The First Winter Tällberg Forum, held in Voksenåsen, Oslo, Norway took place on February 10-12 2011. As with all Tällberg Forums, the overarching question was “How on Earth can we live together?” and the 2011 Winter Forum posed the sub question “How can we agree to agree?”. This question will shape the Tällberg Foundation work for the coming months leading to the Summer Forum.
The choice of venue was significant. Voksenåsen is drop of Sweden within Norway – a gift from the Norwegian people to Sweden to thank them for their support during and after World War II. Voksenåsen was also a stunning beautiful venue for a winter Forum as the snow drifts piled up against the windows as the sun streamed in.
The program gathered Swedes, Norwegians and participants from as far afield as Grenada to discuss the need for – and means to promote – agreement on systems change to address mounting risks in our increasingly tightening globalisation. Over three days, different angles of the questions “How can we agree to agree?” were explored.
As is characteristic of Tällberg Foundation events, the program was a blend or expert inputs, panels, conversations in groups and importantly, music and nature. An early morning nature walk was thwarted by a snow storm, but the sun shone both through the music, from Rebekka Karijord throughout the three days and eventually, outside too.
Following a welcome from Sweden’s Ambassador to Norway, Ingrid Hjelt af Trolle, Bo Ekman reminded us of the flow of historic agreements and the evolution of “ways to organise ourselves”. The unfolding programme brought together wisdom, experience and youthful urgency, entrepreneurs, global business leaders, former ministers, ambassadors between countries and ambassadors to the UN.
During the opening day of inputs, we examined the human and ecological condition – and looked closely at three human systems that are in need of change – the energy, food and finance systems. An evening conversation on inter-generational understanding was accompanied by Morten Qvenild on the piano. On the second day the focus was on exploring new ways forward in conversations. Emerging from the group work was a clear path of exploration for a more co-ordinated and collaborative approach to solve wide reaching and complex challenges that cannot be handled by politicians or industry alone. While there are many terms for this new style of governance of human affairs, it is clear that co-creating between sectors has to solve complex challenges and is thereby breaking up borders between countries and sectors, and providing innovative ways to “organise ourselves”.
What could other agreements or new coalitions bring? New business models and new systems architecture for delivering human needs in a fair and sustainable way were explored, but also there were ideas for shaping a natural evolution of both the free market concept and democracy to support both longer term mandates, and to bring other sectors to the table to inform politics in a more open manner.
To furnish the conversation with clear examples, new and contrasting types of agreements were presented from the Arctic region and from the Amazon rainforest – both redefine sovereignty for natural resources, leading the way to understand the path forward for fragile and scare resources that underpin human development. An evening conversation presented the story of a new bilateral maritime agreement between Norway and Russia in more detail – relating the trials and triumph of 40 years of negotiations and the melting of both politics and sea ice, was accompanied by Håkon Kornstad on saxophone and a new combination – or coalition – of a flute and a clarinet.
Certain areas seem far from agreement at present, such as jobless, energy and resource intensive growth, the difficulty to practice prevention rather than react after a risk has played out, and the need to inspire and engage society with a wider understanding of solidarity beyond national borders. Sovereignty and identity are critical ingredients in how we agree globally: where you stand on an issue decides where you sit. Different cultures were explored on the last day of the event, and strongly illustrated this point, with the confidence of different nations being at dramatically different states as economic power shifts.
The role of Western interests in the rest of the world was also a thorny conversation as the drama of Mubarak’s resignation as President of Egypt unfolded during the Winter Tällberg Forum. Change requires leaders to not only openly discuss the global challenges of the time but to recognise their own role in the status quo. A recurring theme in conversations was the need to “come out” in defining our own personal commitments to change. How we agree to agree depends upon an authentic “wish for change” from key actors who have the knowledge, means and power to make the change happen. The search for combination of personal commitment and co-creation set the scene for the work of the Tällberg Foundation in preparing for the summer Tällberg Forum 2011.