What is LEST framework?

LEST framework is an tool to facilitate strategic planning for policy making actions. LEST means Legal, Economical,Social and Technical that are the stakeholders’ elements that surround a object of policy making.  Those framework, through the LEST canvas, allow to simulate and understant important elements as actors, definitions, values, arguments, objectives, strenghts, weakenesses, opportunities and threats.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The art of War

LEST frameworks and LEST canvas were publicly presented during the BestBits meeting in Guadalajara in November 2016.

How did LEST come about?

LEST began as simple mind map, where the main objective was to understand how we from Civil Society can’t make prevail our position on Net Neutrality policy making through two important events, as the little story bellow illustrate.

The demand for consensus is the main goal in diplomatic relations, whether or not recommendation. On this process we are too intent on immediate consensus, we often do not explore all of the ‘different’ and ‘new’ possibilities. The dissent is the beginning of any diplomatic negotiations, it signals a conflict of interests that require a new negotiation. The practice however has shown that often dissent build has been a strategic practice used by some interlocutors to prevent the advancement of agendas that are unfavorable.

This practice has excelled in Internet governance debates, particularly at this time with the net neutrality as the subject, as shown by the following examples:
In NetMundial, held in May 2014 in São Paulo, despite arguments well presented, and favorable positioning of representatives of all stakeholders, civil society, academy, government and private sector except for telecommunications companies. After two days of intense debate the final document presented no consensus around net neutrality for the amazement of all.

During the Internet Governance Forum, held in September 2014 in Istanbul, there were three panels about net neutrality, the last, at main session titled: Network Neutrality: Towards a Common Understanding of the Complex Issue. Unfortunately what happened was not a common understanding, the debates was enclosed in the economical, technical and legal arenas, the addressing by the human right would strengthen the need to preserve net neutrality was deftly avoided.

The big question is why?

By observing these events started a mind map around the transcripts of the last panel of IGF 2014, and noted that the arguments clearly possessed an area within which they were built, I call these areas of “arenas” and four arenas were identified:

  • Legal – legal and regulatory arguments from lawyers and professionals with legal basis;
  • Economic – economic and financial arguments, generally linked to business models and economic viability, from representatives of the private sector;
  • Technical – technical arguments, usually from experts and academia;
  • Social – social arguments, as universalization, right to information, equality, freedom of expression among others, with the activists as main interlocutors.

Importantly, these arenas are not sealed and that in fact the listed actors move between them, activists for example build often argumentative lines on social and legal arenas, and use the technical arena arguments in its favor, but seldom enter the debates on economic arena.

Another important point is that these four arenas do not have the same weight, in a “econocentric” society like ours, there is a clear tendency to give greater weight to economic and less to social arguments, and general technical and legal arguments are used to levering the debate because they are generally less flexible.

One of the outstanding features of the lobbyists present in that panel is its structure, they should certainly have a team of advisers working frantically in a remote office, producing elements for lobbyists to launch strong arguments in different arenas, and dissent building tactics. One certainty is that they seem to know well his interlocutors, their arguments, values and its strengths and weaknesses, at least in the line of argument.

By placing these elements in mind map, it proved to be more than a mental map, but a great strategic tool to empower activists in panels and policy making and especially in the search for consensus.

Following the mapping now has four strategic elements for each arena: SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats); object definitions, at least the best and worst for our point of view; Actors and finally the main arguments in favor and against the object.

Later the mind map proved useful for any subject of discussion, and not only net neutrality, which led to turn it into a framework to support civil society, then popping up that I baptized LETS framework ( Legal, Economical, Technical and Social).

The LETS can be used in the form of mind map or through a canvas that allows this development and analysis, or perhaps soon we have the collaborative construction option of LETS, accessible for those who wish.

Slides presented during BestBits meeting


By João Carlos Caribé