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Da Zi Bao in Rio
April 1992

    1 Overview
      1.1 Da Zi Bao
      1.2 Methodology

    2 Objectives
      2.1 Communications Within Earth Summit / Global Forum
      2.2 Documentation of Global Forum Proceedings
      2.3 Structure for Ongoing NGO Communications
      2.4 Demonstration/Development

    3 Methodology
      3.1 Integration with Conference Process
      3.2 Message Collection
      3.3 Message Processing
      3.4 Bulletin Production
      3.5 Distribution
      3.6 Promotion

Da Zi Bao in Rio

1 Overview Da Zi Bao in Rio is a uniquely powerful process that will support communications among participants during the Earth Summit / Global Forum to be held in Rio in June 1992. It will generate a systematic compilation of projects, activities, commitments, insights and reflections related to the Earth Summit / Global Forum.

  • Da Zi Bao Da Zi Bao/1 -- Chinese for "wall newspaper" -- provides a forum for extensive, ongoing dialogue between conference participants/2, far beyond what can be accomplished in formal meetings and face to face discussions. Groups or individuals submit concise written contributions on conference issues which are printed daily for distribution in newsletter format; distribution also is made internationally via electronic networks. The process provides a vehicle to support communications that are not normally possible in conferences, as well as to provide a powerful written record -- a unique form of proceedings of what may be one of the most important gatherings in history.

  • Methodology Central to the implementation of Da Zi Bao in Rio is a microcomputer-based relational database that includes information on NGOs, the text of the messages, and a keyword system for classifying and organizing the messages. In addition, the project incorporates innovations in the integration of the database with desk top publishing features of word processing software.

2 Objectives The project is designed with several principal sets of objectives in mind, pertaining to: communication/information needs during the Earth Summit / Global Forum; documentation of the Global Forum proceedings; ongoing communication and networking among NGOs and support for new levels of NGO interaction and insight; and demonstration/development of information & communication methodologies.
  • Communications Within Earth Summit / Global Forum With an estimated 10,000 participants attending over 300 meetings in 75 different locations, the Global Forum requires a common forum to which all participants have access. Da Zi Bao will provide such a forum, where all viewpoints can be expressed and where all the contributing elements of a global consensus can be recorded.

    • Within Major Conferences: Da Zi Bao will make possible open exploration of ideas and working proposals for NGOs with similar agendas. It will allow differences to be brought out and dealt with before decisive meetings, so that the agreements forged can be based on recognition of those differences. And in the context of large meetings, where there is insufficient time for all who wish to speak to do so, Da Zi Bao will provide an opportunity for more voices to be heard, and for the ideas expressed to be presented clearly in written form.

    • Between Conferences: With so many different conferences taking place simultaneously, and with related themes being addressed in many, Da Zi Bao will provide an invaluable vehicle through which insights, commitments and ideas that arise in one conference are made accessible to participants in other conferences. In so doing, Da Zi Bao will allow for cross-pollination of otherwise separate events that may be fundamentally inter-related.

    • Among NGO Participants: Da Zi Bao also provides a meeting place for groups to communicate independently of the conferences, and share their visions, goals and projects with any other interested participants.

  • Documentation of Global Forum Proceedings With the many concurrent events in the Global Forum, the compilation of anything approaching an overall proceedings of the events would be a very substantial task, and would be unlikely to be available until months after Rio. However, a systematic presentation of the Da Zi Bao messages, organized by keyword, will allow a form of proceedings to be generated almost immediately after the conference is over.

    • Capturing Insights/Reflections/Commitments: A special feature of Da Zi Bao is the space given to reflection, insight, and expressions of commitment and vision. These add a transformative element to conference dialogue, providing space for breakthroughs and the creation of new possibilities.

    • Networking Support: Through the keyword classification of messages, it also becomes easy to identify the organizations that share common concerns and that have a basis for communicating or networking among themselves. The compilation of topic-related listings of organization, with names, addresses, phone and fax numbers is also made easy through the integration of a database of Global Forum participants into the Da Zi Bao database.

    • NGO Treaties/Agreements: The development of a set of "treaties" or agreements among NGOs has been rapidly gaining attention and interest, and is increasingly being seen by many NGOs as one of the most promising processes to emerge from the UNCED preparations. Da Zi Bao is planning to support the NGO treaty/agreement process through providing a vehicle for gathering and organizing comments, responses and discussion of the text of proposed treaties and agreements.

  • Structure for Ongoing NGO Communications There is a wide recognition, among the NGOs that have been participating in the preparations for UNCED, of the value of the unprecedented communication and networking among NGOs -- internationally, within regions, and within countries. Accompanying this has been a recognition of the importance of supporting ongoing communications after Rio.

    • Post-Rio Bulletin(s): The design elements of Da Zi Bao that permit it to serve as a bulletin for the Global Forum as a whole, as well as for separate conferences within the Global Forum, also makes it able to serve as a vehicle for ongoing newsletters/bulletins after Rio. Such bulletins can serve issue- or region-related networks as well as a broader ongoing network of NGOs. The development of the "Bulletin de Liaison Interactif" in conjunction with the Francophone Networking Project of the Environmental Liaison Centre International serves as a model for the system's use in support of grassroots communications/3.

  • Demonstration/Development In addition to the direct benefits of this project for Rio and in support of ongoing NGO communications, the project also serves as an opportunity for development and testing of concepts and practices with important long term implications for NGO activities.

    • Transformative Conferencing: Conferences -- whether on a macro scale such as will be taking place in Rio, or in the course of routine NGO activity -- are primary hubs of NGO encounters. However, all too often, the structure of a conference fail to support outcomes commensurate with the challenges of the agenda and the resources of the participants. The development of participant interaction messaging systems has taken place in the context of a concept of "transformative conferencing"/4 and the support of transformative, interactive processes taking place at conferences. The implementation of Da Zi Bao in Rio is intended to strengthen the concepts and practice of transformative conferencing./5

    • Information Technology for NGOs: NGOs have made substantial creative use of information technology in the course of participation in the UNCED preparations -- especially of laptop microcomputers and electronic communications./6 In addition to the development of specific methodologies for the implementation of this project, the project is also designed to contribute to a broader development of information technology skills among NGOs./7

    • Interactive Publishing: Da Zi Bao is an example of a new form in publishing, made possible by the advent of microcomputer technology. Interactive publishing -- or interactive free press -- that Da Zi Bao embodies -- is a versatile tool for enabling grassroots access to the print media, and for strengthening communication both among NGOs, and within the membership or constituencies of NGOs.

3 Methodology The production of Da Zi Bao involves a number of distinct processes including the integration of Da Zi Bao into the overall conference process, the collection of messages, message processing, and production and distribution of the bulletins, and of compilation of the messages.
  • Integration with Conference Process Critical to the success of Da Zi Bao in Rio is a thorough integration with the logistics of the Global Forum as a whole,/8 and effective communication with the organizers of key conference events./9

    • Orientation for Conference Organizers: A briefing packet on Da Zi Bao, and its value to support and document conference processes, will be distributed to the organizers of each of the more than three hundred conferences planned for the Global Forum. The briefing packet will include the text of announcements that can be made to encourage submission of messages to Da Zi Bao.

    • Publicity: The organizers of the Global Forum have agreed to publicize the Da Zi Bao process in the orientation materials being developed for Global Forum participants and in official publications that are disseminated during Global Forum.

    • Pre-Conference Mailing: A concise overview of Da Zi Bao, and two blank message forms will be provided in advance to the registered Global Forum participants -- most likely with other Global Forum materials. This will make participants aware of the Da Zi Bao process, and will also generate some messages that can be used to create initial issues of Da Zi Bao that will be distributed to participants on their arrival in Rio.

    • Participant Database: The integration of a database of conference participants -- including names, addresses, phone and fax numbers -- into the Da Zi Bao database is a critical element of its design, and is what supports its ability to generate address/phone/fax listings of organizations according to their interests in areas as identified by the keyword classification of messages.

  • Message Collection

    • Da Zi Bao Stations: Distinctive, brightly colored message collection boxes will be situated at seventy-five key locations in Rio. Messages will be picked up on a regular schedule from each of the collection points. These Da Zi Bao stations will also serve as distribution points for the Da Zi Bao bulletins.

    • Personal Interactions: A roving editorial staff, including participants serving as volunteer contributing editors, will circulate through the conferences listening to what is being said -- in informal gatherings as well as in workshops and plenary sessions -- bringing Da Zi Bao to participants' attention, and actively requesting messages from participants who are expressing insightful observations, or describing innovative projects.

    • Computer Terminals: Through the computer terminals set up by the Information Systems Project, the opportunity will be provided for participants to type messages directly into computer terminals, from where they will be sent electronically to the Da Zi Bao office.

    • Conference Organizers: The organizers of the separate conferences will be encouraged to put out announcements in Da Zi Bao regarding meetings, agenda items or last minute changes and to use it to gather feedback on specific concerns.

  • Message Processing Once messages have been received, they are fed into a detailed, step-by-step process that includes a review, typing/data entry, a spell-checking routine and proofreading, keyword classification and translation./10 The tasks are structured in a modular fashion, so that a person or group of people can develop a steady rhythm and skill at the task./11

    • Initial Review: Messages are collected and sorted into appropriate classifications and languages. This review identifies messages for high priority processing, and those that violate the guidelines for messages, e.g. message length.

    • Typing/Data Entry: Messages are typed into the Da Zi Bao database. Each message is entered as a separate record, and is linked both to the identity of the person who wrote the message and to applicable keyword.

    • Keyword Classification: Although the Da Zi Bao message form gives participants the opportunity to classify their messages by keyword, experience to date suggests that in general they will not take advantage of this opportunity. In order to generate a compilation of the messages by keyword, a review process is included to identify applicable keywords.

    • Spell-Checking: The messages are periodically converted from the database into a word processing format, and are checked for spelling using a computer spell-checking program. In this phase, messages are grouped by language so that the applicable language dictionary can be used. The spell-checking routine is especially valuable for correcting the use of accented characters. The spell-checking is followed by proof reading -- a critical step if the people doing typing/data entry are not typing in their native languages.

    • Translation: Key messages will be translated into English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. In practice it is not possible to translate all messages; however, in the review process, priorities for translation are identified. The translation will be supported by the use of software for computer-assisted translation. The software, developed in Bolivia, generates a simultaneous draft translation of text one or more languages -- including English, French, Spanish and Portuguese -- and substantially reduces the work of professional translators.

  • Bulletin Production Once the messages have been typed and corrected, the production of the bulletin becomes a relatively simple process in which message information is exported to a "mail merge" file, and then merged into a format which incorporates built in "styles" that automatically define the fonts and type sizes.

    • Typesetting/Layout: A simple but clear format is used for the bulletins, and provided the messages do not exceed the fifty word guideline by much, the layout is a simple task once someone has been adequately trained.

    • Separate Language Editions: Depending on the volume of messages in different languages, separate issues of the bulletin can be produced in different languages, although there is also some value in having a mix of languages in an issue.

    • Photocopying/Printing: The completed edition will be copied or printed on site, if possible. Given reasonable estimates as to the number of messages, and thus of issues of the bulletin, and of the number of participants, there will be a need for exclusive use of a high speed copying machine, with reliable back-up provisions.

  • Distribution The effective distribution of the bulletins is a key to generating messages, because it is by seeing the printed messages that participants become more concretely aware of how the process works. Different color paper will be used for successive issues, both to make the bulletins more visible, and to facilitate differentiation of the issues.

    • Da Zi Bao Stations: Distribution stations will be located at major meeting centers, in a specially designed structure that will also serve as Da Zi Bao message collection boxes.

    • Organizers at Key Conferences: A special effort will be made to distribute copies of the bulletin to the organizers of key conferences, so that they can be kept aware of issues that may not be surfacing at the conferences, and of comments on the conference process.

    • International Press Center: Copies will be distributed to the press centers for the use of international news media, to help the dialogue reach a wider audience.

    • Rio Centro: The Da Zi Bao bulletins will be distributed to Rio Centro so that government delegates can follow the dialogue of the Global Forum.

    • Electronic Networks: The daily issue of Da Zi Bao will be posted on electronic networks for immediate global distribution.

    • Fax/Mail Service: Via mail or facsimile machine, distribution outside of Rio will be possible -- as will contributions from those unable to attend.

  • Promotion

    • Global Forum Materials: Conference participants will receive information on how to benefit from Da Zi Bao, including sample message forms and complete instructions.

    • Via Conference Organizers: Conference organizers will be able to invite participants to contribute to their specific agendas through Da Zi Bao, and remind them to check it for important notices or changes in schedules.

    • Posters, Flyers: Reminders to participants of where to find Da Zi Bao and how to utilize it will be displayed at various meeting locations.

    • Personal Networking: Part of the Da Zi Bao Rio team will be dedicated to promoting its use, obtaining feedback, and exploring possible new applications of the database.


1/ Da Zi Bao was developed for the Roots of the Future conference held in Paris, December 17-20, 1991. Since then it has been published at the Second Global Structures Convocation in Washington DC, February 1992; at the Global Heart Network Planning Session, Tucson Arizona, February 1992; and during PrepCom 4 of the UNCED in New York, March-April, 1992; four issues of a companion publication, Bulletin de Liaison Interactif, were also published during the New York PrepCom. Da Zi Bao was also produced during the Second International Eco-Cities Conference to be held in Adelaide, Australia in April 1992.

2/ Da Zi Bao represents a refinement and elaboration of participant interaction messaging systems, a process developed by Anthony Judge of the Union of International Associations. See Judge, Anthony "Participant Interaction Messaging" in Transnational Associations, 1980, reprinted in Judge, Anthony, Transformative Conferencing, Union of International Associations, Brussels, 1991.

3/ See for example Pollard, Robert and Liamine, Nathalie "Interactive Integrative Networking & Communication Processes", Paris, January 1992.

4/ See Judge, Anthony, Transformative Conferencing, op. cit.

5/ See McLaren, Nadia, Manual of Interactive Conferencing, Union of International Associations, Brussels, May 1992 (projected publication date). The Manual is being developed in conjunction with the Da Zi Bao in Rio project, and the first edition will be available for distribution in Rio.

6/ Many of these development in the use of information technology in support of effective communications, access to information and participation have been developed in the course of preparation for this project. See Synergistic Community Communication & Interaction Processes: Annotated Bibliography, International Synergy Institute, Brussels, February 1992, for an overview of some the key documents in this process.

7/ An example of the impact of Da Zi Bao on the innovative, cost-effective use of information technology is the provision for sale by Da Zi Bao -- at a nominal cost -- of Agenda 21 in a variety of disk based versions. Using compressed files, a single diskette was able to store files that would take a minimum of 3 1/2 hours to download from an electronic conference.

8/ The value for Da Zi Bao -- or for other participant interaction messaging systems -- of extensive cooperation with the conference organizers has been evident from the four times in which Da Zi Bao has been implemented. This project is being developed with the full support of the Global Forum; in order to work out the practical details of cooperation with the Global Forum staff, the Da Zi Bao office in Rio will be opened and staffed from the end of April through the completion of the Earth Summit / Global Forum.

9/ There has already been extensive discussion with the organizers of the International Task Force -- and of the NGO Treaties/Agreements process that will be central to those meetings -- on the use of the Da Zi Bao process in its meetings.

10/ The details of the message processing procedures are described in more extensive detail in a technical annex in McLaren Nadia, Manual on Interactive Conferencing, op. cit.

11/ When Da Zi Bao is produced on a large scale, and over a relatively long time period, such as in Rio, there is a need to be careful to balance a need for specialization and efficiency with sensitivity to the negative effects of a production line mentality.

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