With an eye to making next year's Left Coast Forum even better than our inaugural effort last weekend, we polled the 462 people who had signed up for the event over the past few days.
After asking what panel sessions people attended, we asked four key questions: What worked, what didn't work, what could we do better, and would you attend next year?
The response from 59 of you was gratifying. Many of you had very positive things to say about your experiences. For many of you, specific panels you attended and Richard Wolff's opening keynote were the highlights.
Others cited the chance to network, engage in informal discussions, and interact with the exhibiting organizations and publishers.
Here are a few comments:
"I think it's great to have a Left Forum in LA (and the West Coast generally)--to strengthen the left community, especially in the Trump era."
"The energy and all the activists present and collaborating."
"The excellence of every panel I attended. Learned a lot!"
Loved the "Real Cost of Mass Incarceration" panel. And Rick Wolff's talk. And the double talk with Aimee Allison and David Kim. I was just blown away by the whole weekend. Bring it back next year, please!
"Loved the "Real Cost of Mass Incarceration" panel. And Rick Wolff's talk. And the double talk with Aimee Allison and David Kim. I was just blown away by the whole weekend. Bring it back next year, please!"
Please also see Tom Hall's insightful report: "Quotations from the First Left Coast Forum."
What Didn't Work
The most frequent complaints were sparse attendance, a slipping schedule, poor signage….and a distinct lack of coffee.
On the sliding schedule, this comment reflected the point several of you made:
"I realize this was the first time you did this mammoth undertaking so I'll cut you some slack, but starting times for events seemed to be purely advisory. In my family, we're very punctual, which may be an un-leftish behavior."
Part of the problem here was that our 9 a.m. start time turned out to be too early. To give more folks a chance to arrive and get to the first Saturday and Sunday panels, we moved the start time back 20 minutes or so. But that caused more problems than it solved, so we might just look at starting next year's forum later in the morning.
Here's a comment about how the panels could work better:
"The panels could have been more conversational. Or maybe a moderator who asks questions from the start instead of everyone talking for long periods of time amongst each other with no direction. More participation from audience would have been great, too."
And here's a broad comment we need to reflect on as we begin planning for next year:
"You did not tap into the effective youth-led resistance that is out there fighting gentrification/displacement, racist police murders with impunity, fascist offensives, state surveillance and repression, the housing/homelessness crisis. Too electoral, too mainstream, little sense of urgency about the most pressing issues and the most challenging popular forces and movements of resistance."
What We Could Do Better
This question was obviously the main reason for doing the survey.
Besides providing better signage and sticking to the announced schedule, the biggest things we need to do is begin our planning much earlier and do much better and wider promotion.
To accomplish that, we plan to create a stronger core planning group. This first effort would have gotten no where without our partners on both coasts and our dedicated team of game-day volunteers. But here on the ground in LA, we need a stronger, younger, more diverse core team starting early in the new year, in line with this comment:
"Invite more young folks and local groups. Los Angeles Tenants Union comes to mind, Revolutionary Autonomous Communities, Serve the People, Defend Boyle Heights, Stop LAPD Drone Spying Coalition, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Youth for Justice, and more!"
We were heartened by the many panel leaders who stepped forward this time, producing what we thought was a fine lineup of panels. And we did reach out to more groups than could step forward, but we didn't have the horsepower to press them to participate.
A particular failing this time was our outreach to LA's vibrant Latino communities. We did have several panels dedicated to immigrant rights issues, but insufficient involvement by LA's strong Latino groups.
At a fundamental level, we need to do deep thinking about where our Left Coast Forum fits within the broad movement the Left needs to undertake to push the country toward greater racial and economic justice and away from the racist, homophobic, misogynistic, economically stratified path it has been taking for so long.
Of the 59 people who responded to the survey, 51 said they would attend next year's forum, with the other eight undecided. No one said "no."
We'll take that as an endorsement and an encouragement.
So, contact us if you like to play a role in shaping next year's forum.
-- Dick & Sharon