The first US Social Forum was in Atlanta, Ga, in the summer of 2007. This is where I and my organization entered the process – the Ruckus Society got involved late in the planning, mostly to support on the big opening march, and security. It wasn’t easy to get to the planning table – partially because the folks working on it were overwhelmed, and partially because there was an intentional effort to have grassroots, basebuilding organizations at the center of the process.
It would be impossible to over emphasize the importance of having grassroots organizers in the center of the process – as most national (and international) processes and organizations are still led by a privileged class – privileged through education, race, or resources. The attempt to invert the power structure, locally or globally, requires putting shared values for bottom-up, grassroots leadership as a top priority.
The first forum was declared an overwhelming success, with estimates that 15,000 people came together for workshops, panels, plenaries, marches, parties and relationship building. It was also a learning process in every possible way.
Now, as we build towards the second forum, there has been an effort to cull the lessons from the first go round.