The first phase of the organization process of the World Social Forum was the consultation of organizations likely to participate in it. It was opened in June and ended at the end of August 2004. The aim was to list the intentions of the greatest possible number of organizations, from all countries and of all sizes and all types, to build the Forum on the basis of the concerns of the participating organizations, and not solely according to the vision of the organizations of the International Council (IC).
Consultation: a success for its numbers and a learning process for the organizers
A total of 1863 organizations took part in the consultation. It is therefore an incontestable success in terms of numbers, going well beyond our expectations. This success proves that there are many who are attached to making sure the Forum is not just a place, but a vast process of working in common, of networking, and of collective thinking and action to build another world, of which the Forum is a stage, an element among others. A process that is also a learning process, in particular for the organizers of the Forum. In this respect, we need to acknowledge that we were not able to use the consultation as much as we hoped, for several reasons (I say "we" as I am part of the working groups that launched and analyzed the consultation).
Birth of the World Social Territory and its 11 Thematic Terrains
The consultation, the partial results of which have been analyzed in a methodical and systematic way, served as a basis for a seminar of the Commissions on Content and Methodology of the IC, held just before the Americas Social Forum last July. Following this seminar, the facilitators of these Commissions wrote a first proposal for the organization of the World Social Territory 2005.
This proposal was then discussed and amended by the participants at the meeting of these same Commissions, in Sao Paulo, at the end of August. This resulted in the determination of the eleven Terrains that will make up the World Social Territory 2005, within each of which every organization will propose the activities that it wants and will be able to articulate them with other activities in which it is interested.
The consultation met several stumbling blocks ...
The results of the consultation were nevertheless not the only element taken into consideration for the elaboration of these eleven Terrains, because of several stumbling blocks:
The consultation aimed to pursue the cultural and thematic enlargement of the Forum, process to which the WSF of Mumbai gave a crucial impulse. Yet, close to 57% organizations that took part in the consultation were Brazilian organizations. Only 4% of the answers were from African organizations, and 7% from Asian organizations (15% were European, 10% Latin American, not including Brazil, and 7% North American). Even though we know that the organizations that will participate at the WSF 2005 will be in their majority Brazilian, the consultation was not able to enlarge the geographical base of the WSF as much as we expected, to make it more representative of the diversity of actors fighting for another world.
All organizations did not answer in the same way to the consultation. Some proposed a lot of activities and used many keywords, others gathered several activities in the same proposal and used only a few keywords. Thus, there was the risk of giving more importance to only a few organizations, accustomed to producing written documents, to the detriment of other organizations and of introducing an implicit order among the different forms of expression, or among organizations.
Numerous technical problems made it difficult to analyze the results of the consultation, the success of which overwhelmed us, all the more that the Content and Methodology Commissions have very limited financial means.
... and everyone will have to fill out a general information sheet again
For technical reasons, the organizations that took part in the consultation will, like the others, have to fill out a general information sheet again. To better articulate the technical dimension with the political guidelines is one of the lessons we have to learn!