Opinion Festival open to new discussion ideas for 2019

Festival goers at 2018's event in Paide. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

The annual Opinion Festival (Estonian: Arvamusfestival) may be many months away, taking place as it does on 9 and 10 August in the central Estonian town of Paide. However, festival organisers invite suggestions themed on the future, which they say is the guiding principle of 2019's event.

These discussions should be focussed on asking those questions which have not been answered yet and which, in one way or another, prepare us for the future, the organisers say, and will be drawn by a public canvassing of ideas open until the end of January.

The future is the guiding principle not least in light of the Estonia 100 celebrations last year, which continues to mark state-building milestones (for instance the centenary of the founding of the Riigikogu in April).

"All countries are created to last forever – the survival of Estonian nation, language, and culture through time is the foundational idea of the Republic of Estonia,'' said Toomas Kiho, the Head of the Steering Group at Estonia 100.

''One hundred years after the birth of the country is a good time to set new goals for the coming centuries. Therefore, it makes sense to look forward, to the future – as best we can, with the highest academic and intellectual capacity that we have," Mr Kiho continued.

Maiu Lauring, Head Organiser of the annual Opinion Festival, the seventh of its kind, says it is inevitable that the future will bring increasingly more changes and that there is something in human nature which makes us cautious about them.

"During the seventh Opinion Festival, we'll ask what this future will be like –  the one we're creating today with our choices, acts, and words. By involving the best knowledge and taking into account the human tendency towards caution, we'll discuss what kind of future we want and, in co-creation, we will take first steps to shape this future," said Ms Lauring.

During the year of Estonia's National University 100, the role of the University of Tartu and scientists is of particular importance in the public discussion surrounding future, festival organisers say. Project Manager at Estonia's National University 100, Kadri Asmer, says that it is vital to understand that hundred years of higher education in Estonian is a gift to the whole country, and not merely the pride of one particular university.

"The task of the National University is to be the leader of social development and to offer solutions to problems, while looking out for Estonian culture and science," said Ms Asmer.

A more precise reference point set to mark the future is the year 2035, also the base year in preparing a new long-term strategy for the Estonian state. The ideas for the next Opinion Festival discussions should help explain some complex topics, to create a better understanding between opposing sides, as well as introducing new knowledge, providing smart solutions, and asking questions that don't yet have an answer. As always, discussion suggestions from everyone – individuals as well as institutions, businesses, NGOs, and networks – are welcome, say the organisers.

This gathering of ideas will last until 31 January. All ideas received will be rated by the Opinion Festival's organisational team, consisting of ten members.

Every discussion idea will be rated in four categories (reasoning, purpose, form of discussion, diversity of participants) and this will go on to copmrise the ranked list of discussion topics.

The next step will be dividing ideas into matching fields of discussion, set to begin in March, with the aim of publishing the programme at the beginning of June.

Anyone that wishes can submit their ideas via the form on the Opinion Festival's web page here.

The Seventh Annual Opinion Festival will take place on 9 and 10 August in Paide.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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