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Valdis Zatlers

Valdis Zatlers

Annual Report 2009

The Latvian Forum: A movement for self-organisation

At the beginning of 2009, President Zatlers and his Strategic Analysis Commission announced the preparation of a public participation movement to be known as the Latvian Forum. The system was set up because of fundamental changes in Latvia’s economy and society, the thought being that after a long period of economic decline, there will certainly be growth, and so it would be of importance right then and there to think about practical and realistic solutions to various problems.

 

At the centre of the Latvian Forum is the idea that each person of Latvia must take active part in social and economic processes to facilitate the more rapid recovery of the Latvia and its economy. This is possible when people come together for constructive and creative co-operation—no whinging, but the proposal and implementation of new ideas.

 

Three Latvian Forum discussions were held in 2009 in various cities in Latvia, with more than 1,100 active people coming together to share a wealth of ideas.

 

The first session was held on May 30 in 12 cities, and some 100 specific and realistic ideas about how people can help themselves and their communities during this difficult time were proposed. The focus of the forum was on ways of and potential for self-organisation. Several local initiatives were the result of this discussion, including a cleaning up of Akmens Street in the town of Cēsis.

 

 

The second Latvian Forum discussion was held on August 19 in eight cities to talk about support for schools during this period of change and to identify those issues which must be addressed at the national level. There were proposals on the development of interest-based education, the involvement of parents in school management, school financing, the more rational use of educational institutions and their facilities, and the involvement of volunteers in education. Many of these issues are to be addressed at the local level, while others require a national decision. One result of the forum was that the Education and Science Ministry took several specific decisions on amendments of legal norms to reduce various obstacles against the ability of students, parents and local communities to be more active participants in dealing with issues that are of importance to schools.

 

 

A continuation of this discussion occurred on December 16. The Strategic Analysis Commission, the Education and Science Ministry, and Microsoft Latvia organised an educational innovations forum, “The School in Latvia.” Participants sought ways of promoting the development of modern educational content and methods, and they talked about ideas emerging from various discussions related to specific projects in this regard. The participants were teachers, educational experts, parents, and representatives of the state and local governments, as well as the mass media. They were all asked to share their experience and their ideas.

 

On October 28, a workshop on micro-businesses and self-employment was held in four cities as part of the Latvian Forum. 220 people came together in all in Jēkabpils, Cēsis, Rēzekne and Valmiera. Recommendations were developed on ways of facilitating entrepreneurship at the local government level. Business mentors helped participants to develop ten specific business projects. All of the results of Latvian Forum discussions and workshops can be found on the Strategic Analysis Commission’s ideas portal, www.saki.lv, under the heading “Latvijas Forums.”

 

 

The principle of self-organisation which was upheld by the Latvian Forum is enormously important. All of the discussions were possible because of the interest and initiative of local residents. Representatives of schools or parent organisations, local governments, business incubators, or cultural centres helped to organise the various events. This principle of self-organisation is specific to the Latvian Forum movement, and it is closely linked to the interest of local residents in having one of the discussions in their town or city.

 

In November 2009, the SKDS public opinion research company conducted a survey which found that 30% of the people of Latvia had heard of the Latvian Forum. The answer “I have heard something, but I have not really followed along with information about it” was given more often than the average by respondents aged 45-54, people with higher education, those who speak Latvian at home, people in the public sector, people with medium, medium-high and high levels of income, people in Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Zemgale, and respondents in cities apart from Rīga. This is not a bad indicator, given that the Latvian Forum movement is based on local initiative and self-organisation without much media support. It is also true that these results were achieved over the course of just half a year since the first Latvian Forum discussion on May 30, 2009.