The process aims at developing political and research proposals in a participatory fashion. The process involves:
preparation of proposals in the form of so-called “stirring papers”,
making sure that participants read them in advance or see their presentation,
formation of working groups,
interaction in assemblies,
finalization and presentation of proposals for general public discussion.
Preparation of stirring papers
Experts on all topics from academia and civil society were invited to prepare short papers which serve as a starting or kick-off point for discussion in the working groups. These were called stirring papers.
From our experience, for future conferences which follow this format a special time before the working groups should be dedicated to presenting the stirring papers.
Description of working groups
The working groups are about 15-20 participants who met two consecutive afternoons to develop key proposals and research questions related to degrowth. The groups reported their findings to a general assembly that gave them feedback in written. Each working group dealt with one important topic related to economic degrowth for ecological justice and social sustainability that implies a reduction of the capacity to produce and consume. See the section on the working groups process below.
Working groups differ from your typical conference sessions and workshops where presentations are made. These are smaller in size and require the active participation of every group member. Participants are not be passive spectators but seek to build and agree on a proposal.
Description of assemblies
At the assemblies all participants of the working groups come together. Assemblies occur between the two working group sessions so that working groups make fast presentations of their key insights and collect short reactions in written. Assemblies ensure the collaboration between the different working groups which is crucial considering the strong synergies and mutual-dependence between the proposals of each working group.
Working groups session I (1h30min)
As the goal of the working groups is to find key political proposals and research questions, the facilitator first present the proposals or research questions addressed in the stirring papers. The concerns of participants are then collected. From here, participants develop key proposals, diverging opinions or research question(s). The group can think of concrete examples that illustrate the proposal.
Parallel assemblies (40min)
Working group participants split intо assemblie(s) and а reporter from each group presents the key proposals in the assembly. Each reporter has 2 minutes to present, followed by a minute of silence during which the assembly writes down their responses, concerns or questions regarding the presented proposals. The written responses are then put in the working group 'mail-boxes'. After the end of the assembly, the group facilitator collects all concerns and 2-3 "post-people" arrange them for presenting in the next working group session.
For collection and classifying assembly concerns
Working group session II (1h 30min)
Some participants can change groups if they are concerned with the position that another working group has taken and expressed at the assembly. It is however expected that participants do not change groups.
The post-people present the classified (written) assembly concerns. Afterwards participants address them together with internal concerns that may emerge. The group might split to ease the process. The next part of the session is spent on discussing, reformulating and changing the identified key proposals/research questions taking the feedback into consideration. A reformulation of the key proposals/research questions is sought for the conference declaration and for presentation at the end of the day.
Steering proposals/research questions final presentation
The compiled results of each working group are presented in the conference hall for all participants to see, read and informally discuss. All working groups results were also presented within an assemly on the following day. Afterwards, the process of the writing a conference declaration, the potentials for networking among participants and the scope for joint future research plans were discussed in separate parallel sessions during the same day with representatives of each working group.
Facilitator, reporter and minute-taker
Each working group will have a facilitator who makes sure that participants voice their concerns and that these are taken care of. At the start of the first working group session, facilitators present the key proposals and research questions identified in the stirring papers. Facilitators make sure that their position does not influence or dominate the discussion, and tries to follow the format and program of the working group process, previously decided.
The reporter's role is to read the key proposals or research questions (one to three). The reporter will be decided upon by the group.
With the help of the facilitator, the reporter writes down the key proposal/s and/or research questions making sure that the rest of the group agrees upon the formulation.
A minute-taker will take notes of the proposals made and concerns raised, stating clearly the points of agreement and disagreement. The facilitator and minute-taker organize the writing of the small paragraph for the conference website that summarizes the group proposals and discussion.