Revision history for SocialForumReinventingWheels

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====== How (to try) to organize interpretation and translation for a Social Forum and in the end realize it won't come out as (you thought you had) planned ======

(Really) Brief Introduction

Babels basically follows the following principles: guaranteeing the respect for diversity and minorised languages, making sure interpreters and translators take part in the Social Forums process — as social actresses/actors and not as a cheap service provider taken for granted or meaningless; placing language diversity issues in the political agenda; ensuring dialogue, letting people speak the language of their choice; being an open, inclusive, transparent and horizontal network granting the presence of both experienced and less experienced interpreters from all over, so that the process can be disseminated throughout the world.

Babels coordinators are volunteers in charge of interpretation and translation for a given Social Forum, establishing a dialogue between the network, that is other volunteers, the SF office, the Organizing Committee, and organizations, discussing theoretical plans and methodology and organizing certain logistic issues according to political principles.

Help from past experience is always great to try not to make the same mistakes but each Forum seems to be a brand new experience and we always start from scratch (new country, new coordination, new Organizing Committee, different people, etc). This means we sometimes reinvent the wheel; in the end we learn from every experience and our advice might not work for the next Forum. But we are going to try.

Keywords and specialised terms used by coordinators

EPA (European Preparatory Assembly for the European Social Forum); OC (organising Committee); IC (Internation Council for the World Social Forum); ESF (European Social Forum), WSF (World Social Forum); NOC (Nordic Organising Committee); Assembly of Social Movements; see Lexicon of ESF keywords.

Prior to the Social Forum

First Steps

- write a conceptual note, agreement with the OC, when necessary
- general logistics: draft a budget; later, create a more definite budget with detailed estimates
- set up Babels coordination groups (by city/state/region), strengthening/consolidating them, ideally trying to meet them; if this is not possible, send messages to keep them informed every week, introduce them to sit-prep/Didactibels, send new texts ("Interpreting at a booth", "Babels and the Social Forums"), etc
- get the figure of registered volunteers in the database per each city/local coordination per month/verify the database periodically to assess the number of registered people
- hold information and discussion meetings, clarifying issues and raising the volunteers' awareness on the process which is afoot. Send calls and invite speakers. Speakers from movements are asked to get involved, since their collaboration is essential for this outreach work, leading volunteers to becoming more and more interested by Social Forum issues, including them in the process; discuss working plans, write reports to keep the rest of the network informed
- split volunteers in groups, such as: 1. general coordination (by language or region); 2. selection 3. mobilization; 4. training; 5. translation; 6. communication issues 7. travel 8. accommodation; 9. lexicon; 10. planning; 11. logistics; 12. room coordination
- attend other meetings (outreach tours, program, communication, logistics, ALIS, EPA, etc)
- increase the number of languages both for translation and interpretation, when possible


- learn to use communication tools (lists -> information; wiki, forum-> discussion; database, etc)
- keep volunteers well informed about each and every issue/phase (coordination-> openess, incusiveness; mobilization, selection, travel, reimbursement, accommodation, planning, logistics/accreditation) -> transparency, horizontality
- define a group to answer e-mails! don’t leave volunteers without an answer! organize who is answering and what, so as not to confuse them


- contact interpretation and translation professionals/key people in person (universities, cultural and language institutes, etc) who, despite all sorts of anti-Babels and anti-SF feelings haboured by paid professionals, could support the group (bring clarifying notes, texts, insist that babels doesn't want to hinder the profession, on the contrary, etc)
- send calls for volunteer interpreters, letting them know anyone can be a coordinator
- prepare an "interpretation call for action kit", begin the call for action/outreach with this material, alongside a pamphlet and poster, etc
- keep sending calls for action to all universities, interpretation and language schools, cultural centers, immigrants' communities…
- try to mobilize new interpreters, with different/uncommon language combinations


- sit-prep dvds
- Didactibels, send new texts, such as "Interpreting at a booth", "Babels and the Social Forums", encourage them to look for texts on social forums websites, etc
- look for a place to have an interpretation lab for 'training' (with a booth, if possible)
- hold "training" sessions (with presence lists, if possible), using texts related to SFs, as well as speeches that are similar to real events which volunteer interpreters will be faced with at the SF. Volunteers have then an opportunity to get familiar with a booth, study the vocabulary frequently used at SF, besides practicing also other interpretation techniques, such as consecutive and whispering interpretation, in different situations, regarding both interpretation universe and that of the Social Forums. Listen to them, making comments, "assessing" (it must be clear that nobody is to judge anyone, the idea is that everybody can participate, even if in the end they don't work at a certain SF, they might work for other SF) volunteers' "performances". The more the group meets the easiest it is to get familiar with volunteers, facilitating and speeding up the selection process and the work during ESF, as well as the planning work (since you don't count only on information given on the database), leading to setting up a group of interpreters well aware/conscious of their role. As a result of this experience, the group should be able to keep in touch after the event, organizing meetings to transmit knowledge, discuss Babels political participation and improve interpreters' abilities for future forums/projects. It is very important to hold assessment meetings after the SFs
- interpreters should be prepared not to stick to their "official" B and C languages, especially when it comes to interpreting at small rooms, during informal discussions and in working groups. The same goes to "non ideal" conditions (no mic, no headset, no booth…), consecutive; whispering - avoid but let interpreters know in advance that it might happen and they might need to improvise


- establish selection criteria and procedures
- define linguistic needs
- pre-select, according to selection criteria, creating a list on the database, which is to be periodically updated; the final list of confirmed people is be compared to presence lists controlled at each activity at the SF
- have a close look at language combinations
- try to get to know each interpreter


- establish reimbursement conditions
- define travel procedures
- start travel arrangements as soon as possible


- launch a campaign for solidarity accommodation
- create an accommodation form
- start accommodation arrangements as soon as possible


- distributing work, languages and speeches, as well as (experienced/less experienced) interpreters is difficult since the program is ready only a few days before the event; keep guessing linguistic needs
- match language combinations
- it is extremely important to seek to have a closer dialogue/contact among organizations and Babels way in advance, as for making sure we are allocating languages/interpreters properly, they send info texts on the speeches, etc). The delay and lack of definition regarding the program and thus the planning creates inadequate working conditions, interpreters working more than the expected 6 hours per day, also facing difficulties concerning basic things such as local transportation, water in the booths and so on. -> Suggestions: keep checking Babels form with the volunteers, since wrong information provokes mistakes in planning
- local coordinations, after following their own group's development and getting to know each interpreter and their performance as close/best as possible, should take part in planning process, verifying possible misunderstandings


- budget - plan all sorts of meetings; office material; calculate food (three meals a day plus coffee breaks/snacks, water); local transportation, when needed; coordinators arriving before the forum
- seek for transparency in defining what resources are needed in advance and the use of it
- inform interpreters WHAT will be reimbursed and that ALL invoices should be kept
- book and purchase tickets as soon as possible
- foresee organizational difficulties regarding travel, specially due to no definition in terms of granting autonomy as for the use of resources/cash flow/ticket issuing, so that it is not done at the very last minute
- seek solidarity accommodation and make sure there are available bedrooms as soon as possible
- accommodation places previously known, as close to the venue as possible (neither really far away nor too dispersed) help save resources
- foresee problems regarding arrival, welcoming, local transportation; welcoming volunteers with transportation (in those cases, volunteers don't need to cover bus/taxi expenses and to be reimbursed for them, thus avoiding further misunderstandings and waste of time and money. "Optimizing" these resources would "facilitate" work and save time, creating less stress); "optimizing" local transportation, concentrating as many interpreters as possible in the same area
- Babels "stand by"/rest room should be as close to the rooms as possible and perhaps not concentrated in only one distant place, "facilitating" access to interpreters in emergency situations (ideally: to have one babels "standby" room for each area)
- organize babels office at the venue
- prepare the interpreter's pack (bag, badge, map of the city, map of the SF venue, personal work schedule (if not online or on a wall), tickets for meals and transportation and so on)
- organize accreditation
- organize reimbursement
- declaration of participation as an interpreter, when agreed

Translation & Lexicons

- see what are the needs of translation - before, during and after the forum
- ascertain what is needed to keep the written translation working (transtrad) or more "efficient", supporting the creation and management of a local translation team – separating texts, distributing, sending, retrieving and revising them, in particular texts for the website, official messages and reports, documents, etc
- gather lists of themes/key words and texts from past forums, set up groups and prepare lexicons

During the Social Forum

- organize accreditation
- organize training with Alis equipment
- (try to) solve final logistical-organizational issues regarding interpreters such as tickets, accommodation, food, water and transportation; follow local groups (that is, each local coordination should take care of their own group), help volunteers solve problems with welcoming, local transportation, accommodation rearrangements, when needed
- organize daily meetings
- local schedule/planning issues, interpreters that go to their venue and the event/activity does not take place, interpreters who abandon ship/fail to remain committed to the SF, etc
- organize reimbursement

Room coordination & Quality control/assessment -> what you will do if room coordis are missing (as always)!

- it is really important to pay attention to preparing room coordinators. The coordination group for room coordination volunteers must inevitably achieve their responsibility of capacity building volunteers for such an underestimated fundamental task.
- coordinators should prepare volunteers way in advance so that they can learn their role, that is: 1. make sure there is always water, pencils and paper in the booths 2. make sure everything is working, both with ALIS and the interpreters 3. check whether the languages interpreters work with are the needed one for that room 4. provide better information for everyone that there IS interpretation available 5. verify last minute changes planned before the meeting start 6. tell the chairperson/speaker to ask into which languages interpretation is needed during the discussion (in many cases, chairpersons seem to ignore interpretation-> POLITENESS PROTOCOL) 7. ask the speakers to stick to only the language they chose (not switching from one to another, not speaking portuñol, spanglish, etc), speak louder, slower, etc 8. be the person in charge of solving problems when one interpreter does not show up, finding a substitute, when the activity is canceled, etc 9. encourage potential interpreters to participate spontaneously, informing people about this possibility beforehand (EXTERNAL PROTOCOL; PAIDxVOLUNTEER) 10. make sure the interpreter is not working more than 20-30 min without a break 11. make sure interpreters are not working more than 6 hours a day -> interpreters should not work too long (2 HOURS PER SHIFT, 6 HOURS A DAY) and everyone should know that they can stop whenever they cannot go on; but they should be available when they are supposed to; tourism, cultural events, participation in the forum, parties, etc should be encouraged, as long as when not scheduled (DUTIES AND RIGHTS) 12. control a presence list, with an "evaluation/assessment" field 13. support Babels rooms (monitor closely to see if everything is all right at resting room(s), translation room(s) and Babels office), water, coffee and snacks always available
- avoid tourism and just for fun: it is well-known/obvious the lack of preparation and involvement/commitment, as well as coordination of some volunteer interpreters. Local coordination must develop preparation properly, towards real participation in the process. Previously, reinforce mobilizing/calling for action and awareness/consciousness, as well as local coordination's involvement regarding selection (for instance, people should not be selected only because they are in the database or happen to know a foreign/second language or more without even knowing what they are supposed to do, that is, interpret). During the forum, control/auditing each room and each interpreter, with a presence list, not to judge them, but to know whether they went to the room they were suppose to go or not, as well as local coordinators should follow their interpreters "performance". Tourist interpreters won't be reimbursed. After the forum, keep a record of those who didn’t do their job.

After the Social Forum

- reports/documentation
- general assessment on interpretation and translation (before, during; organizational and political issues)
- personal experience
- meetings, continuity
- knowledge transmission fund/meetings

(Really) Brief Conclusion

Coordinating interpretation and translation for Social Forums is complex and requires lots of commitment, common work, that is sharing tasks in order not to have an accumulation of duties, since it prevents us from developing our work and makes everything stressful and difficult, and finally, better collaboration from Organizing Committees, Program Groups, and organizations.

It is very important to keep calm despite the potential critical issues one is faced with before, during and after a social forum; whatever the difficulties, however absurd some interpreter's request may sound, despite the terrible ongoing pressure and impoliteness, you should try to stay "efficient" and polite – after all we are at a SF (and we should not forget basic principles such as keeping places clean, preserving the environment, etc, etc) – define priorities and seek solutions, being flexible and capable to improvise (POLITENESS PROTOCOL-> Babels<->Babels, coordinators<->volunteers, coordinators<->coordinators, volunteers<->volunteers, organizers/organizations<->Babels -> HORIZONTALITY.

The ideal team of coordinators should have:

1 person for general coordination
1 person per city/region to mobilize, select, and coordinate interpreters
1 person per city/region to "train" interpreters
1 person for national travel
1 person for international travel
Some people for reimbursement
2 person for accommodation (be it solidarity or not)
1 person to coordinate local transtrad (check number of languages and need of written translation during the forum)
Some people for planning
1 person to be in charge of general coordination of room coordinators
1 person for babels logistics (arrival/reception, transportation during the ESF and departure), water & food, interpreter's kit


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