Babels budget and structure

EN Discussions on the politics of Babels, alternative interpretation systems, linguistic diversity and the Social Forums
ES Discusiones políticas sobre Babels, sistemas alternativos de interpretación, diversidad lingüística y los foros sociales...
FR Discussions politiques sur Babels, les systèmes d'interprétation alternatifs, la diversité linguistique et les forums sociaux...
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Babels budget and structure

Postby Germán » Mon Feb 02, 2004 10:57 am

From the "WSF budget" thread on "WSF Feedback":

Emma wrote:In my opinion Babels simply MUST be part and parcel of the organisation of the WSF and not sit alongside it with its specific and private budget. It is part of the political movement and NOT a separate entity.

Stéph wrote:I agree with the idea that Babels should have its own budget, apart from the Social Forum events. It's pretty tricky to be an independant political force when you're always tied down to somebody's else budget.

We've come up against a dilemma that we can't put off and which will define what type of association Babels is in the future. This is no trivial matter, and it's not just about money. Money is always political, as Endriu rightly points out.

I have an opinion on the subject, and it is based on my vision of what Babels is. I fully accept that others, perhaps most, may not agree with my vision of Babels, and that in itself is a discussion I'd love to have. Anyway, here it is, please bear with me:

There is no such thing as "Babels". There are a lot of us who agree to say that it does exist, and this collective delusion serves a useful purpose. Say you want to interpret the WSF. You claim there is an organisation called Babels that will do it, you contact people who are willing to engage themselves in that particular project, you get to work. Voilà, Babels in Mumbai. Say you want to develop a knowledge base of the vocabulary of the social movements, in as many languages as possible, made available to anybody who might need it, and open to any who want to expand it. You pretend "Babels" exists, get in touch with people who are willing to call themselves "Babels members" for however long it takes, and get to work. We have already enjoyed some of the fruits of this labour, and I think I speak for all when I express my gratitude and admiration for the work of the Babelistas on this particular project.

That's one key word that some of us use. Project. There is not one "Babels", but as many as projects any of us is willing to work on. Babels-Nomad is a project. Transtrad is a project. The Paris ESF was one (not yet completely over, there are people still sorting out reimbursements), Mumbai was another. Got an idea? Does it have something to do with social movements, alternative globalisation, multilinguism, giving voice to under- or un-represented linguistic communities? Create a Babels project. There are 4500 of us deluded folk who think Babels exists, surely some will agree your idea is good enough to work on.

Drafting a document with minimal working conditions is a project. Updating the Babels website and keeping it up to date with all other projects is a project in itself. Pestering whomever has access to the famous database of 4500 addresses to send a mass e-mail to inform of this forum ought not to be a project, but unfortunately still is... ;)

This vision excludes rigid organisation. Anybody who has an idea and/or is willing to work on it becomes a de facto coordinator for that particular project. No projects have to be previously approved or budgeted for -- there is no hierarchy to which you address yourself, no a priori coordinators, sitting like bureaucrats waiting for projects to come up. This is a network. We're all peers, with related but different interests.

So no budget. No moneys, from private or public sponsors. Only such as are required for each project, like the ESF. Otherwise no office, no bureaucracy, no treasurer, etc. When involved in something like a Social Forum, that takes money to organise, we graft ourselves to the budget of the larger event, and ensure that our charter and working conditions are respected. That there is sufficient money allocated to "Babels", and that it is spent according to rational criteria, so that we can be useful to the movement.

No more. I really don't want to see "Babels Inc." Let each project define its own needs, and together we'll find a way to finance them. But Babels with membership fees, EU subsidies, annual budgets... makes me want to run away screaming.

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organization, means - not hierarchy

Postby steph » Mon Feb 02, 2004 12:08 pm

Hi German

You're right about that debate, it"s really important and political as well. I get your point. But. I think it's very radical.

What you've just pointed out, taking 2 things out of their context is no contradiction to me.

What is a contradiction, is the desire to improve things, get better and decent working conditions, creating projects, without really grasping the means to do so. Organization DOESNOT mean hierarchy.

Well, it means hierarchy IF you want it to mean hierarchy. It can also mean taking responsability. It's the whole difference between vertical and horizontal structures. Even a horizontal structure or structures based on "projects" needs organization. How did you get to Paris or Mumbai?

I am glad the lexicons do prove useful. But it's a lot of hard work by a lot of people trying to work together : why couldn't we find a way to improve the way we work on them, and find grant money if we can? what's wrong with that, for example? When grant money could allow us to rent a place to meet, instead of depending on someone's hospitability or other associations' goodwill? So, basically, only the interpretors are entitled to better working conditions, and no one else is?

Say, you want to participate into the next "negociations" on Babels' involvement in the next WSF and you consider the next WSF to be a project. Now, considering that Babels has no budget of its own to go on running basic activities and it's all "free will stuff", are you willing to go and attend the meetings with the people in charge, paying those travels out of your own pocket? And if this is the decision, who can really attend such meetings? I can't, that's for sure. Does this mean that, if I cannot pay for my ticket to be part of the team going to meet the WSF leaders, I cannot have a say? What kind of hierarchy is that?

A budget of its own for Babels, to me, allows more people to get involved in the previous tasks of organizations and decision-making - provided that more people want to get involved, off course. It eases practical stuff and also allows for more project to go on. I get your point about projects blossoming without having to be budgeted before. But that means whoever has a project will do it the hard way, everytime there is a new project coming up. I just wonder who's gonna have the energy to do so!

So, maybe we're faced with inventing a new kind of structure out of the blue.

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Postby Emma » Mon Feb 02, 2004 3:08 pm

Good points German, and an interesting deconstruction of Babels!
But just one thing, if Babels is a series of overlapping projects as you rightfully say, does that necessarily mean it cannot have any money of its own?
Perhaps the WSF organisation (or other projects we want to get involved with) should be made to understand that we need to be involved straight away and NOT just when they need our language skills... And thus be involved in their pre-budget too. It would be easier..
But that's also a project isn't it? .... :-)

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babel or bables

Postby Jairo » Mon Feb 02, 2004 4:45 pm

Good debate, but we need more people taking part on it. I do agree with Germans' good coments up to some point; maybe some projects within Babels that will never have the support of the ESF or the WSF should have more steem. That is what seems difficult; if Babels would have a budget... which criteria would we follow to help this project and not the other? I must be a fool, but, is Babels already in the position to take such a big step or should Babels have a more direct participation on the pre budgets -as Emma said- of the SF events?
Last edited by Jairo on Mon Feb 02, 2004 5:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby steph » Mon Feb 02, 2004 4:53 pm

Does this mean German's view is the only one that is valid?

Does it mean Babels can only have one view?

Or does it mean he is the only expressing himself clearly?

Now. Thing is... it all has to come to terms with reality. Because, up till now, it's very pure and idealistic. Just the way it was right after the first ESF :wink:


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Money talk

Postby steph » Mon Feb 02, 2004 6:09 pm

Is Babels ready to take such a step as having a budget? Hum... already the case, I'm afraid.
All directed to reimbursements : of the interpretors' fees and coordinators' fees for the ESF itself, as well as for the coordinators' expenses in order to get everything ready beforehand.
Yet, again, it"s all linked to the association we had to create in order to manage the huge amount of money that Babels' budget for the ESF represent.

I guess we're facing two issues when talking about money and budgets within Babels. One is practical. Another is a political riddle - at least, to me.

The practical one comes to the cost of organizing a Social Forum. As far as the ESF 2003 is concerned, nearly all the coordinators have phone bills and traveling tickets : there comes a point when you cannot rely on mails or forums to get organized. You need to meet the people you're teaming up with, especially if you're involved in a political project such as Babels is. Meetings also build trust.
Thing is, the ESF or WSF money does not come right away, so you start anticipating money. Now, not everyone can do that. (Plus, I'm not sure we should). And as far as I'm concerned, I wouldnot want practical money issues to get in the way of someone willing to take part, but unable to cough up the price of a plane or bus or train ticket. Am I clear on that point?

The second issue is more political, indeed. And that's my own personal view.
What I like about Babels being involved in the Social Forums, is that when you interpret, you interpret everybody, whether you have to deal with the expert that is used to talking in public, or with the grassroot member of an association that has usually no access to any mike or press coverage.
German was talking about being peers. Well, to me, the fact that we interpret whoever has access to a mike has to do with a certain equality. (Have I ever mentionned I was a dreamer??)

Now, what puzzles me about the Social Forums, is that, when you get down to the bottom, you end up with more experts grasping the mike and having a broader audience thanks to the interpretors than grassroot activists, who also have interesting experiences to share. It is so much so that Social Forums ended up setting a "Solidarity Fund" so that small movements could be invited to join in, even if they had little funds.

That's a political paradox to me, considering the very nature of the Social Forums. But anyway, I'm not sure Babels has anything to do with it. Except that we're asking for more languages to be represented, so, more people coming from "unfamous" countries and realities, if I may say so.

So, I feel that managing a budget of its own, could allow Babels to choose, once in a while, an event that needs interpretation and translation, without having a great amount of money to cover the reimbursement of interpretation. The idea would be to give a hand, without sacrifying the minimum working conditions of the interpretors.
Am I clear on that one as well?

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Re: Money talk

Postby Emma » Fri Feb 06, 2004 7:01 pm

steph wrote:Now, what puzzles me about the Social Forums, is that, when you get down to the bottom, you end up with more experts grasping the mike and having a broader audience thanks to the interpretors than grassroot activists, who also have interesting experiences to share. It is so much so that Social Forums ended up setting a "Solidarity Fund" so that small movements could be invited to join in, even if they had little funds.
That's a political paradox to me, considering the very nature of the Social Forums. But anyway, I'm not sure Babels has anything to do with it. Except that we're asking for more languages to be represented, so, more people coming from "unfamous" countries and realities, if I may say so.

I think that is a really important point and that Babels has everything to do with it. Pushing for more languages is one thing, but it also means that we are pushing for people who do not usually get a voice to be able to speak. It is therefore a crucial point for Babels and if Solidarity Funds are already being created with the social forums it only shows that the point needs to be pressed even more!!!

judith hitchman
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Postby judith hitchman » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:19 pm

I thoroughly endorse the project-based approach.
It seems to me that it is largely because we are project-based and the WSF was hierarchical that we had so many problems there .
One question though: how do we fund participation in the IC meetings??
Who goes?? How do we report back to the rest of Babels??
I am still waiting for someone to tell me what happened on the 2 final days of the IC meeting in Mumbai: I had left, and nobody has kept me informed. I feel 'out of the loop'!!

Judith J:)

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Re: Babels budget and structure

Postby JeanMichel » Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:14 am

Volunteer = slave
German, I think you are ironic when you have mentionned the "working conditions". You have been working for 1 month like a slave (= very little sleep and no respect of ILO / Human Rights conventions about labour rights). I believe that even super-heros (you!) have limits and could be more efficient with more sleep and some help from other people. I am not saying you have done a bad job - the survey will tell - but the work load has been very under-estimated by our babelitos camarades who had the power to name you as a coordinator. Or did you take the initiative ? In that case, I believe you did the mistake ...

Wanted: Structure!
Any international project which involves 500 interpreters + hundreds of volunteers + months of preparation requires a minimum of ORGANIZATION. To define work methods, to coordinate volunteers, to train them, to review the work = to MANAGE responsible people in order to do a good job. To manage means someone whose role is to tell other people what to do, in order to avoid having highly-motivated volunteers doing nothing because the coordinators panic (London, Poa 2005).

The sacrifice of super-heros is a waste of energy!!! Moreover, one day, this "strategy" will fail, as did the Nomad project in PoA. I don't think that accusing the WSF organization is constructive and a responsible attitude. Women and Men want Power, you can't deny it! If you don't agree with me, you might react in a very aggressive way, c'est la vie ...

Note: I have edited this section after Emma's answer. Are the words "horizontale" and "hierarchy" taboo in the Babels NewLang ? I love Orwell ...

No money???

In the ESF 2003 in Paris, there was some money left for Babels.
In the ESF 2004 in London, there was some money left for a debriefing project, what happened? I will ask Julie Boerie.
In the WSF 2005, the budget allocated for travels was something like 30000-50000$. A lot of money was wasted because the WSF organization was too slow to react to Babels requests.

I am not shocked by the idea of paying people who invest a lot of time in Babels.
In London 2004, Julie Boérie, Julie Stall and Naima got paid to coordinate.
In the WSF 2005, Bettina got paid. Yan did receive some symbolic money as we all did with the "restaurant tickets". The fact that the money came from the forums organization does not matter: there is a budget allocated to Babels.

No treasurer???
So who are the people who know about the budget and "manage" the left over? There is no transparence about the budget. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Babels does not exist???
So who is representing Babels at the Social Forum meetings? I have no clue ... But, there must be someone or a group of people, who havn't been elected and take important political decisions. We all know that many interpreters who are part of the "volunteers network" called Babels do not have political views and only want to get some experience on their CV (especially students). Fair enough if they do a good job, they give their time and skills = they receive. But, what about the activists??? My "vote" in Babels should not depend on the time I invest in it. Or at least, I want to vote !!!

Need for Change!!!
I think we all agree that Babels'goal is to provide the BEST interpretation as possible to Social Forums. Remember the bible, men would stop the War if they could understand each other and ... maybe they could make another world possible ;-) As far as I am concerned, Babels has to change !

I don't want to see Babels Inc either but I want to see more transparence and more democracy. I don't believe the word "horizontal": all the animals are equals but some are more equals than others ...

Now, it's up to us! I suggest to use IT to become more democratic: this forum, electronic surveys, electronic votes, electronic petitions ...


<a href=""><img src= width=150 height=113 border=0></a>
Last edited by JeanMichel on Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:06 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Postby Emma » Sat Feb 26, 2005 10:37 am

Dear JM,

Is your post an answer to a previous post that I cannot find?
Several answers to your post.

You are totally right about slaving away at organising the SF, I mean look at us in London, we were ALL ill after the ESF. However striclty speaking it is not slavery since it is not compulsory...

But I think you are wrong in saying that horizontal structure = utopia. And that is because you are confusing hierarchy and structure. A structure may mean that some people choose to make the political decisions, others choose to interpret, others choose to do booth planning, etc., but decisions may still be taken collectively, and that is where Babels fails. Babels does not need a hierarchy, it needs a STRUCTURE and a way of knowing who wants to do what and of sharing tasks respectfully. This is difficult and tends to fail when some people want to grab power. So the structure needs to have means of questioning people's roles and changing them. But it does not mean bosses and hierarchies are needed. There are other ways of organising communities.

Regarding the money and the treasurer. Babels as a network does not have any money. In London Julie B, Julie S and Naïma got paid by the ESF, not Babels. Therefore there was no money left over (since there was no budget). However, since the ESF in London babels-uk has been fighting like mad to get a meagre £4,500 to organise a European debriefing meeting which should be taking place in Athens, Greece, on April 9/10. Sorry I thought you knew??! Are you interested??

In Paris things were different insofar as Babels was managing its own budget. This is why an Association pour le développement du réseau Babels was created in Paris, 'cos money could not be given to Babels without a bank account, and that bank account couldn't be created without a formal structure. After the ESF in Paris, there was money left over. Some of it was used to organise a Babels' international meeting in Brussels, July 2004. Some of it is being used to organise lexicon meetings (Berlin, Dec 2004, Granada, March 2005) as you know I think??The people who then volunteered to be in charge of the Association are Anne Dao (Présidente de l'association), Laurent Vannini (vice-Président), Françoise Jésover (Trésorière) and Danièle Debarge (Trésorière). However they have recently asked John Street and I to be members of the Association, amongst other people.

Yes Babels does exist, and changes are needed and I think that we need to organise an international meeting to discuss things with all the people who feel concerned by Babels. What do you think?

Last edited by Emma on Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Reply to Emma

Postby JeanMichel » Sat Feb 26, 2005 1:24 pm

Hi Emma,

Thanks for your reply and for all the informations. I don't think there is another post.

As I said, I am a big fan of Orwell: Animals Farm and especially 1984. Therefore, I've been rewritten my past (my post) and removed the words "horizontal" and "hierarchy"which are too sensible ... I did that because I want to focus on the lack of organization and transparence of Babels.

About slavery, I believe that the people who work too hard - because they believe to a cause or in a investment bank - are not the more productive and the more efficient because when you're very tired, you make more mistakes. Just compare the productivity in the anglo-saxon countries and France if you want an example.This is a debate in itself but I think Babels shoud not rely on volunteer slaves.

I sugget everything you said about the french association and the money of Paris / London to be published on the web site, we can look at the NGO for guidelines about transparency. About the trip to Athens, I'd like to know who is going. Thanks for the offer but It's a bit late notice for me.

Regarding your idea of an internationnal meeting, I think it's a good idea but who will pay for it? I'd like to use the Survey project as a first opportunity to ask some questions about the Babels structure and Budget. Please check-out the site if you want to help.

Cheers y un abrazo!


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Postby Emma » Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:28 pm

Hi Jean Michel,

I am also a fan or Orwell and agree with you on working too much. Once again it is a problem of structure.

About the Athens meeting, we do not know yet who is going exactly. It has been a long process organising the meeting (waiting to get the money, waiting for people's replies) through the esf coordinators' mailing list, The meeting will deal with DEBRIEFING from London and moving on to the next esf planned in Athens in 2006. Hopefully a new coordination will emerge soon, made of old timers and newcomers.

Bis bald,

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Postby Titi_poa » Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:33 pm

Oi.. vou escrever em portugues... infelizmente não estou dispondo do tempo para fazer a tradução... vou reproduzir abaixo um e-mail que recebi e que sinceramente me preucupou bastante...

EN only, sorry.


I think this should be open to debate. It is always very complicated
for a network like Babels to deal with money. However, many feel the
need for holding an international meeting like we had in Bruxelles
last summer. And for such a meeting we would need some funding:)
At this said meeting we had decided that it was a good idea to try to
have this kind of meeting every year or so and one way of funding such
meetings was to secure around 5 or 6% of the 'transation budget' of
each event/process Babels participate to fund activities of 'debrief',
'knoweldge transmission' and 'exchange of experiences'.
The WSF coordination did not ask for this money because it thought
that the debrief could be done on the spot and through reports put on
However now that some money is available, we could start rethinking
other forms of transmitting and sharig our experience.
The Babels ESF coord is organising a debrief meeting next month in
Athens and we will know soon if a second slice of money will be
available (dependig on the final accounts of the ESF as we had
negotiated earlier). If there is, then this money could also
contribute towards organising an international meeting.

this money could also be used to facilitate Babels preparation to the
next World Social Forum in Africa.


All the best,


Bom... este e-mail me levou a reler alguns tópicos e respostas aqui no Forum e vi que segue-se com aquele mistério... de onde vem o dinheiro de BABELS? Para onde vai o dinheiro de BABELS? Quem decide o que fazer com o dinheiro de BABELS?
Eu entendo que BABELS até pouco tempo tinha como área de abrangência apenas Europa, porém com o ingresso da América Latina creio que os processos deliberativos devem ser repensados.
A príncipio creio (entendam não estou tentando ser o dono da verdade, apenas quero tentar propor soluções) que deveríamos ter mais clareza nesses processos. Sei que é lindo pensar em uma organização totalmente horizontal, mas infelizmente essa horizontalidade não esta sendo bem aplicada, organizada, e nem esta tendo a clareza e transparência que deveria.
Me parece que esta na hora de BABELS (como um todo) decidir se quer seguir organizando-se desta forma. Não sou contra a HORIZONTALIDADE, mas sou contra a GENERALIZAÇÃO DE PAPEIS. Acho que devemos ter uma estrutura horizontal até o momento dos Foruns, mas que durante eles temos que ter papéis bem determinados, temos que saber quem está aonde fazendo o que.
bom.. não vou me alongar aqui.. pq na verdade o que quero é construir um debate... gostaria que aqueles que lessem dessem sua opinião (de preferencia tentando apontar soluções)...
Abraços e beijos a todos


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Postby JeanMichel » Tue Mar 08, 2005 8:35 pm

This is from an e-mail of henrique cotrim (with his permission):

babels and forum organization

i feel babels has to understand that, although it doesn't exist without forums, it plays an important and essential role in the whole process. this awareness is of immeasurable importance!

being an essential actor gives us the right (???) or maybe the power to play a decisive role in IC

decision-making, which goes back to things i said i'd comment on later, such as budgeting, schedule etc.

what i'm suggesting is that when we attend IC meetings is made clear to them that we participate in the process solely under certain very well-defined conditions.

let's go to items:
1. define amongst us exactly what we take on - interpreting, translation, equipment etc and what we’re for in order to present it clearly to IC. make it clear also that once we took on the responsibility for one or more areas the services should be solely provided by us (we had an issue with written translation for wsf2005 - some were done by babels volunteers and some by hired wsf2005 office staff)

2. upon presentation of what we'll do in an IC meeting, conditions have to be made clear and agreed upon as far as deadlines for budgeting, ending registration, and other points that could get in the way of our work quality. it should also be made clear that the failure to comply with agreements will mean babels non-participation in the event. we CANNOT accept their defining budget and deadlines passively and then blame all our problems on it. I think it’s actually very comfortable to say we couldn’t do things because budget was defined in the last minute (as i heard from bettina). this issue is to be taken seriously and professionally. we should be volunteers which DOES NOT imply amateurishness, if we want things to work well we should make it clear to IC that working professionally DOES imply following guidelines and working under certain conditions.

we should also have a say on registration forms and deadlines to avoid some problems we had such as the language in which the lecture will be delivered

3. still on budgeting and deadlines: if we do it professionally and timely we’ll be able to plan ahead, considering medical insurance, housing, vouchers, equipment etc properly

4. who will represent us at IC meetings? how do we decide upon who this person/these people will be? is it horizontal? these representatives have to be our voice at the meeting, which means that they should follow and present whatever is decided during the debriefings. i’m not sure if that’s the case…

5. coordination has to be HELD accountable. i'm not sure accountability can be considered a given when we don't create a structure to make sure people in leading positions did their homework. this is not a company, but there has to be minimum quality control so that those labeled coordinators/organizers/facilitators are put to the test and expelled when they don't fulfill expectations. - i'm not sure i expressed my point well...but this brings me to my next point which i thought of during a debriefing with volunteers in sao paulo: there has to be a plan b and the deadlines have to allow using this plan b timely, i mean, if a leading person/team did not deliver right and on time there has to be time to correct the mistake

still on people in leading positions: besides accountability, delegating is vital to the process so that these leaders can focus on leading rather than wasting time and not getting things done at the end of the day anyway. But here’s the catch – delegate implies doing follow-up to make sure things got done properly… I didn’t see that during wsf2005, I actually felt a no-man's land feeling during the forum: problems with organization, centralization and leading-actors ignoring supporting-actors, cameos, cameras etc

maybe there’s more to be said but that’s all i can put down to words now

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Postby ljesover » Thu Mar 10, 2005 1:31 pm

Well this is at least a good old discussion about efficiency and professionalism, both concepts of course not defined, probably because they are obvious... and maybe not. The same is true with "essential" because of course all we participate to is essential or bound to be. And of course the essential things shal recognize that you are the essence of essential because if not then, what is essentiality. Let's fight for this, for fresh air, for recognition of our essential being.

Nevertheless let's discuss a bit "externalities" because some might thing that the entrepeneurs are efficient. Well they are in the sense that they externalize all that can be heterogeneous or define as such by them like poverty generated by wealth, or polution generated by the efficient activity. But are they efficient or is the desorganized rest of the world that is more than they are? Ah yes Babels is to push to have translation exterlanize because it is so inefficient otherwise.

The Forum is a process and a political one. It is not a budget and a timetable. If it was then someone can of course explain why speakers do not show up although they are printed in the program, conferences and meetings do not happen although they are listed. Someone has even a good explanation why a listed conference generate a total other conference when people show up.

Ah yes, let's fire people when they do not comply to something... What a good idea. Let's exclude all that do not have any experience, or an european way of seeing organizing. Let's be frank step 1 is never after step 2... and no one arrive with his/her history and his/her will. Let's eliminate this altogether: Anyone that shall enter this door leave outside anything that makes you a normal human person. Let's built a real work environment. Because work is so serious that of course you have during 8 hours a day forget that you are a citizen, a family member, a human with taste for flowers and music. Yeah let's do that and so many other things. Oups, I am not a fan of Orwell. Or maybe "Down and out in Paris and in London" but that is when he tried to be so much like Henry Miller. Too bad... Everyone has a role and every role has a purpose and of course every bit of it is accountable acoording to the ten Commandments. Let's do this on voluntary basis. Like would not say an Huxley let close the Door of perception to open the Brave new world. Let's not mend, let's not do with what we have, let's erase all to build from fresh efficient bricks. Hey Babels leave those kids alone (Pink Floyd revisited). Du passé faisons table rase... to see the blue horizon shining bright and new.

Ah yes that is true also. People show up because babels is organized not because a Social Forum has built a political inefficient space. Let's remind all that we are essential, central and let's build a power stuggle to reaffirm our rights to efficiency. We are!

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Babels structure

Postby bettina » Sun Mar 13, 2005 10:50 pm

Hello all
There has been a discussion going on in mailing list as to our participation in an event in Cairo. There has been a very interesting exchange as to decision-making in Babels as to "in what we get involved in".
I believe this discussion should be open to all and this is why from now on I'll post my replies on that subject in the forum and I invite my insignes colegas to do the same

Hola a todos
Hemos tenido una discusion en la lista sobre nuestra participación en un evento en Cairo, que ha sido muy interesante en términos de la tomada de decisiones en Babels sobre "en qué nos involucramos".
Pienso que la discusión tiene que se abierto y por ello a apartir de ahora paso a discutir ese tema en el foro y invito a mis insignes colegas hacer el mismo.

here below my last answer
aquí abajo mi comunicación más reciente
I still maintain my proposal. We know all the 9000 of us will not be interested in giving their opinions, as we already know from experience that even those involved in a project do not care to read information essential to their work (vide WSF2005 debriefing). However, who has granted a mandate to a 'nomenklatura' in Babels to decide who are those more 'involved and familiar with these issues' who should be included in decison-making mientras los otros no?
Yes, all 9000 of us is allowed to have an opinion. We must put forward proposals of projects in the forum. I do not want to be surprised to find Babels involved in something I had not only a saying as to the participation, let alone the awarenss it would participate

Mantengo mi proposición. Sabemos que todos los 9000 no van a estar a interesados en ddar sus opiniones, como ya sabemos por experiencia que mismo los que estan involucrados en un proyecto no leen informaciones esenciales a su trabajo (vide WSF2005 debriefing). Sin embargo, quienes han dado un mandato a una "nomenklatura" en Babels para decidir quienes son los 'más involucrados y familiarizados con esos temas' que deben ser incluidos en la tomada de decisiones y los otros no?
Si, todos los 9000 tenemos el derecho de dar nuestra opinión, Los proyectos tienen que proponerse en el foro. No quiero ser surpreendida por saber que Babels está inviolucrada en algo que no solo no pude opinar, como ni sabía que iba a participar.

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Location: Uruguay

Postby Ivonne » Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:36 am


Siguiendo en el Foro:
Estoy de acuerdo con Mónica que tal vez nos estemos salteando partes importantes o que estamos viendo las hormigas mientras los elefantes nos pasan por encima.
Retomo las palabras de Cathy publicadas en el foro babels-fr dónde retomó las propuestas de trabajo para Babels formuladas en Bruxelas, dónde se había planteado según entendí (si alguien tiene los documentos surgidos de allí: me interesaría tenerlos para que podamos leerlos Babels-uruguay) se había acordado una cierta independencia para las coord. locales haciendo saber a las demás coord. para evitar problemas en otros paíces por la participación de babels en algún evento fuera de FS, lo que creo que tal vez sea este el caso.
Aunque considero que sería bueno debatir sobre lo ya acordado para no generar marchas y contra-marchas y si hay nuevas propuestas o cambios ok. pero no empezar de cero (aunque algunos hallamos llegado con la película empezada alguien puede resumir el principio para no rebobinar permanentemente)
Ahora bien, creo que es necesario debatir si, pero no sólo por la participación de Babels en el Cairo, sino por cómo y cuando cada coord. tiene libertad de decisión; y cómo y cuando Babels en su totalidad deben decidir sobre enventos puntuales fuera FS.
Pero no sólo eso tenemos muchas cosas más para decidir y ponernos "provisoriamente" de acuerdo ya que las realidades son cambiantes por lo tanto debemos acopañar tales transformaciones para no transformarnos en una "institución" o algo semejante; aunque un acuerdo entre 9.000 personas de la base Babels vamos....
Es aquí dónde creo entender la preocupación de Monica ya que dejamos en 2do. término los debates importantes para resolver lo que se presenta como urgente.
Aunque me parece que si logramos poner en funcionamiento las coord. locales y confiamos en que podamos llevar a cabo los lineamientos generales que acordemos en el largo plazo, no estaríamos apagando incendios todo el tiempo.
Un abrazo

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consulta en el Foro a 9 ooo

Postby monica » Mon Mar 14, 2005 3:29 pm

Estamos claros que no queremos vernos traducuiendo algo que no compartimos y que esos debates se realicen abiertamente y no por listas privadas.
Yvonne ha entendido bien mi preocupación que estamos dejando de lado cosas importantes por estar mirando la rama y no el bosque, y estar siempre actuando en la urgencia.
Hoy somos 9000 dicen, en un mes habrá 10 000 que no participaron en toma de decisiones, y si no hay bases claras re-comenzaremos de nuevo el debate de que quien puede ir,que que va a decir,que tiene que consultar,etc...y Si, no somos institución.A ver.todos podemos opinar.Pero,y luego,un consenso basado en que premisas?En la interpretación que cada coordinación local le de a la Charte?
Coordinaciones locales como dice Yvonne para ayudar en el proceso? Allí empieza la verticalidad.Que pasa con países donde no hay coordinación porque no están interesados en esa forma,y sí todos los integrantes de la red participan?
Las coordinaciones existieron alrededor de proyectos.Si no hay un proyecto para que?Para tener un "cargo"?Mientras no hay problema de que babels X se reuna y,estudie y debata,pero se puede hacer sin coordinador.
Regreso a mi leit-motif: aseguremos primero la calidad del trabajo y el compromiso político.Seamos mas modestos.Vayamos lento y seguro.

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Location: France


Postby steph » Tue Mar 15, 2005 9:45 pm

ciao ciao
Beaucoup de gens ne comprennent pas l'espagnol : est-il possible de traduire les posts dans une autre langue, et d'écrire dans deux langues dans les mailing lists, svp? merci

Hi there
A lot of people donot understand Spanish : could you please translate the 2 posts in another language and to write any answer in two languages, just like on the mailing lists, please? thx


Ciao ciao

En tant que réseau international, Babels existe depuis plus de deux ans. Le réseau s’est construit de forum en forum. Mais de forum en forum, quel que soit l’endroit, les mêmes plaintes reviennent en ritournelle :

- le processus de décision n'est pas satisfaisant : ni la question de la prise de décision elle-même, ni celle de qui prend la décision, qui renvoie aussi à un mode d'inclusion et de participation.
Y’a qu’à voir la façon dont nous nous sommes écharpés au sujet du prix d’Amiens ou les questions que soulèvent la Conférence au Caire (sans compter le Venezuela) : ce qui existe aujourd’hui ne convient pas. On le dit depuis l’après – FSE 2003, on en a parlé à Bruxelles : quoi qu’il en soit, on passe notre temps à revenir dessus et personne ne s’y reconnaît.

- très peu de gens comprennent la façon dont babels fonctionne, voire, la façon dont une équipe de coordination d’un forum social fonctionne
( les récents efforts de communication ne touchent qu’une goutte d’eau par rapport au nombre d’inscrits : 520 personnes pour le WSF 2005, c’est énorme. Mais cela reste peu, comparé aux 9000 qui sont inscrits.)

- il y a trop de volontaires qui ne connaissent pas Babels, sa Charte de principe, qui ne savent pas où le réseau intervient, comment, pourquoi,etc... et qui sont prêts à faire un peu tout et n’importe quoi, surtout par enthousiasme

Suggestion : dressons une liste des événements à venir, qui sont susceptibles de demander à Babels d'intervenir, ou sur lesquels on pense que Babels devrait intervenir et s'en servir comme base de discussion sur deux choses. A savoir :
(1) - où est-on d'accord pour que Babels-réseau international intervienne? (en laissant les coordinations locales leur autonomie pour intervenir ici ou là)
(2) - comment construire un mode de prise de décision satisfaisant?

Concrètement :
- ouvrir une page wiki : toutes les personnes qui sont inscrites sur les mailing lists de Babels y dépose ses propositions d’intervention de Babels dans un événement (en argumentant). On s’impose une deadline pour ne pas faire traîner les choses
- cette liste est mise en forme (rendue lisible, traduite)
- Postée sur le forum, sous une tête de chapitre spécifique (comme « Babels general », « Fsmed », etc…), cette liste sert de base de débat général. Pour info ou pour mémoire, cette technique a déjà été un peu testée pour le FSM 2005.
- Via un email envoyé depuis la base de données : on invite tout le monde à se prononcer, en donnant une échéance à la discussion. Libre à qui le souhaite d’organiser des réunions physiques autour de cette liste (sachant qu’il n’y a pas de coordinations babels partout). Pê que ce mail pourrait reprendre quelques infos sur babels ?
- Arrivés à échéance, le réseau intervient là où on est d’accord pour intervenir. La liste est publiée sur le site : c’est aussi un signal fort adressé à toutes les organisations qui passent leur temps à chercher des interprètes gratos.
- On recense aussi les règles collectives élaborées au cours du débat et on les publie sur le site

Ce débat permet aux gens de s’approprier un peu plus le réseau où ils se sont inscrits et la liste qui sort est une liste où chacun a participé dès le début… ça évite de se balancer des noms d’oiseaux dès qu’on estime que l’AUTRE a fait une connerie au regard de notre propre interprétation de la charte de principe, de l’esprit babels, etc…

Et il y a de fortes chances pour que (2) en découle : se poser la question de l’intervention de Babels, c’est de poser aussi la question de sa non-intervention, de la façon dont on accepte ou pas d’intervenir, des critères d’intervention, etc…. c’est se poser aussi la question de savoir ce qui est important au Caire, en France, au Royaume-Uni, au Brésil, etc…

L’écriture de la Charte de principe, au moment où nous nous demandions comment préparer le FSE 2003 de Paris, fut un moment d’élaboration politique très riche. Mais il s’est restreint à la poignée de parisiens qui s’y sont attelés, soumettant le texte par la suite à la poignée de coordinations locales qui existaient alors et se réduisaient souvent à une personne. Or, l’écriture collective permet un moment de débat collectif et d’appropriation des valeurs communes que ne permet pas la lecture de bulletins d’information. Ou la consultation d’informations sur le site. Ou la réponse aux mails concernant le logement, les dates de voyages, etc… Il manque au réseau Babels un temps de confrontation collective – confrontation constructive, parce qu’elle reconnaît les différences de pratiques, de cultures, de visions et qu’elle s’en nourrit pour aboutir à une construction commune.

Quand on se lamente en parlant des gens qui participent au forum sans savoir ce qu’est Babels et qu’on met leur engagement en doute, on pose la question de la responsabilité de ces personnes par rapport à un projet. Mais il n’y a pas de prise de responsabilité possible quand on ne sent pas impliqué et on ne se sent pas impliqué par un truc dont on ne sait rien ou qui semble opaque. Ce qui reste le cas aujourd’hui : même les inscrits sur les mailing lists ont un mal fou à se repérer dans la pléthore d’outils et d’espaces virtuels de Babels, alors… les « simples » volontaires, n’en parlons pas !

J’aimerais croire que 9000 personnes vont effectivement se prononcer, mais j’en doute. Quoi qu’il en soit, on ne peut pas présumer de leur non-réponse pour leur ôter d’entrée de jeu le droit de se prononcer sur un enjeu tel que la participation de Babels à des événements. Cette décision n’est pas du seul ressort des coordinateurs – qui, la plupart du temps, sont les premiers à protester de ne pas avoir été inclus dès le départ dans la prise de décision. Au bout du compte, les « coordinateurs » ne sont jamais que des volontaires qui ont pris sur eux d’organiser un forum à un moment donné. A ce titre, ils ont appris à utiliser les outils du réseau et ils en connaissent suffisamment la géographie interne pour s’y diriger. Mais cette maîtrise ne leur donne pas le droit de décider pour tout le monde – ou alors, nous sommes devenus une caste d’apparatchiks et les discours sur l’inclusion, l’horizontalité, la participation de tous, sont du pipeau.


Babels, as an international network, has existed for the past 2 years. It went on building itself from forum to forum. But, whatever the forum and whatever the place, the same complains keep coming up :

-the decision-making process is not satisfactory : neither the time or way the decision is taken, nor who’s taking the decision, which has to do with the question of whether it allows people to take part into the decision or not.
Just think about how we went aggro with each other about the prize in France or about the questions around the Cairo conference (not to mention Venezuela) : whatever we have today, is just no good. We’ve been saying so ever since the aftermath of the Paris ESF and we even addressed it in Brussels – but it keeps coming up and it seems that no one finds it satisfactory.

- too many people just cannot grasp the way Babels works, or even how a team of coordination operates when tackling one Forum
(the recent efforts on communication are massive and meaningful, but they’ll be only a drop in the ocean, so to speak : 520 people out of the 9000 so-called registered members)

- too many volunteers ignore what Babels is about, haven’t read its charter of principles, donot know where the network intervenes, how, why, so on so forth… and are ready to go anywhere, out of a jolly enthusiasm

Suggestion : Let’s draft a list of events to come, that may require Babels to intervene or where we think Babels should intervene and use this as launching point for discussion on 2 key points :
(1) where do we agree that Babels- international network is supposed to intervene ? (leaving space for local coordinations to have their own autonomy)
(2) how do we build a decision-making that is satisfactory for everyone?

Here’s what I suggest :
- create a wiki page : all the registered people on the Babels mailing list are free to put there proposals of interventions (explaining why they deem it meaningful for babels to intervene). It has to be done within a certain deadline, so as to avoid delaying things to much
- editing and translation of the list
- posted on the babels forum, under a thread/headchapter of its own and this allows the discussion to be launched. FYI, it has been used for the WSF 2005.
- send an email to the whole database, asking people to take part into the debate right from the beginning, setting a deadline. People are free to organize as they chose to answer, meet if they want, so on so forth (just remember babels exist in very few countries).
(Maybe the email should include info on Babels?)
- once the time is up, Babels intervenes only where we’ve reached an agreement. Then, the list is published on the webtsite, which is also a very clear warning to all the organizations searching for free interpreters.
- we also collect the collective rules that will emerge from the public debate, and publish them on the website, so that everyone knows where to find them

This debate should make it so that people can make Babels their own more easily, without remaining a mere box in a database. Which might allow us not to get aggro with one another when one think SOMEONE ELSE has gotten it wrong, according to our own interpretation of the Charter of principle, the Babels spirit, so on so forth…

It’s very likely that (2) will come naturally : dealing with the issue of where Babels intervenes means that we’ll have to deal with the issue of where it doesNOT intervene, the criteria used to intervene, etc… it makes it so that we’ll have to ask ourselves what’s meaningful in Cairo, France, Brazil or UK, etc…

Writing the Charter of Principle while we were wondering how to get organized for the Paris ESF back in 2003 was a great time of collective political building. But it involved only a handful of people living in Paris, who then submitted the text to the other local coordinations (often made of one person at that time). Yet, this kind of collective writing involves a collective debate, which makes it so that people make the common values their own –no way the reading of news bulletin, newsletters, information on a website or answering emails on travels or housing will achieve this. It seems that the network is missing such a time of collective debate leading to the building of common values we all share. Which is a pity, now that it has grown so much and involves people living in different countries, dealing with different issues and having different practises.

Whining about the fact that some people take part into a forum without knowing what Babels is about and questioning their political commitment, is paramount to asking oneself how responsible these people are within one project. But you cannot expect people to take responsibility and commit themselves when one doesnot feel involved and one doesnot feel concerned when one does not know anything about Babels or when it seems so blurred that no one understands how it works. People that are currently registered on the mailing lists find it hard to find their way in all the electronic tools and space of the network… don’t expect “simple” volunteers to find their way! Don’t expect them to feel committed…

I would love to think that all the 9000 registered people will take part in the debate. But I frankly doubt it. So what? That is no excuse to deprive them of the right to take part into a debate dealing with key issued for the network. The decision on where Babels should intervene, how, what it implies does not belong to the sole coordinators. Who happen to be the very first ones to rise hell when one decision has been made without asking them all, by the way. In the end, “coordinators” are just volunteers who, at a certain time, took it upon themselves to organize the interpretation of one event. To achieve this, they ended up mastering the technical tools and process of the network and have a clearer vision of its internal functioning. But this doesnot give them the right to speak for everybody. Unless we”ve all become apparatchiks of a new kind and all the speeches on inclusion, horizontality and the space for everyone to take part are just a whole bunch of nonsense?

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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2003 1:35 pm

ads for the babels protocols

Postby yan » Fri Aug 19, 2005 12:15 am

A lot of the issues discussed in these posts have given rise to the Babels Protocols. These discuss how Babels works, and how new people interested in organizing new projects can proceed. They are online on the main Babels website: Babels Protocols. These Protocols are the result of long discussions and were approved by all 'Babels coordinators'.

Muchos de las cuestiones debatidas en estos posts han permitido redactar los Protocolos Babels. Estos hablan de la manera en que funciona Babels, y explica como nuevas personas pueden participar en la organización de nuevos proyectos. Están en línea en el sitio central de Babels: Protocolos Babels (la versión ES aún no ha sido puesta en línea). Estos Protocolos son el fruto de muchas discusiones y fueron aprobados por todos los 'coordinadores Babels'.

Beaucoup des questions débattues dans ces posts ont permis la rédaction des Protocoles Babels. Ceux-ci montrent comment Babels travaille, et comment procéder pour les personnes intéressés par l'organisation de nouveaux événements. Ils sont sur le site central de Babels: Protocoles Babels. Ces Protocoles sont le fruit de longues discussions et ont été approuvés par tous les 'coordinateurs Babels'.

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