The Tällberg Forum 2011 asked the question “How can we agree to agree?” In a rapidly restructuring world, we looked for the new governance arrangements that could inspire and accelerate the shifts required to meet global pressures. With the waning role of the nation state, new initiatives and processes are forming to fill the void. We gathered different important stakeholders to examine promising examples – the new institutions, the innovative initiatives or models, locally and globally, in business, government and civil society – and to see how new and better management of the parts could help us fix the problems of the whole.
The starting point of the Tällberg Foundation’s yearly gathering has since 2005 been the question “How on Earth can we live together?” The Tällberg Forum 2011 provided a number of practical answers to this question by asking “How can we agree to agree?”. Three threads were woven together in the Forum:
What is it we need to agree on? On the one hand, we desperately need the problem-solving mechanisms at the global level (institutions, treaties, agreements) that can tackle the global problems: climate, resources, global commons, financial regulation, trade agreements, etc. On the other hand we need to find ways to agree, not so much at global levels but at the local level (a place, a village, a city, a region, etc.) on how to radically transform frameworks, technologies, business models, infrastructures, etc. While one conversation is needed about the global level, other complementary conversations need to see how the global level is mirrored in the local, how we can get at the whole through its parts. At the Forum, these questions were presented in plenary sessions, explored in group conversations and exemplified in workshops.
What does it mean to agree? To agree means overcoming challenges – together. A starting point for our discussions was the need to acknowledge that many (if not all) of our challenges stem from our inability to agree. Over national borders, over cultures, across generations. And yet, the paradox is that there is so much we agree on. Agreeing to agree is a personal stance, it is the recognition of the need to serve the problem and not one’s own interests. The Forum program also explored this in different ways, and showcased specific cases to learn from – change in the making.
What can we learn from looking at innovative initiatives from around the world? Here are a few examples of the conversations that took place at the Forum:
- Initiatives to balance power in the Amazon and bridge the diverging interests of the nine states, of the indigenous people, of global business and of the ecosystems.
- Kick-starting urban renewal with new coalitions of actors (business, municipalities and investors).
- Financial innovations driving sustainable product markets for the rural poor.
The Forum brought together the people behind a number of promising emerging processes that were trying to reach new agreements (or create new kinds of agreements). Some operate at the local level, others regionally and globally, in business, civil society as well as government. Many transcend national borders and represent new kinds of multi-lateral initiatives around specific issues or places.
The Tällberg Forum was a rich four-day program of on-stage conversations, comments, conversations and workshops, with space provided for culture, nature and reflection. Talking and thinking about how to agree to agree is about navigating the complexity and creating that new climate of trust, or in the words of poet Tomas Tranströmer, our need to find the “blind bannister that finds its way in the dark”.