own political and cultural view point, and, more importantly, through clarifying dialogues with others participants/facilitators, (dialogues that they may have as they participate in some WSF manifestation), will determine their perceived relevance of this WSF format and their willingness to co-facilitate other WSF manifestations , cooperating with other entities different from them.  

The willingness of entities to “invest” in WSF process as a part of their entity strategy, the willingness of entities to co- sustain some WSF process manifestation as co-facilitators, without expecting to reap quick and direct benefits from this, are then key for possibilities to involve more entities in facilitation and promotion of WSF process, and thus upscale the WSF process to counter hegemonic dimension.


(1)    Wsf charter  http://openfsm.net/projects/ic-methodology/charter-fsm-wsf-en 

(2)  Lexicon attemps  http://openfsm.net/projects/ic-methodology/wsf11-evalreco-disseminate-lexicon 

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2/ Facilitation and Participation:  a crucial distinction

A second dimension of this formal view on WSF process is highlighting the difference between:

-“facilitating" a WSF process manifestation,  i-e defining and implementing/scheduling, from a facilitation committee/colective, "formats of participation" accessible to participant entities in a given manifestation of WSF "open space", and,

-"participating" in a WSF process manifestation, through and beyond individual interactions in dialogues, producing "contents" in the name of collective entities, and hopefully in the name of alliances of entities along shared goals, of whatever sizecan be achieved. 

“The political dimensions in WSF open space are between participating entities”, and are not with facilitating tasks. This explain why there has been, throughout the years,  inside the WSF international council a decided resistance to “temptation from facilitators for making the WSF space talk”, whatever the given justifications may be, and there have been many.(3)  

This is not because of a “de-politicization orientation”, on the contrary, this is abiding by the "WSF methodological-political compact" between participants and facilitators, concretized in the WSF charter of ^principles, and keeping the participants the only political actors, building alliances inasmuch they can.

Facilitation Distance and Term  

Facilitation implies taking some "distance" with the "political contents".  Be content with just being positionned by all the WSF charter participants generic  values and goals and only those,  and working on the participation formats.

Also investing in the forum faciltation  implies a longer term vision, not expectiing quick returns for the collective and respectful facilitating effort about self organizing for education, empowerment and articulation from below       

 Formal and political Distorsions : Making the space talk

There are several ways to “make the WSF open space talk”, as if “the forum” were a political subject or a collective actor:

“WSF spokepersonism” is about making declaration with political content as spokesperson or spokes group, with assumed legitimacy to do so. It can be the facilitating committee of a specific WSF process manifestation, or it can be the WSF international council itself.  By mixing facilitating role and political role, this breaks the methodological-political compact between participants and facilitators

 “WSF assemblyism” is when some activities, with assembly format  in the WSF space, are somehow being promoted as more important than others by the facilitating committee itself, and made to produce making statements, many time non signed by anyone , being given special forum-wide visibility and hence legitimacy.  This is another break of the methodological-political compact between participants and facilitators, putting many WSF process participants in a  “consent by default situation”, as they are not participating in that assembly or are, but are reduced by the assembly format itself to “applause or not applause” unaccountable expression

"WSF agendaism" is when a specific process is designed   by faciltators inviting all  participants and involving some to produce an "agenda of  the forum"  linked to it and presented a prescriptive content for its participants, thus "narrowing" the invitation to the open space to those agreeing to this specific agenda, besides considering themselves participants in the process. In a way this comparable to the global positioning  of  WSF open space, by value and generic goals of participants given in the charter.  Anyway  an agenda is  more  spectific than generic goals of the charter and this is 1/ less inclusive , and  2/ may be leading as a logical next step to formats of collective action in the name of the forum, with all the related division problems about  representation decisions etc. The forum as a space is not defining agendas.      

“ WSF ventriloquism” is when some people inside the facilitating committee for a WSF manifestation are writing anonymously a political enunciate, meant to capture and put words on the majority of participants supposed vision and expectations, and spread it as if it were stemming from “the forum”.  

These are "fast-tracks" to ephemeral "political visibility" which distort the WSF space format and feed among the participants the perception that “the forum is a political actor”, a "big brother" that will help them

Promoting WSF as “a space meant for political expression of participants entities and their alliances built patiently from below” is a longer, challenging, empowering, demanding, and eventually much more powerful track to political visibility of those alliances . see the part 5  quality of situations in WSF process event and   part 6 caring about WSF process -event

(3)    WSF: open space or organization? :  http://openfsm.net/projects/wsfic_fsmci/salvador17-input18/#EN 

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3/ An intercommunication process more useful through new formats for those acting for another possible world

In the heat of 2003 WSF there was a pityful unattended “mural of proposals” consisting in a few thin horizontal metal poles affixed in a wood wall, and from where a dozen “proposals” inserted in a plastic sheet were hanging in general indifference. It was shamefully covered with a white cloth on the last two days of the event. This can be seen as a  starting point for" implementing" article 7 of the charter The World Social Forum ( rather its facilitating committee?)  undertakes to circulate such decisions widely by the means at its disposal, without directing, hierarchizing, censuring or restricting them, but as deliberations of the organizations or groups of organizations that made the decisions.. And how far have we got since then?

A third dimension of these formal views on WSF is then the perceived necessity for, and possibility of, introducing in WSF methodology more “participating formats” accessible to participants in WSF open space.  Those formats complete the dominant format in the mental representation of the forum in the past 20 years which is “ self-organized dialogic face to face ACTIVITY  placed in a WSF process event”.  Also  this “activity” format is mostly linked to face to face meetings, not to on line meetings,  and is often visualized as dedicated more to analysis and denunciation, than to action planning  

Encounters and announcement of initiatives

Here are two proposed formats that can be promoted and developed by facilitating committees

-“online encounters”  for initial participation , placed in “thematic open spaces” long before a social forum event,as inicial part in the process ( see point 1A) . These self-organized on line encounters are "all purpose" and flexible intercommunication vehicles,  usable for exploring issues, valuing local activities, informing about "why and how participate in the forum", maturing and articulating announcements of activities and initiatives that will be proposed in the upcoming social forum event, following up locally after the forum event on public action dates planned in announcement of initiatives etc.

This format allows to develop “online participation” which is one of the great changes occurred in the past 20 years

-“announcement of initiatives"( i-e struggles, campaigns, projects of all kinds, that stand up in resistance and in alternative to neoliberal hegemony exerted with its local alliances of actors and ideologies. This" initiative"  format is a useful vehicle for making visible the dimension of social and political action planning in WSF participants dialogues, a dimension which is so far kept informal and “inside” activities.

Once visible,along the unfolding of a WSF process manifestation, “initiatives” can be promoted and presented in “activities” their articulation can be discussed and they can gather tokens of interest or support from many WSF participants .

This format maybe the vehicle of broad alliances and develop into powerfully supported decentralized action dates and campaigns that are part of the imaginary and “promise” of WSF.  

The format of initiative comprises announcement of a few "public action dates", which stimulates strategy planning and action format discussions among participating entities willing to use it. 

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Kiosk, Agora, Calendar : New Formats in a face to face event and its formal moment

In a WSF process manifestation,  facilitating committee can develop and implement formats  of horizontal  spaces-moments with many interaction between particpants take place,  A  “kiosk of initiatives” expanded at the end of the process-event into an “agora of futures”,  can be space -moments   when-where  initiative promoters exchange among themselves and with participants, seeking for articulations and support.

A “calendar of futures” specific to this specfic WSF process manifestation can be assembled with all the public action dates, contained in the initiatives announced and confirmed in the Kiosk. This calendar can be shown under format of a live calendar of futures,( with people representing each action dates),  expressing unity in diversity. Its web version can be examined using thematic, scale, area, language filtering, but without prioritization.

From this material, accessible in the calendar, some initiative groups/alliances can evolve, in their own name, some “agendas”, with a political enunciate and a series of prioritized initiatives, and propose those agendas to the explicit and voluntary support from WSF participants.

That is an expression of open space horizontality: those alliances promoting an agenda are using the same initiative format as alliances promoting a specific initiative, and no one speaks in the name of the WSF space  

See conclusion of Agora and intiatives working group in international council in november 2017 

 

 

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4/ Participation Circles  and openspace Disk  diagram

This diagrams gives a rather coherent graphical representation of open space ( the disk)  its limit ( the announcement of initiatives,  and what is taking place inside it  ( online encounters  and activiities ) and outside it (public action dates, and ongoing  operation of partiicpants and their alliances and coalitions)

Participation circles from center to periphery of the diagram

  • Circle of on line encounters in online  thematic space where participants gather by interest at the beginning of the process and start intercommunicating on line,  through self organized encounters with a variety of perspectives,  amoung which maturing activities and initiatives
  • Circle of activities not focusing on  initiatives :  more popular education information,  exchange of experiences and visions
  • Circle of activities discussing initiatives: presentation, articulation, tasks and action planning etc..
  • Agora of Futures  final moment of interactions around initiatives  ( presentation, articulation, interest, support) 
  • Calendar and succession in time of public action dates  

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 Diagram shows 4 components Participants Encounters, Activityes Initiatives. Element 5 missing is "facilitation" 

  • The arrow is the "promise" of the forum, the generic participation route,  from participation  to actions
  • Online Encounters is the participation format for the proces layer when people are in  their respective territories ( first layer of   the layers and phases pyramid diagram above)
  • Activities and initiatives are the participation formats for the event preparation layer and the event itself  ( second and third layer of  the layers and phases pyramid diagram 
  • Agora of future is the common format for event final moment, and Calendar of futures is the  mediatic container for the event and  fueling the post event period 

 

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5/ Other significant aspects for quality of the dialogues and interactions and dissemination of the wsf process

The dimension of “popular education”, empowerment of organizations and dignification of WSF participants through personal expression in self-organized dialogues is not developed in this input, but is quite important at individual and collective level, and contribute to the WSF process counter hegemonic dimension.  The methods used for the quality of collective dialogue can be varied and creative.

Self-documentation of the dialogues held in the forum is essential, for pedagogic dissemination, beyond the personal memory of physical attendees. Self-organized coverage of one’s activity and mutual training in how to  “communicate the forum” within participants entities respective networks are a way to counter the lack or distortion of forum coverage by mainstream media.

These are also important  dimensions of active participation.

 

Empowerment / dignification is about developing self organization and  voluntary participation acts at collective or individual levels

Empowerment : One principle in the open space is that all entity participation acts are voluntary ( taking co-responsibility to prepare an online enconter or an activity or announce and promote an initiative,  discussing articulations, signing statements or expression of interest or support , and the same  holds for  individual participation acts ( choosing activities where to participate, choosing initiative to support)  

inside  self organized activities and initiatives, the organizing  culture of the responsible entities prevail.

Outside  self organized activities, and in common moments proposed by facilitating committees the format is based on free volunteer act and dialogue - The task of faclitators is not to "manufacture alleged consent of all participants in the forum"  it is to empower participants to make their own decisions from below       

The format of agora of futures, where participants visit the initiative promoting groups they choose and decide whether to support them or not is way more empowering for the projection in the future than the format of an hypothetic assembly  of thousands where de facto the inmense majority of attendees are placed in a passive  "consent by default" situation, as spectators of a show meant to represent them.      

 

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6/ Caring about WSF process :

Some  "areas" of methodological work placed in the layer and phase diagram where to improve  quality and political significance of  WSF process events

The combination of elements  exposed  so far allow to get a vision of what needs to be done to improve a WSF process event  ( and other WSF manifestation)  

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 How do these 5 work areas combine for enhancing  the WSF process-event political significance?

 

Political significance of the WSF process can be  enhanced by: 

A/- Ownership of "core process methodology " by participants  thanks to methodological and logistical care from facilitating committee (work areas 1+ 3 + 4 + 5) :

  • 1/ Participants are informed about the methodology , and there is a clever effort ot outreach to many networks proposing early zero budget participation format on line - that is counter hegemonic organizing through corporate social media, and available free software non corporate tools 
  • 1/ participants with a political expectation and goals start early and maturing  on line  from below  co-prepration of activities and alliances, in online encounters place in thematic spaces, with both low profile (in terms of contents) and efficient support and stimulation from facilitating commitee
  • 3/ Alliances for action  are visible through the initiative format  with 1 to 3 significant "public action dates". This is stimulating strategic planning and discussions about the format of non violent actions, also "agenda initiatives" are worked in parallel to specific initiatives( see above)
  • 4/ Clarity and quality in the final acceleration and culmination of initiative articulation and initiative support  interactions, with clear cut protocol of  agora and calendar of futures
  • 5/ Proactive follow up to stimulate  among initiative promoters, gathering of supports, confirmation of public action dates, decentralized  preparation of those 

 Participation formats : Relationships between Encounters on line,  Activities,  Initiatives,  Action dates

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B/- Participant care about : -Media visibiliity - on line participation inclusion - popular education content

  • 2 -Participants virally communicating the forum with social networks in all their networks and counter the comparative invisibility  of the forum resulting from inappropriate coverage in hegemonic mainstream media  
  • 2  Participants attending physically the eent are including online participants in their activities in the event (live video and teleconference), thanks to internet infrastructure provided or stimulated by facilitators
  • 4 mediatic dissemination of WSF calendar of futures with filters and contained agenda initiatives
  • 5  Participants documenting their activities  and disseminating them - WSF as popular university
  • 5 participant promoting their public actions dates and getting involved in local support groups in case of decentralized actions 

 

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FW7 What can be  a facilitating community ?

The nearest thing to a “community of facilitating entities”, is a facilitating committee/collective taking charge for a specific  WSF process manifestation ( event or extension dynamics FW1), where transfer of experience acquired in previous committees is a crucial factor.   Fostering exchange of experience between such committees is certainly a strategic necessity for the coherence and consolidation of an overall  WSF process facilitating community.

1/ Which role of WSF  IC in relation to emergence of an overall process facilitating community ?  

The role  of WSF international council in relation to the vision of constituting an overall WSF process facilitating community has been problematic and needs discussion and clarification:

a/ in its creation in 2001, networks where appointed as members of IC, more as potential participants entities, ”consumers” of an annual WSF event organized by a distinct committee. So it was not started as a group based on its ability to take full responsibility for a WSF event, as is a facilitating committee. A good number of representatives inside it, but not all, have been instrumental in facilitating some WSF manifestation, but that is not a requirement to join this council.   

b/The level of commitment of the IC member entities to care about the process has not been discussed. That is why many representatives only think in personal terms and consider they, personally, have not time to dedicate  to WSF beyond IC meetings, and their option is  resorting to a “IC secretariat” for any practical task, instead of looking inside their organization for other people to sustain, with their guidance, lasting and self sustained IC working groups able to “ perform task”  for  the development of the WSF process

c/ The perceived legitimate scope of international council has remained focused on the World event, and consequently the reflexion on “what is the overall WSF process” and “how to facilitate it from iC ”, has not been developed. This was visible in 2009 when the council failed to create a tangible global dynamics interlinking a series of social forum events in the year 2010 (FW9) and in a discussion in 2017 on the issue of IC dynamics (FW8). 

In this context it is not surprising  that IC meetings have formally dedicated only 30mn to IC tasks in 15 years (see below)   while there have been many hours on discussing world situation. Commissions have stopped in 2012 and attempt to propose development of  operative  IC work groups stumble on the fact that there is no discussion on the level of commitment of IC member entities.

With the 2018 decision to include “National regional and thematic social forum facilitating committees” in the council, IC could move towards being closer to being overall WSF process facilitating body . That would still require the  member entities to define the level of facilitating energy that they can dedicate to the process facilitation, beyond their representatives in the council. 

2/  Snapshot on missions of IC - some hints about  which would be contents of  a  facilitating community  workplan ?

In 15 years the council has discussed its tasks 30mn in Casablanca in 2013 . That is not much and that is part of the WSF problem

http://openfsm.net/projects/wsfic_fsmci/casa13-wsfic-tasks-tareas-taches-cifsm/#EN

Discuss political geopolitical context in order to contextualize wsf process -

There have been many such discussions in meeting but not much has been derived from those

Sustain Methodological discussion on how to organize events , sustain processes and initiatives – that is the core “how to” activities FW1 FW3 FW4

Facilitate dialogue between local and global struggles and alternatives - not discussed much, with examples

Facilitate linkage between regional forums processes– creating self organized space for exchange of experience between facilitators is a work group task for the facilitating community or the ic -nothing fancy but it does not yet exist, and the coming of national and thematic scale facilitating committees might make this a natural activity in the IC

Identify tasks/issues about concretely facilitating wsf process and launch/review work of open contributive groups addressing those tasks/issues - this requires  evolving  a  common enough  vision of the proces, of relevant faclitating  tasks and of the fact that IC members entities can take up task – that is where the facilitating community is empowered or  not FW6 FW7

Spread knowledge on wsf charter and process – this is what evolving a WSF process formal view is about:  communicating the forum with proper words and notions that help WSF participant build their ownership of it and disseminate it

Develop and promote use of appropriate Communication tools there lies the issue of "online participation" in the process at large ( beyond face to face participation ) and " initial participation" in the WSF event process FW1A FW6

Define date and place and format of WSF events ( in co-responsability with  willing facilitating committee) this decision is both pragmatic and strategic ,  the level of support from local governement to WSF event has been varied  from  big support to ideolgical and logistical opposition 

Monitor and contribute to Practical organization of wsf events (in co responsibility with faciliating committee) - in 15 years there has been no "standard" level of commitment  discussed, whether to facilitating taks or to participation dynamics. So it is quite possible to have in the post event IC meeting, expressions from IC members who have not contributed to faciltiation/preparation  and have not even organized activities in the event. It is problematic to be supposed to  care about something you do not care concretely for 

Finance IC activities/meetings  the IC  has a poor record of support to the overall process and is not very attractive of financial support for its  stand alone meetings. The meetings have  them been less frequent and increasingly  linked to WSF process manifestations 

Monitor financing of WSF events   that is a formal role  for WSF world event financial transparency.  

3/ "Dynamics of IC" an exploration and a  proposal in 2017 for a facilitating community operation  

Document presented, the verbal presentation and the one hour discussion following it are available  in this link  http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/transicionci-porto-alegre-agenda-input-on-dynamics-of-ic  .
 This could be updated while remains a possible basis of discussion for the  mode of operation for a WSF overall process facilitating community  

 

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FW8 Ways forwards towards an effective WSF process facilitating community

 Exploring splitting and cohesive scenarios among WSF process facilitators  ( replicated in comment  from input#7 on input#0) 

Splitting scenario - open space and movement apart 

Let us consider a scenario with an ongoing WSF dialogic process, consistent with the formal view exposed hereabove , coexisting with a  self instituted  sustained “WSF related movement” derived from participation in WSF process and making in its own name statement of goals and calls for action (mentioned in @9)

A “business as usual” WSF process event would not be so attractive, while the inclusion of new methodological formats, clearly communicated with an empowering narrative could raise more interest

A “WSF related movement” would take some time to emerge: satisfactory internal protocols for decision and representation,  if possible to be found, would have to be determined

Now let us concentrate on the relations between, the WSF process, this WSF related movement, and the coalitions from below  stimualted in the WSF process

There would be articulation /redundancy issue with the “coalitions built from below” in the WSF space. If the open space methodology is communicated, shared, owned and productive, there would be more coalitions, and this “WSF related movement”, with no specific added legitimacy, should be diplomatic and not arrogant in proposing to articulate them.

There would be a pressure issue in the relation of this WSF related movement with the WSF event facilitation committee. This WSF related movement might be tempted, because of its alleged proximity to WSF process, to promote unduly its goals and its agenda in the WSF open space , of which it would be one participant among others.

To justify its existence this WSF related movement would have to make a narrative involving the WSF process and the coalitions from below. He would be tempted to stress that original WSF concept is unefficient to addressing properly the notion of action, at the moment when there would/could be effort to explore possibilities to combine reflecting and action, without using the vehicle of a WSF related movement (FW3 FW4)

This WSF related movement would want to also be part, maybe, of the facilitating community  of the WSF process

The movement would have to demonstrate above all its relevant social existence, not just through discussions in the WSF open space , not just through pretending to be  articulating coalitions from below,  but its organizational and political existence in the social arena all year round .

It would be pressed to take positions on political issues , when the WSF facilitating community would not. There would be a need to avoid confusing the communication of this movement and the communication of facilitators of WSF open space process, and the communication of coalitions from below

So this hypothesis of  linking  somehow the WSF name to one specific movement , might be creating many redundancies and ambiguities. It looks wiser  for those willing to get to a big agenda  stemming out of WSF process  to develop one or more “agenda initiative”, that they would  mature with a cluster of “coalitions from below”,  possibly being a place for merging of some of these coalitions . This initiative  would not be in the name of,  nor with specific formal relation  with the WSF facilitating community, even if of course some entities contributing to WSG facilitation community could  be proactive in this initiative 

 

Cohesive Scenario  – staying together  by abiding a cooperation compact

A second scenario is “staying in cohesion as WSF process facilitators”

It would amount to  discussing, agreeing and abiding by  a “common  intra faciltiation compact”,  in order to  avoid counterproductive “neutralization”  and  rather develop pragmatic synergy between

Facilitators A, willing to maintain WSF openspace  and develop its untapped potential ( FW3 FW4 FW6), in continuity and coherence with WSF charter of principles, as it is

Facilitators B, maybe tempted to introduce some dosis of verticalism in WSF process and or change the charter,( FW2)  because they want political results, to face  the  political emergency they perceive

This “intra facilitation compact” would be inducive to work in a complementary manner inside and outside : 1/ the upcoming next   WSF process-event facilitating committee, and others WSF process manitestations to come and 2/ the IC

 

1/ in a specific  WSF process-event facilitating committee facilitators agree to the following: ( a first approach) 

Facilitators A  are ready to dedicate energy to formulate develop and implement in the WSF facilitating community, common participation formats in relation to participants freewill, and accumulated experience (eg the initiative and agora working group 2017) . They work on the core methodology and the common moments and other quality issues (FW3 FW4 FW6). They might participate in their entities name in the building of some coalitions.

Facilitators B renounce to spend energy to introduce “verticalism” in the WSF process and  to “make the space speak”,(FW2) to which facilitators A would resist anyway.

They agree to dedicate mainly their energy to build, outside the facilitating committee, with their specific “participant hat”, in an anticipated way so as to be mature at event time,  specific “powerful alliances from below”, organizing initiatives for decentralized massive  public actions . An example of such coalitions can be building a permanent “assembly of struggles” ready to participate in WSF space with promotion of  strong initiatives and not pretending to be “the” main assembly there.

Facilitators A commit that the common moments and formats give “equitative visibility to all” and “show objectively the respective strength of the coalitions formed” along the formats proposed, They will propose formats and macro programing for consensus to facilitators B

Facilitators B commit that those coalitions (that they will be building, using at best the WSF process and methodology/formats, and helping facilitators A by testing this formats),  will coexist respectfully between themselves in the WSF space process and with smaller initiatives, using the participation acts that will be provided and having of course their own  internal self organization  dynamics

Facilitators B will consult among themselves to work in one or more “agenda initiative” towards articulations between some of those “coalitions from below in the making”, and without speaking in the name of the forum

Facilitators A and B commit to cooperate in outreaching , in communicating the forum, in suggesting articulations in the programing and coalition/initiative process , in agreeing on the methodology in full coherence with the WSF charter

Facilitators A and B will share ideas and effort to evolve on one side the facilitating committee narrative to communicate the forum to generic participants ,  and contribute on the other to the coalitions narrative to communicate the forum to their constituencies

Both facilitators A and B  agree that : 

1/ it is more effective to combine those efforts described above with the common goal to revamp the  WSF process both with innovative formats  and with higher level of coalitions with transformative agendas stemming out of the forum process, than engaging in a coexistence split  as described in  the spliting scenario

2/ the size of the WSF process (through the number and size of the process-events) might remain modest in the coming years and be not up to the challenges of the times, because it is not easy to make up for the cumulative effect of insufficient energies dedicated and insufficient  coordination in the past years  around  WSF process

3/ it is through their coordinated respective action inside and outside of the WSF process event facilitation committee,  along the lines above, through  quality of outreach, through support to articulation inside coalitions, through clarity of open space methodology and through quality of  info to participants,  that the political efficiency of the forum, both in the general counter hegemonic sense , and in the sharper political sense of the specific coalitions envisioned  can be obtained

 

2/ in and around IC, facilitators will cooperate on the following tasks (a first approach)

Warm and informative Inclusion of representatives of WSF process manifestation facilitating committees

Mapping the willingness and capacities of IC member entities, and others to contribute to overall WSF process facilitation,

Discussing an overall work plan for facilitating WSF process, owned by faciltators Sustaining among those member entities a series of working groups performing necesary tasks

Defining a generic protocol for conducting  online or in face to face  IC meetings / WSF facilitation community meeting , with orientation of a common working plan, regularly assessed,  and a periodic review of IC member entities level of commitment 

I is not such an ingenuous attempt to propose to review and comment in the near future those two  scenarios in the frame of the IC, with effective  inclusion of its new "member committees" , participating  next to "member entities" .   


 

Annexes

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FW9 Quick History of WSF methodology 

 “Wsf event every year of two years?” “self-organize!” “How to end the event ( part1)” - 2004-2008.

in 2005,there was a relatively consensed mainstream option to build  WSF event exclusively on self-organized activities, but there was a tension on how to end it. Which was visible in 2005 WSF event with two endings  a marche and some symbolic interventions with the exhibiition of a mural of proposals collected from the self organized actiities, withtout sufficient ownership and care to build a follow up process 

Methodologically, this cycle ended productively in copenhaguen IC in 2008, which 1/ instituted the idea of a diversity of self organized convergence assemblies for action, of which the “assembly of social movements" that was proposed by some as "the" concluding format, would be one assembly  among others, 2/ finalized and published a first version of “ guiding principles for organizing a WSF event “ , and 3/ invited those who could not travel to next WSF venue ( Belem 2009) to organize local activities and make teleconference activities with their delegates or other counterparts in the WSF venue

in WSF Belem 2009, there was some care about facilitating thematic spaces and making suggestions for articulations to participants

This compromise between space forum  and movement forum supporters instituted a diversity of “convergence assemblies for action” in WSF event, but did not solve the daunting equation of the "event final moment", which was on the plate of IC since the beginning of the process 

The discussion on WSF event frequency(  one year or two years?) , and on the ending of the WSF Event drained a lof of energies, this has kept the IC unprepared to “think the overall process”, a concrete topic especially in 2009 when preparing for a “global year of action for 2010”  just after the financial crisis

Methodological stall in 2009

In 2008 there was an encouraging experience of the decentralized “global week of action” , which also showed the necessity to develop on line intercommunication. It was called for by a call drafted in the international council, and issued not as IC  and with the signature of many movements and organizations, 

Despite the 2008 experience, the international meeting in Montreal in 2009 showed the incapacity, practical and conceptual of IC , to evolve a way to make tangible the "WSF process" along o proclaimed “global year of action” with a succession of 10 to 20 social forum events. This could have been done for instance through a common website collecting action proposals ( the word initiative did not appear yet on that occasion)  and information produced by wsf participants. The energy and capacity was simply not there.      

Also there were tensions, but  without a mature  collective discussion around the notion of communication in  the forum and of the forum. Retrospectively the underlying options could be summarized as: 1/ develop a team of professionally trained communicators  2/, stimulate  network of alternate media as communicators   3/ focusing effort on stimulating participating organizations to handle in a decentralized way the “communication of the forum”, based on a clear  common methodological understanding conveyed through a narrative evolved in a WSF facilitating community 

10 years of methodological under-activity  2010 2018

2010 to present has been a lost decade for WSF process methodology.  After logistical chaos of Dakar 2011, showing IC incapacity in detecting  the logisitical problems and helping the facilitting committee and after poor attendance in Dhaka  IC 2011 ( first IC in Asia after Mumbai 2004)   there was a stoppage of IC commissions

Methodology commission stopped in early 2012 and no collective energy was dedicated to think  seriously  the methodology further than the “compromise of Copenhagen 2008”. .

Attempts to develop a methodology for the WSF event final moment, an issue unresolved since 2001 were made in 2013 2015 2016  2018  but were weakened by other priorities ( Palestine day march inTunis) or by not strong enough vision ( in Montreal) or other visions. (  asembleism in Salvador)        

Also, as a collective, the WSF-IC reflection left unexplored, methodologically, the notion of “online participation” and the “use of social networks” which are crucial for quality and upscaling of the process 

From 2015 onwards, there has been levels of neutralization between:

  • 1/ Temptations attempts  to transform IC in a WSF spokes group and develop “assemblyism”, and thus propose to revise the WSF Charter,( speficially article 6)
  • 2/ Mere resistance to those attempts or temptations, and keeping the space horizontal 
  • 3/ Resistance plus attempts to : a/: develop new areas of methodology around “methodology of initiatives” b/  early use of “interactive social networks” in a WSF process event. c/ move towards a faciltating community 

Accumulated lack of methodology discussion and neutralization of efforts has the price of :

  • 1/ Proposing to participants a somehow routine WSF event  vision, without consensed "core "novelties, (as introduction of a methodology of initatives can be)  and
  • 2/ Giving the image of a static process with aging “counsellors” self referenced in byzantine talks.

The unfolding effects of 2008 crisis both political and financial for NGOs and social movements  have also been detrimental.to getting funds to organize working meetings 

Analysis of the factors for fading away of continental  social forum processes  ( European 2010, South American 2010, USA 2015 )  were not shared in the methodological discussion.

The IC collective methodological vision remained “ basically"  limited to the  big WSF event, and with a sistematic impulsion to  resorting  to  a "secretariat" for anything beyond plenary discussions in IC - See 2017 Porto Alegre discussion around "dynamics of IC"  proposal,  and Interesting Bogota discussion in 2019 on the level of commitment of IC member entities

 

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FW10 Relationships between formats and contents, and political intentions of facilitators

 in a WSF process-event

The valuing of methodology in WSF process is downplayed  by the assertion from some facilitators  that  “politics ( meaning political intention of WSF event facilitators?)  should determine (WSF process event ) methodology and not vice versa”.  

Does it mean that political intentions by facilitators of a given WSF manifestation should determine the participation formats ? 

Here are three underlying questions that are commenting on this statement

1/ Up to which point are facilitators legitimate / able to impose a "colorization" of their WSF event  beyond the positionning around WSF charter ?
Objetives of  facilitators as such are about quality and relevance of the WSF event- process, as perceived by participants in their diversity,  in both popular education and political aspects  

The channels through which facilitators  can "colorize  with contents"  the multi-thematic World Scale event. are comparatively modest :

  • a/ invitation message, that needs to be consensed in the facilitating commitee, in coresponsibility with IC, and "slogan" which are usually rather generic. Both can stay on the perimeter of the charter, and mention more specific objectives as those of some participants  . 
  • b/  formulation of 10 to 30  thematics  meant to cover all-thematics  
  • c/  outreach to some active participants that will contribute actively their content in the WSF open space, but without  dominance 
  • d/ act themselves as participants 

2 / Will it be that the set of participation formats defined and implemented by the facilitators for the WSF process-event depends a lot on the content projected by the facilitators who want to animate the process? 

Or rather that this set is quite generic in social forums, as part of a historical accumulation that evolves slowly, based on experience and consistency with dimensions of the charter of principles

3 / Could it be that the generic participation  formats are "constraining" the  self organized production of political contents by the participants  in the forum ? 

those format rather  express / reflect quite significantly several dimensions of the WSF process such as horizontality and diversity,  and leave autonomy and responsibility over the production of contents to participants.

 In the frame of the WSF process and along values ​​promoted in the charter of principles, it can be argued that  the contents statements and coalitions build from below  are largely  INDEPENDENT from the participation formats, 

These formats rather reflect autonomy and empowerment of participants, stimulate horizontal intercommunication and articulations wills between participants,  which is the main  "promise" of the forum. They are not prescriptive of what content will be produced using them 

They also play an educational role, stimulating behaviors and practices like : early participation to mature contents and alliances,  online inclusion of more participants,  self documentation, dissemination of communication from and about the forum, planning of public actions when speaking of initiatives

 “Background” discussion on the relationship between formats of participation and contents produced in the forum space

It is important to exchange between facilitators / participants, about how the various “forms of participation in the process / event” are to stimulate, enable, and not constrain the contents  about which these participants want to communicate with others in the forum.

These formats are defined by facilitators, with discussions and experiments, in relation to the WSF Charter of Principles. These formats are used autonomously and with more or less creativity and determination by the participants according to their own goals of participation in the forum and organizing culture.

There is a slow “accumulation” of collective experience of almost 20 years, of which the CI-FSM is supposedly taking care of

It can be argued that, in a variety of contexts, a diversity of expectations of facilitating organizations in relation to the event-process forum can be compatible with using the same “set of formats of participation”, slowly evolving, by trial and error, in the development trajectory of the WSF process .

Practical consequence

In this case, based on the experience of accumulated facilitation, there is no valuable reason to  FIRST  have talked "between facilitators",about "forum contents"   and ONLY THEN , define a macroprogramming and the set of formats of participation proposed to participants.

Facilitators in the  WSF process  have, as facilitators, a limited impact on the forum contents that are determined first by “presences”  of participants and not by facilitators, 

In other words, the “accumulation of the WSF methodology” is largely relevant regardless of the local context, and the expectations / objectives of the facilitators in a WSF process event edition.

There is not a" start from scratch" in each WSF process-event.  The formal model of a process event is quite stable, because it has to do with the values ​​of horizontality, diversity, empowerment, self organizing, more than with the contents etc. The formats and sequences are consistent with values ​​and rules from an already long experience, which can be complemented, but cannot be ignored.

The consequence of this is that facilitators can focus on communicating and stimulating the process towards the event in advance, describing formats and macroplans through which intercommunications between participants will take place on topics and contents in activities and initiatives self-organized of self-promoted by them.

Note: If we take the example of the WSF18, which was intended as a renovation of the forum: in the end, the formats used have been the "classic" ones, and the discussions / tensions in the IC have concentrated on distortions on the format of assemblies and equity  of visibility between those and on the format of the final moment of the forum, or the visibility of its results, a topic that has been on the list of tasks of the WSF-IC since Belem 2009 unfinished.


What then can be the facilitator options?

Within the framework of the WSF accumulation in the forum-space perspective, there are many options, among which :

  • 1/ Outreach to specific groups and presence, as their specific presence will stimulate specific contents. the most significant influence on contents that facilitators may have is probably through outreach to specific participants
  • 2 / Seek educational and political quality: Focus on contributing to / stimulating the quality of preparation and intercommunication in activities,
  • 3 / Give strong priority to assemblies in macro programming, or not. It is common that some facilitators advocate at the beginning of the perparation process to give a strong priority in the macro programming to articulation assemblies, hoping to stimulate the production of political results.
    • It should be remembered that mechanically, in an event limited in time to a few days, this prioritization is done at the expense of time for activities of smaller size, more participatory,  and of the popular education type.
    • Balance the time of small activities and the time of articulation activities. (assemblies, agora of futures), taking as criteria to maintain a diversity of options for the participants. Maintain the character of open space, welcoming for various motivations or desires for participation.
    • The two types of activities are important, the individual empowerment of participants and small organizations, deep interactive discussions are carried out in popular education activities. These intercommunications prepare and feed activities that their promoters see as numerically and politically more ambitious.
  • 4 / Stimulate decentralized creativity in the forms of activities. Reflect on “number of participants and participatory character” (in one assembly, only one person speaks at a time, whereas when there are parallel groups or other devices more people interact). Also reflect on stimulating articulations between cultural or artistic expression and intercommunication (it was the intention of global social creativity  group in Montreal 2016 that did not produce significant results )
  • 5 / Include distant participants. Develop mass practice of distance participation (in local activities placed in exetnsion dynamics or activities placed in “large” events)
  • 6 / Include evening local participants: example Large media-pedagogical conferences in limited numbers, at night in Montreal for people leaving work and not participating in the forum in the working day

 

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FW11 Example of neutralizations around what could have been compatible efforts :

Taking the 2018 example . Around WSF2018, three methodological-political “projects” where present on the table of IC

  • 1/Starting a permanent "assembly of struggles", having an initial session in the  WSF2018 event ( a priori a self organized assembly) 
  • 2/Promoting as a climax of the event a "World assembly of people movement and territories in resistence", and inviting to bring “ proposal of post event incidence” to that assembly
  • 3/Proposing introduction of” initiatives” as a participation format, distinct from “activities”, and using this format at the final moment of the event in an “agora of futures”, producing  a “calendar of futures” in accordance with article 6 and 7 of the charter ( see the agora and initiative working group (FW3)
  • 4/Just willing to keep the forum as a space with no other "project" 

Aliances between those in IC promoting or opposing those various projects were varied.

Those advocating the Agora (option 3) were pointing that they had nothing against project 1 as long at is was presented as a self organized”” activity  ampong others, and did no pretend to be backed by IC,
They criticized project 2 for being “asemblyism” ie unduly promoting a specitic activity which was self organized and distorting WSF space.

Those who supported project 2 allied with those supporting project 1 . Together they did not give to  those supporting option 3 or 4  the clarification that this was a self oragnized assembly which had no prominent role in the wsf 2018 methodology, which created a tense climate.  They accepted the idea of agora but declared themselves uninterested to  implement/promote the notion of initiative in the event methodology.  Absence of this notion in  the  website and in the comunication generated also  lack of ownership of the agora - which was more presented as a symbolic moment and not valued as the final  horizontal carrier of political contents.

Also those opposing the distorsion of 1 or 2, that is option 4   did not necessarily showed practical support to option 3

In the end the result was a high enough level of mutual neutralization

A low key assembly 1+2  was disappointing in size and in content for its own promoters  (there is experience record of assemblies in WSF to “measure” this assembly compared to other former ones  ). Noting the Agora option 3 intended as final moment had no way to influence in one way or another the quality of this assembly. Maybe a lack of operative communication between facilitadores 1 and 2 contributed to the frustrating implementation  of this assembly with too many expectations on it.  Having them separated maybe would have been better  

A low key agora of futures 3  took place in a day when many brazilian  participants had left, and  with no popular attendance from brasil,because they considered that there was nothing significant in the last day of programation left. There had been no strong communication about the agora, and the main participants in it  were the international participants present in salvador and IC members. As it was the first implementation of a new concept for tackling with the end of forum issue, staying unresolved since 2001, it is however encouraging.(see article)  The lack of support and non inclusion  of initiative early in the WSF event methodology also contributed to keep low key the idea of agora        

Instead of this fuzzy neutralization, a clear self organized "assambly of struggles"  launching session, might have taken place, and a more  vibrant agora could have been prepared with more strength by moe people, as these two projects were not contradictory with one another. It is notable that in the methodological discusion that could take place in somehow precarious conditions at request of proponents of option 3, ( and which was the first occasion for a true methodological discusion in a long time in IC)   the subject 1  was also placed in the agenda         
Also before clarification could be made that option 1 was a self organized assembly  proposal  and option 3  was a proposal to solve the  commun "event final moment" issue,  the discussion was halted.( see discussion

 

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FW12 Formal view about WSF  taking shape through practical facilitating contributions

Contributing hands-on in successive events on various aspects linked to the dialogic/methodology core of the forum process, trying to improve its quality and possibility to upscale has helped refine progressively views and concepts exposed above. Here are those successive observation/praxis stand points

  • Stimulation of self-documentation of activities ( ESF 2003),
  • Collection of “proposals for transformative action” made in self-organized activities ( WSF 2005-6) ,
  • Thinking about a process website, co-drafting version of the “guiding principles for organizing a WSF event” ( 2005-2008-2011),
  • Welcoming “local” activities for those who could not come to forum event ( WSF 2009),
  • Stimulating self-managed opening of activities to on line participation (WSF 2011 -2015),
  • Focusing on the articles 6 and 7 of the charter and how to implement them on the final moment of an event,(WSF 2013-2018),
  • Facilitating “extension dynamics” as a WSF process manifestation for participants in between events(2016-18),
  • Using interactive groups in social networks as a tool for the intercommunication layer of the process-event ( FSMM 2018  WSF 2020)
  • Formalizing a methodology of initiatives ( WSF 2015-2019 - FOSPA 2017 FSMM 2018)

This continuous flux of hand on experience in the real context of social forum events has also allowed to forge a heartening view of the forum potential as a multiscale counter hegemonic process 

 

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 Earlier inputs about formalization and future of WSF