• gtiandwsf wsfdiscussion comment7input0

last modified October 22, 2019 by facilitfsm

Around GTI discussion on WSF |  | @I0- @I1 - @I2 - @I3 - @I4 - @I5 - @I6 - @I7 - @I8 - @I9 - @I10 - @I11 - @I12 - @I13 - @I14 - @I15

Answers and comments from input7 on input 0


@C7I0PI introductive statements -  @C7I0PA "looking back" section questions  -  @C7I0PB "crossroad" section questions-  @C7I0PC "looking ahead" section questions

CONTEXT This C7I0  text is referred to  in the input#7 in the GTN discusion (https://greattransition.org) FAREWELL TO WSF?  which can be of interest to those thinking themselves as WSF participants entities or individuals   

A series of links named FW1 to FW8 is referring to a text "FW  future of "what" ?  elements about "formal" view of wsf process and ways forward for its facilitation, which is complementing the input#7

 COMMENTING INPUT#0  IN THE GTN "FAREWELL TO WSF?"  DISCUSSION (from perspective of input#7)


globe-logo.png I/ commenting introductive statements of input#0 


This text comments, making reference to the parts of the FW document, the statements made and questions asked at the start of the discussion by Paul  Hightlighted in yellow   with addition of some developments  in blue

@1 WSF has stood as a tangible expression of the diffuse but vibrant “alter globalization” community, and a source of hope for the emergence of a systemic global movement. 

WSF as open space is principally open to all those asserting they are "participants" in the formal "process", as those notions are described in the charter of principles.(FW1) . This WSF process is formally not a movement, nor it is designed to serve a specific movement. It is both a place for popular education (FW5), and a space-tool for proactive civil society movements and actors to find allies, design, plan, promote initiatives, negotiate articulations to implement them .(FW3)

The emergence of a “systemic movement” would implies a group that is working persistently for this. If there would be a kernel of such a movement, it would have its own autonomous dynamics and could use regularly "WSF process manifestations" (FW1), as space-tools where to promote itself, outreach for membership, collect information, and build up strength.

It looks that such initiatives, like “Peoples Global Action” or “People International Assembly” have not been interested in holding “activities” inside WSF space-process, whereas they could formally without any problem. There is also a project of a“ Permanent assembly of struggles” which did not really start in WSF2018.
Considering things in the other direction, it seems too that no  " convergence assembly" held at the end of a WSF event had given existence to a permanent assembly process ( see a review of convergence assemblies here) 

There is a clear difference between a "movement", which has eventually some common inclusion, decision, representation/communication  protocols, and a global horizontal intercommunication WSF "process", sustained by facilitators to keep open a dialogic space welcoming interactions between movements, and which , being presented as a space, is not meant to be as a political actor, that its facilitators would be tempted to represent.(FW2)

This difference does not mean that the WSF process is an abstraction : A very significant workplan about quality of generic WSF manifestations  (FW6) or about the development of general WSF process, can be made explicit and developed in a WSF facilitating community (FW8) , even though this has not been attempted by WSF international council for various reasons (FW7) 


@2 At the same time, the WSF has mirrored the movement’s immaturity.

Here again there is mention of a single movement, which have not existed in the WSF process proposal..

This is an occasion to comment the notion of Participants and facilitators "level of maturity”: Maturity is both “ability to perceive” and “ability to perform”

For participants, this maturity can develop progressively, through experience dialogue stimulations :
1/ simple participation in manifestations of the WSF process and activities proposed by other participants
2/ receiving from facilitators and other participants clear information about what is WSF ( object of FW document)
3/ stimulation by invitation suggestions from facilitators and emulation by other participants to develop “quality” in activities for popular education(FW5)  and relating to initiatives (FW3)
4/ Coming to consider themselves as WSF participants ((FW1)) and participate in some activity dialogue where "WSF process" is an object of discussion, and developing ownership of the WSF process

For Facilitators, maturity can develop progressively, through a mix of practice in facilitation tasks ( FW12) and quality discussion about "what is WSF", inside a local or general facilitators community (FW8), based on exchange of experience. This leads to consciously abiding by the "methodological-political compact between facilitators , and with participants"  that is conatined in the WSF charter (FW1)

1/ facilitators differentiate their facilitating tasks, agreed in a facilitation committee, and their own participation acts, where they are to be considered as any other participant. In other words they are not using their facilitating work and status to push their goals as participants through the various variant of verticalisms and making the space speak along their vision (FW2) 

2/ They invest in dialogue, with consideration of experience and commitement inside their facilitating committee / community to get to a common view of “WSF process by the charter” and care about it

To date, there is not a self-visible "facilitators community" with some internal protocol of discussion and decision. The existence of the IC which is born in confusion, has somehow prevented this community to emerge, (FW7). Maybe the systematic inclusion of national and thematic social forum process facilitating committee will bring a renewal in IC,  on the condition that IC upscale its scope to the "overall WSF process" vision, with a clear reference to accumulated experience and WSF charter 


@3 More prosaically, the logistical chaos that has plagued Forums and frustrated attendees symbolizes the underdeveloped organizational capacity of the “movement of movements.” 

Again this sentence postulates a “movement of movements” which have not manifested itself in a social forum. Rather there is a, usually too small, community of facilitators, committing to “make a WSF process manifestation , such as a WSF world event, happen”.

Beyond the unrivalled logistical chaos of WSF Dakar 2011, the strategic option to move the WSF process- event ( otherwise name  WSF edition,  world event)  geographically across the world has had a high cost  and has not yielded great visible results.

 It is difficult to perceive or show  what legacy is left from WSF events in the respective countries of Mumbai Nairobi Dakar Tunis Montreal Salvador.
In many of those cases 
1/ there has been an effort information/experience transference for those “one shot attempts”  many time without a perceived significant local reuse of experience, 
2/as it is a first time implementation for the local committee, some methodological-logistical issues are not given proper attention, ecause they are simply not "perceived" by the local committee

However In her input 15 Meena is mentionning @29 For India, the Social Forum represented a process that lasted for over two years, building unlikely friendships and alliances which deeply impacted the politics of protest movements in the country, and could have done more if it had not fallen apart due to bickering and sectarianism among those who were "leaders" of the Forum. It would be good to have more testimonies from faciltatores in those respective countries where the WSF process-event took place


globe-logo.pngA/ commenting/answering  LOOKING BACK section questions of input0 


@ 4 What has been the historic significance of the WSF?

If taking the idea seriously, WSF is a counter hegemonic process proposal (FW1)). So far, no other proposed collective social process is as potentially ambitious, and promising. Many relevant comments are available on this point.

There has been an initial WSF “fashion”, which stalled in 2010 , then has been a lost decade for WSF methodology, with no progress about for building a self-sustained WSF facilitating community (FW7 )….and it is no wonder that there be a loss of momentum…. While the current hegemony-that-be stays in place.

Is it a reason to stop and say farewell? We are on a long time trend, even if there seems to be an acceleration of crises that may lead to catastrophically scenarios. Is there a fast track alternative to the WSF dialogic open process with a generic route "from participation in dialogues to participation in actions/initaitives"? (FW4 )


@5 In what ways has its strategy of providing a neutral gathering space advanced (or curtailed) the “movement of movements”?

This notion of “movement of movements” is present in nearly all questions in this input#0. And, viewed “formally”, it might be a not useful chimera.

Also the notion of “convergence”, which seems to come from high outside above  “onto” participants, might not be so useful. Maybe the classical term of “alliance” and "coalition", built dialogically and from below by the actors themselves active in the open space, is more precise than "convergence".

Building powerful coalitions of movements and or Ngos on certain "initiatives" is a more realistic view, formally speaking, then that of a single movement of movements which would imply a same perimeter of alliance on many subjects

What is provided through WSF is merely a common space for self-organized dialogues. The “gathering” of people itself, even if emotionnally rewarding,  is not politically meaningful. The diversity of participants in the open space are ready to be showing tolerance or non-committing interest to others, but stepping in initiatives and making joint declaration requires  decisions protocols inside  each entities, hence require anticipation , so the WSF event is not a catharsis, but the culmination of a process-event follow by a post event phase that has never been implemented properly (FW1A )

Providing an open space with a broad explicit values and goals positioning, as described in the WSF charter is a more or less well implemented "service" from self-instituted "facilitating committees" to interested participants that are free to use this service or not.

@5B What can be the strategy of a WSF process facilitating community?

The reflection on a strategy of facilitators of WSF process has not been very explicit. There has been a “strategy commission” in the international council in the years 2008-2011 which seemed to be working on “strategy contents of alterglobalism” rather than discussing the strategy for development of the WSF process, from its global facilitating community.(FW7 )

Strategic intention of initial designers of WSF has been to provide a space-tool for civil society organizations acting for another possible world, that would be independent of governments and parties, and was not meant to be a representation space for civil society (as is explicitly stated in the charter)

One can comment on what would have happened in the last two decades without WSF proposal and experience. The different effects of the institution of WSF open space in international landscape have been widely described in other inputs, although not described from the point of view of the evolution of the participation formats proposed to participants.(FW text- FW3) 

The concrete development of the "dimension of action" inside the WSF process might be a relevant strategic next step to give more visibility and importance to the dimension of public action in the dialogues inside WSF process

This would be helping to fullfill the summarized “WSF function” described in the charter  article 1 “ and open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Humankind and between it and the Earth 


globe-logo.pngB/ commenting/answering  AT THE CROSS ROAD section questions of input0


@6 Does the WSF retain its vitality as a beacon of “another world,” or is it losing momentum?

WSF manifestations under the format of  world scale process-event have been clearly losing momentum, and the WSF process as it can be viewed as a "combination of WSF manifestations", decentralized in time and in space, is lagging behind the initial expectation raised by the initial manifestations.  It has not upscaled.  ( see the various edition of calendar of WSF events

Let us acknowledge that this also is due to methodological laziness on the formats,that is argued in input#7  but formally speaking is there an alternative to the openspace format ?  TINA to WSF, at least seems so to input#7 .

Moreover, formally  any coalition, network, movement claiming to be an "organizing novelty" with high potential of development to counter hegemonic scale  is also welcome to use the WSF space, in order to relate with other WSF participant entities, network coalitions etc. WSF is potentially all welcoming in its format.

WSF is not meant as a political actor and  as a space/process is not  competing with the respective ambitions of such organizing novelties. And this may explain why some networks are not interested to participate because they feel they cannot capture a space and prefer to grow on their own dynamics, or in likeminded dynamics, rather than spending energy on articulating with others

So, as facilitators, let us get back to work to craft more attractive WSF process manifestations.  If we take a mid term view , there are many dimensions where to work for improving the WSF format (FW5) (FW6regardless whether this is short term attractive or not to bigger players

A concrete thread of work is also  “what is/can be  communicated about the WSF process? “

What is the capacity of facilitators of a given WSF  process manifestation  to “communicate the forum”, as a relevant, promising,  attractive, and welcoming process, practicable at zero budget, “from where WSF participants live and act for another world”.  

Having this capacity implies having a somehow common and precise view of what is intended to be proposed to participants: in terms of thematics , in term of narrative , in term of participation formats  (FW4) , in term of "participants&facilitators compact"  (FW1)


@7 Has its unbending commitment to radical pluralism sacrificed movement unity?

Again, there is a postulate of a single movement, with no evidence of it.

There is among many of the co facilitators of WSF process an unbending commitment to horizontality, which is a basic condition for the sustainability and credibility of the WSF proposal of "open space".

So, it is understandable these facilitators, sharing the WSF charter vision of the process, resist to milder or stronger forms of “making the WSF open space talk”

An example of milder form is simply proposing that the WSF-IC make public activities  in a WSF event “as IC”, and  thus be considered a WSF participant “entity” , with higher legitimacy, hence able sooner or later to take stances,   whereas it is more a facilitating body  of a different nature .

A stronger format is proposing a final assembly at the end of a WSF manifestation, where “assembly facilitators” would conduct a process pretending explicitly to speak “in the name of the forum”, which would go by acclamation of the attendees, because there is no other way to behave in a big  assembly, making unsigned statements 

In the WSF space, there coexist a variety of participant entities, each with their own goals, their good of bad understanding of the forum operation, and their basic organizational capacity and culture.

 A broad enough unity can be built relatively easily on saying  together “no” to a single issue of “resistance , but  less easily  reached, as serveal input in the discussion have pointed out,  on saying “yes” to  promoting a specific combination of alternatives for building another world.

There is  also  a  “weak unity modality”, the one proclaimed in assemblies where most people are put in a “consent by default situation” , come to an  emotional "show arranged by process leaders"  , receive more or less passively some statements …and then vote with their feet

It is easy to be united with groups thinking the same way, and this can produce “implosion” of the WSF process, when participants are driven out from the WSF space by the “colorization” of that space, whether by “over visibility” of certain groups, whether by statements made by facilitators “making the space speak”.

Coalitions built from below seems to be the unescapable path, with no fast tracks, to effective collective action, not the weak unity of a postulated convergence movement


@7B What is the main tension hindering this WSF process    

The “never ending crossroads” since the beginning of the process is the tension between:

1/ - the willingness to  persistently develop, on a mid term basis, the emancipatory openspace notion, in practice at strategic scales and all dimensions, as “ facilitators “, very conscious of what this role implies, and able to communicate a clear formal view of the WSF invitation, under a diversity of formats , and promote the  coalitions and initiatives, built or strenghtened in the open space,  as the political  “composite” message of the forum

2/ -the short term continuous temptations, out of illusion of representation,  or out of exasperation and anxiety witnessing the global current political evolution in the world,  to find “fast tracks” to political significance, to move from "facilitator role" to r"epresentative role" and be a "ventriloquist" that make the WSF space speak. 

Going by this  temptation is also amounting to  feeding among WSF participants the spontaneous and regressive perception of “the forum” as political subject, on which they can count for help,  and  logically they will request more statement pressing "the forum"  to speak again and again (FW2)

This tension may result in loss of desire to take the necessary time discuss together a common vision of the process, to have “neutralization” between “facilitation” and “representation” effots to develop  format options in WSF manifestation, resulting in “poor implementation” (FW11).

Indeed, the conditions for methodological discussion in the IC have been poor from 2010 , which does no help to progress collectively . Optimistic view about the wsf concept potential, stemming from the practical experience (FW1) is of course weakened by this situation 


@7C No "fast track" to political significance "built from below". Resisting the" temptations to make the space speak". WSF charter as a compact  between facilitators and participants . 

Experience of facilitating WSF process manifestation helps  facilitators to take a step back from the heat of political discussion and the willingness of some facilitators, or outside actors,  to influence the contents or sharpen  the invitation to the WSF process manifestation  that a facilitating committee prepares, so it is perceived as   “narrower than the WSF charter”

If we take this step back, the hegemonies-that-be are there, and stable in the 20 years of WSF process. Of course the “terrestrial limit” of hegemony effect is now becoming visible and exacerbating the many crises. There is “race for political narratives” giving sense to what is happening.

WSF participants, in “coalitions from below”, are potentially powerful emitters and broadcasters of interrelated narratives, about the other possible world or civilization.. Those narratives can use WSF related  formal notions and vocabulary that has been evolved through methdological discussions in the WSF process  faciltating community 

Despite the growing feeling of political emergency that is overwhelming some facilitators, there is a need to resist “ fast track” temptation to “political significance of the forum” (FW2).

WSF is a tool by and for those willing to tackle in depth the challenge of creating a “new political culture”, not so much around national scale institutional parties, but increasingly around a diversity of powerful international coalitions of citizen organizations and social movements.

These coalitions built or grown in WSF space are able to inter-cooperate (using notably WSF space for this) and are willing and able to sway on the course of things, through public nonviolent actions, (as the coalition against ALCA/ FTAA once did in south America) .

So resisting “temptation to make the space speak”  is not because of  a “de-politicization orientation” among  facilitators, on the contrary . 

Facilitators can consider the  WSF charter   as "methodological-political compact between participants and facilitators". They are willing to empower participants and not empower themselves.  WSF charter is about  promoting participants as the political actors in the WSF open space , who are building alliances from below, inasmuch they can and will.  And, of course, faciltators are also  participants, but they are not  participants " more equal than others"      


globe-logo.pngC/ commenting/answering  THE LOOKING AHEAD section questions of input0


@8 Should the WSF continue to operate as an open space?

Of course yes ! There are plenty of interesting and challenging things to do in the open space  to implement the  "WSF charter program"  FW3 FW4 FW5  FW6

Otherwise if  WSF is transformed in an organization or /and  if the "open space"  gets “closed”  by  co-optation, it will transform into a “network/movement/organization,  called WSF, with the usual attributes a movment : representatives, leadership with a capacity to make statement in its name etc . And there will be a struggle for power in this movement, and competition with other movements 

This "WSF-organization"  will have its attractiveness go down as been perceived as captured by a specific group that who would be “ facilitating” the “mother of assemblies” in this network and capturing the "brand " of WSF  for a specic agenda

FW7 is presenting some elements about a WSF faciltiating community and FW8 is presenting an " intra facilitation compact" between those tempted to make the space speak (FW2) , and those willing to develop further the WSF process along  the current principles of its charter


@9 Seek to reinvent itself as a collective force for political action?

The relevant goal of the original vision of WSF open space facilitators remains: sustain a stimulating and growing context for “building alliances from below” , between empowered participants entities,  who know there is no “Big Brother Forum” to help them. This would be catalysed in part by the use of new formats  in the core WSF methodology (FW3).

More Empowered participants could also be invited to discuss “what can we do as WSF participants to spread  and upscale the WSF process”? Also the issue of social network and online participation in forum process activities would be tackled

This WSF space option has relevancy and has supporters, so it won’t easily disappear.

So, In parallel, and not in replacement to this historic option, there could be the option of constituting “a WSF related movement” beyond  the “coalitions built from below” appearing in the WSF open space, or proposing to articulate them around a "common WSF agenda".

This WSF related movement would derive its identity from accumulated participation of its core member entities in WSF space, and could use the  remaining , WSF open space for some of its activities

It would be a movement with a name to be defined, with its inclusion, decision, representation and communication protocols, probably updating and disseminating its own agenda, somehow articulated to the initiatives built in the remaining forum space. The use of the word WSF in the name of this movement would be problematic, and create confusion with the remaining WSF open space manifestations. 

A “permanent assembly of struggles” envisioned by some entities in the IC WSF between 2016 and 2018, understood as a self-organized initiative between a series of organizations, could be one such possibility. of WSF related movement. However, after an attempt to make it a prominent assembly in WSF 2018 methodology, with ambiguity whether it would be backed up by IC or not ( doc) there has been no recent sign of activity in that direction from its original promoters 

@10 Or should attention shift to fresh initiatives for building a coherent global movement?

Fresh initiatives have been

1/  since 2011 various upsurge of mobilization which might have psychologically be shaping generations but have not lasted as organizations or as processes. There have been some attempts, limited in size, and signiticance to invite in WSF context actors and groups related to 2011 15M or OWS, groups that have not been lasting (doc possible here

 2/ Specific recent initiatives. There are plenty of such attempts.  Enumerating them is possible, they might be fresh, some might have a strong dynamics, although none of them have so far both the thematic spectrum and the visibility of WSF. Building a coherent global movement would imply an invitation based on some text emitted by a coalescence of promoters of several such initiatives. 

Let us observe that this does not replace WSF open space process  which is BY ITS NATURE OF SPACE more open than any single movement

For sure, the “business as usual” WSF of last decade is not as fresh as it looked in 2001,  but it could be refreshed by some methodological-implementation breakthroughs,  in line with its original project, if there appear a group of facilitators willing to sustain this effort) FW3  FW6

considering "freshness" also leads to talking of role of youth in the process  

Proportion of youth has always been high in the forum as participants, but they have been under represented in WSFIC and in WSF manifestation facilitating committees, where prominent participation implied having some experience ,responsibility in a solid enough organization.  The "youth camp" has been traditionally a place for affirmation of youth self-organizing capacity

One exception was Montreal WSF facilitating collective of about 30 people, with a much lower than usual average age (not all young though) and more individuals than organizations. These youth managed to organize a WSF event, of moderate scale.

They had a frustrating contact with a non-helping aged IC amidst its methodological-political divisions. However, they did not find an attractive post-event organizing format focused on WSF process, where to continue investing in the WSF process. Youth is also a mobile age where situations and commitments may change rapidly

It is within possibility for a WSF event facilitation committee to experiment rules that self-organized activities “preparation groups” and initiatives “promotion groups”, in logistical and methodological contact with the facilitating committee, would include at some point young people and women. Also, It is relevant to give more voice to young people in the facilitating committees, and through them, in the from now on more inclusive IC

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 informal groups active in recent mobilizations. A "participant to participant outreach" use of social networks in the "initial participation phase" would help outreach to them, and invite them to consider themselves as empowered participants in WSF process (FW1A and  FW3


@10B Exploring splitting and cohesive scenarios among WSF facilitators  

 (see section 8 of FW document and end of input#7)