Topic 2 The idea-force

In order to build an action plan, it is necessary to have a clear vertebral axis, what we have called Idea Force. Before we start, it is good to know where we want to go.

Based on the analysis of networks and the location of possible strategic alliances (action sets), we will be able to delimit the scope of the proposal, whose content is established taking into account the transformation objectives that must always preside over a project. It is a proposal that is above all participated in and agreed upon by most of the actors involved in the issue (whom we had already approached in the field work and in the creative return sessions).

The Idea Force can be expressed in a phrase that is capable of motivating the population from their daily life networks, that responds to a widely felt need, and should tend to integrate (in the sociogram) broad sets of action:

  • Upwards: towards the Public Administrations (state-wide, regional, municipal) and other instances of Power, with an attitude of both protest and proposal, demanding and also negotiating.
  • Towards the sides: towards the Associative Fabric (other Organizations and Social Movements), to seek greater coordination of efforts and achieve multiplier effects (we will go further more times).
  • Downwards: towards the Base of the Social Fabric (the unorganized Citizenship), by listening and giving information, and that this IDEA-FORCE is truly mobilizing.

The Idea Force must include and coordinate the various thematic aspects of Planning. For each prioritized aspect, a Working Group can be organized to form itself and prepare specific proposals, so that they can be debated and endorsed by all the participants. The logic of action is based on the fact that in these processes we are not here to make simple explanations, but rather to guide all the analyses towards proposals for transformation and improvement of the problems addressed.

The integral aspect refers to the fact that any planning cannot fail to consider aspects such as economic viability, ecological sustainability, democratic and participatory organization, and aspects of local culture and its innovations. And the Idea Force must also play a role of integration of all these aspects and all the “sectoral work groups”, so that the action is joint and coordinated. A plan cannot function only with an organization chart, but coordination must be based on a common interest in action, and this is the role of the Idea Force.

A good way to systematize it can be, for example, to prepare a file that contains: a) urgent proposals achievable in a year and that serve as a credibility test in the process, b) thematic proposals organized by sector (work, security, health, education…), c) the integrating idea force of ​​all these aspects and a motivating phrase that reaches the population.

There is also the aspect of the sustainability of the process, that is, that over time it can sustain itself, and not be like a mobilization that persists only for the duration of the enthusiasm of a moment. It is necessary to take care of its environmental and territorial aspects, its aspects of economic viability, its roots in local cultures, and its lasting organizational forms. A plan that is established by decree, if it is not rooted in customs, will not have sustainability in the population itself, it will be inefficient and difficult to maintain.

With the following tools we can get closer to prioritizing the specific proposals and the main idea.

This is an appropriate technique to prioritize and to introduce some perspective to the process we are carrying out, for example, to specify the unifying idea-force of ​​the entire process.

In the EASW method there are two differentiated parts: one for analysis or self-diagnosis (which can be done with any of the aforementioned techniques), and another for prioritizing the lines of work to which greater importance should be given. There are many tasks that should be dedicated to tackle the causes of the problem, but since time and resources are limited, we must specify which are the most important and urgent.

Once the small group meetings or work tables have been held, a spokesperson from each group explains on a flipchart or poster the main features of their analyses (or lines of proposals). It must refer to the contents that integrate the different causal aspects, and to the actors, networks and sets of action that could participate in building viable solutions. It is not a question of one winning over others in prioritization, but of each person being able to weight by distributing their points for those proposals that seem most interesting to them.

There are cases in which voting for the group’s own proposal is prohibited, and in other cases a “black ball” of opposition or fundamental disagreement is also added to one of the proposals.

To create a better atmosphere and involvement, each group can present their work proposals as creatively as possible. For this, it is essential to provide material: newspaper, cardboard, scissors, felt-tip pens or coloured markers, etc.

It usually happens that there are a few, among the proposed analyses, where the weightings are concentrated, and then there is a jump to those that follow in the list. Among those that have obtained the most points, an attempt at convergence can also be made if we want to find a central axis, an idea force, but these various lines of analysis (or even work proposals) can also be maintained).

Example of weighted voting. Participation Sessions 2007. Source: Master in Participatory Research for Local Development, 2006-2007