Assessing Outcome Understanding Impact: The World Social Forum Between the National and the Global
Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
This article discusses the WSF influence on the Indian civil society and the global WSF process and theoretically reflects on current debates on assessing social movements' success and failure both in academic and activist contexts. This paper is constituted by three sections of decreasing size and increasing scope and ambition. The first section explores successes and failures of the WSF in India. I discuss them according to their own principles assessing the accomplishments vis-a-vis the promises and the goals set at the outset. The second section discusses the relation between success and failure and their critical understanding in the case of the WSF India context. I will ask questions not only about the nature of success and failure but also, according to whom? when? why? I will suggest that it is very difficult, if at all possible, to establish unique dimensions of success or failure for a movement of the size and scope of the WSF which (like perhaps most movements) eludes a coherent definition as bounded space. In the third section I will develop the criticism on the conception of movements as bounded spaces and coherent actors in order to build my final argument against the radical instrumental opposition inherent in the failure/success debate showing how the fragmented nature of the WSF, and the complex nature of social movements, is not compatible with simple assessments and deserves less linear and rather more complex strategies of impact assessment.