Topic 1 Negotiation of the topic and objectives

After a first delimitation of the theme of the process, contact with the existing associative fabric in the area begins so that they participate in the formulation of the proposal. For its location we can use local media, go to already existing structures such as coordinators, networks of social entities, platforms, etc., and capture information through municipal technicians, information services, Participation Councils, etc. From these first contacts we begin the relationship with the rest of the relevant agents.

Perhaps we find that the demands collected are either too specific or too general. In this sense, the Motor Group (see below) must make an effort to unite the “pains”, the most felt needs, with the existing integral problems (employment, environment, citizen participation, human rights, etc.) in order to go establishing bridges between both levels. How to get from the deepest demands and needs to the integral problems that affect all people?

In this process we will take the opportunity to inquire about historical events (better recent) that have taken place in the area where we investigate, that were felt by the majority of the population and that mobilized a large part of it (generating consensus, conflicts, etc.). These, which we will call from now on Historical Analysers, will give us the guideline to know what are the motivation, interest and mobilization elements of the population.

For example, there were large mobilizations of many thousands of people against the Iraq War, but later this did not translate into organizations with the same content. Another similar example, but of a more local scope, could be the celebration of a great intercultural festival in a neighbourhood, which would have continuity in new forms of social organization. These are facts that can cause analysis (that’s why we call them analysers), since they are known and people have commented on them in their daily lives, they are a practical reference to show the positions that each one adopts. Both cases can produce, for example, to the question: why don’t people organize for…? Or why yes? To learn about these analysers you can do a workshop.

A good tool can be to make a Time Line, on which the gathered people draw or write on continuous paper, for example, the events they believe to be the most remarkable in recent years. Among a group of people who start a process, it is a way for us to help rebuild how they have seen the precedents of the topic under debate. It can be done for years or for months, or for those great events that marked the theme that we have proposed. For example, those aspects that are considered more objective and measurable can be placed under the line of historical development, and those that can be considered more opinion based, or with different versions, above the line.

There are many ways to make a Time Line, and innovation is something that will help the group feels more protagonists. For this reason, it is not about making it perfect according to a manual, but rather as people proposes. Surely the inventiveness or drawing initiatives of some people stimulates others. It is important that all the versions are collected and that there is no dispute about whether this was so or not. It is worth putting some of the statements in question marks, waiting to be able to know better how it was. Perhaps it is one of the reasons for asking the population, which from that moment becomes our point of reference, with more authority than those gathered on that occasion.

In the case of the image, for example, the positive aspects have been placed on the line and the negative ones below it. In addition, three moments whose analysers divide the participants have been marked with a red circle, because while for some people it is positive, for others it is not (later, it may serve to reflect on it).

The Time Line can be left open so that it can be completed later, or with more data or information that was not known in the first session. This can be very useful at first because about the past, and especially about some historical analysers (events that have marked social life), people have an opinion formed, which is always a starting point. It is not about the “objective truth” with claims of accuracy, but about the truths that have been built up to now, and about which there is a certain consensus, or disputes that should be known from the beginning.

Another good way to advance in the elaboration of a project, at the beginning, is to try to put (first individually and then in groups -with the motor team, for example-) everything that we already know or intuit about our case, and the first ideas on how to put together the process. Here we propose some tables and some questions that could be used in this task, although the important thing is that they are adapted in each case to the specific needs.

Territory and environment Population Economic activity and financial resources Politicy and social organisation History and identity
What do we know? (problems, best practices, etc.)
We do not know?
What do we intuit? (hypothesis)
What do we predict? (trends)