Arvamusfestival https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en Fri, 14 Sep 2018 07:18:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 The sixth Opinion Festival brought together 10,000 participants https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/the-sixth-opinion-festival-brought-together-10000-participants/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/the-sixth-opinion-festival-brought-together-10000-participants/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 06:54:11 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=15471 Over the course of two days, 10,000 people gathered in Paide for the sixth Opinion Festival, taking part in 160 discussions spread across four areas. This year, communication culture and participatory democracy were the key themes running through the whole festival. Participants found that one of the prerequisites for a meaningful discussion is listening to

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Over the course of two days, 10,000 people gathered in Paide for the sixth Opinion Festival, taking part in 160 discussions spread across four areas. This year, communication culture and participatory democracy were the key themes running through the whole festival. Participants found that one of the prerequisites for a meaningful discussion is listening to each other and backing up your argument.  Photos from the festival are available here.

According to the head organizer of the festival, Maiu Lauring, the opinion festival format has been well-received in Estonia. “The festival welcomes people who have high hopes for the discussions and who come here to listen to specific topics. As well as inclusive discussion formats, participants rate content that is well-planned and diverse, and this means that discussion hosts, participants and moderators need to constantly up their game when preparing for the festival,” observed Lauring.

The festival covered a wide variety of topics – following a public call for ideas, the programme included topics that matter most to people living in Estonia, from human resources to fundamental values. Special attention was given to discussion culture and how best to participate in a democracy. One of the key thoughts to come out of the various conversations at the festival was that for democracy to be sustainable, laws and regulations need to be accompanied by shared values. Meanwhile, one of the building blocks of a healthy discussion culture is teaching people communication skills. Recordings of some of the discussions are available here, with more being uploaded soon.

The Respectful Discussion Convention is one of the ways in which the Opinion Festival is trying to build public understanding of what it means to hold a meaningful discussion. Participants who took part in a public poll at the festival found that a fruitful discussion has two main prerequisites: listening to each other and being able to back up your point with evidence. “We believe that something akin to the Respectful Discussion Convention should form the basis for any discussion, whether it takes place at the Opinion Festival or elsewhere,” said Maiu Lauring.

The festival is a collaboration between hundreds of volunteers and discussion organizers. The Opinion Festival is supported by Paide Town Government, Swedbank, the National Foundation of Civil Society, the Union of Järva County Municipalities, the European Commission, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, Telia, Ergo, Eesti Töötukassa (the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund) and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

The Opinion Festival is deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to the festival! The next festival will take place in Paide on 9 and 10 August 2019.

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Opinion Festival day two: 5 things we learned https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/opinion-festival-day-2-5-things-we-learned/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/opinion-festival-day-2-5-things-we-learned/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 20:03:38 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=15461 The second day of the Opinion Festival brought another succession of English-language talks, all of which were insightful in their own way. Here are some things we learned from Saturday’s discussions. Polarisation is worrying for experts, but Russian minorities are not The early-afternoon talk ‘Divided we fall, united we stand: is polarisation of societies undermining

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The second day of the Opinion Festival brought another succession of English-language talks, all of which were insightful in their own way. Here are some things we learned from Saturday’s discussions.

Polarisation is worrying for experts, but Russian minorities are not
The early-afternoon talk ‘Divided we fall, united we stand: is polarisation of societies undermining the security of the Baltic States?’ featured a panel of university academics with an interest in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine. They discussed how the liberal world order seems, according to some people, to be collapsing, and what might replace it.

Dr. Martins Kaprans, from the University of Latvia, who is also an Adviser to the Latvian Ministry of Culture, said of his own country and its large Russian-speaking community, “The Russophone community in Latvia is becoming more differentiated… There is a clear generation gap in the Russian-speaking community, but also socio-economic. Pro-Kremlin views are still heard very strongly, but there is no truly organised group, so the Kremlin itself finds it very hard to [get traction] among them. The idea of being Latvian is also very strong among the Russian-speakers, and this is one reason why the Russian-speaking community does not pose a threat. Support for some geopolitical claims is still a problem, the in terms of polarisation, it doesn’t have the potential to be antagonistic.” He added that the increased popularity of the KPV.lv party, who have had a late run in the polls as we approach the parliamentary elections, is surprising people.

Dr. Anu Realo, from the University of Warwick and Tartu University, who has been studying social change in Estonia, added, “Estonians and Russian-speakers seem to live in parallel worlds, We don’t seem to have problems, but we don’t really see each other, and that is an issue.”

Continuing, she said, “we don’t like to think of ourselves as a class-based society, but you can see a divide in terms of education and other areas. Maybe it’s not a threat, but I don’t really want to live in a country that allows that [kind of social divide] to develop [without addressing it].”

Kaprans, talking about the potential fortunes in the upcoming elections of Latvia’s Russian Union (now rebranded as simply Union) Party, said, “The political landscape is changing. They have historically been seen as pro-Russian, but they’re doing their best to remodel themselves as social-democratic. How successfully? Not very, according to the polls so far.”

Progressive politics are hard to adopt, and harder to stick to, in the Baltic region
In the same discussion, Dr. Kestutis Girnius, of Vilnius University, had scathing words for his country’s politicians. “It’s not a big stretch to say that government in Lithuania has been incredibly selfish. Lithuania has been run by Social Democrats for 12 years. In that time, not a single progressive thing has been done. They are saving the salaries of the rich and having less to distribute. Whatever the IMF says, Lithuania does, unless the IMF asks for a real-estate or automobile tax, in which case they are just those strangers from Geneva.” Realo added, on Estonia, “there’s still this idea that is you work hard, then you can be successful and look after your family, and what happens in the wider society is not really your concern.”

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s going
The discussion ‘Civil society in Europe: why, who, and how should they be mobilised?’ looked at the question of how important civic activism is in shaping a country’s politics, particularly focusing on the swing towards authoritarianism of countries such as Hungary and Poland, and the general rise of political strongmen around the world. “Democracy has suicidal tendencies,” said Jakub Wygnansky, a Polish sociologist and activist. “Maybe history is moving in circles. Madeleine Albright [the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of State] wrote recently, ‘every century needs its fascism.’ To know the value of democacy, sometimes you need the risk of losing it. We see that politics is cyclical. We thought that institutions would be enough to ensure democracy flourished, but now we see that we need actions too.” He later gave the talk a slogan, “remember nothing depends on you, but act like everything does.”

Andre Wilkens, the German CEO of Offene Gesellschaft, cited the example of his late friend Martin Roth, who announced he would quit “the best job in the world,” as Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, at the end of 2017, due to the changes after Brexit. Wilkens told the audience Roth had said, “if something happens to change the world for the worse, what will I tell people in the future that I did?” “He said, ‘what should I tell my children? That while all this was happening, I put on some exhibitions?'” In answer to the question of what ordinary people can do if they want to hold off the tide of authoritarianism, Wilkens told us, “hold a meeting, to promote an open society. We all have a table and chairs. Then, if you start with something small, you might find that things go to the next level, and you might find yourself doing things you’ve never done before.”

Sometimes, the simple things are all that matters
Local politics can, on occasion, seem concerned about comparative trifles, but one issue that angered a sizeable group of people was the raising of alcohol taxes by the current government in 2017. The result was the ‘Your taxes are driving to Latvia’ campaign, begun, according to Sigrid Solnik of the Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation, as a campaign on Facebook between friends, that became a trip to Latvia for 500 people, on their day off on Estonian Independence Day 2018, to demonstrate on social media their distaste for the policy.

Narva is next!
In a discussion about the importance of the European Capital of Culture title, for which Estonian cities and towns Narva, Tartu, and Kuressaare are bidding, the co-ordinator of the Narva campaign, Helen Sildna, as this link shows, gave a compelling case for the city in east Estonia, which has a majority population of Russian-speakers.

 

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Opinion Festival day one talks: 5 things we learned https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/day-one-5-things/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/day-one-5-things/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 17:47:33 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=15443 The first day of the Opinion Festival 2018 saw stimulating debates on a number of enlightening topics. Here are some of the things we learned from listening to the diverse discussions. In the Baltic region, people save rather than spend The discussion ‘Who is richest? The financial portrait of the Baltics’ focused on the ways

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The first day of the Opinion Festival 2018 saw stimulating debates on a number of enlightening topics. Here are some of the things we learned from listening to the diverse discussions.

In the Baltic region, people save rather than spend
The discussion ‘Who is richest? The financial portrait of the Baltics’ focused on the ways that Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians bank, and the nations’ view of money. The panel felt, anecdotally, that Baltic people as a whole were more likely to save for a long period of time than were, for example, Swedes, and the reason is partly due to the difference in the financial circumstances of the average working person in the Baltic and Nordic regions. Some people, panel members said, have even commented that Estonians deposit too much in the bank without using it.

“If you lose a job in Estonia, the social security system is not overly generous, so people need a big deposit for that reason. It’s the opposite in Sweden, where social security is more generous,” explained Kristjan Taimla, Director, Investment Funds at Swedbank. Perhaps another contributor to this is the relatively laissez-faire approach to employment law in Estonia, with job security lower than in Sweden, and protections so much less.

In any case, added Taimla, “the issue is not too much deposit, it’s that people start to save too late.” Pointing again to Sweden, he said that in his opinion it was normal for Swedish citizens to begin saving money for the future, in a deposit account, in their thirties. In Estonia, he said, “it’s more like [aged] 50 when they start doing that.” This, he continued, was because of the far lower average salary in Estonia.

Lack of capital might be stunting companies’ growth
On the topic of whether Baltic companies will ever have the wherewithal to expand and take over companies based in other countries, Vaidotas Sumskis, of the Bank of Lithuania, pointed out that the Lithuanian-owned Maxima group had already taken over a Swedish company. Taimla contended that the largest company on the Baltic Stock Exchange was Tallink, the Estonian ferry, taxi, and hotel company, but said more generally that the relative lack of equity capital available to Baltic companies meant that “in Estonia we’re pretty good at doing the opposite – selling our companies to foreigners!”

Questions over Estonian immigration laws
Riigikogu member Rainer Vakra took part in a debate with Latvian politician Juris Vilums, and three panellists who are active in youth politics in the Baltic region, ‘Baltic Countries: A disappearing nation?’ They were mulling over the hot-button issue of why people born in the Baltic region were choosing to leave for other countries such as Australia, the United States, and (at least until Brexit) the United Kingdom, while also taking advantage of their free movement rights within the European Union.

The debate, in some ways, was a contrast with the earlier one, in which budding entrepreneurs were being encouraged to think and act globally. Here, the onus was more on making sure the Baltics can develop and keep its own home-grown talent in the future. One of the other difficulties facing businesses, as articulated by Vakra, was the immigration quota set by the Estonian government, which some business leaders view as draconian.

“The migration quota was filled at the start of March [fact-check – according to ERR News it was April when the quota was filled]. What’s changed? Nothing, except now the workers in the construction industry are working here illegally. We’re lucky that, at least, the startup visa programme is happening,” Vakra said, referring to the programme that enables tech companies to recruit specialists from outside the EU for areas with an identified need.

Foreign investment not as easy as it could be
Vakra also pointed to what he felt was an unfriendly Estonian government attitude towards foreign investment when it came to small businesses started by non-EU citizens, which had led to a climate of what he felt was suspicion and conservatism in the banking sector. “Some people are now blaming e-Residents for the banks being too conservative,” he said.

This feeling has grown of late because banks are purportedly apprehensive about granting accounts to some users of the Estonian e-Residency programme, amid some account closures for entrepreneurs who fail to prove their link with Estonia to the liking of the bank. This thorny issue is explained further by ERR News, and the response from the e-Residency team was published in March.

Nor is returning to Estonia
Vakra linked this issue back to the core topic of the discussion. “Why should those people who have left come back if nobody’s welcome? It’s the mentality [that is the issue]. They [emigrants] went to those countries because they were welcome there.”

Mikk Tarros, Vice-Chairman of the Estonian National Youth Council, added a personal perspective, about his own family. “My mother lives in Switzerland. Perhaps we should try to entice her back to Estonia? She actually tried to come back a few years ago, but she couldn’t get any interviews because it was assumed that her salary expectations would be too high, even before she could state them.”

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4 reasons the Opinion Festival brings you joy https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/4-reasons-the-opinion-festival-brings-you-joy/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/4-reasons-the-opinion-festival-brings-you-joy/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 11:15:50 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=15422 Why do some people get so energised by the Opinion Festival? Maybe it’s the summer air, or the awayday atmosphere that comes from being together in the grounds of a medieval castle in leafy central Estonia, or maybe it’s the enthusiastic contributors to all of the discussions taking place around the ground, but there’s something

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Why do some people get so energised by the Opinion Festival? Maybe it’s the summer air, or the awayday atmosphere that comes from being together in the grounds of a medieval castle in leafy central Estonia, or maybe it’s the enthusiastic contributors to all of the discussions taking place around the ground, but there’s something in the air.

Below are some reasons why we care about the Opinion Festival, and why you might just find unexpected joy in it too.

It’s not all about politics…
The Opinion Festival always covers the full breadth of topics within public life. Although it is thought by some that a few people on a committee come up with the topics for discussions, in actual fact, anyone can, and does, submit discussion topics.

There are only limited restrictions, mostly concerning the wish to have constructive and multi-sided debates that are conducted in an orderly fashion, but otherwise, organisations can submit any topic they like, as long as they take responsibility for organising the whole discussion, and for the composition of the panel.

In previous years, this led to enlightening talks that may have opened some attendees’ minds, such as a debate on the health benefits and drawbacks of vegan food, in 2017. Also that year was a panel discussion on how to design a great user experience on mobile apps, which not only got the Estonian tech startup crowd out of the city, but also brought a spontaneous opportunity to quiz one of the founders of taxi-ordering app Taxify about changes to his own product’s user experience.

It is often after the main discussion has concluded, when it goes to questions and answers, that the debate really heats up, and where discussions can often take intriguing routes.

…but you can get close to the decision-makers
The Opinion Festival isn’t unique in this regard, but if you have something to say to someone in power, this weekend is one of the best opportunities to do so. While in the United States, for example, politicians are largely shielded from direct conversation with the public, in Estonia that is considered unthinkable.

Politicians and thought leaders are on Vallimägi for both days of the festival, and while they’re ostensibly here to take part in discussions organised by their party or connected organisations, there’s nothing stopping anyone from talking to them about the issues of the moment.

It’s one of the great things about democracy festivals in general, and with Estonian politicians, in some (but not all) cases, appearing aloof rather than engaged with the struggles of ordinary voters and taxpayers, this is a unique opportunity to ask the questions you want to know the answers to. You don’t have to win an election, or donate money, to hold representatives to account, and democracy festivals like this one are a reminder of that.

Historic location
The Opinion Festival is in Paide to stay. The small town, often called the Heart of Estonia as it is the closest large population centre to the mid-point of the country, has hosted every festival since the concept came to Estonia. The festival has a very special feeling partly because of its surroundings; the kind of inspiration that is often sparked at the Opinion Festival in Paide might not come if it were staged in a big city.

Just as people sometimes have their most inventive ideas while on holiday, so too debates and discussions that might seem everyday when taking place in the capital become more nuanced and take different directions when conducted outdoors in the countryside. If you’re not sure what we mean, take in a few talks and see for yourself.

You’ll take new ideas home
Every year the Opinion Festival convinces people of new things they need to do with their lives, whether that is writing to their Riigikogu member about an issue that affects them or their friends, taking better care of their personal finances, checking out an author’s new book that was being discussed, trying the vegan diet, campaigning for a fairer deal in some respect, or just exercising mindfulness in some way. All of these topics have been, or will be, covered at the Opinion Festival, and all offer you the chance to open your mind to something.

Being able to change your view is a great thing, so our advice is to be open to discussions on topics outside your comfort zone, but also to listen to viewpoints different to your own. You might find your own feelings change.

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English-language discussions at the Opinion Festival shine a light on democracy and Baltic future https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/english-language-discussions-at-the-opinion-festival-shine-a-light-on-democracy-and-baltic-future/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/english-language-discussions-at-the-opinion-festival-shine-a-light-on-democracy-and-baltic-future/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 09:26:54 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=15103 This year’s Opinion Festival will treat participants to 12 English-language discussions, ranging from topics such as national security to information warfare to the transition away from cowboy capitalism. Special attention will be paid to the nature of democracy and the future of the three Baltic countries who are all celebrating their centenaries in 2018. Taking

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This year’s Opinion Festival will treat participants to 12 English-language discussions, ranging from topics such as national security to information warfare to the transition away from cowboy capitalism. Special attention will be paid to the nature of democracy and the future of the three Baltic countries who are all celebrating their centenaries in 2018.

Taking place for the sixth consecutive time, this year’s Opinion Festival continues a trend we have been seeing in the last few years: the 12 discussions, out of 160 discussions in total, show a rise in the number and diversity of events at the festival hosted in English and featuring international speakers.

While the English-language discussions are spread across the Festival’s six key themes (values, community, policymaking, security, employment and market, and education), participants looking for topics with an international focus are spoilt for choice in two discussion areas in particular: the Democracy Area and the Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 Area.

While nurturing participatory democracy has been at the heart of the Opinion Festival since inception, this is the first time there will be a discussion area dedicated solely to the concept and practice of democracy. The timing for the Democracy Area, hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia, is not accidental: with recent landshift changes in international politics, there is hardly a better time to take a step back and think about what it means to live in and nurture a democratic society. This deep dive into the meaning of democracy also coincides with the launch of the Democracy Festivals platform earlier this year which brings together different events promoting participatory democracy in Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Latvia and Lithuania.

When on Friday the discussions will be assessing what Estonia could still learn from the Nordics, whether on the more fundamental level of social and foreign policy or when it comes to entrepreneurship, the discussions on Saturday will give participants the opportunity to expand beyond their immediate region of the Nordics and Baltics and instead explore opportunities and challenges for the whole of European civil society through the example of Poland, Hungary and Germany. Activists from these countries will share their experience and know-how. Another area of focus on the second day of the festival will be the European Capital of Culture, with several Estonian cities vying for the title for 2024.

Another area that stands out for its international focus is the Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area. As the name suggests, the area will be tackling questions about the future sustainability of the three Baltic countries. What is the financial portrait of people in the Baltics? How to give young people opportunities to fulfill themselves and in a global world encourage them to contribute to these small societies on the edge of Europe? Led by Swedbank and welcoming speakers from all three Baltic countries, there are just some of the discussions taking over two days.

Beyond these two discussion areas, other English-language events are dotted around the festivals. There will be a human library, organised by the Estonian Refugee Council, where participants can hear and engage with the stories of refugees and immigrants. Another discussion of note takes place in the Foreign Policy Area on Friday, with media and strategic communications experts from Ukraine, Finland and Estonia inviting participants to debate the issue of information warfare which is increasingly rearing its head in Europe and globally.

This year’s programme, as in previous years, has been the grassroots effort of hundreds of organisations and individuals across sectors and creeds. As such, it holds up a mirror to the main areas of interest, concern and hope for local citizens. The diversity of themes and participants in the Festival’s English-language programme is one such reflection.

You can find all the discussions and events in English programme below and here. The full programme is available here, including details of the Festival’s busy culture programme of exhibitions, parties and performances.

10 August

Are the Nordic Countries Still a Role Model for Estonians?
10 August 2018 @ 14:00-15:30
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Kirsti Narinen (Ambassador, Finnish Embassy in Estonia) Taavi Rõivas (MP, Former Prime Minister of Estonia), Kai Klandorf (Executive Director, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations)
Moderator: Christer Haglund (Director of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia)
Organizer: Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia (NORDEN)

 

From Cowboy Capitalism to Value-Based Entrepreneurship
10 August 2018 @ 16:00-17:30
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Kati Ihamaki (Director, Sustainable Development, Finnair), Maria Wetterstrand (former spokesperson for the Swedish Green Party and parliamentarian), Raul Lättemägi (Owner, AS Advanced Sports Installations Europe)
Moderator: Annika Arras (partner et Miltton Nordics)
Organizer: Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia (NORDEN)

 

Human Library “Immigrants”
10 August 2018 @ 16:30-17:30
Discussion Culture area (Suhtluskultuuri ala)
Participants: Refugees, immigrants, foreigners living in Estonia
Moderator: Polina Polyakoff (NGO Estonian Refugee Council)
Organizer: Estonian Refugee Council

 

Manipulation and Information Warfare
10 August 2018 @ 18:00-19:30
Foreign Policy area (Välispoliitika ala)
Participants: Oleksii Makuhin (expert of the Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre), Raul Rebane (strategic communications expert), Anneli Ahonen (team member of EU East StratCom Task Force)
Moderator: Jarmo Mäkela (Finnish analyst with international media experience; columnist at Postimees)
Organizer: Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership

 

Who is the Richest – Jaan, Janis or Justas? A Financial Portrait of the Baltics
10 August 2018 @ 12.00-13.30
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Kristjan Tamla (Director, Investment Funds, Swedbank), Leonore Riitsalu (NGO Rahatarkus), Vaidotas Šumskis (Chief Economist, Bank of Lithuania), Sanita Gertmane (Latvian Consumer Rights Protection Centre)
Moderator: Kati Voomets (Director, Institute for Private Finances, Swedbank)
Organizer: Swedbank Estonia

 

“Mina jään,” “aš lieku”,” “es palieku !” Baltic countries: A Disappearing Nation?
10 August 2018 @ 14.00-15.30
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Mikk Tarros (Vice-Chairman, Estonian National Youth Council), Emīls Anškens (Chairman, Latvian Youth Council), Urtė Petrulytė (Board Member, Lithuanian Youth Council), Juris Vilums (Parliament of Latvia), Rainer Vakra (Parliament of Estonia)
Moderator: Annaliisa Jäme (Consultant, Parliament of Estonia)
Organizer:  Estonian National Youth Council

Career – Choice or Stereotype? Are the Baltics Looking for New People?
10 August 2018 @ 16.30-18.00
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Kätlin Kuldmaa (Estonian UN Youth Delegate), Fredrik Nilzen (Head of Sustainability, Swedbank Group), Mari-Ann Lumeste (Counselor to the Estonian Equality Commissioner), Deepak Ahluwalia (Deputy Sales Director, Nordica), Toomas Kruusimägi (Headteacher, Tallinn English College; President, Estonian School Heads Association)
Moderator: Liisa Pakosta (Estonian Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner)
Organizer: Liisa Pakosta (Estonian Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner)

 

11 August

Civil Society in Europe: Who, Why and How Should Be Mobilized?
11 August 2018 @ 14:00-15:30
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Miklos Marschall (founding Executive Director, CIVICUS; former Deputy Managing Director, Transparency International; former Deputy Mayor of Budapest – Hungary), Jakub Wygnański (sociologist, activist and co-founder of a number of NGOs – Poland), André Wilkens (CEO, Offene Gesellschaft; former Director, the Mercator Centre Berlin – Germany)
Moderator: Sigrid Solnik (Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation)
Organizer: Open Estonia Foundation

 

European Culture Capital 2024: For Whom and Why?
11 August 2018 @ 16:00-17:30
Democracy area (Demokraatia ala)
Participants: Suvi Innilä (Programme Leader, Turu 2011 European Capital of Culture – Finland) Ib Christensen (Head of Municipality Cultural Department, Aarhus 2017 – Denmark), Helen Sildna (Shiftworks; Team Member, Narva 2024 initiative –  Estonia), Berk Vaher (Bidbook Editor, Tartu 2024 European Capital of Culture candidate city – Estonia)
Moderator: Laur Kaunissaare (Dramaturg, Theatre NO99; Programme Coordinator, Tallinn 2011 European Capital of Culture)
Organizer: Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Estonia (NORDEN)

 

Divided We Fall, United We Stand: Is Polarisation of Societies Undermining Security of the Baltic States?
11 August 2018 @ 12.00-13.30
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Dr Kęstutis Girnius (Associate Professor, the Institute of International Affairs and Political Science of Vilnius University); Dr Mārtiņš Kaprāns (Researcher, the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia; Advisor, the Latvian Ministry of Culture); Dr Anu Realo (Associate Professor, the Department of Psychology of University of Warwick; Professor of Personality and Social Psychology, University of Tartu); Dr Volodymyr Ishchenko (Lecturer, the Department of Sociology of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute)
Moderator: Tomas Jermalavičius (Head of Studies and Research Fellow, ICDS)
Organizer: International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS)

Building Trends in the Baltics in 2038
11 August 2018 @ 16.00-17.30
Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area (Eesti, Läti, Leedu 2038)
Participants: Raimonds Jansons (Ambassador of Latvia in Estonia), Eneli Liisma (Head of Quality Management Department, AS Merko Ehitus Eesti), Rene Vinkler (Sales manager, Sakret OÜ)
Moderator: Kaspars Pacevics (CEO, Board Member, Sakret OÜ)
Organizer: Sakret OÜ

Learning through Activity
11 August 2018 @ 12:30-13:30
Children’s Discussions (Lastearutelud)
Participants: Lea Tornberg (Finnish teacher and creator of innovative teaching methods)
Moderator: Mario Mäeots
Organizer: Finnish Institute in Estonia

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How and why should we sustain democracy for the next one hundred years? #democracyarea https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/how-and-why-should-we-sustain-democracy-for-the-next-one-hundred-years-democracyarea/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/how-and-why-should-we-sustain-democracy-for-the-next-one-hundred-years-democracyarea/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 13:27:24 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=14956 For the first time in the history of the Opinion Festival, one of the discussion areas will be dedicated solely to the nature and future of democracy. The area is the brainchild of the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM)’s office in Estonia, and it is one of the gifts the organization is making for the

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For the first time in the history of the Opinion Festival, one of the discussion areas will be dedicated solely to the nature and future of democracy. The area is the brainchild of the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM)’s office in Estonia, and it is one of the gifts the organization is making for the country’s centenary. The area will be organized together with the Open Estonia Foundation, the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute and active citizen Karl Toomet.

We spoke to members of NCM Estonian office about why they decided to focus on democracy this year. Thoughts were shared by NCM Estonian office director Christer Haglund, adviser on welfare society Merle Kuusk and communication adviser Ruudu Raudsepp.

Where do we come from and where are we going?

Christer Haglund: “The recent situation in Europe may appear quite bewildering, but it is helpful to keep in mind the incredible achievements that have taken place over the past decades. Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union are integrated into the European Union, we have seen a decrease in inequality, while overall economic and social welfare has grown. Even though Europe faces new challenges such as the rise of nationalism and issues related to migration, unity within the EU remains strong thanks to member countries sharing and following the same regulations.”

If we look back in time then the progress made has been remarkable – we have gone from a one-party state, where all civic organizations were controlled by the government and freedom of expression was restricted by harsh censorship, to a society where every person has the right to express their opinion, establish organizations and run for parliament or the local government under the party of their preference. Ruudu Raudsepp argues: “In addition to the development of representative democracy, it is important for an active civil society to flourish. As citizens there are ways to support the growth of our state beyond casting our vote every few years during elections. Participating in civic organizations, expressing our opinion and organizing events in support of causes that are close to us all play an important part in a functioning democracy.”

In recent years, we have witnessed attempts in several European countries to restrict core democratic values. For example, the ruling party in Poland tried to carry out a reform of its judiciary which would have given the country’s justice ministry the right to appoint judges to the Polish Supreme Court. What followed is testament to the strength of the Polish democratic state – Polish citizens came out en masse in protest, the Polish president vetoed the laws in question, and the European Commission proposed sanctions be placed on Poland if the laws had been implemented. After two years of intense debate, the Polish ruling party has, for the time being, decided not to enforce all of the laws planned. Similarly, Hungarian and Turkish citizens have stood against government attempts to restrict citizen rights. The fight for democracy continues to be a highly relevant topic even today.

We can all contribute to upholding democracy

In the case of Poland, Hungary and Turkey we can see clearly how civil society can contribute to preserving democratic values. However, democracy is not just a value in its own right but a democratic state gives citizens the chance to come up with better solutions together.

Civil society can remain active even in authoritarian countries. For example, the events that lead to Estonia regaining its independence from the Soviet Union (the Phosphorite War, the Baltic Way and other important initiatives) show how citizens can together fight for their rights. Currently, a similar mood surrounds the debate over plans to build a pulp mill near the country’s second largest city Tartu, but while people may have different opinions, they are able to express their feelings and opinion freely. This kind of public debate will help Estonia develop further.

The Nordic Council of Ministers’ office in Estonia organized a discussion about bioeconomy during the 2017 Opinion Festival. (Photo: Priit Jõesaar)

Christer Haglund finds the development of Estonian civil society remarkable: “Today, being an active citizen is part and parcel of belonging to Estonian society — from expressing your opinion via (social) media to setting up new movements and civic society organisations. There are organizations addressing causes from environmental protection to supporting young people with disabilities, campaigns calling for more cycle lanes, and events like the Opinion festival to create more opportunities for civic debate. These are all signs that Estonians care deeply about their society and want to take responsibility for improving and shaping it.”

In a constantly changing world where people are only getting busier, it can sometimes be hard to find time to be an active citizen but this is vital if we want to continue enjoying democratic freedoms in the future. According to one of the founders of the Democracy Festivals network, Mads Randbøll Wolff: “We have been reduced to consumers when we should have remained citizens. We need to work on democracy as a state of mind.”

One essential part of sustaining democracy is open discussion, giving people the space to freely express their thoughts. Merle Kuusk notes: “Hosting the discussions in the Democracy area together with our good partners is our contribution to the development of debate culture, critical thinking and open governance.”

Seven discussions in total will take place in the Democracy area over the two days of this year’s Opinion Festival. Three of these will be held in Estonian and four in English:

On Friday, 10th of August
12:00-13:30 The rise of populism in Europe: A correcting force or an enemy of democracy? [EST]
14:00-15:30 Are the Nordic Countries Still a Role Model for Estonians? [ENG]
16:00-17:30 From Cowboy Capitalism to Value-based Entrepreneurship [ENG]
18:00-19:30 Who is the world’s biggest defender of democracy? [EST]

On Saturday, 11th of August
12:00-13:30 Navigating the post-truth media landscape: how to consume the news discerningly [EST]
14:00-15:30 Civil Society in Europe: Who, Why and How Should Be Mobilized? [ENG]
16:00-17:30 European Culture Capital 2024: For Whom and Why? [ENG]

Follow the Democracy area event on Facebook. See you in Paide on 10th and 11th August!

Text: Opinion Festival volunteer Virve Kass
Photo: Priit Jõesaar

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This year’s Opinion Festival focuses on communication culture, Baltic cooperation and the nature of democracy https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/this-years-opinion-festival-focuses-on-communication-culture-baltic-cooperation-and-the-nature-of-democracy/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/this-years-opinion-festival-focuses-on-communication-culture-baltic-cooperation-and-the-nature-of-democracy/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 12:35:29 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=14901 The programme for the sixth Opinion Festival, taking place in Paide, Estonia, has now been unveiled, following the joint efforts of around a hundred discussion organizers. This summer, the spotlight will be on Estonian communication culture, alongside deepdives into the future of the 100-year-old Baltic countries and the nature of democracy. In total, 160 discussions

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The programme for the sixth Opinion Festival, taking place in Paide, Estonia, has now been unveiled, following the joint efforts of around a hundred discussion organizers. This summer, the spotlight will be on Estonian communication culture, alongside deepdives into the future of the 100-year-old Baltic countries and the nature of democracy. In total, 160 discussions will take place across 23 themed areas.

The selection of discussion topics is based on the results from the public call for ideas, held in spring. The Opinion Festival offered, in advance, keywords related to Estonia’s centenary, and all of them made it into the programme. The other ideas submitted to the festival inspired themed areas focussing on religion in Estonia, the forest, technology, health and security, and human capital. The schedule for the discussions is available on the Opinion Festival website: https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/kava/ [you can view the selection of English-language discussions by selecting “Inglise” in the top right-hand corner].

The Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania 2038 area, created at the initiative of Opinion Festival major supporter Swedbank, will be a place to discuss the mutual causes for optimism and concern that the Baltic countries share. One of the questions raised will be “Who is richer – Jaan, Janis or Justas?” , together with discussions on the various demographic and economic challenges across the three countries. Discussions reaching beyond the Estonian border will also be held in the democracy area — set up and supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers — tackling topics such as European citizens, the impact of populism, and informed consumption of the media.

According to Maiu Lauring, head organizer of the Opinion Festival, this year’s festival has seen an increase in topics which reach beyond Estonia. “Openness is one of the key values of the Opinion Festival and on that basis we have chosen discussions that would bring together the experience of various countries. There will also be more participants from other countries than in previous years,” noted Lauring. She expressed hope that this would enrich the festival experience for all participants.

This year, special attention will be paid to the discussion and communication culture in Estonia in and of itself. A snapshot of the topics addressed in the communication culture area, led by KiVa school (a school-based anti-bullying program), includes questions such as: how to communicate with each other without bullying, whether and how diversity makes us richer, and how communication culture in Estonia and Finland compare to each other. Another highlight will be a game about Estonian values.  Meanwhile, the Telia digital wisdom area will look at issues surrounding communication in cyberspace.

For the first time in the Festival’s history, the public can vote for the topic of focus for the parliamentary party leaders’ debate, which has quickly become one of the most highly-anticipated events of the Festival in recent years. The poll is available on the Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) website until early July.

The sixth Opinion Festival will take place between August 10th and 11th in Paide. The Festival is supported by the Paide City Government, Swedbank, the National Foundation of Civil Society, the Union of Järva County Municipalities, the European Commission, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, Telia, Ergo, and Eesti Töötukassa (the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund).

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Democracy Festivals unite the Nordic and Baltic Sea Region https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/democracy-festivals-unite-nordic-baltic-sea-region/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/democracy-festivals-unite-nordic-baltic-sea-region/#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 07:03:55 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=14157 The Opinion Festival, taking place in Estonia for the sixth year running, is now part of Democracy Festivals, a newly established network of like-minded events. Eight democracy festivals from the Nordic and Baltic regions, from Visby in Sweden to Birštonas in Lithuania, have joined forces in an effort to foster stronger participatory democracy everywhere in

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The Opinion Festival, taking place in Estonia for the sixth year running, is now part of Democracy Festivals, a newly established network of like-minded events. Eight democracy festivals from the Nordic and Baltic regions, from Visby in Sweden to Birštonas in Lithuania, have joined forces in an effort to foster stronger participatory democracy everywhere in the world and offer opportunities to learn from each other’s experience and best practice.

The network was formed as the result of a joint Estonian-Latvian-Danish initiative. It was initially the brainchild of Ieva Morica who heads the conversation festival LAMPA, who had been supported by the Opinion Festival team for putting on the festival. Kristi Liiva, founder of the Opinion Festival, said: “We spoke about the various areas for improvement that can be found in every country’s democratic discussion process as well as communication culture more broadly, and that spurred us on to lean more heavily on each other’s best practice and together start breathing life into the wider mission of ‘democracy festivals’.”

The change agency We Do Democracy, headed by Zakia Elvang, is leading the platform and the project. “It’s fair to say democracy festivals have really gone viral in the Baltic sea region. They are all well known and respected in their countries, they have all become a must attend event for people from all corners of society who are interested in the country’s future. We believe this is open democracy in the making,” says Zakia Elvang.

The ambition of the Democracy Festivals platform

The unique participatory democracy and experience of democracy festivals in the Nordic and Baltic countries deserve wider recognition, and the aim of the Democracy Festivals web platform is to capture and share some of that experience. Here you can find an introduction to eight individual festivals whose aim is to advance democracy, as well as guidance for anyone who would like to kickstart their own festival or promote discursive democracy in some other way. In addition to the Opinion Festival, members of the network include Almedalsveckan (Sweden), SuomiAreena (Finland), LAMPA (Latvia), Fundur Fólksins (from 2018 known as Lysa; Iceland), Arendalsuka (Norway), Taani Folkemødet (Denmark) and Būtent! (Lithuania).

The ambition of the democracy festivals is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Christer Haglund, Director of the director of the Council’s Office in Estonia, commented: “Today’s democracy is in constant flux, bringing with it challenges as well as new opportunities. We support cooperation between the Baltic and Nordic countries to improve the culture of public debate, inspiring people to take part in social discussion which in turn supports their sense of safety and welfare, their ability and courage to express themselves, and their willingness to listen to others and respect different opinions. We want to help this kind of culture of public debate take off beyond our region.”

The format of the democracy festivals has attracted interest from several countries, including Ukraine, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Belarus, but also places like the Catalonia region.

 

Opinion Festival stands out for extensive volunteer support

The Opinion Festival in Paide is distinct from the other festivals primarily for two reasons. According to Maiu Lauring, head organiser of the Opinion Festival, “unlike the other festivals where the main organiser tends to be the local government and/or local enterprises, in our case the festival comes together as a combined effort of hundreds of volunteers and supporters. Our partner festivals have been amazed by our capacity to involve so many volunteers and especially the local community totogether keep the festival going. Nordic democracy festival organisers have also been impressed by just how well the festival grounds layout, the creation of space and ambience of the Opinion Festival supports discussions, both those organised beforehand as well as spontaneous ones. Within the family of democracy festivals, the Opinion Festival is a community and boutique festival in the best possible sense.”

The Estonian example inspires

The conversation festival LAMPA, which takes place in Latvia, was modelled after the Opinion Festival. Estonians also shared tips and best practice with young people and civic society activists in Belarus, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. On 9 September 2017, Severedonetsk, a small town in Ukraine, played host to the country’s first one-day opinion festival, which brought together experts and locals to raise topics that matter to them. Six other regions are keen to try out the Opinion Festival model, with an aim to establish their own festival within the next two years. From an Estonian perspective, the expansion of the idea and format of the democracy festivals to Europe’s eastern borders is only a positive development and this year an even greater number of steps will be taken to provide active support.

Olof Palme’s legacy and the birth of democracy festivals

The tradition of democracy festivals stretches back to 1968 when Olof Palme, Sweden’s education minister at the time, gave a speech from the back of a pick-up truck. The truck was parked in Almedalen park and several hundred people gathered to listen to him. In all likelihood, none of them had the faintest clue that they had changed history and made a lasting impact on the whole Nordic and Baltic Sea region. Fast forward 50 years later and democracy festivals have made their way into several countries in the Baltic Sea region, becoming seminal events where people from across the social spectrum but who share an interest in the future of their country can come together. In 2017 alone, the eight festivals collectively lasted for 29 days, hosted 8,700 events or discussions, and brought together up to 500,000 participants.

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The Opinion Festival attracts wide selection of discussion ideas https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/opinion-festival-attracts-wide-selection-discussion-ideas/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/opinion-festival-attracts-wide-selection-discussion-ideas/#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 06:40:55 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=14152 This year’s Opinion Festival received submissions for over 200 discussions, with topics ranging from human capital and medicine to innovation and forestry. Ideas related to values, education and youth issues formed the largest category. According to the Festival’s head organizer Maiu Lauring, the submissions help map the topics that are currently important to people living

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This year’s Opinion Festival received submissions for over 200 discussions, with topics ranging from human capital and medicine to innovation and forestry. Ideas related to values, education and youth issues formed the largest category.

According to the Festival’s head organizer Maiu Lauring, the submissions help map the topics that are currently important to people living in Estonia and point to the questions that call for more social debate. “As with previous years, the Festival will explore a broad array of topics — submissions included ideas for discussions on education, the environment, economy, innovation, medicine, foreign policy as well as culture. Meanwhile, human capital and forests stood out as specific areas of concern,” said Maiu Lauring.

This year, in addition to ideas for individual discussions, the Festival also welcomed submissions for themed discussion areas. “Our aim was to inspire discussion hosts to start thinking about collaboration from the moment they start developing ideas so they’d have more time and energy to get the discussions themselves ready. This approach seems to have worked – there were 15 submissions for themed discussion areas, most of which are likely to end up in the final programme,” explained Lauring.

The idea evaluation team will consider each submission based on four criteria: stated objective for the discussion, clarity of the topic, diversity of participants, and discussion format. This year’s evaluation process will also involve delegates from the Estonia 100 Youth Assembly, which will help to ensure that the festival programme also includes the topics most relevant to young people.

Discussions will be selected at the beginning of March. The final programme will come together as a result of collaboration between a number of organizations acting as discussion hosts, and will be confirmed by early June.

The sixth Opinion Festival will take place on 10-11 August in Paide. Last year’s Festival attracted over 9,000 participants.

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Dog reveals what government must do next https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/dalmatian-james/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/dalmatian-james/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 18:10:03 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13755 We talk a lot at the Opinion Festival about the need to be inclusive and open, and to allow all views from all sides of the debate. But what about dogs? Pets represent one area of society that frequently goes unheard. Maybe it’s because we don’t speak their language as well as we should, but

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We talk a lot at the Opinion Festival about the need to be inclusive and open, and to allow all views from all sides of the debate. But what about dogs?

Pets represent one area of society that frequently goes unheard. Maybe it’s because we don’t speak their language as well as we should, but they demand to be treated as an equal part of discussions.

We have covered in previous years how the pets of the Opinion Festival turn out in style and often look better-dressed than their owners. This time, the stakes got raised. James, you see, is a dalmatian whose reputation goes before him. His story is the stuff of legend. Having escaped the clutches of Cruella de Vil, along with his 100 siblings, James decided to strike out solo, and emigrated to Estonia, where he is owned by Kelly.

Here, it would appear the debonair canine has become something of a celebrity, having, like all the most famous people, his own social media hashtag, #DalmatianJames . It’s for this reason that the Opinion Festival blog decided to catch up with the dog of the moment, to find out what he had enjoyed most about the Opinion Festival, and what could be improved.

“I’d say it’s all been really well organised,” James told us, “especially the street food. I shouldn’t eat hamburgers – they’re bad for my digestive system in big portions – but I took my chance to try a bit from Hungry Karl, and I wasn’t disappointed. I also took the opportunity to let Jevgeni Ossinovski and Hanno Pevkur know my views on the need for the state to subsidise doggy-treats. Ossinovski said it wasn’t part of the present government programme, but both politicians seemed to understand my point of view, which was good.”

James was equally forthright on his favourite festival stand from the Opinion Festival 2017. “I have to give full marks to the designers of the stand made from sustainable mushrooms (below). It was incredibly well-made, and I love hunting for mushrooms, so it felt like I was running round the forest, while watching a debate take place.”

Festival stand made from mushrooms

At the time of writing, James was barking loudly at the sky, seemingly angry that an act of force majeure had caused his favourite part of the Opinion Festival, the party leaders’ debate, to be delayed and then acted out under a thunderstorm. Storms aren’t his thing, frankly. Still, with the profile he is swiftly building, a position in the cabinet after the next reshuffle looks to be a formality.

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How diverse is Estonia? https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/how-diverse-is-estonia/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/how-diverse-is-estonia/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 14:39:54 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13750 A talk taking place at the Opinion Festival on Saturday, ‘Diversity in the Estonian workplace and society: the good, the bad and the ugly’, examined issues of culture, race, identity, and discussed both what foreigners can do to feel more part of Estonian life, and also what Estonia as a whole can do to be

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A talk taking place at the Opinion Festival on Saturday, ‘Diversity in the Estonian workplace and society: the good, the bad and the ugly’, examined issues of culture, race, identity, and discussed both what foreigners can do to feel more part of Estonian life, and also what Estonia as a whole can do to be as welcoming as possible.

The Opinion Festival throws up annual surprises, but one regular topic is foreigners and their integration into Estonian life. This is perhaps understandable – with the rapid expansion of Estonia-based companies like Transferwise, along with increased international investment in the country, has come a shift in the population demographic. This has not been without friction, as the discussion, in the shadow of Paide’s Holy Cross Church, showed. Nonetheless, there were anecdotes that showed how much has changed for the better for residents of other nationalities.

A lot of the discussion revolved around learning the Estonian language; many adult learners say that they find it difficult to pick up. There was also some talk about whether the problem is that, for the majority of incomers, at least those based in Tallinn, there is a lack of immersion culture – in other words, most Estonians in the capital are happy to speak English, and so it is rare for there to be a definite need for the Tallinn-based foreigner to converse in Estonian. For this reason, the idea of making it compulsory for all foreigners living in Estonia to learn the language was raised. However, although there was some support for the idea, in general the audience, which was quite evenly split between Estonians and foreigners, preferred encouragement of language learning to compulsion.

In general the discussion was calm and measured, but there was more passion shown when an African-American audience member brought up a word often used in the Estonian language to describe a person of colour, which sounds very similar to a term which has become known as very abusive and racist in the UK and US. She said that hearing that word used made her feel uncomfortable.

There was then debate over the perceived historical context of the word in the Estonian language, and whether the requirement to change should be upon the individual who heard the word and was offended, or upon Estonian society not to use the word (there being plenty of other, synonymous, terms that could be used that would not offend anyone). Although no definitive decision was reached, there seemed to be a consensus that increased care over not offending people with any language used would make the world of work more comfortable for many.

A Latin American living in Estonia described how he had, initially, greeted his colleagues in the office each day by shaking their hands, and had regularly hugged people who he knew well, until being told it was not a common thing to do in an Estonian workplace. He explained his personal dilemma, before saying that he decided to “embrace” the fact that he did not look, sound or act “like an Estonian”, and that he was proud of his cultural identity. Two young Russian-Estonian siblings also talked about their positive experiences learning Estonian at a Russian school.

From there, the talk moved onto the ways in which foreigners can get to know Estonian culture. The theatre was cited as a great way to learn the language and to gain a greater cultural understanding; many high-profile productions are subtitled in English, while another idea raised was to hold performances written specially in easy-to-understand Estonian, for adult language-learners. The talk was held in the ‘world cafe’ format, meaning that microphones were passed throughout the audience, and participation ‘in the round’ was encouraged, rather than set speakers taking part in a more conventional forum.

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This Danish man just came up with an awesome idea to bring people together https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/viral-festivals/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/viral-festivals/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:35:31 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13725 Why have festivals like the Opinion Festival become popular with so many people, what can be done to attract more people to take part in the discourse, and what can the festival do better? There was also a great idea on how to get divided people to talk more freely. A discussion, ‘The power of

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Why have festivals like the Opinion Festival become popular with so many people, what can be done to attract more people to take part in the discourse, and what can the festival do better? There was also a great idea on how to get divided people to talk more freely.

A discussion, ‘The power of democracy festivals’, explored these questions on Friday, with a twist on the conventional format of discussion allowing the panel and audience to split into small groups and discuss various questions in circles.

Visitors from Finland, Denmark, Latvia and Lithuania came to Paide to talk about their experiences of organising or taking part in what are known as ‘democracy festivals’ – events encouraging public participation in discussions on a variety of topics. One of the things mentioned, in the debate moderated by journalist Liis Kängsepp, was that there is no one right way of encouraging good discussion and a closer community. Mads Akselbo Holm, the organiser of Folkemodet in Denmark, came up with perhaps the most intriguing idea in terms of getting people from two sides of a divide to come together.

Holm said it could be as simple as getting two opposing politicians, for example, to cook a meal together. Explaining the idea, he said, “maybe they don’t agree on matters of policy, but they can both agree that they like the country they live in, they can both agree they were born in that country, and maybe they both share a favourite dish.” The tantalising prospect of battling members of government and opposition putting down their briefing notes and picking up spatulas and frying pans is certainly unconventional, but could it work?

Mari Haavisto, organiser of SuomiAreena, the Finnish equivalent of the Opinion Festival, felt it was important that the city of Pori, around three hours’ travel from Helsinki, was the host of the event. It comes in the same space of time as the city’s jazz festival, and the two combine to bring a pleasant party atmosphere to an otherwise relatively quiet area every summer, something that might be lost if SuomiAreena were relocated to the Finnish capital. The Opinion Festival has become synonymous with Paide, and it is also true that Järve county, in which Paide is situated, is proud and happy to host the festival. Something of the close community spirit could be lost if it were held in Tallinn or Tartu, contributors felt.

One commenter added that he felt that the Opinion Festival was at least as much about meeting new people, and getting a new perspective on life, as it was about the open discussion that takes place every year. The principle of inviting and accepting all forms of debate, as long as they do not cause violence, was also mentioned, as part of the spirit of a truly open festival of ideas.

Ukraine will hold its first democracy festival this year, and the concept seems to be going viral all around Europe. What is true in every case is that changes can be made, in the interactivity of the events, and how they reach out to people. That’s part of a journey of constant improvement.

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Opinion Festival panel debates perfect user experience https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/user-experience/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/user-experience/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 15:28:05 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13711 How to humanise the user experience, and make the functions of software better reflect users’ needs, was the topic being discussed in English at a lunchtime debate during the Opinion Festival on Friday. Each of the panellists came from a technology-related background, although looking at its use and application in differing ways. Genia Trofimova is

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How to humanise the user experience, and make the functions of software better reflect users’ needs, was the topic being discussed in English at a lunchtime debate during the Opinion Festival on Friday. Each of the panellists came from a technology-related background, although looking at its use and application in differing ways.

Genia Trofimova is the Product and Project Manager for Mooncascade, a software development agency with a number of high-profile clients. A story she told illustrated a company working closely with its client for an optimal user experience. “A customer from Wall Street said he wanted ‘Tinder for Wall Street’ and asked if we could make it, and I said ‘sure’, and all of our team installed Tinder – it was fun. We explored what ‘Tinder for Wall Street’ meant, and then, three months into development and design, we went into very intense user testing. We built this trust, and the client in New York, the team in Seattle, everybody listened to what our team has to say; we want to keep our team happy, and people want to participate and show their talents.”

Ede Schank Tamkivi, from the Eesti 2.0 non-governmental organisation, was moderating the discussion, and began a discussion of good and bad user experiences with an awkward encounter with an Estonian state portal. “I had the experience when registering the birth of my child – I went to rik.ee [an Estonian government website], clicked on the drop-down menu, and the first option displayed was stillbirth, which is not a great thing for a new mother to have to see or think about.”

Jaanus Kase, Head of Product Design at Pipedrive, continued the subject of childcare. “When you have a child, there are about seven or eight different kinds of support you can apply for, depending on whether the child is disabled, or you’re a foster parent, or other things. Your day is full of things not related to filling out these forms, then at night you have maybe ten minutes to fill out the forms, and you get this long list of options.”

“Some kind of easy option would be great, but you get a long list. I would diminish the [list of] options, say if it’s my own child or a foster child, then in Estonia the system can tell where you’re living, so it could give me the options related to my local government. More to the point: why do I even have to do any activity myself? Why can it not be done for me?”

Trofimova responded to an audience question about whether users of apps that change their user interface, and are unhappy about this, are somehow too picky. “It’s still information,” Trofimova said, “and it brings a lot of information about comfort zone, and how far we can go with changes. There is no such thing as too picky – we just need to be picky how we take that information into account.”

Markus Villig, CEO of Taxify, an Estonian-founded driver-requesting app that uses both private drivers and licensed taxi companies, found that his product was mentioned by many panellists and audience members over the course of the 90-minute discussion, primarily because the app has become an integral part of the lives of many people in Estonia and other countries in which it has been rolled-out. While several people said they used Taxify every day, and praised its user experience, others pointed out the recent update that took away the user’s choice of specific taxi operator and car. For Villig, this was an example of making the user experience better in the long term by taking away a choice.

“This is a question we debated internally for one to two years. We have power-users who want to see all the information about a car before they pick it, and they run a sort of internal algorithm to decide which one to take. There’s always a question how much information you include. But people get out of the club, and most people in that situation just want the nearest car, as cheap and as fast in arriving as it can be. Those sorts of people are not usually so interested in picking from a long list of cars.”

“Then we started to look at whether we could fundamentally make the service better. If we can make the pickup shorter, drivers can waste less fuel, waste less time and make more pickups per hour. That’s why when you choose a car, which might be the same kind of car at the same price, but might be two kilometres further away, it creates a waste of fuel and mileage. We need to simplify it so that people cannot make sub-optimal choices. Ultimately this means that the driver earns more, it means the whole platform’s quality goes up, and so on.”

Kase added, “it’s about testing and data. There is no good design that can be isolated from the impact it has on its business. There is a difference between what people say they will do and what they do in reality. A great example of that is in politics – a lot of Americans said they would move to Canada after Trump got elected, but how many have done that?”

“If it looks good but doesn’t produce results, it’s not good design. The other thing to think about regarding whether or not people are too picky is to look at where this discussion is happening. It’s happening online, on platforms like Facebook and Twitter; these are not public services, they are commercial enterprises, pushing us around, actively enticing us to have a discussion there, so they can make more money off us. Most people don’t think about that. The noise surrounding the things versus what actually happens are two different things.”

Villig, like many tech CEOs an admirer of Apple legend Steve Jobs, cited a remark he made. “Steve Jobs was right when he said ‘people don’t know what they really want.’ People make a lot of noise, and it’s important to listen to that, but you won’t see how people really react until the product is actually launched.”

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Opinion Festival entertainment for all tastes https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/entertainment/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/entertainment/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:18:10 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13679 As if to prove that the Opinion Festival isn’t only about deep, serious discussions, there are many ways to have fun with festival entertainment, if you take a few steps from the main action on Vallimägi. One of these is a beach volleyball court, in the middle of host town Paide, a usually sleepy place

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As if to prove that the Opinion Festival isn’t only about deep, serious discussions, there are many ways to have fun with festival entertainment, if you take a few steps from the main action on Vallimägi. One of these is a beach volleyball court, in the middle of host town Paide, a usually sleepy place that is, the last time anyone checked, landlocked.

Check out the Opinion Festival programme for the full list of entertainment throughout the weekend

The vast expanse of sand, which can be found on the edge of Keskväljak (Central Square), is proof that Pärnu might have the Weekend Festival, and mile upon mile of perfect golden sand, and Haapsalu might have its own blues festival along with some of the best spas in Estonia, but Paide has its fair share of fun in the sun.

Foodies’ delight

If you’re, like many people, a hit-and-miss beach volleyball player, Keskväljak and the adjoining section of Tallinna mnt (Tallinn street) offer enough street food to keep you going through a long day of walking and talking. Our early tips are Hungry Karl, who offer excellent-quality hamburgers and goat’s cheese burgers, or, for a lower price, you can get a taste of Sri Lanka, with authentic chicken curry that is being made all weekend by expert cooks from the island.

More fun!

Following the discussions on both days, there is a selection of entertainment to take your pick from. Over in the Wittenstein/Järvamaa museum there is a video disco between 9pm and 2am on Friday, and on Keskväljak, Tallinn’s longest-established hipster hangout Must Puudel is taking over, on Friday and Saturday, with banging tunes and DJ sets, along with captivating live performances. Back on Vallimägi from 10pm to midnight on Friday, Tallinn’s coolest coworking space, LIFT99, hosts one of its regular get-togethers.

Perhaps the standout entertainment events take place in the yard of Vabalinna Maja (Free Town House, literally), the festival club. There, between 10pm and 11pm on Friday, the beloved musical innovator, singer-songwriter Vaiko Eplik, will play some of his most popular songs from down the years.

There’s also a series of must-see installations from lighting artist Jari Matsi, who is bringing innovation and beauty to Tallinna mnt 24, 32, and 34. You can see what he’s done with these lovingly-renovated townhouses between midnight and 2am after the festival concludes for the day on both Friday and Saturday.

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Opinion Festival: why we’re all here https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/why-were-all-here/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/why-were-all-here/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 17:41:17 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13660 The Opinion Festival is back, with added vigour, fun, and purpose. What is that purpose, though? We’ve got some thoughts – and in the spirit of the event, we’d love to hear yours too. The festival has been running since 2013, and each iteration has had its standout moments. There is something in the greenery

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The Opinion Festival is back, with added vigour, fun, and purpose. What is that purpose, though? We’ve got some thoughts – and in the spirit of the event, we’d love to hear yours too.

The festival has been running since 2013, and each iteration has had its standout moments. There is something in the greenery of the heart of Estonia, Paide, for most tastes and mindsets. Even so, sometimes it’s worth taking a step back and asking, ‘what is all this for?’, and why we have this annual gathering.

The genesis of the Opinion Festival was in the events that had been taking place beforehand, on a similar structure, around Northern Europe. It was felt that public debate in Estonia could be bolstered with a festival where discussions, on a variety of pre-agreed topics, could take place in a comfortable environment and an atmosphere of openness.

The festival, at its established home up on Vallimägi in Paide, brings the opportunity to get to the centre of all the discussions affecting everyday life.  Gradually, the debates, forums and talks in the Estonian language were complimented by more and more discussions in English and Russian, showing that the Opinion Festival could include all areas of society within Estonia. While the focus in 2017 is on high-quality conversations, rather than a simple target of being the biggest ever, the breadth of debate still requires visitors to don a pair of quality shoes, and plan carefully where to go and when – or just randomly go from place to place, which can be just as much fun.

People need to know that, though there is political debate, it’s not just about politics. As our earlier blog post illustrates, everything from IT user experience to the pros and cons of veganism will be broached. There are parallels here with music festivals, in that many visitors may come with the aim of hearing one thing, but might go home having derived more enjoyment from surprising sources. It’s never been more important to listen without prejudice, and this is another reason why the Opinion Festival is a necessary part of the Estonian calendar.

There is a strand of discourse, particularly online, that takes the view that not only do actions speak louder than words, but that words no longer matter. Terms such as ‘alt-right’, ‘post-truth’, ‘alternative facts’, and, yes, ‘covfefe’ have elbowed their way into the public eye. The Opinion Festival takes no political standpoint, preferring to let the discussions speak for themselves, but the rapid changes all around us necessitate clarity of thought and of discussion.

We see this when the lies of people in power are spun, or when there is an attempt to move on from promises made by corporations or elected officials. The way to hold people to account is through organised discussion, in an environment where everyone can feel their thoughts are heard and acknowledged. The Opinion Festival offers that, and much more.

Sure, visitors get the chance to (sometimes literally) sit on a picnic blanket next to a Member of the European Parliament and ask about the future of the Single Market, or to quiz the Prime Minister on policy. It’s more than that, though. It’s the best chance of the year to meet people with matching, or contrasting, views to your own.

The Opinion Festival is a social network in the original sense – and you don’t even need a computer to get involved. Half of the fun comes from meeting and talking to new people, both during and also after the debates. You’ll find a discussion topic that interests you from the start – and you’re strongly encouraged to seek them out.

While you do that, it’s also worth looking through the programme for some of the topics you might not have considered checking in on. With talks in Estonia, Russian and English, this festival represents the biggest of tents, and will keep you thinking about any preconceived viewpoints you had on issues, while informing, entertaining and educating on a multitude of subject areas which, who knows, might interest you enough for you to find out more, or get involved, after the festival is over.

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The 2017 Opinion Festival boosts English-language discussions in number and diversity https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/2017-opinion-festival-boosts-english-language-discussions-number-diversity/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/2017-opinion-festival-boosts-english-language-discussions-number-diversity/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 07:35:59 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13331 In the spirit of opening up one of Estonia’s foremost civic events to people of all creeds and backgrounds, the Opinion Festival (Arvamusfestival) will this year host a raft of discussions in English. The ten discussions and one theatre performance will be tackling a diverse range of topics, from the sustainability of Estonia’s start-up scene,

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In the spirit of opening up one of Estonia’s foremost civic events to people of all creeds and backgrounds, the Opinion Festival (Arvamusfestival) will this year host a raft of discussions in English.

The ten discussions and one theatre performance will be tackling a diverse range of topics, from the sustainability of Estonia’s start-up scene, to the growing popularity of veganism, to changes afoot in the European Union. Befittingly for its fifth anniversary, this marks the highest concentration of English-language discussions in the festival’s history.

While this year’s festival has consciously trimmed the number of discussions to 162 overall, English emerges as the exception here. This is not just a mere numbers’ game. The diversity of issues under discussion shows English truly cementing itself as an essential festival language, alongside Estonian and Russian, and displays a growing interest from discussion organisers to tap into the full expertise available in Estonia and nearby countries.

The discussions are dispersed across all of the festival’s six core themes — technology, labour and markets, education, the living environment, the individual, and community —  but there are common threads running through all eleven English-language events.

A case in point are two discussions on Friday which attempt to offer a different outlook on Estonia’s technology sector. The first, bringing together an anthropologist with local tech scene sweethearts Taxify, Pipedrive and Mooncascade, aims to humanise User Experience (or, to use its more techie moniker, UX) and unravel the value of putting human experience at the centre of product design from the get-go, a still largely new concept in Estonian start-ups.

A separate discussion turns its back on ready-made assumptions and looks to ask honest, if uncomfortable, questions about the state of Estonia’s start-up ecosystem and whether the “yippee-rhetoric attitude” it sometimes attracts could be counterproductive to its success.

There are also a wealth of other discussions tackling market-related questions. Notably, as more and more companies in Estonia are adopting, or at least involving to some degree, English as a working language, it has never been timelier to consider diversity in the Estonian workplace and build awareness of expats and people from different cultural backgrounds already enriching Estonian society. Pushing Opinion Festival’s philosophy of inclusivity one step further, a discussion on Saturday will not have “speakers” in the traditional sense but will follow the “World Cafe” method where small groups of people move from table to table to discuss different issues related to the topic of diversity.

Other discussions on Saturday give participants the chance to delve into wider questions about social responsibility and consumer education. In this vein, development charity NGO Mondo is holding an extensive discussion on the reality of palm oil production to consider what improvements can be made to the supply chain to eliminate environmental damage and human rights violations. To keep it solutions-focused, the discussion will draw in research and practical tips from Finland and Estonia.

The experiences of Estonia’s northern neighbours will likely also feed in heavily into a discussion about veganism. While veganism has flourished in Estonia over the past few years and become the chosen diet for many, there is still social stigma attached to it and official nutritional guidelines continue to regard it as a potentially dangerous self-restricted diet — unlike Finland and Sweden where it by and large enjoys the backing of the medical community.

This is just a taste of the discussions available in English over the two days. Coinciding with Estonia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it is only appropriate that other topics involve the issues shaping Europe today and which Estonia will be trying to co-ordinate at an EU-wide level during the latter part of 2017 — such as the impact of Brexit, involving speakers from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Likewise, a discussion on Catalan independence can cast an interesting light on the way Estonia thinks about self-determination, especially as the country’s own long-anticipated 100th anniversary in February 2018 draws near.

The Opinion Festival is also constantly evolving and responding to its participants — who, given that the festival is free and open to all, could be anyone from Estonia and beyond. It is hardly surprising that in its fifth year, the festival should include a self-reflexive discussion about the role and impact of democracy festivals, born in collaboration with other similar events in the Nordic and Baltic region.

If we were to see the Opinion Festival as both reflecting and catalysing the state of democratic debate in Estonia, the boom in English-language discussions should be seen part and parcel of Estonia becoming at once more outward-facing and not afraid to open up its inward-facing reflections to a wider audience.

The full programme is available here.

 

All English-language discussions at the Opinion Festival

Friday, 11th August

14:00-15:30
Humanizing IT – UX for the future
Discoveries area (Avastuste ala)

User experience (UX) design has been declared to be one of the keys in order to succeed in innovation. However, in Estonia it is still a rather new course. In the discussion we would like to find answers to questions such as what is the purpose of participatory design and how to find out as quickly as possible what one’s target group really needs and wants. We are bringing programmers, designers and anthropologists together to collaborate and find out the best ways to create something new and useful. This enables the ICT specialists and designers to figure out the niche of their products. At the same time anthropologists and other people from social and human sciences can rediscover the potential of using their skills in the job market on somewhat surprising fields like ICT and design.
Moderator: Ede Schank Tamkivi (NGO Eesti 2.0 CEO)
Participants: Jaanus Kase (Pipedrive, Head of Product Design) Markus Villig (Taxify, CEO) Genia Trofimova (Mooncascade, Product and Project Manager) Keiu Telve (Center for Applied Anthropology of Estonia, anthropologist)
Organiser: Center for Applied Anthropology of Estonia
Category: Technology

16.00-17.30
Unlocking the new economic development – the prospect of bioeconomy
Discoveries area (Avastuste ala)

Why countries and companies invest increasingly in bioeconomy? Because this is the next economic wave. Bioeconomy shall also mitigate the climate change and environmental impact and make sustainable use of natural resources. This is the only way to do business today! The bioeconomy means the smart, circular use of renewable natural resources for food, feed, bio-products and energy. During the debate we shall look into how the bioeconomy reconciles environment and economy and bolster rural employment. We investigate the new bioeconomy business model and describe what is in it for everybody. We have invited Nordic entrepreneurs to share their experiences about opportunities and challenges of bioeconomy. Estonian panelists contemplate on how Estonia could step up the developments towards bioeconomy – what will this demand of society, communities and the government? Come along, listen in and have your say on how to do business in the future, where current trends are pointing us and why certain countries are dedicated to promoting the bioeconomy.
Moderator: Madis Tilga (Nordic Council of Ministers)
Participants: Stefan Sundman (Vice-President, UPM Biofore), Tanja Häyrynen (Project manager, Arctic Bioeconomy), Toomas Kevvai (Vice-chancellor of Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs), Kristjan Piirimäe (sustainability expert)
Organiser: Nordic Concil of Ministers’ Office in Estonia

16.00-17.30
Self-determination of nations in the European Union: Case of Catalonia
Estonian Free Party area (Eesti Vabaerakonna ala)

Self-determination of nations in today’s European Union. The Catalans wish to hold a referendum to determine the opinion of their people about independence. So far, Spain has avoided the issue, and the official position has been not favourable. How the Spaniards and the Catalans themselves see it. This program and debate is organised in cooperation with the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia.
Moderator: Artur Talvik
Participants: Mr. Jaume Clotet Planas, Communications Manager at the Government of Catalonia and Mr. Rafael Arenas, law professor and former President of anti-Catalan Independence organization “Societat Civil Catalana”
Organiser: Estonian Free Party
Category: Living environment

18:00-19:30
Let’s get real about start-ups: Signal vs. Noise
Inclusive Society area (Kaasava ühiskonna ala)

Estonia produces the biggest number of startups and seed stage investments per capita than any other country in Europe. Estonian startup ecosystem is packed with business plan competitions, pitching workshops, hubs, conferences and events and the confidence of young Estonian entrepreneurs is backed up by start-up accelerators and venture capitalists in London and Silicon Valley. At the same time there are questions about their success-stories and criticism towards the yippee-rhetoric attitude. Is this a confrontation between the new and the old economy or is it something else? We are exchanging thoughts and debate the issue to better understand what’s behind the criticism.
Moderator: Jüri Muttika
Participants: Martin Henk (Co-Founder at Pipedrive), Gleb Maltsev (Co-Founder at Fundwise)
Organiser: Pipedrive
Category: Technology

18.00-19.30
What will the future of Great Britain and the EU be like after Brexit?
Estonian Free Party area (Eesti Vabaerakonna ala)


Brexit and its impact on Europe, Great Britain and Estonia. Estonia has just assumed the Presidency of the EU Council, and this topic is a daily relevant issue also during our Presidency. What can we and the European Union learn from it, and what do the people from different parts of Great Britain think of it.
Moderator: Andres Herkel
Participants: Representatives of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Britain
Organiser: Estonian Free Party
Category: Living environment

18.00-19.30
The power of democracy festivals
Participatory democracy area (Osalusdemokraatia ala)

In 1968 Olof Palme, Sweden’s minister of education at the time, held a speech, standing in the back of a flatbed truck. The truck was parked by Almedalen park and a couple of hundred people gathered to listen to what he had to say. 50 years later, democracy festivals throughout the Nordic region have gone viral. Why is that? Is it because we’ve noticed lately how fragile democracy actually is? We invite you to have a conversation with us over what has been the societal impact of democracy festivals in our region and why do we need them.
Moderator: Liis Kängsepp (The Opinion Festival’s coordinator of international cooperation)
Participants: Mari Haavisto (SuomiAreena organiser), Ieva Morica (LAMPA organiser), Mads Randbøll Wolff (independent senior adviser at Spark)
Organiser: The Opinion Festival
Category: Community

Saturday, 12th August

11:30-13:00
Diversity in the Estonian workplace and society: The good, the bad and the ugly
Education area (Hariduse ala)

The aim of this discussion is to increase the awareness towards foreigners and people from different cultural backgrounds working and living in Estonia as an already existing part of society. We wish to encourage a lively discussion where we exchange views on the benefits and challenges of cultural diversity at the workplace and what it means to society in broader terms, hopefully resulting in new ideas and proposals for the discussed issues. All this with the help of a diverse audience.
Moderator: Cornelia Godfrey (Austrian Embassy)
Participants: Instead of a panel, we opted to have a lively and constructive discussion in small groups, based on the World Café method. We hope to hear the views, concerns and proposals that the audience has about the different questions and topics, with Dennis Kristensen (Sindi Lanka, Danspin) making a brief introduction.
Organisers: Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Ministry of Culture
Category: Labour and markets

13.00-14.30
Veganism: a self-restricted or a healthy diet?
Health area (Tervise ala)

Veganism is growing in popularity both globally and in Estonia but opinions about the healthfulness of vegan diets vary to the extreme between specialists and countries. Overseas in Finland and Sweden, veganism in considered appropriate throughout all stages of life and the national nutritional guidelines give advice on balanced nutrition for vegans. Estonian nutritional guidelines, on the other hand, regard veganism as a self-restricted diet that will lead to long-term health complications. What does the science tell? Should vegans be supported and how?
Moderator: Marta Velgan (Estonian Junior Doctors’ Association)
Participants: David Stenhholtz (oncologist at Stockholm’s Södersjukhuset hospital​),​ Mikael Fogelholm (Professor of Nutrition at Helsinki University),​ Ülle Einberg (president of the Estonian Association of Paediatricians),  Karmen Joller (general practitioner)
Organiser: Eesti Vegan Selts (Estonian Vegan Society); sponsored by Swedish Institute and the National Foundation of Civil Society
Category: The individual

14:00-15:30
The pain and glory of PhD degree: do you and the society need it?
Science area (Teadusala)

The movement March For Science started in 2017 indicates that science aims for more impact in society. Is the role of PhD degree also changing? What are the risks and gains of PhD degree in Estonia? These questions will be discussed with the professionals representing different views. We will inform the audience about PhD studies, possible carrier choices and the current drawbacks of science funding system aiming. We aim to come up with the new ideas improving perspectives of the doctorates.
Moderator: Dr Martin Aher
Participants: Prof. Andres Taklaja (CEO of OÜ Rantelon, private sector member), Prof. Anne Kahru (professor at National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics – independent research institute), Prof. Erkki Truve (former vice-rector of Tallinn University of Technology), Dr. Ulla Preeden (Rector of Tartu Health Care College and politician)
Organiser: National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics
Category: Education

14:45-16:15
Under the palm tree
Inclusive Society area (Kaasava ühiskonna ala)

Under the palm tree”  Palm oil is one of the most used and consumed vegetable oils that is found in approximately 40-50% of household products and fuel in many developed countries including Estonia. Palm oil can be present in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste. The truth, however, is that palm oil industry is linked to issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced. Let’s talk about the real life under the palm tree but also let’s look at the solutions: how can we make good palm oil? How can we produce, supply and consume without damaging the environment and abusing people’s rights? What is the role of the producers? What can Estonian supermarkets do? With the stories, facts, research and practices from Finland and Estonia, we will engage the participants to think about their choices and consumption patterns to reduce poverty and contribute to economic sustainability also for the farmers and producers in the Global South. The discussion takes place within a pan-European project “Supply Cha!nge. Let’s Make Supermarkets Fair” that is funded by the European Commission and the Republic of Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs development and humanitarian aid resources. The contents of the discussion are the sole responsibility of NGO Mondo and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
Moderator: Kristina Mänd (NGO Mondo)
Participants: Anu Kultalahti (researcher in the Finnish NGO Finnwatch), Märt Miljan (co-founder of Estonian cosmetics producer Lumi) and Kaire Roosi (Meal Category Group Manager from Rimi supermarket chain)
Organiser: NGO Mondo
Category: Category: Living environment

18.00-19.30
Youth Democracy Theatre
Participatory Democracy area (Osalusdemokraatia ala)

In cooperation with NGO Forum Theatre in Estonia, the Danish documentary theatre C:NTACT and NGO Palidzesim from Latvia the Danish Cultural Institute in EST, LV and LT presents a youth theatre production on democracy at Opinion Festival 2017.
The performance engages youngsters from Estonia, Latvia and Denmark in a joint performance with a point of departure in the young people’s experiences of democracy in everyday life and the society they wish for in their future. Enjoy the performance and take part in the discussion afterwards: How does YOUR democratic society look like and where do YOU take part?
Moderator: Didzis Jonovs
Participants: Youngsters from Estonia, Latvia and Denmark
Organiser: The Danish Cultural Institute in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

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Why I’m investing about 200 hours yearly into volunteering https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/im-investing-200-hours-yearly-volunteering/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/im-investing-200-hours-yearly-volunteering/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 07:20:47 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=13296 Maarit Cimolonskas Employee experience @Bigbank, volunteer @Arvamusfestival Some time ago, we hosted a workshop in our office where about 20 people joined from the Government Office of Estonia, European Innovation Academy, Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, the digital agency Optimist Digital, Estonian Ministry of the Interior, Estonian Green Movement, an educational independent body Archimedes, Estonian Patients Association and some other organisations. All of these people

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Maarit Cimolonskas
Employee experience @Bigbank, volunteer @Arvamusfestival

Some time ago, we hosted a workshop in our office where about 20 people joined from the Government Office of EstoniaEuropean Innovation AcademyEstonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, the digital agency Optimist DigitalEstonian Ministry of the InteriorEstonian Green Movement, an educational independent body ArchimedesEstonian Patients Association and some other organisations.

All of these people are among the organisers of the Opinion festival. Together, we had a communications and marketing workshop since they are leading the communication initiatives for the upcoming 5th Opinion Festival in Estonia.

Opinion what?

Once a year, on the second weekend in August, a tiny city in Estonia called Paide changes into a festival ground which brings about 10,000 people together. It’s not a regular festival but one of a kind, called the Opinion Festival — https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/. It provides an open platform for alert and active people who can discuss issues which are important to them and relevant topics on society. We call it a self-evolving community-wide festival open to everyone.

‘Community-wide’ means that the festival welcomes representatives and interest groups from all walks of life. ‘Self-evolving’ refers to organisations and associations bringing issues to the table with using their own resources. ‘Open to everyone’ means that anyone interested in sharing his or her ideas is welcome to take part. It also means that the festival is free of charge for participants.

What it means in reality is that during those two days in Paide, more than 170 discussions will be held. Think of it as organising 170 internal trainings.

Different NGOs, public & private organisations come together, think and work together to make all of these discussions happen. Everyone in Estonia can propose topics they would like to discuss about and the preparation phase starts from February already. The festival happens for the fifth time this year, and we have more and more experienced organisations, who think beyond panel discussions and are eager to engage the audience through various fun, weird, serious, difficult and completely out-of-box-like methods.

Another thing, we neither think nor talk of the festival audience but the discourse has evolved into festival participants. The people who attend are participating more and more and have given feedback that this is how they want it to be as well. People join the Opinion Festival to exchange opinions, gain new knowledge and fresh ideas, meet new people and enjoy the vibe. Below is a little example of how it all comes together with hundreds of volunteers.

What’s in it for me

I have been a volunteer since 2002, so I like to call myself a senior volunteer already. Back in high school it just started out as a way to attend to events I didn’t have money to attend otherwise. I used to volunteer for years for the Black Nights Film festival PÖFF and for the yearly jazz music festival Jazzkaar. The tickets were expensive and my family didn’t have the means to send me on concert after concert, so I found another way.

Years went by and I started getting knowledge in other topics than smiling and checking the tickets, so while at my Erasmus year in Paris, I helped to organise a summer theatre festival. Later, back in Estonia, I decided to put my social media skills into practice and helped out a Pelgulinna maternity hospital’s support foundation in their social media marketing.

After some time in Bigbank with internal communications, I decided that it’s time to put the skills I have learned here, into practice somewhere else too. This is how I ended up with the Opinion festival last year, helping their team of about 300 people with managing internal communications.

I was just thinking the other day, that voting is very natural for me, but I want to do more. I want to feel good about myself that I have taken steps to improve the Estonian society. Today, I can’t be sure that something changes because of it, but I’m at least trying and might see the results in the future.

Thus, being a volunteer is a question of mindset for me. If I have something to share and I see that there is a place that needs it, then why not to share it?

I gave an interview once about being a volunteer and the first question I was asked was: “Why don’t you ask money for sharing your knowledge?”. Well, I don’t believe in asking money about everything you have. By sharing, you are actually learning and this way the learning never stops.

I have developed so much because of these broad experiences with different people from different fields, with different knowledge and experiences. I decided that while volunteering at the Opinion festival, I would like to change the field annually. So last year I was dealing with coaching the team leaders and sharing information to all volunteers last year. This year, I’m helping to curate three areas at the festival, which means I dig deeper with the organisations who organise these discussions:

  • The area of science which tackles on topics like Industry 4.0, biologic city, the role of future technologies in improving societies and other cool stuff
  • The area of prejudices which covers topics like why don’t people dance in the church, why Estonians are afraid of feminism, if the soviet people have space in Estonia and other cool stuff
  • The area of Müürileht and Vikerkaar which broadens minds about if there is life after capitalism, the Estonian protest culture, what is the Estonian conservative culture about and other cool stuff

I feel how dealing with the people, the organisations, the topics I’m regularly not dealing with really broadens my mindset. This is my goal, I love it and it’s fun too!

Other similar festivals around Europe

Actually, the Opinion Festival was inspired by the 49-year-old Almedalsveckan festival in Sweden, as well as other similar events in Finland, Norway and Denmark and was held for the first time in Estonia in 2013. We, in turn, have inspired Latvia too, who organised a similar festival this year for the third time this year. Below is a little guide about these festivals around Northern Europe.

Folkemødet — Denmark

Danish Folkemødet started in 2011 with a goal to strengthen democracy and dialogue in Denmark, and soon became one of the landmark events in Danish society. Over the last six years, the number of events and participants has grown by more than ten times. Last year’s festival featured 3000 events and gathered 100 000 participants, and this is not the limit. This year, it happened on June 15–18.

Lampa – Latvia

LAMPA (Sarunu festivāls LAMPA) is organised in the picturesque city of Cesis since 2015. LAMPA celebrates democratic culture and calls for active citizenship. It is a place to broaden one’s mind in an ever-changing world. This year it took place on June 30-July 1.

Arendalsuka — Norway

Arendalsuka is organised since 2012 and has so far been a huge and it is considered as the most important meeting place between leaders in politics and business, the media and the public. This forum strengthens the belief in poltical debate. This year it will take place on August 14–19.

Almedalen — Sweden

The history of Almedalen goes back to 1968, when the Swedish politician Olof Palme held speeches in Almedalen during the summertime. The first official Almedalen Week took place in 1982. With over 30 000 participants, this has now grown to one of the most important forums in Sweden to debate and discuss on current social issues. This year it took place on July 02–09.

SuomiAreena — Finland

SuomiAreena week in Pori started back in 2006 and now welcomes about 60 000 participants to discuss on politics, society, culture and sports. This year it took place on July 10–14. http://suomiareena.fi/in-english (you can find the video on the link)

Fundur fólksins — Iceland

Held since 2015, Fundur fólksins brings together people who wish to discuss issues of society and ensures that all voices are heard. This year it will take place on September 8–9.

For now, I invite you all to check the Opinion festival out on August 11–12 — just come with an open mind and see where it takes you!

Check here to see all discussions held in English: https://www.facebook.com/events/1759788734318427

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This year’s Opinion Festival will ask whether there could be dancing at church https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/years-opinion-festival-will-ask-whether-dancing-church/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/years-opinion-festival-will-ask-whether-dancing-church/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 03:00:05 +0000 https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=12842 The 162 discussions taking place at this summer’s Opinion Festival range in topic from the digital revolution (or the inability to keep up with it) to radicalization. As befits a year dedicated to celebrating children’s and youth culture in Estonia, a selection of discussions at the Festival will also be organized by children. The full

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The 162 discussions taking place at this summer’s Opinion Festival range in topic from the digital revolution (or the inability to keep up with it) to radicalization. As befits a year dedicated to celebrating children’s and youth culture in Estonia, a selection of discussions at the Festival will also be organized by children. The full programme is available on our website from today onwards.

Ott Karulin, head organizer of the Opinion Festival, explains that the range of discussions reflects the current prevailing mood in society and tackles some of the year’s most important societal changes. For instance, the consequences of the administrative reform and any opportunities it brings for further cooperation will be up for discussion at the Periphery Area, while the European Area will examine the future of the European Union and NATO and Estonia’s options as a member of both. Following feedback from previous years, there will be fewer discussions and themed areas at this year’s event. In total, there will be 25 different themed areas where, over two days, the more than 500 invited participants will be given a platform to speak.

Opinion Festival 2016. Photo author: Anna Markova

According to Karulin, participants will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding topics to pique their interest — discussions will touch upon a broad range of subjects, from health to stereotypes to social innovation. “In addition to topical issues, there will be no shortage of timeless, ethical questions to explore. This year will also raise some slightly more provocative questions – for example, why could there not be dancing at church when singing and music are seen as artistic expression and therefore permitted? Or whether elderly women should be applauded for reaching an old age or be scorned instead,” notes Karulin. He adds that the programme also includes topics that still tend to be seen as taboo in society — one such discussions is “12 years old and consuming porn — whose concern and responsibility?”.

For the first time in its history, the Festival will have a children’s area where students from Years 5 to 7 will together organize eight discussions. The discussions they have in store will focus not just on issues like children’s happiness (at school) or ways to spend spare time more actively but also questions like environmental protection or addiction to the virtual world. To help find solutions, they plan to invite external participants such as scientists and young athletes to speak, but participants in the discussions will, of course, also include young people themselves.

Explore the programme here: www.arvamusfestival.ee/kava

The Opinion Festival programme has been created as a result of a public call for ideas and is a place where people can exchange thoughts about the social order, gain fresh ideas and acquire new knowledge. Taking place for the fifth year running, this year’s Festival will be from 11 to 12 August in Paide. The Hiiumaa [pre-]opinion festival will take place on 10 June in Suursadama and the Southeastern Estonia festival on 14 July at the Estonian Road Museum.

The Opinion Festival is supported by Paide Town Government, the Union of Järvamaa Regional Governments, Swedbank, the Representation of the European Commission in Estonia, the National Foundation of Civil Society, the Information Office of the European Parliament, the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, SpeakSmart and many others. One of the themed areas at the Festival is sponsored by the Archimedes Foundation and the Center for Applied Anthropology of Estonia.

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Opinion Festival Through the Eyes of a Foreign Journalist https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/opinion-festival-eyes-foreign-journalist/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/opinion-festival-eyes-foreign-journalist/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 16:40:45 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=12012 Tunisian Journalist Adnen Chaouachi glanced upon Paide and this year’s Opinion Festival through the tiny screen of his iPhone. Take a look at what Chaouachi got to experience!

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Tunisian Journalist Adnen Chaouachi glanced upon Paide and this year’s Opinion Festival through the tiny screen of his iPhone. Take a look at what Chaouachi got to experience!

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Ask Not What Your Country… https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/foreigners-csr/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/foreigners-csr/#respond Sat, 13 Aug 2016 15:46:33 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11889 Estonia is in an interesting place at the moment, seen increasingly as a great spot in which to do business, and as such accommodating increasing numbers of international workers. This, and Estonia’s corporate social responsibility agenda, were covered in two entertaining and informative English-language talks at the Opinion Festival. The growing number of Erasmus courses

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Estonia is in an interesting place at the moment, seen increasingly as a great spot in which to do business, and as such accommodating increasing numbers of international workers. This, and Estonia’s corporate social responsibility agenda, were covered in two entertaining and informative English-language talks at the Opinion Festival.

The growing number of Erasmus courses offered by Estonian universities is also helping to change the complexion of Estonia. How are foreigners finding life in Estonia, and how good are relations with local people? This was one of the questions considered by the talk on Saturday, ‘Do Non-Native Residents Feel Like Hosts or Guests?’, presented by Estonian World and the Estonia 100 Celebration team.

The panel was moderated by Stewart Johnson, an American long-time Tartu resident who is also one of the stalwarts of English stand-up comedy troupe Comedy Estonia. He raised a point which seemed to elicit several different answers from different people, about the supposed need for children born with two passports to choose if they wish to keep their Estonian passport or another one at the age of 18.

Although Johnson, the guests and the audience discussed the constitutional need for a child to choose, the Estonian state is prevented from taking away a passport, which, if taken literally, means that if an 18 year-old makes no decision, he or she keeps both passports. It was an intriguing point, and one that perhaps ought to be clarified now that more and more children are being born to one Estonian and one foreign parent.

Otherwise, the talk was mostly about cultural difference, race, and understanding of others. There was a discussion of what needs to be done to make foreigners feel more welcome in the cities in which they have settled, with Joao Rey, a Portuguese living in Tallinn, making the point that there appear to be far fewer negative incidents related to a person’s race or nationality in the capital than in a city like Tartu, for example.

Although most of the panellists spoke of at least one racist incident, the talk was generally framed in a positive way, with Johnson, a fluent Estonian-speaker who sometimes performs his comedy acts in the language, closing by reassuring the audience that he and the panel understood the need for Estonian language learning in order for a person to contribute fully to society.

Another English-language talk followed, down in the centre of Paide. ‘Whose Business is Social Responsibility?’ was moderated by Mart Soonik, with contributions from Kristiina Esop, Annika Migur, civil servant Liisa Oviir and outgoing British Ambassador to Estonia Chris Holtby. Ambassador Holtby has only nine days to go on his posting in Estonia, but can be said to have made huge steps to influence positively the international perception of Estonia.

Asked about the challenges of giving his staff a corporate social responsibility requirement, Holtby said how he had made it a requirement in staff’s annual review that they complete a CSR task. He experienced some push-back to that requirement at first, but according to the Ambassador, the response after staff completed tasks in the local community was overwhelmingly positive. He also talked about how there are plans in the Estonian government to axe the need for supermarkets to pay tax if they give away more than 3% of their stock for free. Rimi was alone among Estonian supermarkets in having given away stock to soup kitchens in spite of having to pay tax on it.

There was also discussion of the gender pay gap. Currently recruiters are not required by Estonian law to list a salary in job advertisements, meaning interviewees usually need to name their salary. There is some evidence that women generally ask for a lower salary than men would in the same situation. In response to an audience suggestion that the requirement by law for a listing of salary in the advert might close the largest gender pay-gap in the European Union, Oviir said, “yes, we did suggest it, but we have a coalition government, so it’s not currently an option. We hope it will be back on the table after the next election.”

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Motherhood – burden or privilege? https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/motherhood-burden-privilege/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/motherhood-burden-privilege/#respond Sat, 13 Aug 2016 14:25:35 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11797 There are moments when debate feels like luxury. Nowhere did this seem to be more the case than when sat on a bunch of haystacks-turned-sofas in the afternoon sun in Paide, listening to a discussion on motherhood across the world. Considering that in many countries there is still little choice or discussion about whether to

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Photo: Kärt Vajakas

There are moments when debate feels like luxury. Nowhere did this seem to be more the case than when sat on a bunch of haystacks-turned-sofas in the afternoon sun in Paide, listening to a discussion on motherhood across the world. Considering that in many countries there is still little choice or discussion about whether to be or not be a mother, the NGO Mondo-organised panel felt almost outer-worldly.

Why is motherhood, experienced by nearly half of the world’s population at some point in their lives, still a contested issue? How do concepts of maternity differ from culture to culture? Could a globally-minded approach to motherhood be key to solving other global development issues?

The debate, entitled “Motherhood: a burden or a privilege?”, saw speakers from Afganistan, Finland, Somalia and Norway try to crack how to make motherhood a more fulfilling experience across cultures.

While there were no Estonian speakers in the panel, it felt highly timely to listen to a debate on motherhood at a time when the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs is proposing an elongated parenthood leave, stretching the current period of 1,5 years to 3 years. This is a world removed from the discussion’s opening remarks by Zahra Akbari, an Afghan midwife now living in Estonia. Akbari, who has delivered 6000 babies into the world, noted that in a country torn by war and conflict, any desire to become a mother is always shaded by the constant fear for safety. In such an unstable environment, questions of family planning simply cannot exist in a way similar to the Nordics or even Estonia.

The above thought was later built upon by Wali Hashi, a Finnish-Somalian journalist, suggesting that differences in political and economic system of a country determine motherhood more than any specific cultural beliefs. Even so, cultural relativity must remain part of the discussion in global development goals around motherhood. As noted by Gro Lindstad, heading the Norway-based FOKUS (Forum for Women and Development), actions to ensure sexual reproduction rights on a global scale are tied up with post-colonialism and can face lash-back if Western values are imposed too rigidly.   

Increasing women’s economic self-sufficiency is at the heart of giving women the choice to become, or not to become, mothers. The panelists scrutinised the Bangladesh micro-loan example which has allowed more women to make their own living. As a result, fertility figures in the country, once among the highest in the world, have dropped rapidly. Could a social innovation scheme across developing economies be part of a solution?

It is easy to invent master plans for world peace and equality, but implementation can be tricky. Tapping into the problematic of global ambitions and local realities, I was struck by one question by an audience member: ”How to develop a global solution rather than localised solutions?”. For Lindstad, this is something addressed in the UN’s seven new sustainable development goals. Rather than placing responsibility on certain developed economies, tainted by the spectre of post-colonialism, Lindstad opined the new goals mean that “all of us are accountable.” As for an integrated solution, comprehensive sexual education across cultures could be the answer.

Yet, as with any debate, and particularly with global development, there are no easy answers. Zainab Homam from the London-based organisation Afghan Action stressed the difficulty of bringing sexual education to her country of origin Afganistan, which could take many years before it is publicly accepted. Instead, she suggested that the emphasis should be on individual parents, rather than state or global organisations, who can teach their children about reproduction in accordance with social mores. 

But there is a global medium already shaping understandings about motherhood: social media. An increasing part of the global population now has access to mobile phones, and this number is only set to rise, particularly across developing economies. Is this what will make motherhood into a more uniform experience globally? While I ultimately remain sceptical on whether social media is the saving grace, it may indeed alleviate some of the issues around cross-cultural sexual education. Thinking about motherhood on a prickly haystack in Paide was great, but we need new versatile mediums to truly make this into a global conversation.

The panel was sponsored by the Nordic Embassies in Estonia.

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World Peace Just Happened https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/world-peace-just-happened/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/world-peace-just-happened/#respond Sat, 13 Aug 2016 11:10:18 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11851 ‘What Can We Do For World Peace?’ is possibly the biggest question on the planet, and at the Opinion Festival on Saturday morning, an intrepid group of academics, educators and activists attempted to answer it. Although it is fair to say that, over the course of 90 minutes, it was not possible to reach a

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‘What Can We Do For World Peace?’ is possibly the biggest question on the planet, and at the Opinion Festival on Saturday morning, an intrepid group of academics, educators and activists attempted to answer it.

Although it is fair to say that, over the course of 90 minutes, it was not possible to reach a consensus on how to achieve world peace, or even if it is possible, the most interesting part of the discussion was, as is often the case in such theoretical talks, the individual stories of the speakers.

Piet Boerefijn is the Director of the Estonian Food Bank, which has set up food relief in towns and cities all over Estonia to help the people who cannot afford to feed their families. However, at first, this was not a personal mission of his – the Dutchman came to Estonia shortly after the restoration of independence for a totally different reason.

“When I first came, it wasn’t with the idea of helping Estonia. Actually, I read ‘The Czar’s Madman’ by Jaan Kross and wanted to see the house from that book, a manor house close to Põltsamaa. The manor had a big wall around it, and a small fence. I looked through the fence, and it came out that the house had been turned into a home for mentally-disturbed people. It was like a zoo, it was awful inside, it was 1992 or 1993.”

“I thought it would be revolutionary if only someone could bring some new beds, or install some extra toilets. We took some mattresses from hospitals in the Netherlands for free.” Estonia was a far different country to the one that foreigners in 2016 experience, Boerefijn explained. “At that time Estonia was extremely poor. It was still the Soviet Army there. Often they would get their salary in roubles, not the Estonian kroon, and that meant they couldn’t buy anything. So what did they do? They sold their weapons, so you could buy your weapons from the Russian Army in Estonia.”The recollections of Ekke Nõmm, Director of the Estonian School of Diplomacy, were, as you might expect, more moderated and mild. Nõmm, a fuzzy-haired man who seems permanently calm, talked about his experiences running a private university that receives international funding to train global diplomats.

Nõmm believes that accord can be found between people of most nationalities if they can learn to relate to each other on a personal level. “After a year [studying together], they’re friends, they understand each other better.” There are still tensions, mostly due to pressure from the students’ parent countries. “There was one group, with whom we went for a discussion in Kadriorg with the President. We had a photo taken with the him, and I arranged it that on one side were two Armenian women, on the other two Azeri men.”

“We had the photos taken, it all went well, we went back to school, and then after an hour, the Azeris called me and said, ‘please don’t use this photo in a professional capacity,’ because it might mean trouble for them. They were worried about going back to Baku, and their superiors perhaps saying, ‘you’re becoming too friendsly with the Armenians.’ So this shows the divisions that are there, but by bringing these people together I think we can somehow do something for world peace.”

In attempting to explain the still-existent divisions between first-language Estonian- and Russian-speakers in Estonia, Nõmm had a theory. “A lot of this had to do with the fact that the Russians in Estonia had to do a tremendous mental switch, from being masters of the universe, rulers of the empire, and from there, they had to change to a minority in a small country. I agree that Estonians are typically quiet and modest, and Russians are more outgoing. I suppose a Russian by nature would expect a friend to be outgoing, but Estonians aren’t like that in their nature. So when Estonians say, ‘ok, learn the language, do your job, and we’ll all be happy,’ because embracing and hugging is not in their nature, Russians might interpret it as unwelcoming. Also, the fact that the Russians live in their own media-sphere: I would consider that to be the greatest problem.”

Liga Rudzite is a Marie Curie Fellow at the Tallinn School of Economics and Business Administration, Tallinn University of Technology, and media falls into her research. She said it is not only Russian media that is biased. “I think we are biased – even our free media. We speak about Latvia always on Latvian terms, and if I were a Russian of course I wouldn’t use Latvian media because I would use what spoke more personally to me.”

Discussions continued, with world peace still some way off at the time of writing.

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How to prepare for a robot attack (on work) https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/prepare-robot-attack-work/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/prepare-robot-attack-work/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 17:28:40 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11673 Robots are advancing and they are hungry for our jobs. While the narrative of man vs. machine is centuries-old, the advent of artificial intelligence has made it trendy to talk about work again and picture how it will look in the future — or if work will exist at all. Little surprise, then, that one of the first discussions of this year’s Opinion Festival, exploring attitudes

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Photo: Anna Markova

Robots are advancing and they are hungry for our jobs. While the narrative of man vs. machine is centuries-old, the advent of artificial intelligence has made it trendy to talk about work again and picture how it will look in the future — or if work will exist at all.

Little surprise, then, that one of the first discussions of this year’s Opinion Festival, exploring attitudes towards employment in Estonia, would attract a huge crowd. The discussion, moderated by Urmas Vaino, saw a panel of four explore a wide spectrum of issues related to work now and in the future, youth unemployment, responsibility, automatisation, and rural development as intrinsically tied up with employment.

As much as the daily drudgery (or joy) of work can feel like a constant, the way we work and think about work is ever evolving. This inevitability of change was acknowledged straight away, with the panelists offering their take on the biggest change in employment over the last thirty years. Needless to say, this has been a period of phenomenal change in Estonia as the country went from communism to full-blown capitalism following the restoration of independence. According to Toomas Tansar, head of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, work used to be perceived as something singular, something everyone had to do no matter what. Attitudes towards work are now far more diverse, with more and more people deciding just how and how much they want to work. But with more flexibility comes more responsibility.

One train of thought running through the whole discussion is the need to prepare society and individuals for the changing landscape of work. Jevgeni Ossinovski, Estonia’s Minister of Health and Labour, argued that change is neither good nor bad, but boils down to society’s level of preparation. The introduction of self-service machines to supermarkets, for example, is part of the process of automatisation, and can ultimately free up citizens to do more creative, more fulfilling jobs. “A person’s work life ought to be fruitful and offer satisfaction to those who work,” suggested Ossinovski.

For Peep Peterson, who represents trade unions, this responsibility to prepare and reconsider is not merely societal but personal. It is “essential to rewire yourself” and be agile. However, Peterson stressed that the choice where and how to work remains a privilege for certain fractions of society. On the flip side of privilege is what Meelis Paavel, manager of Eesti Töötukassa, suggests is a more “fun”-centric approach to work, particularly among younger people entering the workforce. Paavel has increasingly encountered the attitude whereby “work should not interfere with life”, that is, workers desire less dependability on their employers and crave more freedom.

This desire for freedom and flexibility sits uneasily with Estonia’s youth unemployment: currently 39,000 young people neither work nor study. Low-paid jobs remain vacant while, as Ossinovski pointed out, the interest to work even summer jobs is on the wane. If the education system does not ramp up entrepreneurial education or vocational learning that does not ignore the looming spectre of automation, it is not nurturing the employees future economic models will desperately need. This situation intensifies in rural areas where opportunities are more sparse. Toomas Tansar argued that rather than forcing industry and vocations to rural areas, rethinking workforce mobility to urban hubs could be the solution.

Tansar also urged a poignant word of caution when acting on the changing face of work, either as state or employer. The transition to a smart, knowledge-based economic system cannot simply be willed into existence: “Let’s just do away with easy jobs and then somehow, more of those smart jobs will follow. But where will they come from?” This question, in essence global, needs to co-exist with more local and transient considerations, such as battling unemployment in former industrial powerhouses such as Ida-Virumaa or youth demotivation. 

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Aarhus is a Very Fine House: Why be Nordic? https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/why-be-nordic/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/why-be-nordic/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 16:35:31 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11722 Why do so many countries want to be like Nordic countries? Are they really as “happy” as they seem? Can Estonia ever be a Nordic country? These were some of the questions considered by the panel at the Opinion Festival’s talk, ‘How Strong Are the Nordic Countries? Strong Enough to Be Happy?!’ (punctuation as written

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Why do so many countries want to be like Nordic countries? Are they really as “happy” as they seem? Can Estonia ever be a Nordic country? These were some of the questions considered by the panel at the Opinion Festival’s talk, ‘How Strong Are the Nordic Countries? Strong Enough to Be Happy?!’ (punctuation as written in the brochure) which took place on Friday afternoon and was organised in association with the Norden Nordic Council of Ministers.

Helen Russell is a freelance journalist whose book, Living Danishly, describes the many social and cultural adaptations that have to be made by a British immigrant to the place ranked by the United Nations as the happiest in the world. Moderator Villu Arak asked why there was such an appetite in Denmark for dark, noirish crime fiction. Russell replied that it was possibly because life was comfortable enough to want to read or see a struggle. “There’s definitely something to be said for taking things for granted.” She then turned to the topic of what makes Denmark special to international workers.

“I speak to a lot of businesses who are trying to attract more international talent. The kind of international talent that would be drawn to Scandinavia are the more liberal people on the left, who don’t mind paying such high taxes. What’s special about Scandinavia is this welfare state, is this equality. It’s about recognising that, and preserving it a bit more, and not taking it for granted, whilst also trying to celebrate diversity. In a typically-homogeneous country such as Denmark, and also Norway and Sweden, it’s about trying to welcome in new people, and realising that could be a good thing.”

Joar Vitterso is a Psychology professor from the University of Tromso in Norway. He cautioned against expecting all nations to join a neoliberal consensus based on the European austerity-driven model. What he said could be considered a message to Estonia, seen by some as a kind of test-bed for Friedman School economics. “I’m very sceptical when people say the development forces us to replace something that is working well with something that is working not so well. Why is that? Why should we accept that development means pensions go down, that unhealthy [unwell] people don’t get the treatment they used to get?”

“The next generation is the first for hundreds of years that has fewer prospects than their parents had. Why must we accept that this has to happen because of development? For me, development is something that gets better, and I can’t accept these people who say ‘this can’t go on because so and so.'”

Third panellist Bengt Lindroth, a Swedish author and musician, was concerned that Sweden look now at the kind of society it wants in the future. This is a country whose most famous modern citizen is footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who came to the country with his Bosnian/Croatian family as a youngster, and it could be argued ‘Ibra’ has changed forever the perception of a Swede. “Sweden is, I think, the only country with a paragraph in its constitution saying the country should aim to become a multicultural society. We need to think what that means, today, in practice, and what policies should be enacted. That is a very important question for Sweden to handle today.”

Vitterso voiced his hopes for the future of the Nordic nations and their neighbours. “I like utopias, because they’re irresponsible, and just throw out ideas and say, ‘hey, isn’t this a good way of living?’ I hope in ten years we will talk more about things that matter, like good lives and good societies. I hope we will have developed a better way of talking about what we want, and not just measuring it in terms of economies, but what we really want our kids to experience in this society. I hope that governments will take the pursuit of a good life seriously enough to discuss it every day.”

Russell said she was happy to see sustainability taught in Danish schools. “Aarhus is the European Capital of Culture next year, and they’re running a campaign about sustainability in childcare and schools and what a difference that could make. However, she noticed that although Denmark is commonly felt to be such a contented nation, there were many users of antidepressants – Denmark is felt by some measures to be among the highest users of ‘happy pills’ in the world.

“I thought, ‘how can you be the happiest nation, with such high antidepressant use?’ I have spoken to many Danes about this, and I think because they expect Arbejdsglæde, which means happiness at work; if they’re not getting it, they do something about it. There’s a lot of stress leave, and doctors are very receptive, if someone says they’re not feeling great, antidepressants are handed out fairly liberally, from my experience in my research. In the UK and US there’s a culture of soldiering on, for fear that any admission of weakness will impact negatively on your career.”

Although there seems a darkness below the Danish facade of complete contentment, it could be said that the high rates of cancer in the country were, in some way, due to happiness, according to Russell. “Danes are libertarians, they love to eat pork, eat ice cream and smoke – sometimes all at the same time. All around me I see people having a hoot – perhaps not looking so good, but knowing the system is there to help them.”

The last word went to Estonia’s Swedish Ambassador, Anders Ljunggren, who was in the audience. He had an opinion on one of the most popular questions of the day, why some countries are considered ‘Nordic’ and others  are not. His words may not go down well with Estonians. “Being here in Estonia, I should say that Finland was successful, they made very big sacrifices, they kept their freedom during the Second World War, they had the ability to choose to be a Nordic country, and they were welcomed.”

“That’s also the situation today. You have to wish to be a Nordic country, you have to fulfil some criteria, with geography and so on, and you have to be welcomed. The political construction [of Norden] is not forever – it depends on the will of the people in Norden and the neighbouring countries.” It could be said that Estonia has already made more than enough sacrifices. Maybe now is the time for some international recognition of them.

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Here’s How to Give Everyone a Say in Estonia https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/heres-give-everyone-say-estonia/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/heres-give-everyone-say-estonia/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 12:13:32 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11650 The official Opinion Festival brochure says that when we think of the Netherlands we think of tulips and windmills, but for others, the Low Country means philosophical footballers, excellent flood defences and a – cough – liberal attitude towards what someone may or may not be smoking. But there is a tradition of this small

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The official Opinion Festival brochure says that when we think of the Netherlands we think of tulips and windmills, but for others, the Low Country means philosophical footballers, excellent flood defences and a – cough – liberal attitude towards what someone may or may not be smoking. But there is a tradition of this small nation, which was once a merchant shipping hub for the world, exporting new solutions to civic and political problems, and it was one way of doing so, the polder model, which was discussed on Friday afternoon in the talk “How to Make Consensus-Based Decisions: Dutch Polder Brunch”.

According to Wikipedia, “the polder model is consensus decision-making, based on the acclaimed Dutch version of consensus-based economic and social policy making in the 1980s and 1990s.” Wim Kok, who was Dutch Prime Minister during the economic boom-time of 1994 to 2002, supported the polder model, or his version of it, as a way of ensuring that all voices be heard in a process of decision-making.

Things have changed, some would say for the worse, since Kok’s time at the head of his government. The far right is building its share of the vote in the Netherlands, Estonia and many other parts of Europe, and the idea that consensus can be found on any issue just by talking it over now seems less of a certainty than it once was.

Peter Kentie, a Dutchman from Rotterdam living at the moment in Tallinn, talked about the rebranding of Estonia, with Visit Estonia now using slogans like “ESTonishing”, alongside a new logo. “It’s not about the logo, it’s about passions. You can’t have it that someone from the ministry comes to someone and gives someone the task to do the design, the ministry should team up with the stakeholders in Estonia, and together create the brief and together be responsible for the result.”

Sometimes, Kentie argued, it matters how people collaborate, not just who collaborates. “If the person giving the brief is sitting next to you, rather than just being the one who gives the money, that makes the difference. It’s better to have that discussion in the room, than in a newspaper.”

When asked by moderator Annika Uudelepp how he would attract Asian, or international, talent in greater numbers to Estonia, Kentie said that perhaps the problem should be viewed differently. “I think maybe, as a first priority, talent should not be coming, maybe the priority should be exporting to the rest of the world.”

“There are qualities here that aren’t yet fully-known to other countries. You really have to communicate those qualities to the rest of the world. If you do that, then maybe people [in other countries] will think ‘I can contribute something there in the future.’ The ‘Skype Mafia’ shows that you have all these young people who use the digital world in a disruptive way, and that’s the important thing, to disrupt. If others go left, you should go right, and if you get that mentality right, people will come to you. You have to first tell the world you’re really open to that, and communicate to the rest of the world that you’re there.”

One example of increased civic activism in Estonia has been evident over the proposed development of Kalarand in Tallinn. Local groups ensured that they had a say in the planning of a new development on the promenade, and ensured the current beach would remain in place, but only after the developers, with the apparent backing of local government for their building plans, tried to sue a local activist to bring in a gagging order.

“In the Netherlands,” said panellist and Dutch Ambassador to Estonia Jos Schellaars, “we also have property developers who are very keen on acquiring areas on which they can build. But then there is a process of permission. Even after the permission is given, I think in the Netherlands protesters have a louder voice. The discussion process, I think, is much longer. Voices are louder and better-heard.”

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Is Debate A Luxury That We Can’t Afford? https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/debate-luxury-cant-afford/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/debate-luxury-cant-afford/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 07:58:51 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11628 The Opinion Festival has, as one of its aims, to create an atmosphere that is good for open discussion, but how much do we actually want, or need this? Is this kind of debate a peacetime luxury, in a time when it often feels like war, or at least some bigger conflict, is pending? During the

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The Opinion Festival has, as one of its aims, to create an atmosphere that is good for open discussion, but how much do we actually want, or need this? Is this kind of debate a peacetime luxury, in a time when it often feels like war, or at least some bigger conflict, is pending?

During the aftermath of the recent referendum that saw Britain vote to leave the European Union, there was a lot of discussion about the different choices faced by the UK and the rest of Europe in the future. The vote, which took most of the political elite by surprise and was greeted with a sense of joy by some and impending doom by others, threw individuals and political parties into a period of extended soul-searching, from which they have not yet emerged.

What was particularly interesting was what it meant for the future of debate. We take it for granted today that we will be given time and space to discuss openly solutions to problems. However there is a growing feeling that the way in which we conduct debate is changing. The Donald Trump campaign in the United States, the refugee crisis in Europe, and discussions on how many displaced people Estonia will take, have all been conducted in an increasingly bellicose manner. The manner of debate seems to be similar to that shown in this video (apologies for linking to an RT post, but it shows what I mean).

This all begs the question, although many of us like to philosophise about the best way of organising ourselves, does this mean that modern culture and government can do so? We have seen, with the acceptance of political “spin” as a necessary tool for most governments, distrust in elites rise. This appears to be at least part of the reason for the rise of Trump, and for Brexit. It’s created a situation where it doesn’t take many points in a conversation on something like Twitter, for example, for one side or both sides to start exhibiting anger.

Essentially, a Twitter conversation in 2016 goes like this:

  • Person One: I’m being deliberately provocative, but I’m obviously right, because the person in [this link] agrees with me.
  • Person Two: Really? I don’t agree with all of what you just said. Here is another [link] that I feel proves my argument is right.
  • Person One: What gives you the right to argue against my point? Check your privilege. You must be a misogynist, or a conservative, or most likely both.
  • Person Two: I have every right to exist in this world, but you are the whole reason why the global system is going down the toilet. And you’re ugly.
At some point, perhaps during the Brexit referendum, or the refugee crisis, or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the discussion over the need for a Ghostbusters reboot, it seems we forgot how to find consensus. A talking head recently floated the idea that David Bowie held the secret of the universe, and that this explained why many things had seemingly gone downhill since his death. And yet surely can’t have only been the presence in the world of David Bowie that was holding opinion culture together – it must be within us to rediscover the art of compromise.

The Opinion Festival can at times seem endearingly old-school, like a non-threatening meeting of minds that could not happen outside the comforting town boundaries of Paide. Can we learn a better, more civilised, way of arguing while we’re here? Is it possible, in a time when opinions are often weaponised and used as propaganda, for neutrality to exist, or at least for people to come to a discussion and then make up their minds, rather than beforehand? Is the Opinion Festival serving a useful purpose by opening up so many different views, and bringing together many people who would, in an increasingly-polarised atmosphere, often choose not to meet? Or is debate a peacetime luxury, which we cannot countenance now we need to “lock and load,” as the man says in the linked video rant?

It won’t surprise you that, on the festival blog, this post argues that, no, debate is not a luxury. But we all need to get better at doing it, and soon. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming the people we always hated. Whatever we believe, let’s share the love, because that’s the true spirit of the Opinion Festival, and that’s what can get us through this absolute dog’s dinner of a year.

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Migration area on Saturday: virtual reality, quiz, migration crisis and media coverage https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/migration-area-saturday-virtual-reality-quiz-migration-crisis-media-coverage/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/migration-area-saturday-virtual-reality-quiz-migration-crisis-media-coverage/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2016 17:51:52 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11615 During the Saturday different questions are going to be discussed: Do we have a migration crisis? What is actually going on and what kinds of threats are out there in sense of migration? What are the challenges people returning to Estonia have to face? In addition, an eye-opening value game and exciting experiment are taking

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During the Saturday different questions are going to be discussed: Do we have a migration crisis? What is actually going on and what kinds of threats are out there in sense of migration? What are the challenges people returning to Estonia have to face?

In addition, an eye-opening value game and exciting experiment are taking place. Also there is an opportunity to experience the virtual reality of refugee camp in Jordan.

All Migration Area panel discussions are translated simultaneously into English.

AGENDA

10.00-18.00 Virtual reality “Clouds over Sidra” (Organizer: Estonian Refugee Council/UNHCR)
Meet Sidra. This charming 12-year-old girl will guide you through her temporary home: Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Za’atari is home to 130,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war, and children make up half the camp’s population.

10:00-11:30 „Discovering Values“ (Tartu University Centre for Ethics/Estonian Refugee Council)
The game „Discovering Values“ combines an entertaining format with a serious content that supports the development of one’s value clarification, argumentation ability and empathy. The game is meant to facilitate discussion with the aim of forming, formulating and defending a personal position, with no right or wrong solutions.
Moderator: Mari-Liis Nummert

12.00-13.00 Why are they coming here, to fight on our yard?* (Organizer: Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association)
The migration crisis and refugee problems are discussed through mass media often in a way that anger and fear are following. What is actually going on and what kinds of threats are out there in sense of migration? The discussion is held in perspective of security and collective defense.
Panelists: Hanno Pevkur, Uku Särekanno and Anni Säär
Moderator: Mart Nutt

13.30-15.00 Migration crisis?! No panic, please! (Organizer: Ministry of the Interior)
In recent years, discussions about the migration crisis have dominated Estonian public sphere. Statistics show that there is no mass immigration into Estonia – there are no migrant flows targeting us. But how could we explain then this sense of crisis in Estonia?
Panelists: Mari-Liis Jakobson, Eero Janson, Tiit Tammaru and Raivo Vare
Moderator: Marju Lauristin

15.30-16.45 Immigrant – are you a ghost or a human?* (Organizer: Ministry of the Interior)
Surveys are showing that Estonians are not that open-minded towards immigrants and often have certain prejudices particularly towards those with different ethnic background. At the panel, an experiment is going to take place where the audience can have their say in this matter and the mechanisms of development of beliefs and attitudes are discussed by experts in the field.
Panelists: Karmen Maikalu, Aune Valk and David Vseviov
Moderator: Tarmo Jüristo

17.15-18.30 Estonians living abroad: Brains lost or Estonian ambassadors in the world? (Organizer: European Migration Network/Tallinn University)
From when Estonia regained its independence 25 years ago, more people have left the country than moved here to contribute in Estonia’s social and economic wellbeing. The country needs to promote immigration of foreign specialists as well as to work on its diaspora engagement policies and thats what this panel discusses.
Panelists: Peter Gornischeff, Piret Kärtner, Ave Lauren and Tõnu Pekk
Moderator: Marion Pajumets

*quotes from famous Estonian movies

The Migration Area is organised by Estonian Refugee Council, Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, European Migration Network/University of Tallinn, Ülemiste City, Tartu University Centre for Ethics and Ministry of the Interior,  Government Office. The activities of the Migration Area  shall be financed from the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the budget of the The Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Estonia, under the project project of AMIF2015-14 „Monitoring and Communicating Immigration Crisis.

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This year’s Opinion Festival in Estonia looks beyond language https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/years-opinion-festival-estonia-looks-beyond-language/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/years-opinion-festival-estonia-looks-beyond-language/#respond Wed, 27 Jul 2016 05:54:37 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11152 This year’s Opinion Festival will host more English-language discussion forums than ever before in the event’s four-year history. This comes part and parcel with the festival’s aim to create an inclusive space for addressing some of society’s biggest issues and welcome multilingual participants and speakers from Estonia and beyond. Out of the eight discussion forums

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This year’s Opinion Festival will host more English-language discussion forums than ever before in the event’s four-year history. This comes part and parcel with the festival’s aim to create an inclusive space for addressing some of society’s biggest issues and welcome multilingual participants and speakers from Estonia and beyond.

Photo: Tauno Tõhk

Out of the eight discussion forums in English, three will take place on Friday, 12th August, and five on Saturday, 13th August. But in the spirit of the whole festival, the English-language offering is not about surpassing previous years at a numbers game. The aim is to offer a rich set of discussions that probe deep into local and global issues.

Topics, all housed under different themed areas, range from the future of education, to the cross-cultural meaning of motherhood, through to national identity on the eve of Estonia’s 100th anniversary.

At first glance, these may sound as different as chalk and cheese, but the common thread running through all discussions is how social progress is inseparable from the way we perceive ourselves and others. How do you create a happy society? What does Estonia mean and feel like for native and non-native residents alike? How can governments and citizens best work together?

Friday’s discussion forums will offer participants a foothold for exploration. The day kicks off with a panel on the Dutch polder model, a consensus method dating back to the medieval times and still widely used in the Netherlands. The highlight of the day is a panel titled “How strong are the Nordic countries? Strong enough to be happy!?”, which explores why there is disparity in happiness between Nordic societies and Estonia. While the discussion may satisfy Estonia’s Nordic aspirations, it promises to ask some difficult questions about tolerance, discontent and disenfranchisement—issues relevant not only in Estonia or Scandinavia but a post-Brexit Europe at large.

Estonia’s national pastime of introspection carries into the second day. On Saturday, four non-native residents in Estonia will discuss Estonia’s upcoming 100th birthday in a panel hosted in association with expat news title Estonian World. Together they will discuss whether they feel at home here and will certainly deliver on their promise to offer a “good, hard second look at the world we live in.” In a similar vein will be another discussion, this time hosted by Estonian National Broadcasting (ERR), where international journalists will be quizzed on their perceptions of Estonia.

Beyond local issues, there will be plenty of global themes for participants to delve into. On Friday, a discussion in the International Development Area asks why women’s rights and motherhood differ by culture. Saturday sees discussions as varied as world peace, building education around happiness, and why business should take corporate social responsibility seriously.

While English may be the working language for all these panels, the wealth of discussions on offer embraces the Opinion Festival’s commitment to diversity and hearty debate. In true festival fashion, they are set to provoke and challenge participants with fresh perspectives on issues near and far.

English-language discussion forums at the Opinion Festival

Friday, 12th August

12:00-13:30
Europe for Citizens area (Kodanike Euroopa ala)
How to make consensus-based decisions? – Dutch Polder Brunch
Dutch are famous for windmills, tulips, cheese, wooden shoes and…the polder model. The polder model is a process of decision-making by consensus, something that the Dutch are widely-recognized for around the world. The easiest way to describe the polder model is “cooperation despite differences.” Nevertheless, despite its apparent success, polder model includes many challenges. Is the consensus worth the time and effort? Where and how to use it for best results? Is it worth to learn to set aside differences for a greater purpose? The discussion will be translated into sign language.
Moderator: Annika Uudelepp
Participants: Mr Peter “Just ESTonishing” Kentie (Marketing Manager of Eindhoven) and Mr Jos Schellaars (The Netherlands Ambassador to Estonia)

15:00-16:30
Europe for Citizens area (Kodanike Euroopa ala)
How strong are the Nordic countries? Strong enough to be happy!?
The people and societies of the Nordic countries and Estonia differ greatly in their levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Dissatisfaction and a low level of happiness are dangerous for national security, breeding intolerance, social tensions among the people and against the state. Dissatisfaction makes Estonia smaller despite the success stories. The aim of our discussion is to identify how Estonia could increase its life satisfaction and happiness rating in future surveys. The discussion will have sign language interpretation.
Moderator: Villu Arak
Participants: Helen Russell (journalist from Denmark, author of The Year of Living Danishly), Vittersø Joar (professor of sociology and psychologist from Norway) and Bengt Lindroth (journalist and correspondent from Sweden)

17:30-19:00
International Development area (Arengukoostöö ala)
Motherhood Across the World: a Burden or a Privilege?
NGO Mondo invites you to learn and discuss about women’s rights and motherhood across the world. How come some women have the right to decide on if and when to have children and others don’t? Can motherhood sometimes become a burden too heavy to bare? Family planning, pregnancy, child birth and rearing children are viewed and valued differently, and have different political and economic implications from Africa to Afghanistan to Northern Europe. What can we learn from each other and in what ways can we help each other?
Moderator: Gustaf Antell
Participants: Zainab Homam (MD of London-based organization Afghan Action); Zahra Akbari (Afghan midwife living in Estonia), Gro Lindstad (MD of FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development), Wali Hashi- (MD of Wali Media Production Centeri; programme coordinator for the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development

Saturday, 13th August

10:00-11:30
Estonian National Broadcasting area (ERRi ala)
“What the elephant thinks of me” or “what the others think of us”
There is an old joke that upon seeing an elephant, an Estonian’s greatest concern is what the elephant thinks of the Estonian. There is no cause for alarm and there are no elephants around either, but as Tallinn University happens to host a number of journalists from various countries at the same time as the Opinion Festival is held, we will use the opportunity to ask about their perceptions of Estonia.
Moderator: Andres Jõesaar

10:00-11:30
Foreign Politics area (Välispoliitika ala)
MORNING COFFEE: What can we do for World Peace?
We are living in turbulent times – but are these really more turbulent than any other time in history? According to the UN and its development goals, humanity is in better shape than ever. Less poverty, better health and less violence than ever before (in relative terms). Is it time for us to set the bar high and aim for World Peace? In the UN´s new set of global development goals, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, peace is not in the list of 169 targets. But none of the targets are possible to achieve without peace.
Moderator: Gustaf Antell
Participants: Urmas Paet, Liene Veide, Liga Rudzite, Piet Boerefijn

13:00-14:30
Education for the 22nd Century area (22. sajandi hariduse ala)
100 Reasons to Be Happy at School
Why is it that we don’t like school? How to change this? While Estonian children do well in international comparisons, they stand out for their dislike of going to school. What may come as a surprise to many is that this is also true for Finland, a country whose school system is considered the best in the world. Is this inevitable? What are our common concerns? We will brainstorm ways to make school more enjoyable. We will look at how each one of us can contribute.
Moderator: Toomas Kruusimägi
Participants: Olli Vesterinen, Anna-Kaisa Oidermaa, Mario Mäeots, Tuuli Helind

14:00-15:30
100th Birthday of the Republic of Estonia area (Eesti Vabariik 100 ala)
Estonia 100 celebration – do non-native residents feel as hosts or guests?
Four non-native residents discuss whether they feel at home here and celebrate Estonia’s centenary on the equal grounds with the rest of the Estonian population or do they still feel as guests rather than locals in Estonia? The discussion is held in cooperation with a global independent online magazine Estonian World.
Moderator: Stewart Johnson (co-founder of Comedy Estonia)
Participants: Lili Milani (senior researcher at the Estonian Genome Centre), João Rei (digital innovation at marketing and advertising agency Idea Group),  Nithikul Nimkulrat (textile practitioner and academic, originally from Bangkok, Thailand), Ken Saburi (technical account manager at Playtech)

16:00-17:30
Social Innovation area (Ühiskondliku innovatsiooni ala)
Whose business is social responsibility?
What is Corporate Social Responsibility? By definition a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates. Companies express this citizenship through their waste and pollution reduction processes, by contributing to educational and social programs and by earning adequate returns on the employed resources. A broader definition expands from a focus on stakeholders to include philanthropy and volunteering. But who does it and, more importantly, what do they get out of it? What is the role of the government in this? Whose business Corporate Social Responsibility really is?
Moderator: Mart Soonik
Participants: Chris Holtby (Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Estonia since January 2012), Kristiina Esop (CEO of Responsible Business Forum), Liisa Oviir (Minister of Entrepreneurship), Dan Strömberg (Chairman of the Management board of Telia Estonia)

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Children and the Internet: a Positive Combination? https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/children-internet-positive-combination/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/children-internet-positive-combination/#respond Mon, 25 Jul 2016 19:14:04 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11043 The new generation of young people has access to many things that their parents, and certainly their grandparents, did not at the same stage in life. Walk into the apartment of a reasonably-affluent young family in Estonia today and you are less likely to see a family sitting down in front of the same television

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The new generation of young people has access to many things that their parents, and certainly their grandparents, did not at the same stage in life. Walk into the apartment of a reasonably-affluent young family in Estonia today and you are less likely to see a family sitting down in front of the same television programme than you are to see each family member engaged in activities on a different electronic device.
 

Is this, in itself, a bad thing, or just the natural evolution of things? Telia, in association with the Opinion Festival, will discuss this in Paide, on August 13th at 5pm.

In the media and in everyday conversation, there is frequent discussion of the place of technology in everyday life. Many of the opinions are built upon personal circumstance, or unscientific speculation. That’s why Telia is forming a discussion forum at the Opinion festival to ask how the internet can play a positive role in the development of children.

The organisers are looking for balanced, rational, scientific contributions to help answer the questions that parents have to answer constantly. How can anyone define a reasonable amount of time for a smartphone or tablet to be used? When does pleasure at using a social network become an addiction? Is the answer to ban, or moderate, access to certain information channels?

We have seen recently in debates as diverse as those over the Estonian Cohabitation Law, the US Presidential Election, and the release of the new Ghostbusters film, that while the internet is a tremendous democratising tool, it has also allowed sexism, racism and homophobia to be viewed by increasing numbers of people, sometimes by children. There have also been numerous instances of children being trolled using social media comments, something which is viewed as very hard, if not impossible, to regulate. How can parents ensure that children are given access to the information they need, but are protected from some of the worst excesses of the online world?

That’s not all that will be discussed, though. There will also be a look at the kind of role schools in Estonia and more widely can play in helping parents and children to make good use of the unlimited information at their fingertips. With the Estonian government taking a proud lead on technological development in schools, the increased use of computers to solve childhood problems must go hand-in-hand with an understanding of its impact on society.

The discussion will be moderated by Katrin Tiidenberg, a sociologist specialising in online matters from Tallinn University’s Institute of Social Sciences. Her main research topic is social media user practices, especially concerning visual expression.

She will be joined by Tõnu Piibur, Headteacher of Tallinn’s Pelgulinn High School. He says that he uses electronic devices daily, and he encourages, but does not force, students to find new ways to use technology in the classroom.

Speaker Kristi Vinter, the Director of the Institute of Educational Sciences at Tallinn University, says, “I have small children, and a research interest in the internet. In 2013 I defended my doctoral thesis at Tallinn University, the subject of which was the use of digital resources with young children in the kindergarten and the home. Tallinn University will teach future teachers to recognise and analyse the global impact of digital media and the possibilities it brings for developing and teaching children. I have carried training on this topic with teachers and parents.”

Kaisa Kask, who is 15 years old and attends the Humanitarian High School in Pärnu, says “I sing, I play the flute and I’m interested in acting and the theatre in general. As with any of our younger generation, I am constantly to be found with my phone in my hand, using the internet. Most of my communication, homework, and news consumption is done on that.” Kaisa will be on the panel alongside Katrin Isotamm, a mother who has many views on children and the internet.

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Opinion Festival in Estonia Builds Nordic Musical Bridge https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/culture-programme-soundwaves-opinion-festival-create-musical-bridge-arukula-gothenburg-tartu/ https://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/culture-programme-soundwaves-opinion-festival-create-musical-bridge-arukula-gothenburg-tartu/#respond Sun, 15 May 2016 08:05:02 +0000 http://www.arvamusfestival.ee/en/?p=11010 The soundwaves of the Opinion Festival create a musical bridge between Aruküla, Gothenburg and Tartu This year the culture programme of the word-rock festival held in Paide in August wanders along psychedelic and jazzy paths instead of rock music. Filling the Festival Club with sounds is the responsibility of Tartu’s multicultural Genialistide Klubi in cooperation

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The soundwaves of the Opinion Festival create a musical bridge between Aruküla, Gothenburg and Tartu

This year the culture programme of the word-rock festival held in Paide in August wanders along psychedelic and jazzy paths instead of rock music. Filling the Festival Club with sounds is the responsibility of Tartu’s multicultural Genialistide Klubi in cooperation with Möku. Their joint programme attracts audiences with both superb DJs and young rappers.

If you want to escape the discussions for a bit, you can pop into the festival club where you can enjoy the sounds of the hissing old vinyl from the Melodija label, pulsating beats from the Balkans, the best estrada pieces of the Eastern block and the soft breeze of yacht rock.

The keyword of Friday night’s official programme is “Youth”. At the festival club, you can enjoy the performance of 15-year-old rapper EIXD from Aruküla, whose lyrics tackle social issues and may even bring additional thoughts to some of the topics debated at the discussions. Then, Liis Ring aka Cirkl who is studying music and sound production in Gothenburg takes stage with her dreamy indie-pop, a hovering cross between jazz and classical music. To finish off the first day you can listen to playful improvisations by Edmund Hõbe, a multi-instrumentalist from Tartu.

Saturday is all about psychedelic sounds and vinyl. Once the last discussions have ended, Berk Vaher, a multi-talent with an odd taste in music, and Ahto Külvet, a vinyl enthusiast who gets excited by the products of weird-looking record labels, invite you to the first ever Psycho Disco in Paide. The audience will be welcomed by the colourful world of analogue music with repertoire expanding from Kazakhstan to Latvia and from Brazil to Poland. The motto of Psycho Disco is simple − we are all equal before the Moog keyboard!

 

Translated to English by Piret Raudsepp.

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