What is the end of Worlds? This immense event, enjoyed by many is reaching a point of immense difficulty to carry out. Last week two bids for WUDC 2019 were announced – a relief to many – but there still seems to be little long-term development of hosts for the far future. The end of worlds is not a terminus, but a start. What is World's telos? What is its aim? What is the point of WUDC?
WUDC leadership is starting to recognize that they are sitting on an international event that is both highly desirable and has incredible potential. But WUDC is also a volunteer organization. What WUDC needs to focus on for the near term is the generation of resources to create a front office, a permanent staff of people to administer WUDC’s day-to-day operations. This would radically democratice WUDC in a way that would benefit everyone involved with the organization. At the same time, it would not be expensive at all, no more expensive to members than paying to bring a team to the annual tournament would be anyway.
This would not be a change at all in the way that WUDC governance occurs. Many organizations have a front office, a staff that handles the daily operations, and the membership meets once a year to set policy, provide guidance, and debate the values and goals that the organization should uphold. Council is quite good at this – the people who serve there and serve as representatives on the Council are indeed people who both love WUDC and have a vision for it. And there are differences in that vision. Unfortunately, most of Council’s work is bureaucratic. Pre-council, a document I just read, appears to be a lot of decision making about verification of teams and institutions, something that can be set as a policy, and executed by office staff. The democratic aspirations of WUDC and World’s Council need not be bogged down with administrative tasks that foreclose the possibility of new ideas being offered, discussed, and debated during Worlds, the one time a year where we have a near guarantee that everyone will be available and have time reserved for such discussions.
The larger concern to this idea will be funding. I think that it’s time for WUDC to incorporate, and establish itself as an NGO, one that can take contributions and donations. This would be enough to provide stipends to those who have the time and the will to conduct daily tasks of WUDC. No office will be needed, at first – that is a long-term goal – but for now I think moderate stipends will be enough. The front office staff will handle the execution of policy decided by council – from team and institution verification to the ESL and EFL procedures and tests (some of course will have to take place at the tournament, by why all?) and the judging testing and initial sorting of the judges. Helping the on-the-ground hosts with the upcoming tournament would also be in there. And whatever other things I’m not thinking about. Eventually, the model of WUDC could be like any international, academic association, with membership dues being distinct from the fees paid to attend the annual conference.
Thinking of WUDC not just as the premiere championship tournament, but the culminating annual event of an international organization dedicated to the art of debate practice and development is the ideological shift we need. This will take some time, but providing a bureaucratic staff not only helps make Council more visionary and aspirational, but is a delegation of responsibility the organization sorely needs in order to ensure a future for WUDC.