Cooperation among democracy festivals in the Nordic and Baltic region has increased over the years. However, thus far they had no official platform for cooperation. This changed in March, when eight democracy festivals from the Nordic and Baltic regions and one European-wide festivals joined their forces to establish the International Democracy Festivals Association (IDFA).
During the Association’s founding meeting in Oslo, the head organizer of the Estonian opinion festival Arvamusfestival, Maiu Lauring and fellow organizers of other festivals discussed the aims and principles of the Association as well as shared best practices for preparing, conducting and measuring the impact of the festivals. The highlight of the meeting was of course signing the Association agreement.
The newly founded IDFA gathers festivals that provide a platform for a democratic dialogue between civil society, politicians, business, media, universities and people at large. It aims to strengthen the existing democracy festivals in order to help other countries and organisers build similar democracy festivals and unite muscles in the effort to use the democracy festivals as vehicles for democratic change. The association also serves as a great platform to share know-how, best practices, discuss challenges and help each other find solutions.
According Maiu Lauring, joining the Association is an important step in the progress of Arvamusfestival. „During last years we have witnessed a big growth of democracy festivals popularity in our countries! There seems to be an underlying need for the people and citizens of todays democracies to have such meeting places and meaningful conversations. I’m especially glad, that together we are looking for ways to better the quality and value of conversations and interactions at our festivals. Our heart is in discovering and designing solutions, how to revalitise face-to-face conversations between different groups of interest.”
The Association has already recognised a remarkable interest from other countries for organising their own democracy festivals and will proceed to promote the democracy festivals format as a platform that, according to the Chair of the Democracy Festivals Association, Zakia Elvang „revitalises democracy by strengthening the link between a political system and citizens as well as creating spaces for dialogue and participation“.