Workshop Discussion Questions

Friday Oct. 5-Morning session
9:00 AM: Workshop will begin with introductions followed by a summary of the state of the US Social Forum process. There are key decisions about steps forward in this process that organizers now face, and we’ll hear about how past efforts to build diverse alliances in the USSF have led to this point. An important innovation in the US Social Forum process is the People’s Movement Assembly process, and a brief introduction to this process will be provided, since it may serve as a useful model for alliance-building.

Also important is preparations for the WSF Free Palestine, and we’ll hear about how this important global conflict has created challenges for alliances among US movements. Both US Social Forums faced serious conflicts over this issue and organizers are hoping to use the organizing work for the WSF Free Palestine to address some of these underlying differences in our movements.

Background documents:

More US Social Forum Documentation

1) ANALYSIS: The Political Moment today and movement capacities/ opportunities/ challenges

Key questions the USSF National Planning Committee is now confronting:
  • How can we best incorporate those constituencies and groups that are most marginalized, such as low-income people of color and Indigenous peoples?
  • How can we strengthen the links between groups in the United States and other parts of the world? How do we increase activists’ commitment to transnational solidarity?
  • Is the USSF and WSF process the most effective way for most marginal groups to advance their aims in this political moment? What are the costs and benefits of engaging with this process?
  • How can we improve our practices to enable greater accountability and responsibility from all participants?

General Questions on Coalitions in this Political Moment
  • Why work together? Cost-benefit assessments
  • Terminology: What do we mean by “coalition”?
    • USSF and social forum processes?
    • Historic bloc?
    • Campaign coalitions?
    • Building of alliances?
  • How is coalition work movement work?
  • How are coalitions relevant in the political moment we are in?
  • What are some of the opportunities and challenges confronting coalition work?
  • Does the WSF /USSF process remain relevant? How?
  • What opportunities &/or challenges have emerged from OWS, etc.
  • What are some of the key lessons you have learned about coalition work and the correlation between coalition and movement work?
  • How well are our models of coalition/alliance/campaign/solidarity/etc. suited to the needs of this political moment?
  • What is the relationship of tactics and movement strategy to coalition work?

Friday Oct. 5 Afternoon & Sat. Oct. 6 Morning
  • How can we improve our efforts to build alliances that connect local activism with global analyses?
  • How can we better connect our coalition work to broader movements?
  • What lessons from the past can shape collaborative efforts to build broad alliances going forward?
  • What practices or models contribute most to improving coalitions’ effectiveness?
  • What strategies or mindsets seem important to building and sustaining coalitions?
  • Where do you see potential supplies of resources (not just money, skills, people, etc.) to support coalitions?
  • What needs to change in movement practices or cultures to enhance coalitions’ effectiveness and longevity?
  • What kinds of resources or interventions (and from what source/s) could support and advance coalitions?

Continue the discussion here.

Saturday Oct. 6 –Late AM
  • What principles and aims should guide collaboration between academics and movements?
  • How can we better connect the work of academics and the struggles taking place within and beyond educational institutions?
  • Is there a way to conceptualize an equitable division of labor among different elements of our movements that can improve our movements’ capacities and impacts
  • What (if any) existing initiatives might serve as models or foundations for the practices/outcomes we wish to achieve?

Reflections from Stephanie Guillod, Project South
I think the real gap between scholars inside of universities and movement leaders is that movement folks do not have the money, resources, or the capacity (in terms of staff time) to write, produce, and disseminate reports, documentation, and analysis about what we do in real time. If universities could create viable pipelines between students, faculty and organizations, we could create partnerships that record and advance our struggles, innovations, and methodologies without the gap in time.

University scholars participating in movement spaces like the US Social Forum should be part of creating a set of guidelines and parameters for that participation that is unique to your position and resources. I think that would be the best way forward on such huge projects like the Social Forum that get little to no press coverage and depend on movement documentation.

From Sara Kirchnar, International Jewish Antizionist Network

Sara stresses the need to have connections between scholar activists & grassroots activists/struggles – "it feels important that they do not become abstracted or intellectualized but theorized from the perspective and rooted in the experience of participation in the struggles themselves."