• input commenting on two diagrams about wsf process en

last modified November 7, 2019 by facilitfsm


Commenting on two diagrams about generic WSF process 

About participant’s ownership, ways forwards for (W)SF processes,
 and overall WSF process facilitation











Emergence and formalization of the social forum "format" asserted as a process from a first event experience

The social forum format was designed in practice in Porto Alegre on January 2001. It was formalized later in a Charter of principles, as a political-ideological compact, entrusted to an International Council established in June 2001. This charter affirms in its article 1 that the world social forum is a process.

[@Charter: http://openfsm.net/projects/ic-methodology/charter-fsm-wsf-en]


WSF international council as caregiver to the WSF process  

The WSF International Council can be considered as the caregiver of the political methodological compact that the charter and its signatories represents, in charge to find ways to develop a process of intercommunication, counter hegemonic against neo-liberalism and its configurations of alliances with other forms of domination existing in the various contexts national and cultural in a globalizing world.

In Casablanca in 2013, this council has dedicated a brief moment to describe its own tasks
[@ICTasks: http://openfsm.net/projects/wsfic_fsmci/casa13-wsfic-tasks-tareas-taches-cifsm/#EN ].
The level of fulfillment of these tasks can be evaluated. This capacity of performing tasks rests also in the ability to create a "social forum process caregiving community" that goes beyond the individuals representing member entities in this council (see part C).


Two decades later

Almost 20 years later, the international political and economic panorama has changed and more authoritarian political forms are developing, that maintain a neoliberal agenda differentiated according to economic inter blocks competition. Their description is not the purpose of this input

Awareness is growing though, about the need to find ways to resist and build another world that is increasingly necessary, in order to face, cooperatively and not divisively, a series of ominous environmental and social planetary challenges generated in the last two centuries.


The development of the social forum process, which is described in the Charter of principles, has been less than could be imagined in 2001, but the process continues to exist, which is good news. There is no alternative generic proposal with the same replication and usefulness potential that has emerged meanwhile, which is another fact to be taken in consideration.


The originality of the social forum, as a horizontal process of intercommunication with counter hegemonic potential, thus remains. Millions of people identify, more or less clearly, this originality, across the world. The challenge remains for its promoters to reach counter hegemonic size.

It can be argued that there has not been, from the WSF international council, which had good legitimacy and potential for these tasks, a persistent enough effort to:

  • A/ Disseminate the understanding of charter of principles,
  • B/ Develop the methodologies for implementing the "open space" concepts in all directions, and
  • C/ Find ways to expand and make palpable an active cooperative community of facilitators/caregivers of the WSF process.


Purpose of this text: identify ways for further development of (W)SF processes


In this context, the present input is proposed from a point of view of "methodological formalization".

This point of view is based on the assumption that, if the WSF proposal is taken seriously, it is to be developed by an ever increasing community of promoters, in order to reach counter hegemonic size, as an horizontal process-space-event, known and practiced by 1% or more of world population, and not less than 0,1% as is the case today.


Importance of WSF methodology in reaching counter hegemonic calibre for WSF process


Overall WSF process is made up of a diversity of social forum processes, hereafter mentioned with the abbreviation (W)SF processes, which coexist and overlap, in a “mesh mode”, in time and space. In a positive scenario, an ever-growing community of WSF participants, conscious of their participant identity, will use SF processes as a “common organizing tool", with mutual visibility for resisting and building other possible worlds.


This replication and coexistence of (W)SF processes requires a common understanding about the principles and the formats of participation. Replication requires also clear transmission of a generic process description. Finally, overall cooperation in horizontal mesh mode is also an issue.

This is why “WSF methodology” is, from the onset, a strategic issue about WSF process. Methodological discussion and experimentation among promoters of WSF horizontal open space process is critical for its quality and attractiveness. There has been a methodology commission by the WSF international council which has operated from 2003 to 2011.


In the early years of WSF process, social forums events where mushrooming everywhere, and the mortality of such process-events has been very high. Describing causes for mortality, and for longevity, in a diversity of concrete cases, could be a complement to the present input. Improper understanding or implementation of WSF methodology would certainly be an important cause of mortality.


Plan of input


The present input is thus mainly directed to entities involved in some (W)SF process facilitation, also concerned about overall cooperation to sustain and develop WSF process in general. As such, it can be of interest for WSF participants, of course.


This document will: 

  • in part A / Present and comment a “disk and circles diagram”, a graphic illustration of a generic SF process-space-event, as a vector for dissemination of the forum's understanding,
  • in part B / Present and comment a ”6 rectangles diagram”, as a guide for thinking about how to make generic “acts of participation” available to WSF participants, in a diversity of “participatory web arrangements” and websites.
  • in part C / Highlight some formats of participation in the social forum process, the implementation of which, through participatory arrangements, can offer perspectives for those who want to further develop the process along its current principles. Mention possibilities of horizontal cooperation in a “facilitating community” around WSF international council, where reactivation of collective methodological discussion around open space methodology would be quite relevant. 



A / “Disk and circles” diagram: generic description of a social forum process


Graphic metaphor: forum process with” participation circles” and “open space disk”


This "disk and circles» diagram (see below) proposes a metaphor for a social forum process, whose principles are explained in 14 articles that describe various facets of the process: [@ Charter: http://openfsm.net/projects/ic-methodology/charter-fsm-wsf-en ]

This space-process, is a shared political-methodological vision, which has, over time, since the beginning of the WSF process in 2001, taken concrete logistic formats in websites, web participatory arrangements, physical spaces and time segments,


The “disk and circles” diagram reads as follows: participants (element 1 in the diagram) have 3 main forms of participation available.

  • They can come in "common spaces of facilitated intercommunication (element 2), instituted by the facilitators of the process (“facilitation” is element 3, that is not visible in this basic diagram, but is essential to have the process "work").
  • They can announce self-organized "intercommunication activities" (element 4) that are of very different formats (workshops, seminars, conferences, assemblies, parties etc) or,
  • They can announce and promote "transformative initiatives" (element 5), with public actions (symbolized by green arrows in outer circle of the diagram) that can have diverse size and type.


Five participation circles


The “disk and circles” diagram is horizontal: everything is in the same plane of the WSF "open space".

  • First circle, starting from the center, is the one of various “common intercommunication spaces” (element 2).
  • Second circle are self-organized activities the topic of which is without discussion of initiatives, with a dimension of popular university and exchange of experiences.
  • Third circle are activities with discussion about initiatives, with thus a concern about “what to do next”.
  • Fourth circle is an ”agora of futures”, a moment-space of intercommunications about initiatives, between promoters and participants, which is the ” boundary space”  of SF open space”.
  • Fifth circle is all the public actions mentioned in all the initiatives discussed in the process, which make up the “calendar of futures” of the considered (W)SF process.


  • discoFS-EN-fleche-70.pngcfmex-insumo60-en3.png 
  • a later variant with the online encounter participation format preliminary to  or parallel to activities

(Disk and circles Diagram )


An "open space" positioned by the charter of principles


The “disk and circles” diagram proposes a visual representation of the "open space of the forum". Open space is symbolized by the light blue disk in the diagram that goes “until” the fourth circle named "agoras of initiatives/futures. This open space "rests on" and "is delimited by" all the "intercommunications related to self-organized activities" placed in the process by its participants, wherever and whenever they might take place. 


The open space is, in the ideological and axiological sense, positioned by the WSF charter of principles. Indeed the charter prescribes the generic values and goals of participants in the SF process, along with enunciation of what is the proposed WSF process and some operating rules.

From there, the space is open "to who is publicly considering himself/herself as a participant in the process with these generic values and goals". So WSF open space it is not "any space".


Boundary of open space: intercommunication about initiatives and actions 


This “open space”, of conceptual nature, goes "until" moments of "agoras of futures", that can be self-organized, or organized by the facilitating collective of a given social forum process-event, depending the cases. “Agora of futures” is a space/moment of intercommunications between participants focused in their announced initiatives.


“Initiative” is an umbrella word for struggles, projects, campaigns, alternatives, initiatives... Each initiative is declared and described by a group of participating entities, with specific goals, tasks and one to three significant public transformative actions, with dates planned in the future.

These public actions are formally located "outside" of the "forum space", which is about "intercommunication" and is not an "action space". However, here is ample relevance in intercommunicating in the WSF open space about transformative and resistance initiatives and actions (presentation, articulation, strategic planning, operative planning etc..)


These public actions are of diverse and nonviolent nature. They are requiring a more or less important level of commitment from the people who perform them. In this respect, they can be categorized as “reflaction” (with public visibility), “manifestaction”( in public space), “involvaction”( in transformative projects, or strikes boycotts etc), “argumentaction” (outreaching to dialogue with citizens), “exposaction” (infringing nonviolently on law somehow for spectacular or blockading action with mediatic visibility).


It is clear also that the level of commitment required for an action is depending on the size of the “democratic public space” that exists in the country where the action is performed, eg. participating in a demonstration can have very different consequences depending the national context.

These public actions, with their respective dynamics of support and participation, reflect, or carry, a significant part of the medium term social and political impact and influence capability of the WSF process participant’s entities in their respective societies.


Diversity of possible SF process formats: with or without centric event


This “disk and circles” diagram is undefined in time and space. It is the same diagram, whether or not there is a prominent event in the considered SF process. Indeed various forms of SF process can coexist within the general WSF process.


-“Process-event”: local, national, world, thematic scale around a centric event [@ that can be mentioned in a WSF calendar of events such as http://openfsm.net/projects/wsf2012-support/wsf2018-calendar ]. With a pre event and post event phase, the active timespan for those processes is one to two years. 


-“Process-kiosk”: ie without event, but with a common online intercommunication web arrangement (Kiosk), proposing to its participants the placement of local activities and initiatives, as in a process-event. Each kiosk is operated by a small facilitation collective with a freely defined " area of presence" and without territorial exclusivity. It is a place where participants can also be made aware of several process-events. Ten people can collaborate zero budget to sustain a Kiosk welcoming a few thousands participants that is a high enough replication potential

[@ Kiosk (in Spanish) http://openfsm.net/projects/qfsmet-lac1 ].


-“Process-extension dynamics”: where local activities, open to online participation, are placed by participant entities, asserting thereby that they are participants in the WSF process.

[@Activities placed in extension dynamics Dynex1WSF http://openfsm.net/projects/dynex1-fsmwsf/dynex1fsmwsf-chrono-list-activ ]


The development of the WSF process in general can be made in a “mesh format”, by replications and coexistences, with overlapping of these various formats of SF process in time and space. In order to gain counter-hegemonic size, this development would be involving an ever growing number of facilitators across the world, sharing the same understanding and practices of what is a (W)SF open space (see Part C).



Valuing the political identity of "WSF process participant" 


This “disk and circles” diagram highlights the notion of "WSF participants". The people and collective entities enter the open space, whether in a face-to-face situation, or on line. After what the “act of self-inclusion” is performed, through an online form where they are invited to explicitly refer to generic values and goals of participants and basic rules of open space stated in WSF charter of principles (see articles 1 4 8 10 11 12) . Next, they get included in interactive common intercommunication spaces by facilitators and receive information about what the forum is, "where" they are, “how” they can participate and use this open space. 


They already have understood, through earlier participations in (W)SF , or come progressively to understand, this “participant identity” and the nature of WSF open space, in the light of the activities in which they participate, and informal exchanges they have with other participants and accompanying facilitators.

The dissemination of this simple “disk and circles” diagram can accompany the dissemination by facilitators of the Charter of principles among participants, with the purpose to stimulate discussions about how each participant understands the forum and intends to participate of facilitate it.


The conscious identity of being a "WSF participant" can be regarded as a "political counter hegemonic identity", which allows one to participate more actively in a process of counter hegemonic intercommunication, in contact with entities and movements proposing their respective counter hegemonic goals, initiatives, and practices.


Development of online participation in the WSF process 


The small disks at the center of the “disk and circle” diagram, which represent people / entities and the larger disks symbolizing the activities in second and third circles, are with two half-disks: the darkest half correspond to the face-to-face intercommunication, and the lighter half to "online intercommunication".

Online participation can be in online encounters, or as remote participant in face to face local activity, or through group discussions, or in private conversations with other WSF participants.

As the number of people regularly connected to internet grows to massive dimensions ( around half the population of the world) It is becoming an increasingly accessible and widespread practice, and its dissemination is a necessary condition for the (W)SF process to be sustainable and not be relying mostly on face-to-face gatherings. Beyond gathering at local scale, participation in those  face-to-face gathering is feeding an implicit sense of belonging to a “select community” able to find resources, visas; time; for such gatherings. 


The counter hegemonic usage of social networks in the social forum process, allows to shape "on line communities of WSF participants", people who act for another possible world in the local environment where they live and work, and at the same time can inter-locally connect with each other similar people in other parts of a same country or the world.

Inter-local connections are significantly different from pyramidal connections between “entity representatives” who will meet face to face in an social forum event.

They contribute to a much more hands-on and local ownership of the WSF process, by many more participants, who can be visible and effective in some (W)SF processes, without having to travel to a series of selective far away centric SF events.


Arrow symbolizing the generic journey of participants in the forum, made at their own pace.


The big arrow in the ”disk and circles” diagram, going from center to right periphery, shows the possible "generic journey" of participants, persons or collective entities of civil society, in the "space-process-event" of a social forum, designed and facilitated according to the WSF principles.


The inclusion in the specific (W)SF process considered is done in the center of the diagram, after the “act of self-inclusion” in the open space, usually through an online form. Then, the generic journey goes from the center to the periphery of the "open space" disk, and then beyond the boundary of open space, towards participation in public actions. 

The potential size of such actions, when they benefit from a “bottom up” articulation/ synchronization can be very big, as the historical size of anti-iraq war global demonstration in 2003 testifies.


This “participation journey” is something like "the promise from one’s participation in the forum". This promised personal or entity journey can be expressed as: "Moving from individual participation as a person or entity to the involvement in a diversity of collective actions of social transformation, co-assumed by articulations of collective entities participating in the process".


This journey from concern to actions is done at one’s own pace. There are people/entities who may stop in the first circle of activities (activities unrelated to initiatives), others who will go in the second circle (Activities that mention and discuss initiatives), or will reach the third (Agoras of futures focused on intercommunication about and participation in initiatives). In these agoras, some will get actively involved in initiatives and their public actions of various types, while others won't.



Medium term socio political impact of participants in a forum process


The outer circle of the ”disk and circles” diagram represents the “calendar of futures", collecting, in a same shared document, the public actions dates linked to the initiatives presented in a given forum-space-event process. Graphically, those actions appear numerous and diverse, in ambition, scale, size of their support, and in their qualitative nature.

[eg. This categorization presented earlier: “reflaction”,“manifestaction”,“involvaction”,“argumentaction” ,“exposaction”]

These actions contribute to a "meta-strategy" of diversity “360 degrees” in all sectors of social and political life. On the other hand, the relevance and coordination of some actions/initiatives can be worked on in various articulations between participating entities, formed or reinforced in the forum, which develop a specific strategy. These are "coordinations from below", without facilitators in the forum giving priorities or guidelines.


Until now, this vocabulary of “initiatives” with “public actions” is not part of the "generic conceptual language of the WSF process", spoken by its participants and facilitators. Such language is limited to «self-organized activities", among which “self-organized assemblies” stand out. 

This "shortage of available participation formats", partly explains the "temptation of the big assembly", felt by some process-event facilitating collectives.

This temptation consists in privileging some assemblies in relation to others, and placing there the process participants in a "situation of implied consent”, that is listening to "texts of convergence", drafted by a few participants, and signed by no one. These texts in many cases are “light and fast, but weak” substitutes for initiatives timely and patiently "built from below".  Indeed, according to how WSF methodology is implemented, the SF space can be more or less friendly to emergence and expression of initiatives. 


A "methodology of initiatives", complementing a "methodology of activities", could develop around the usage of this "initiative" format of participation in (W)SF processes. This format is starting to be explored and implemented.

[@ 2017 working group in international council http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/descripcion-iniciativas-e-agora-informe-en ]

[@Modest implementation of agora of futures in WSF 2018 http://openfsm.net/projects/sobre-agora-dos-futuros-fsm2018/agorafsm18-articulo-de-presentacion-marzo-2019/#EN ]

[@WSF2016 calendar of futures : https://fsm2016.org/en/actions/]


Facilitation / care of a social forum process


In the commented version of “disk and circles” diagram (see image below part B), "facilitation" (or "care" of the process) is mentioned as element 3. These are all the tasks that allow the process to proceed and the event to occur.

Facilitation/care corresponds to a collective initiative taken to create and take care of a specific (W)SF process, with the conformation of a “facilitating community” having its own organization. (committee, commissions, working groups…). This community takes up, as a service to the open community of future participants in the considered SF process, the task of "giving concrete shape" to this particular process, which is included in the WSF process in general.


Facilitating/caring for a social forum process consists in designing and implementing the formats of participation and the organization of facilitating community, based on the accumulation of (W)SF methodology experience. This experience can be accessed in particular in proximity with WSF international facilitation council.

[A significant documentation is available in www.openfsm.net, including transcription of international council discussions in face to face meetings http://openfsm.net/projects/ic-extended and on mailing list  http://openfsm.net/projects/wsfic_fsmci]


Entities and individuals who contribute to the process facilitation, through committee, commissions, work groups, personal volunteering etc, perform their "facilitation tasks". Those tasks are focused on the formats of participation, the macro planning and online logistic of the process, the physical and online logistics and macro programming of the event (if any), and of course many interaction with participants. 


The facilitation/caregiving community of a social forum process, as long as it respects the WSF principles contained in the Charter, has the collective capacity/legitimacy to "shape" the formats of the open space it proposes. This is done "with web arrangements/devices" through which methodology is implemented.

Those “arrangements/devices” are a combination of web sites, web spaces, physical spaces, online forms, social networks interactive groups, online and face-to-face presence of volunteers.

[See description of such an arrangement around thematic axes / intercommunication spaces http://openfsm.net/projects/pfsm20/pfsm20-ejes-tematicos]


There is need for clear widespread awareness, among both participants and facilitation contributors, about the fact that contributing to facilitation is not entitling one to be swaying on the production of political contents in the open space that is being “facilitated”. These contents (initiatives, declarations, etc.) are produced in own name by the participating entities, who are using the participation formats implemented by facilitation. These participant entities carry the political dimension of what happens in the event process.



Distinguishing "facilitation" producing "formats" and  "participation" producing "contents"


Facilitators / caregivers to the process learn how to separate these facilitation tasks from their own "acts of participation" in the SF process-event that they contribute to facilitate. Their acts of participation are focused on their own participation goals, with the production of informative, educational and political content in their own name.


This clear-cut distinction between “facilitation tasks” and “participation acts” is a double guarantee:

  • 1/ guarantee to participants that the “facilitation instances” are not going to speak in participants name and
  • 2/ guarantee between entities in the “facilitation instances” that having a non-political profile in the facilitating instance allows very diverse entities to cooperate efficiently together and facilitate the (W)SF process along the principles of the charter, and maintain its positioning as open space along the political values expressed in the charter. There is no need for further political statements from the facilitation instances, and all facilitation decisions can be taken by consensus.



Bottom up politicization in WSF open space


As said above, the many possible types of political contents, announcements of initiatives, support to initiatives, declarations, geography of articulations supporting such and such initiatives, are produced in own name, through intercommunications in a (W)SF open space, by the participating entities, who are using the formats of participation provided by “facilitation instances”  of said social forum process.


This can be summarized as “Participating entities carry the political dimension of what happens in the event process” and “in WSF open space, contents are produced by participants in a bottom-up way”.


Towards the end of the timespan of a (W)SF process, some participating or facilitating entities may be dissatisfied with some contents present in the open space, or with absence of other contents, but it is too late to complain.

Indeed, there is no “fast-track top-down substitutive recipe” for promotion of certain political contents in the forum open space. The realistic advice to entities coming with a clear political goal is: “start early and be proactive in your intercommunications, all participation acts are voluntary, there is no imposition in the open space”.


When an articulation emerges from early stages of intercommunication among a group of entities, then, if this group demonstrates willingness and capacity to articulate broadly with other entities around themes and initiatives consistent with its participation goals, it might create an attractive dynamics in the open space, next to other such dynamics.


This is how “bottom up politicization” can be built in the (W)SF open spaces, reflecting the depth of intercommunications held there. There is no “top down politicization”  

Educational and political contents produced in the open space statistically depend on which individuals and entities step in the open space of a given (W)SF process and on how the time is used, proactively or not, by those participants.

Of course, this is also depending to some extent on the easiness of online intercommunication in spaces provided by the considered process facilitators.



A lexicon for caring for the originality of the social forum process


The WSF process is a sui generis space and format, which, because of its originality, does not fit into the current widespread vocabulary and language elements that are used to talk about networks and collective organizations.


Networks and organizations usually have modes of co-optation, decision, representation, The forum, as a space and not an organization, does not have “members” rather it is "used" by “participants”. The forum as a space does not decide anything, while its facilitating collective does, but only on participation formats and planning, not on political contents . The forum, as a space, does not represent anyone, neither its facilitating collective.


Taking care of the vocabulary and language elements used to talk about WSF process is thus important. It allows to consolidate concepts, understanding through proper formulation in words. To that end, a useful contribution by facilitation instance can be proposing and updating “ (W)SF lexicon” of key words, including some diagrams such as those presented in this input, with small texts and illustrative links towards concrete examples etc..

[@A recent proposal for such a methodology lexicon: http://openfsm.net/projects/metodologia/possible-fsm-wsf-lexicon-doc4-en 



Commented “disk and circles” diagram


The commented diagram comes with new elements of information

  • Element 1: highlights the relevance of asserting the generic values of the participants, and valuing the identity of «WSF participant”.
  • Element 2: highlights that “common spaces” are not deliberative, and come with light facilitation focused on information and stimulation of self-organized on line “encounters”, which can be good preliminary discussions between specific participants, before decision to prepare joint activities and formulate joint initiatives.
  • Element 3: introduces the notion of facilitation/ care of the forum process.
  • Element 4: recalls the notion of political responsibility of entities about self-organization of activities.
  • Element 5: explains the relationship between announcements of initiatives, public actions, agora of futures, and calendar of futures.


(Commented Disk and circles Diagram) 




Consideration on process-events

From event to process


The WSF forum has appeared in 2001 as an event, alternative to another annual event held annually in Davos, started in the 70's. Two decades later, it is still largely perceived as an event. The charter of principles affirms however that the forum is a counter hegemonic "process".


The “disk and circles” diagram highlights this permanent process dimension, since the notion of event does not appear in the diagram.

If the pre-event period has been with a weak level of intercommunications, the people who physically arrive at the centric event cannot compensate for the lost occasions of interactions during those pre event  months: the simple fact of meeting and recognizing each other will take a good part of their face to face time available in the event.

These participants may also arrive "alone", that is without having a clear delegation mandate from their entities who stayed “back home”. Thus, they are in less favorable conditions to be able to work on articulations and convergences, and issue strong commitments to initiatives and concrete actions in the name of their entities.

The “promise from one’s participation in the forum process” is a promise in the medium term. During the few days of the centric event of a process-event, the intercommunication between participants can be seen as a reflection of the quality in the intercommunications held in the process during months towards this centric event.

These delegates are, understandably, so overwhelmed by face to face participation in the diversity and multiplicity of a social forum  event, that , during the event days they have no time available to convey proper information to, and to get feedback from their entities on articulations and commitments etc.

However if there is enough online participation access to the event, people “back home” can  get first-hand information about activities where those delegates are involved and proactively interact with them in situation. That can be an effect of a wdespread effort towards developing practice of online participation in activities


Above considerations show that it is quite relevant to differentiate “inclusion in a SF process” from “registration in the centric event of this process”.


Centric event of a process event forum and agora of futures as its final moment


A particular (W)SF process, whatever its format, takes place in a certain "geographical-thematic space" and a "timespan". When there is a centric event, the process is designed in relation to this "centric event", which will concentrate many activities in one place and time, and its facilitators are usually giving first priority to centric activities,  and giving second priority, if any, to including with "local activities before, during and after the event".


"Agora of futures" can be the adequate format of a"final moment of the centric event", which is an open issue since inception of WSF events. It has an horizontal participatory format and is focused on initiatives, which is projecting participants in the post event phase, It is where and when a "calendar of futures", as a collective result of the process-event, becomes visible, as a shared document among the participants, which is informing widely and publicly about the post-event phase. Existence of this common calendar does not imply, of course, that all the participants are supporting all the initiatives / actions contained in the calendar.


This agora of future format is answering at the same time two concerns:

  • 1/ make concrete results of the process efficiently visible in terms of initiatives supported by explicit articulations of entities participating in the process-event, and (article 7 of WSF charter) 
  • 2/ show the diversity and horizontality of the forum space, with the fact that "nobody is placed in a situation to be speaking on behalf of the forum". ( article 6 of WSF charter) 

[@See here an account of “agora o futures in WSF 2018 event. http://openfsm.net/projects/sobre-agora-dos-futuros-fsm2018/agorafsm18-articulo-de-presentacion-marzo-2019/#EN]

[@ See here the document of the international council working group on initiatives and agora.in 2017. http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/descripcion-iniciativas-e-agora-informe-en ]



Intercommunication streams in a process-event


When there is an event at the centre of a SF process, in a context where the central event is given great importance, 3 intercommunication streams can be distinguished in this process-event:

  • 1 / Centric Intercommunication process before and after the event, between the people who will be physically present at the event (they focus on the event, and its "preparatory activities" and return activities).
  • 2 / Local/peripheral intercommunication process, before and after the centric event between people participating in the process “outside the event” (in time and space): people get involved in local activities, and inter-local process, through local activities opened to participation online, and in the online participation in the central event
  • 3 / "Delegating intercommunication" in occasion of local or preparatory activities, with the possibility of delegating / giving mandates, to those persons / entities who attend the centric event. Mandates can be on :a/ Progress towards entity participation goals through co preparation of activities and co-promotion of  initiatives b/ Online Inclusion open activities in the event to online participation, so that local participants can participate online with centric participants.


Popular education and proactive participation


The open space of the forum is primarily for its participants a place of encounters, information, learning experience, i.e popular education. The open space creates an environment that is quite emotionnally impacting  and sometimes is a factor of changes in people's lives. For this popular education aspect , the main act of participation is self-inclusion and receiving a lot of information. Also organizing activities and promoting initiatives can be a learning experience.

Beyond this popular education dimension, present for all participants, "the promise" from one’s participation in the forum corresponds to a "generic trajectory of active participation" symbolized by the big arrow in the diagram: From persons to collectives. From dialogues to initiatives.


Working on this promise can be concretized through various "participation acts" that are equally accessible to a same category of participants, differentiating between individuals, and collective entities. These participants are aware of WSF principles: horizontality, diversity, expression in their own name and in explicit articulations, no speaking in the name of the forum which is not an organization but a space-process-event.



B / 6 Rectangles Diagram: Generic "acts of participation" available to WSF participants


Presentation of the diagram

In addition to the previous "Disk and circles "diagram, this "six rectangles" diagram focuses on the generic autonomous "participation acts" of the participants in a forum space-process, made accessible by their "facilitation instances" (facilitating committee, with its commissions, working groups, and volunteers), through "web participatory arrangements" during  most of the timespan, and through physical participatory arrangements in events.


The six rectangles diagram shows in more detail the interrelations  between these “acts of participation”, that proactive participants can combine in sequences  to proceed in their “journey” towards their participation goals.


The four elements present in the “disk and circles” diagram ( part A) are complemented here with two elements:

  • 1 / Facilitation tasks/acts (element 3) are included, which sustain the concretization of the process and are necessary to have the various “participatory arrangements” implementing the WSF methodology operate.
  • 2 / Acts of internal organization of the diverse articulations of participating entities that take initiatives (element 6) are also included. These are no longer within the "perimeter of the forum space" as defined in the “disk and circle” diagram. This is the internal "organizing" effort by the group promoting a specitic initiative, in order to implement the decisions and planning that the promoters and supporters of a this initiative made in the intercommunications they had in the space of the forum.


The small arrows in each rectangle stand for interactive possibilities around those acts of participation  that a “web participatory arrangement” may provide.


(6 rectangles Diagram)


Communicating and documenting “from the forum space”

From the participant's perspective,  the communication about self-organized activities and initiatives is part of these same acts of participation as shown by the presence of verb "promote" in elements 4 and 5. of the diagram

The verb "document" could also be added, since documentation is a prerequisite for communication and dissemination. The goal is to convey the public intercommunications to those who did not participate in them.


From the facilitator’s perspective, there are some main tasks about communication in the open space:

  • 1/ Communicating disseminating, in the name of facilitating instances, what the forum is (the “disk and circles” diagrams could be used in this perspective) and what the “facilitating community” is doing to keep the process going,
  • 2/ Making sure that information about modalities for performing “acts of participation” and modalities for improving quality of collective on line and face-to-face intercommunication is properly circulated among participants. 
  • 3/ Stimulating acts of communication /documentation from the participating entities themselves, about what they do in the open space, including among them the entities considered as alternative media. 


Web participatory arrangements and web sites


"The facilitation of the process-event" will define and implement, formats / acts of participation, the “participatory arrangements” where to perform, on line or face to face, those acts of participation, a macro-planning to unfold the process, inviting participants to various stages of concrete participation. (Inclusion, encounters, local activities, initiatives centric event activities, registration in event, evaluation, updates documentation etc...).


During most of the timespan of the considered social forum process, the main visible concretization of the forum's intercommunication space are the process-event website or a "web participatory arrangement", combining published pages, online forms and a structured set of interactive social network groups, and a facilitating group of persons

[see kiosk : http://openfsm.net/projects/qfsmet-lac1]

Website and web participatory arrangements are also where participants announce their main participation acts such as: inclusion in the process, declaring and describing activities and initiatives, merging activities, documenting these activities and initiatives - announcing dates of public actions, etc.

This "six rectangles" diagram can be relevant to inspire the design of a web participatory arrangement and/or website of a forum process.



Commented version of “six rectangles” diagram


Comments bring new information

  • Element 1: highlights the importance of the self-inclusion in the process through an “on line form”. This form that can have a short basic version, and an optional second half, giving more substance to a "public profile", that other participants can browse, in order to find who they would invite to self-organized online “encounters”, announced in intercommunication common spaces”.
  • Element 2 + 3: highlights that “common intercommunication spaces” are not deliberative, they come with “light facilitation” focused on information of “just arrived participants”, and on stimulation of self-organized "on line encounters", which can be good preliminary discussions between specific participants, leading to possible decision to prepare joint activities and formulate joint initiatives. Encounters can be catalyzing moments
  • Element 3: highlights importance of informing the participants about the "time and space area of the considered process" ( beyond the days and place of the centric event if any) and defining the online forms to announce and place encounters, activities and initiatives in the process.
  • Element 4 +5: recall the notion of articulation of several entities for co organizing activities and initiatives, and the possibilities for articulating or  merging  activiities or initiatives .
  • Element 6: is focusing on the internal-organizing of lasting initiatives, struggles, projects, campaigns etc.
    Initiatives that exist before the process seek reinforcement through the process and may have their own web space. The initiative promoting group will get an interactive "contact room" accessible by the WSF participants.
    Promoters of initiative just emerging in the considered (W)SF process may also be interested in using, besides a contact room, an on line publishing space accessible in the (W)SF process environment (such as spaces accessible in www.openfsm.net). 



(Commented six rectangles Diagram )




C / Perspective about future of WSF process and overall facilitation


1/ Limitations perceived about basic WSF methodology 


Not enough progress on public actions dimension

From 2001 to the present, the basic WSF methodology has essentially been based on self-organized activities (element 4 in the “disk and circles” diagram  partA).

From the beginning in 2001 until 2006, there were some attempts to collect and make visible  "proposals" emerging from activities held in the forum space. Then in 2008, a certain consensus was reached inside international council towards introducing, in the macro program of events, a diversity of 20/30 self-organized "convergence assemblies". Consideration of this consensus invited promoters of "proposal collection" to give it less priority and stopping of metodological commission cancelled a space where to continue methodological explorations."

These assemblies were implemented first in 2009 in WSF events, and till present, with a diversity of 20 to 30 assemblies per event, with exception of WSF 2018, when only 2 assemblies were included in the event macro program, which was criticized in IC discusions 

[They are documented here:  http://openfsm.net/projects/convergences.] and show difficulties for their promoters to  give rise to "assembly as a continuous process"  beyond the "assembly as activity" in an event. Here also no exchange of methodological experience has taken place between their various promoters

In parallel, the issue of the "format of a final moment of a social forum event" has been on the table of international council since 2009, and not properly discussed in international council throughout 2009-2017. 


Not enough collective intercommunication dimension

In practice, element 2 in the disk and circles diagram , i.e. the notion of "common intercommunication space" with facilitation without incidence in content, has been object of little methodological discussion and implementation since 2001.

In some (W)SF events, the "thematic axes" have shaped in a geographic common location of activities linked to the axes, but with no physical participatory arrangement welcoming face to face intercommunication between participants

In some other events, there have been institution of facilitated “dialogue and debate spaces", which were single room spaces where facilitators were acting on the content itself. The contents produced in most cases have been a "speech of everyone and nobody," which has fed “unsigned declarations”, close in format to a declaration in the name of the forum, ruled out by the charter of principles.

These are “event time” implementations.

More recently,"process time" implmentation of this idea have been explored:  just included participants have been placed, according to their choice in interactive groups by thematic axes. However the presence of facilitators and in consequence information by facilitators to participants in those spaces was insufficient.


Low methodological activity in international council

In WSF international council (IC), the stopping of commission operation in 2011 has left in practice methodology discussion depending on ad hoc groups and short plenary discussion moments in council meetings. From then on, only very few discussions have taken place about WSF process-event methodology, let alone about overall WSF process methodology.

[@See this space about methodological commission of IC http://openfsm.net/projects/metodologia ]


Frustrations and fast track questioning of WSF charter

This lack of methodological activity, has contributed to feeding and spreading  a feeling of routine and low effectiveness of the forum methodology in design and implementation. This has been felt by participants/facilitators legitimately concerned with the counter hegemonic outcomes in the WSF process, and their public dissemintation by facilitators in relation to article 7 of the charter of principles. 

Effect of lack of focused discussion and concrete collectively owned experimentations about WSF methodology, have added to the growing anxiety about the state of the world as the post 2008  crisis effects unfold. in some cases, this have motivated some participants into advocating, without much argumentation and substance, “change in the charter of principles”, and  change in the role of international council which is originally intended as a  mere facilitator in the process.


This can be worded this way : "The WSF charter of principles is being charged “in substance” with the effects from ten years of limitations in methodological discusion and implementation of WSFprinciples".

This is why it is important to reactivate WSF methodology discussion, identify and explore “untapped potentialities” of the open space concept and its implementations in a diversity of (W)SF processes.


2/ Current perspectives on "common intercommunication spaces" & "initiatives /agora of futures"


The formulation and experimentation of possibilities linked to elements 2 and 5 of the “disk and circles” diagram ( part A)  is a way forward for "qualitative development" of the participation modalities in the WSF process, which in turn, combined with the development of online participation, can generate attractiveness, replicability, and its “quantitative development".


Element 2 “common intercommunication spaces” participatory arrangement.

Those spaces can be relevant at the beginning of a process, long before a centric event, if there is one. They are places for mutual consideration of participants profile and emergence of preliminary self-organized “online encounters”, which might be incubating self-organized activities and initiatives. They require visible and relevant facilitating presence, with good information and accompaniment to participants.

Those spaces may also be implemented physically during a face-to-face event.

 [@See in Spanish http://openfsm.net/projects/pfsm20/pfsm20-ejes-tematicos ]


In both case, implementation of those “participatory arrangements” both requires and shapes a reliable facilitating team, providing information and accompaniment to participants. This team could be self-coordinating around a "process care and development commission”. This name would be a welcomed evolution from the traditional "mobilization commission", where the word “mobilization”, beyond its vertical and military connotations, reflects a vision in which process is nearly reduced to the centric event. People are mobilized to come to the event , and not so much invited to participate in the  process


Element 5 Methodology of announcement of initiatives

Announcement of an initiative is made with goals, tasks, public action dates, and their description can be refined along the way in the timespan of a (W)SF process.
Initiatives are intercommunicated in “agora(s) of futures” which are also an occasion to outreach to more participants and articulate initiatives.
Public actions related to initiatives are made visible by a calendar of futures, specific to each (W)SF process, and updated for some months after an event.


Some comments about initiatives:


  • In 2017 there was with one moment of discussion in International council meeting plenary on basic WSF methodology. The theme on the agenda was: " Question for a dialogue - how to integrate in the WSF methodology the actions of participants for the transformation in society, and under what form should the final moment of the (W)SF event be".
    This question is linking two important methodological issues. Indeed the issue of the final moment  of a SF event had not be addressed in international council after 2012 in Monastir, when the inadequacy of “assembly of assemblies format”, tested in Belem and Dakar WSF events, was object of consensus. There was not enough time to address properly the raised issue, which resulted in the creation of an ad hoc working group.
    [@Discussion notes http://openfsm.net/projects/ic-extended/icextension-salvador17-16oct-evening-methodology-discussion-en .].
    [@ Working group http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/descripcion-iniciativas-e-agora-informe-en 
  • The change from  the word "proposals" to the word  "initiative" if for stressing the autonomy of the initiative promoting groups in the open space: initiatives are not “proposals” nor ”recommendations”, while the usage of both terms seem to be expecting approval of an undefined "third party", be it a “power that be”, or a big “assembly of the forum”.
  • The formulation of one to three significant public action dates for each initiative is inviting the promotors of initiatives to clarify the distinction between goals, internal tasks, outcomes and public actions and raise the quality of contents produced in the intercommunication around the initiative. 
  • Action dates present in the description of initiatives, whether indicative, tentative, or confirmed, allow to assemble a calendar of future as a significant collective shared product/result of an agora of initiatives, and of the whole process leading to it.


3/ An international WSF facilitating community, horizontal and self-sustained around international council 


Overall process facilitation dimension limitations

From 2001 to 2006, the main methodological discussion inside international council was  "event centered" : about the frequency of WSF world event. In the meantime some regional (W)SF process appeared. Also there was a consensed evolution towards a  event program with 100% self organized  activities

In 2009 the challenge of formalizing an horizontal “overall WSF process”  combining various events has been visible, because of the 2008 world economic crisis : there was discussions in two international council meetings, Morocco and Montreal, about a "global year of action for 2010", involving many different process-events.

However, no practical methodology and project for a collectively owned inter-process web space /arrangement have emerged at that time. From then on, the international council has limited its methodological work on “overall WSF process” to censing verbally in each face to face meeting the list of "events" in the preparation of which present members representatives were involved.

[@This pragmatic vision of the overall process is reflected somehow in this series of WSF calendar of events http://openfsm.net/projects/wsf2012-support ]


Two open methodology questions 


1/ How to show the overall WSF process to participants?

How to manifest the general WSF process, understood as the diversity of noncompetitive process formats, with temporary existence around events, and viewed together as diverse expressions of a common generic WSF process. These process-events have a duration of one to two years under the responsibility of the same “facilitating caregiving group”. Then there is a practical renewal of this group, as it is linked to another event context. So the portfolio of active significant (W)SF processes is in constant evolution.

2/ How to cooperate horizontally between facilitators about the overall WSF process?

How to maintain horizontality between the formats and expression of the process and their caregivers, while creating an environment of pragmatic cooperation between caregivers of various processes? This is not about creating a heavy central technical infrastructure, or concentrating responsibilities. The brief experience of a central budget development of the process in 2009-11 has shown the limitations of this approach. 


Recent steps and perspectives


In january 2017 there was a short moment of face to face discussion about the “dynamics of international council”(IC) , where the question of overall WSF process formalization, and cooperation between (W)SF facilitators was raised.

[@Proposals http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/transicionci-porto-alegre-agenda-3-groups-17-proposals-for-dynamics-of-ic ]. The document proposed a “lean IC secretariat” and a series of working groups relying on personal contributions coming from IC member entities, not just from their representative in the council.

[@Working groups http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/transicionci-porto-alegre-agenda-list-of-possible-ic-working-groups .]


In the round of discussion, the attempt to “think”, “formalize” “organize”, the facilitations in the overall process was questioned as whether illegitimate, ( IC being legitimate only on WSF process-events ) or “out of reach” (because of weakening of alter global movements). 

However, one year after this discussion, the decision was made in IC in 2018 that facilitating committee of thematic or geographical (W)SF processes are systematically accepted as member entities in the IC.

This a step towards the possibility of developing intercommunication among such facilitating committees, under the form of working group “by” the international council.

This would imply creating and maintaining, under monitoring of a lean IC secretariat, a relatively simple web participatory arrangement, with working groups and online meetings and the publication of missions and progress pages.

Such an arrangement can be inspired by ongoing experiences of process-kiosk with zero budget

Operating such International council (IC) related working groups would imply an explanation of the capacity of contribution in time from people, representatives or not, linked to IC member entities.



Some concluding considerations


As announced in the introduction, this input has not been about actors, active or less active, and contents, produced or not, in WSF process in the context of authoritarian post 2008 crisis capitalism.

This input has been drafted with the assumption that methodology is a strategic issue in an horizontal overall WSF process, considered as a space-process -event-tool that its “facilitating community” ambitions to replicate and develop to an actual counter hegemonic calibre.

This input has been focusing of the participation formats of the based WSF methodology, derived from WSF charter of principles and its accumulated implementation experience, with the aim to better describe ways forwards that have been neglected in the past decade, whatever the reasons.

This input has commented  two diagrams which may usefully complement the wsf carter of principles as a base for methodological discussion inside facilitating community 


This document has not discussed “fast track modifications” evoked by some participants/facilitators such as:

  • 1/ defining WSF as a movement with an assembly at the end of social forum event, deliberating in the name of the forum
  • 2/ establishing self-coopted and not elected international council as a potential political direction of a process-movement, or at least, as a top down “politicizer” of the forum space,
  • 3/ modifying the charter of principles to reflect those changes 1 or 2  of political-methodological options.

Those modifications are distorting fundamentally the notion of "facilitated horizontal open space" which is the base of the political-methodological compact of 2001, and a condition for its ability to attract many more participants, 1% of world population , tens of millions of people being a first horizon.


The WSF proposal /initiative , with its original open horizontal intercomunication space, still stands relevant after nearly 20 years.

If it is taken seriously, it is to be developed, at “zero specific budget”, by the contributive energy  from  its convinced promoter entities, in order to be able reach "counter hegemonic size and autonomy",
It needs to be developped not as a” movement of movements”, but rather as an horizontal "process of processes ", made up of a diversity of (W)SF processes, each coherent enough with WSF principles, and with steady progress in methodology and methodology implementation, so that each process can coexist and overlap with others, in a mesh mode, in time and space, and become a visible format of social and political life in many countries. 


Hence, two invitations to (W)SF processes facilitators


1/ Methodological work in own process 


Perspective is to continue developing the various (W)SF processes, as open spaces with refined methodology, notably along directions explored in this document, where participants feel empowered to perform more participation acts, and feel strengthened by their mutual visibility and interactive presence.

The "participatory arrangements", crafted by facilitating instances in those processes, could evolve somehow as” counter hegemonic community spaces”, without losing their open space character.


Promoters of a specific (W)SF process have interest in informing properly a growing "community of "WSF participants", conscious to be such, and provide them with relevant methodological info about the WSF process, participation formats, and “participatory arrangements”.

The accumulated factilitation experience can be somehow transmitted to a next team of facilitators in the case of process-events .Valuable effort made about format and implementation of WSF basic methodology in some specific (W)SF processes may provide inspiration and stimulate efforts in other processes.


Developing “hands on” methodology, and participatory arrangements, seem particularly promising  in the area of “common intercommunication spaces” and in the area of “announcement of initiatives” as basic participation formats, (Elements 2 and 5 of the “disk and circles” diagram part A).


Disseminating with comments the" disk and circles" and “six rectangles” diagrams, (part B) to foster “WSF ownership building discussions” about the forum among its participants, is also a way to promote such formats and invite to such participation acts. Facilitator’s presence in a common intercommunication space of a (W)SF process ( element 2)  seems a good channel for this dissemination.


Concrete facilitators goal is that participants will be willing to use "implemented WSF methodology" as a common organizing tool for collective self-help in sustaining resistances and initiatives for other possible worlds.

Participants including themselves in (W)SF process related web participatory environments/arrangements, with relevant facilitators presence and clear methodology, may feel empowered to perform more participation acts, get more results from those, and feel strengthened by their mutual visibility and interactive presence in the open space.


Ownership of the WSF process is by its participants. If they have  a good perception about methodological “care and progress” in some of the SF process-events to come, “word of mouth effect” may appear, resulting in greater participation in those.



2/ Cooperation among WSF facilitation around international council


Facilitators from various such (W)SF specific process can meet and talk on line, in a series of online working groups, around an inclusive, and more "facilitation focused", international council, or any similar instance gathering caregivers to the WSF process. 


This would result in greater coherence of views, more inspiration from one process to another, more energy for developing further potentialities” of the open space methodology implementation.

This would result also in some more pragmatic cooperation capability, towards giving visibility about the overall WSF process and development and dissemination of WSF basic methodology. 

 [@Working groups http://openfsm.net/projects/transitionci/transicionci-porto-alegre-agenda-list-of-possible-ic-working-groups .]

Activities of, and results from, cooperation of facilitators could be communicated and disseminated, and would feed among its participants a positive image of how the WSF process is taken care of and developed around  a  proactive international council.

Concrete actions for fostering such possible horizontal cooperation can be discussed elsewhere, however, the move towards this cooperation can be quickly advocated as a rational move, including for those entities who may have been tempted by breaking the 2001 political-methodological compact around Charter of principles.


Cooperation around WSF open space as a rational move


The gap between, on one side, needs for a strong counter hegemonic WSF process, and, on the other side, the actual capacities made available by WSF promoters around WSF international council to develop this WSF  process, is ever more evident since the outbreak of economic crisis of 2008 and unfolding of its consequences.


The reasons for this gap were not object of this document, which is focused on showing existing potentialities of the WSF open space format, for further development of the WSF process.

However, some possible reasons can be quickly mentioned:

  • 1/ Difficulties to shape a horizontal cooperation scheme starting from the vertical notion of “council” with many different organizing cultures and paradigm present around the table.
  • 2/ Sociology of international council participant’s being representatives of member entities, and their relation to those entities, their capacity to engage their entities in concrete facilitation activity.
  • 3/ Energy consumed, and “neutralization” produced, by tensions between “more or less explicit moves to direct a WSF space-movement” and corresponding efforts to “keep the space-process horizontal”.
    These tensions, which exist since 2001, are described in a 2018 document titled "WSF: space or organization", a recent contribution of a group of Brazilians who started the WSF process in 2001
    [@Space or organization : http://openfsm.net/projects/wsfic_fsmci/salvador17-input18/#EN]


In the light of the current challenges, one rational behavior between committed facilitators of the overall WSF process could be:

  • 1/ Decide to stay in clarity along the WSF charter vision, which is the broadest base for the politico-methodological compact established in 2001 and renewed in 2017 and the most promising, notably with the way forwards remaining to be developed, described in this inputt/document

    This is how collective energy made available to develop the WSF process would be maximum. This would help to strengthen and develop quantitatively and qualitatively (W)SF processes, and better face, with high levels of “bottom up politicization”, the current global political and environmental challenges.
  • 2/ Decide to find, on own resources, the necessary energy, to establish and practice the “zero specific budget” horizontal modes of cooperation, such as those described in part C above.

    This energy should be potentially available inside current IC member entities, according to their publicly renewed commitment to facilitating WSF process, Other entities could join, when seeing a positive cooperation dynamics around WSF process taking shape.