Robert’s input, answering Steph’s questions:
STEPH: Can you tell us what you did during the 3/4 months ahead of the forum ?
ROBERT: Mainly, I ranted about the lack of information on the actual demand we were to face at the ASF in terms of interpreters/equipment. This information was given to us, and still somewhat vaguely, less than one month from the ASF starting date. At the Babels’coordinators meeting in Brussels, we even considered dropping out of the event entirely, but decided to make a brave attempt due to its political significance.
S: What were your chores ? how were they defined ?
R: I was originally co-responsible for the budget, for hotel accomodations, and for selecting the Portuguese interpreters. I just volunteered, based on my experience as owner of a translation company in Brazil in over 1500 events.
S: When did you arrive in the process of this forum ? who contacted you ?
R: As I was on the database from the ESF2003, and had subsequently been invited to help as coordinator in Brazil with the WSF, I was a logical choice to be contacted for the ASF.
S: What were your goals at the beginning ? did you manage to achieve them ?
R: My goals for the ASF were the same as if it were a paid event - to provide world-class interpreting to the participants of the event, adequate working conditions to the interpreters, and excellent cost/benefit to those paying for our services. My militance is expressed in the fact that all those involved on our team should do so as volunteers. The goals were not entirely met. One implicit goal was for the interpreters involved to get more involved and consider the experience as positive - that was extremely successful and must not be underestimated - the power of our message, that another world is possible and that professional and non-professional interpreters can play a role !
S: How did you do to recruit people ? On what basis and criteria did you do so ?
R: In addition to professionals I had worked with in the past, I am member of several trade associations and internet discussion lists. I presented the concept of babels and the forums to these and asked for volunteers. I firmly believe that the forums should only pay for long distance traveling expenses for highly-qualified professionals and be less restrictive when recruiting local volunteers.
S: What was the hardest thing for you to do in this forum ?
R: Interact with other coordinators and the organizers in a flat heirarchy system.
S: Do you think you’ ve mastered the babels tools ? (mailing list, chat, wiki and database)
R: I think the tools are excellent, WE must be more disciplined in using them. Thousands of dollars in international phone calls were still made by coordinators, some charged to the ASF and some not (USD$100 of mine weren’t). I think that many of these callls could have been avoided had we used the tools more faithfully.
S: What did this forum bring to you?
R: It was a wonderful experience ! I had never been involved in the coordination of such a large group of interpreters before. Also, as I said, the message of the forum is so strong that those attracted to it are generally exceptional people who want to see a fairer and more humane world, which makes them a pleasure to get to know ! In paid events, professionals are generally courteous but standoff-ish and at the forums people show solidarity, are more light-hearted, even in the face of less-than-ideal conditions. As in the ESF2003, there was a real comradery amongst the interpreters, with no caste system where those more proficient looked down on those with less experience.
S: What are the advice you could give to new coordinators?
R: It is a real learning experience in how to deal with plurality, as coordinators are of course quite different from each other (good !), and you can neither be too pushy nor a pushover in terms of how you feel things should be done.
Having clear ground rules and transparency in all our doings greatly facilitate this interaction. In the end, what’s best for the participants of the forum and the volunteers is what should be done.