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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Conditions for a Useful Forum

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May 8, 2014
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[Editor's Note: These guidelines were originally written in 2010, and were updated in April, 2014.]

The principal conditions are: a group or community who have come together to do something together, either through working together or living together, or sharing some experience together.

Common basis of unity
Thus there should always be a consensus in a group for why they want to do a Forum, what is it they want to achieve, what is the actual theme or themes that they want to use Forum to explore. For Forum to be useful, it needs collective goals which transcend any particular individual’s personal growth.

The intention for the Forum must be clear at least to the facilitators, and they have to embody that intention. A Forum can have a certain theme, follow a specific question, clarify a particular situation, and so forth. It can serve a certain person, or it can be open for everything that comes up in a group that is holding Forum on a regular basis. In this latter case, it is important to sense the energy of what is needed to create joy, fun, juice, and depth. This need can be shared in the beginning of a Forum, and the energy created with a brief meditation, dedication, a song or dance.

A Forum only makes sense when it happens with more or less the same group frequently on a regular basis or for an intensive compact time together.

After Forum
Forum is a special ritualized form of communication. At the end can be a kind of hearing feedback from members of the group as to what they thought was done well, what could have been done better, what mistakes were made, and how the audience received it. This is the time to give constructive feedback to the facilitator(s).

Personal Growth
It needs a desire for personal growth in the members of the Forum. And an interest in understanding one’s own personality structure and the desire to change it in the direction of becoming more cooperative, trusting, caring, loving, and aware of self and others. It needs a desire to learn to communicate more precisely, to see oneself in the mirror of others and to learn more about oneself.

Spiritual and intellectual work on ourselves outside of Forum
Forum can produce a direct energetic change or deep understanding, but often it is just a first step in visualizing the theme or crystallizing the issue. Suddenly, from what came out in my performance and the feedback I got, I understand something new about myself. Now I need a desire in myself to take responsibility and to work on my own belief system and to integrate the new information. Often my reactions are part of a role I assumed or am holding. So role and rank consciousness (Worldwork - Mindell) supports a good Forum.

Forum is not a therapy group. If the need for personal therapy comes up, this is best done outside Forum.

Letting Go
Forum is not primarily a vehicle for solving problems or resolving issues. Forum is a place to make an issue or a theme visible and let it go. In the Forum we don’t decide things, rather we work energetically. In Forum we create cracks in the foundation of our conditioned lives. Later the cracks will become gaps where new things can happen. We don’t wish to finish or to fix any situation. We want to give impulses, shed a light, make the concepts or baseline we all function on visible, and then trust life to do its magic.

The agreement to endeavor to dis-identify with our emotions and our reactions is important for Forum. If we cannot do it, then we should not stay in the middle, nor should we give mirrors that are contaminated with the identification. Forum wants to lay bare the motives and emotions that lie behind our words and actions. If the performer has too much resistance, then it is better not to push but to choose a different direction, or to stop the performance. Moreover, if a strong ongoing conflict is presently polarizing the group and everybody is so attached to their viewpoint that each one only wants to be right Forum will not be of any use. The participants should find some way to first reconnect with their witness consciousness before attempting to deal with the issue in Forum.

The 24-hour guideline
If there are conflicts, or where there are strong attachments, do not react in the moment. Wait 24 hours so that the attachments can fade, see the situation from the perspective of the other, and check after that whether the conflict or anger is still there. If there is, you can bring it into the middle again.

Gift of the Present
Forum is all about liberation, understanding, and communication now. Thus Forum lives out of the actuality that which is here and now currently present. For Forum, the past is only relevant when it actually touches our present situation. As a corollary to this, Forum is about the people who are present. People who are not physically there are only included if they are part of the present narrative, and then only to understand the story. The focus remains on the performer. Thus, in the case of a conflict with another person – present or not present – the focus remains on the presenter.

Historical Context
Although the focus is on the present feelings and what is happening now, the historical context of the work is the ever-present background. Remembering that each of us are a product of the history of this culture is an essential key to understanding the big picture. It is crucial for helping us to balance the identification with our own apparently personal issues, and with our own personality structure.

Power and Violence
Because the Forum is designed to reveal the emotional and motivational background behind our everyday words and actions, it also potentially reveals the power and violence that these apparently harmless words belie. Thus, as truth begins to emerge, the facilitator or the group may hear things to which they might find themselves tending to react moralistically. But were they too make such judgments, they would only cause the performer to slip back into his habitual mask leaving the process stuck at the surface of the issue. So the facilitator has not only to be aware of the historical context of human development, she has to understand the phenomenon of armoring the life energy (Wilhelm Reich) and she remains open for a sexual reality that transcends conventional morality.


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