Ott Pärna, CEO Arengufond (Estonian Development Fund)

The Estonian Development Fund (Arengufond in Estonian) is a public sector venture capital fund and strategic foresight unit, set up by the Estonian government and managed by a team headed by economist Ott Pärna. In 2018, Estonia will be marking the centenary of its declaration of independence – its birth as a sovereign country.* In the same year, it will also assume the rotating Chair of the European Commission. To mark both events, Ott Pärna has convened a group of 150 experts and advisors to develop an ‘Estonian Growth Vision’ for 2018. The first task for the team has been to investigate channels of communication, including social media and more traditional local town hall meetings, in order to engage the population at large and put in place the structures and processes required to harvest opinions and ideas that could be incorporated into the Growth Vision project. Ott is keen for this ‘vision’ to be generated collectively, from the ground up, rather than imposed from above. He says he is looking primarily for new ways of achieving social engagement, rather than trying to improve the old ways. He refers to the 2008 ‘Teeme Ära!’ (‘Let’s do it!’) campaign, described at the conference by Anneli Ohvril, as a good example of the process he wants to apply, on a larger scale, to generate the ‘Estonian Growth Vision 2018’. Finally, he speculates that, as the newly-enlarged European Union seeks to re-invent itself in a world context and re-focus its policies of inclusion, one of Estonia’s contributions to the European Community, during its 2018 Chairing of the EC, could be a method of engaging Europeans on a large scale to collaborate in the setting of new goals and agendas for its people.

* Having been, for the best part of 500 years, part of the Swedish and then the Russian empires, in 1918 the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued, followed by a two-year war of independence, ending with the Tartu Peace Treaty, which recognised a separate Estonian nation in perpetuity. During World War II, Estonia was occupied and annexed first by the Soviet Union and subsequently by the Third Reich, only to be re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944. Estonia regained its independence in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004. A full account of Estonia’s history, ancient and modern, can be found on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonia

Ott Pärna can be contacted via www.arengufond.ee

Anneli Ohvril, Communication Manager, Teeme Ära!

‘Teeme Ära!’ roughly translates as ‘Let’s do it!’ in English. It is a highly successful Estonian community-based project which in 2008 managed to mobilise 50,000 Estonians to give up some spare time on a single day to help clean up their forests. An estimated 10,000 tonnes of garbage was collected. Anneli uses Facebook in particular as her social channel of choice, but cautions that, in her experience, it’s over-rated as a communications medium. She confesses that, after three years in the job as communications manager, she’s getting tired of being asked about Facebook as if it were some kind of magic ingredient in her communications strategy. She points out that a large percentage of the 50,000 volunteers that made ‘Teeme Ära!’ So successful were not on Facebook – most didn’t even have email. She says the kinds of people who would pull their boots on and head for the forest with bin bags for a cleanup are unlikely to be the same as those who spend their time sitting in front of a computer. On the other hand, she admits that it was her Facebook page, and a YouTube video of the 2008 project, which triggered interest from abroad, resulting in similar campaigns in countries as far away as India and Brazil. Finally, Anneli has some advice about how to create a friendly and welcoming environment in Facebook, in order to stimulate useful discussion. She suggests the best analogy is to imagine you are inviting guests into your home. You first show your home, then provide comfort and food, and most of all you ask questions and draw your guests out, rather than bombard them with messages. Anneli can be contacted via www.minueesti.ee. The YouTube video that she refers to can be found at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5GryIDl0qY&rel=0

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