To follow is a tentative list of suggestions based on lessons from the People’s Health Assembly, held in December 2000 in Bangladesh, that may be helpful in planning a follow-up event or other popular forums for change.

Keep the Event Democratic Yet on Track

  • Seek a balance between guided facilitation and open-ended discussion.

  • Clarify from the start (as a guided group process) the overall vision and objectives of the event. At the end of each day assess the progress made (and obstacles encountered).

  • Allow time in plenary sessions for well-informed speakers/educators to provide clear but comprehensive overviews. (There needs to be A CLEAR UNIFYING ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK, presented and discussed in a plenary, that provides a foundation and overall direction for the event as a whole.)

  • Prepare in advance guidelines for facilitators that will help them keep the process democratic yet on track. (Facilitate a participatory process that keeps discussion focused and makes steady progress toward the agreed upon vision and objectives).

In Preparation for the Event

  • Be sure analytic and steering committee members (and/or supporting staff) can devote enough time to adequately plan guidelines, facilitate prompt communications, and carefully review potential contributions/activities for the program agenda.

  • Be sure avenues of communication, E-mail addresses, and web sites are correct and functioning as well as possible, and that all correspondence is promptly answered.

  • Seek input from participants (experiences, papers, stories) which are structured in an analytic, problem-solving way that can give a pragmatic direction to the conference.

  • Screen stories and testimonies ahead of time. Give people suggestions for helping their presentation contribute to the thrust of the conference: i.e. linking local hardships to global events through a carefully analyzed “chain of causes.”

  • Make an effort to invite key speakers and participants from all sectors that have been agreed upon to be included in the event (health, environment, alternative economics, education, labor unions, etc.). Be sure each sector is strongly and equally represented.

Improve Communications

  • Coach presenters to speak clearly and slowly, and to illustrate points with real-life examples and evidence.

  • If overhead projections are used, make sure print is large enough to be easily read from the far corner of the room.

  • Have a skilled communicator/educator give a clear, accurate summary after each session.

  • Look for effective ways to share the key points and conclusions of concurrent sessions at the plenary. (Focus on those points that will carry

  • the conference theme forward.)

  • Check if people understand what speakers are saying (in terms of both language and content), and look for ways to share ideas more effectively.

  • Make arrangements for simultaneous translation, even if it means one bilingual person whispering into the ears of others.

Keep the Process Rational and Constructive

  • Encourage both speakers and participants to present fair, balanced, accurate information, and to criticize policies or institutions based on solid evidence and experience.

  • Welcome thoughtful debate and discourage slogans, rhetoric, and offensive banter.

  • When considering whether to invite a person from “the opposition” (e.g. World Bank), sound out participants in advance—and take their suggestions into account.

  • If a speaker from “the opposition” has been invited to speak, listen to him courteously. Oppose his arguments with better arguments—not abusive language and tomatoes.

  • Back up your arguments with solid evidence and hard-to-refute studies and facts.

Toward a Way Forward

  • Plan for follow-up action when planning the event.

  • Schedule plenty of time in the forum for discussion of “the way forward.”

  • In that discussion, have facilitators who can keep input relevant and down to earth.

  • Identify groups and organizations like the Third World Network that are active in specific areas. Ask them to identify, lead and coordinate the area of their expertise as identified in the People’s Health Charter.

  • During the event, record if possible by tape all the plenary presentations, and the concurrent sessions.

  • Have someone carefully edit this material and make the conference proceedings available in publications and on the web. Include instructive

  • illustrations (verbal, pictorial) to liven it up.

After the event (follow-up and future action):

  • Before the event, plan (and try to raise funding) for follow-up activities and action.

  • Make sure adequate funding and personnel are available so that communications and coordination are smoothly maintained after the conference is over, and proposed activities continue and multiply.

  • Make every effort to maintain full and clear communication with all participants.

  • Be sure everyone (including those without E-mail) has a COMPLETE ADDRESS LIST (mailing addresses, telephone, fax, E-mail, and web site of all groups/participants.)

  • Develop and maintain various avenues of communication—E-mail, web site, printed newsletters and group correspondence—to keep participants informed and involved in action plans. Keep web sites (complete with relevant LINKS) regularly updated.

  • Encourage support and solidarity with all participants in the struggles of one another’s groups, especially in crisis situations.

NOTE: If you want to learn more about the People’s Health Assembly and the issues it confronts, we suggest that you check out the

PHA web site:

This site has an excellent selection of LINKS to other sites, on politics of health, environment, globalization, alternative economics and lots more. Have fun!