Véronique Rioufol, with the contribution of the "mapeadores"
Appreciating the WSF debates
Since the first edition of the WSF in 2001, the organizers have endeavored to stress its propositional dimension and to make visible the wealth of the discussions, exchanges, and experiences that take place there. For the preparation of the WSF 2003, they therefore asked the panelists to send a preliminary text presenting their main thoughts, proposals for change, and implementation strategies. As for the persons in charge of the workshops, they were asked to send detailed information on the content and objectives of their workshop.
Following contacts established in November 2002 at the European Social Forum between Cândido Grzybowski (Ibase) of the WSF organization team and a few members of the FPH and the Alliance, a small team of FPH / Alliance members and partners was set up: many were French, but there was also one Spaniard, one Chilean, and an Argentine ?—about fifteen people who, through a number of work meetings and electronic exchanges and with the help of Internet tools, collectively drew up and developed the objectives and the methods for the appreciation of the content of the Forum’s activities.
"The systematization team"
A first group went in early January to Rio to be integrated into the small team at Ibase which, in Brazil, was already hard at work, the premise of an important plan that was to include:
about fifteen people in charge of writing summaries of the panels;
about thirty people "covering" some workshops;
about twenty "specialists" working on a specific theme or issue;
the FPH / Alliance "mapeadores" in charge of using mapping techniques to offer a general outlook of the views, proposals, strategies, and actors presented in the panelists’ written contributions, to highlight the agreements and disagreements among the members of a given panel and to bring out the innovative questions. It was also to try to highlight the diversity of the themes discussed in the workshops, and the connections among those themes.
This "sistematização team" aimed at two major objectives:
* to encourage constructive dialogue among the WSF participants by encouraging not just an exchange of views but a comparison of the views, proposals, and strategies that they advocated. Thus the last day of the Forum, "final panels" were organized to pool and to compare the proposals and perspectives in terms of each of the five main WSF working themes.
* to make available to the greatest number of people (participants, the media, the general public) the thoughts and experiences shared during the WSF, through the Web site and through a document that will be published in the course of 2003.
Once we arrived in Porto Alegre, we melted into the organization team’s incredible “disorganized or a-organized order": about fifty persons for an event including 2,000 activities and gathering 100,000 people in five or six different parts of the city: fluidity, availability, adaptation, cooperation, and kindness were indispensable for everything to work "in sintonia," as they say in Brazil, and for the Forum to be such a success!!!
Work accomplished on the panels
In partnership with the rest of the systematization team and the panel facilitators, the mapeadores covered two of the five main themes: "Principles and Values, Human Rights, Diversity and Equality" (2) and "Political Power, Civil Society and Democracy" (4).
For every text received before the beginning of the Forum, a "panelist’s map” was made and, for every panel, a map showing the themes being discussed, the points of agreement and of disagreement and the innovative questions. To produce these two types of maps, the team used several types of “map backgrounds,” different than those used previously by the FPH, so as to adapt them to the WSF debates and to different types of readings.
The results of the analyses made through the mapping were addressed to the persons in charge of summaries for them to integrate them into their document. All this summarization work was provided to the panel facilitators and the main-theme coordinators; it was then integrated into the discussions of the pooling panel on the last day.
Making the content of the workshops visible
For the workshops, a long indexing job was accomplished. The list of the keywords proposed by the organizers of each workshop was reworked, standardized, and translated, then a second re-indexing job was accomplished on the basis of the summaries of the registration forms. This patient work of homogenization and endogenous enrichment of the list made it possible to end up with a list of 1,000 terms for 1,200 workshops.
An analysis, still superficial, of this work shows a number of interesting elements: some the recurrent working themes of the workshops—such as spirituality, social psychology, and gender issues—were practically absent from the official activities; neoliberalism (as such) was on the other hand rarely the subject of a workshop. The most frequently used keywords were "sustainable development" followed by—and this was a surprise—"gender issue." This “discovery” was extensively communicated during the Forum and was announced at the closing press conference.
Analysis of the contents of the workshops is ongoing. We already know that it will be difficult for a majority of the workshops to fit into the five main themes of the Forum and that the most important themes were, in this order: an alternative people’s economy in solidarity; social organization (for greater justice); gender issues and women’s rights; and finally identities and cultural demands.
A first assessment…
A first very positive assessment can be drawn from this experience:
* The team of mapeadores succeeded in defining and carrying out collectively a coherent project to use mapping techniques in the framework of the WSF process.
* Integration into the systematization team made it possible to build a true partnership with the Brazilians.
* The mapping technique has proven to be an useful tool for appreciating and systematizing the debates in the WSF panels: it induces developing a relevant processing guide; it highlights the connections among the ideas, the people and the themes; it uses a data base and therefore makes it possible to search, compare, and display data more easily.
* The "systematization" work gained in visibility and credibility.
Much progress remains to be accomplished on this last point: a number of panelists did not send their summary and most of those who did, did so very late; some facilitators turned out to be unappreciative of or even reluctant to any effort of systematic appreciation of the discussions; the pooling panels did not enable a real comparison of the views and proposals, etc. The work accomplished by the systematization team, however, supported by the very strong determination of part of the WSF organization team, made it possible to take a great step forward. For the first time, panelists’ summaries were posted on the Web site before the Forum started, time was provided for pooling and comparing the ideas, participants were able express their interests and thematic priorities, some facilitators devoted themselves to methodological work, the workshop themes began to benefit from public knowledge and recognition, and there will be a publication.
... and possible follow-up
This allows us to consider the next stages with hope and enthusiasm, i.e.:
preparation of the summary document prepared by Ibase for mid-2003 including summaries of the discussions and experiences exchanged during the third WSF
FPH / Alliance documents aiming to capitalize our experience and to present, in an educational form, the possible uses of mapping techniques. An assessment of the experience and proposals for future collaborations will therefore be drawn up by the whole team in the coming months.
and, we hope, participation in the next WSF meetings, in Saint-Denis in November for the European Social Forum, and in India in 2004.
The mapeadores of the systematization team are:
Saya Saulière, Georges Garcia, Françoise Feugas, Sergio Escribano, Vladimir Ugarte, Delphine Astier, Marcela de Grande, Juliette Decoster, Manola Rauss, Nicolas Haeringer, Françoise Macé, Nicolas Sidi, Vincent Calame, Véronique Rioufol.
with the valuable support of Gustavo Marin, Pierre Vuarin, Laia Botey and Diego Escobar