Version 3 (modified by, 8 years ago) (diff)


Report on Detroit Expanded, US Social Forum 2010

Also see:

Planning Process

The planning process within the US Social Forum organization began in March 2009. The framework for Dex was taken directly from experiences at the WSF level, namely in Belem 2009. Early on in the USSF process, efforts were focused on finding funding for the equipment needed for 100 workshops to all integrate some form of expanded element. A proposal was written to cover the costs of 10 rooms equipped with a computer, projector, speakers, microphone, and camera. Working with Program/Culture working group, it was determined that Dex would be integrated into the self-organized activities and a simple check-box to opt-in to the initiative was placed on the workshop submission form. A small group was regularly meeting to discuss the elements outside of the workshops, or self-organized activities, but to also integrate cultural events, tours, and other happenings during the USSF into the Dex program.

A small organizing group consisted of NPC and DLOC participants already involved in other committees and working groups with the exception of one or two involved organizers from a proposed expanded workshop with Venezuela and a former organizer of the Belex project and the WSF.

It is important to note that the organizing process for this project was not at capacity at any point over the course of the following 18 months. Interest in integrating cultural and extra-USSF events was mostly promoted by the Detroit Local Organizing Committee in direct response to the adopted name "Detroit Expanded", which indicates a specifically Detroit-centric approach to the programming, whereas from the experience in Belem 2009, "Belem Expanded" merely identified Belem as the location of the social forum and did not specifically highlight the Belem community or its active organizations especially. The self-organized workshops would not especially be asked to expand their programming from Detroit as a place, but simply from the USSF event location.

198 submitted workshops were identified to have opted-in to the Dex project a the time that they submitted their workshops. It was requested that Dex workshops be physically scheduled in one designated area of the main venue, Cobo Hall, for ease access to workshop locations for volunteer support. However, at the time of scheduling this was not done due to the lack of information listed on the spreadsheet used to schedule all 1000+ workshops. Thus, Dex workshops were scattered throughout the 6+ venues of the USSF. After scheduling was officially released, Dex workshop organizers were contacted and asked to fill out a survey indicating their intention to participate. As expected, approximately half of the participants responded, and half of those responses were to opt-out of Dex, leaving roughly 50 Dex participants.

Two key meetings were called and held in the few weeks leading up to the USSF event. The first took place at an NPC meeting in late May in which the concept of Expanded began to include the cultural and extra events of the USSF space with an idea to broadcast with interactive chat 10 hours per day of the forum events. This would be in addition to the Dex workshop programming. Criteria were established for which events would be included. At this time, funding was requested within the ICT and Communications budget, but was not granted due to unforeseen costs for other organizing needs within the larger budget. After the second meeting, a full schedule for streaming video was produced and approved one week before the USSF event. A team of videographers was brought together and included the professional crew from Free Speech TV, Truth to Power Films, and others.



Of the 50 participating workshops and their primary organizers, varying degrees of familiarity with Internet software for connecting remotely were present. Some workshops were planned in full, with ambitious goals to actually present their entire workshop from an expanded location, connect a panelist not able to come to Detroit, or post video and audio online, for example. Others were unsure of what was Detroit Expanded and its purpose. One-on-one communication with all 50 participating workshops was how information was gathered about the capacity of organizers and their proposed ideas of how they could connect their ideas with those that could not attend the USSF in Detroit. Advice about which software to use and how to connect with certain regions was given in these emails as well.

Only two emails were sent to Dex workshop organizers. The first was asking to respond to the program's survey to assess the needs of each workshop. The second was to confirm that each Dex participant would receive a volunteer, a place in the final Dex program as an addendum to the full program, and online prominence. As it turns out, unfortunately, none of those accommodations were possible in the end due to lack of capacity on the part of the volunteer coordinator, printed program committee, and online media center website team, respectively.


After one-on-one communication with the 50 participants, equipment and type of interaction (via video or audio streaming, recordings, or other) was determined first by location and second by a first-come-first-served time slot. Of the approximately 1/3 of workshop organizers that would not be able to organize their own technology, a volunteer and means of connection was assigned to the workshop. Organizers were notified and the final schedule was posted online.


No special grant monies were received for the Dex program. Communications and ICT working groups shared their budgets for equipment related to recording audio. Others volunteered their personal equipment for use during the forum for event organizers. In all, available were one projector, two DV cameras, 3 audio streaming kits (computer, 2 microphones, mixing table via USB), and 2 audio recording kits. There were no volunteers available for full support in any of the Dex workshops.


Again, volunteers were unable to be found for these shifts, some workshop organizers followed-up and found that they could use the equipment themselves and it was lent to them, while it is unknown what the outcome was for many of the Dex workshops. Due to the breadth of work supported by the ICT working group, videographers were unable to be organized into a team to stream the 10 hours per day that was scheduled.

Ongoing and Future Plans

There are two strong recommendations to come from the experience in Detroit for the 2nd USSF.

  1. That the process of expanding the forum events be self-organized. It is important to provide training, support, and advice to workshop organizers who wish to include as many people into their event as possible. However, it is not necessary to set the conditions of that kind of participation or to organize its execution from beginning to end. If explained differently to workshop organizers, that they would be responsible for organizing a viewing, expanded participation environment, software/hardware needs, etc. with the benefit that their workshop would be prominently listed on the website and in other locations, there would have been more participation, not less. As event organizers, we could easily have spent more meaningful time and energy on laying a platform on the website and through trainings such that the event organizers themselves could focus on how to bring the world to the event.
  2. That the "Forum Expanded" name be revisited. "Detroit Expanded" was a very misleading name for many people involved in the larger USSF organizing process. The name also does not immediately indicate the program's aims. Focusing on the city in which the forum is being held is a very intentional practice, which was carried out very well by the overall organizing of the USSF in conjunction with and lead by the local organizers in Detroit. The process of involving non-participants into the forum process is something that should be integrated into every part of the preparation. With the increasing awareness of online capabilities for expanding participation, it is certainly more a matter of culling the various uses of Internet tools than organizing their use. Organizers in the NPC were excited by the explanation that Dex aimed to bring 10,000 other people to the US Social Forum regardless of their location.