How many brilliant minds can fit inside a tent?
Well, the Tällberg Forum pushes for the world record. Since thursday the three of us, Anna, Erik and David of Wake-Up Call in Gothenburg have mingled around UNEP directors, Volvo CEOs, university presidents and many more bigwigs – but also a lot of people simply committed to changing the world with the means available to them. Notably youth from Yemen and Syria is here to report and discuss the continuing struggles in the arab spring uprisings. There is a sense that world history is present. Last year youth from Egypt were here on leadership training – the implications of that is chilling. Who knows what history making we were just part of?
As we sit here now writing this in the dormitory, the former Swedish ambassador in China, Börje Ljunggren, is watching the tennis game unfolding while explaing how China is changing (Djokovic is winning). All these great people are friendly, accessible and share the vision that a more empathetic future is needed.
There are some unwritten rules of Tällberg, what one notices immediately is that you have to greet people and shake their hands. The common question of “what do you do?” is thrown around liberally, but it’s not for awkward chitchatting, it’s out of curiosity since what people do is propably something impacting and inspiring.
Culture is prevalent – poets and musicians interpret the messages and give some brain massage to help digest the onslaught of impressions.
On the topic of what Wake-Up Call does, there was a seminar around learning, and what skills we need to teach our kids to be prepared for the complex interconnected global world of tomorrow. Bill Drayton is the founder of Ashoka, an organisation giving successful social entrepreneurs an opportunity to try their ideas by funding them for a year. He argues that empathy is the key, and that we need to make everyone into changemakers. Being empathetic makes healthier, friendlier people. Actually Ashoka is a blog chapter in itself, so I’ll just share an example of one of how it can be taught.
An Ashoka fellow (I lost her name), takes an infant into a classroom of 7–8 year-olds. The infant has a T-shirt with the text “professor” on it. The children then have to learn what the professor is trying to teach, only the professor is not very verbal. The empthy skills they learn mean that bullying goes away, and doesn’t come back. Playing is of course another aspect of this. Kids with a well-developed empathy realise when another child is angry just by looking at the face. This is fundamental to detect so that anger doesn’t have to be manifested physically.
Another way to teach empathy is, in my mind, the story sharing exercise of the personal narrative that we use in Wake-Up Call. This evoked a lot of emotion in the group when we did it in January (this was before I joined Wake-Up Call).
Summarizing the Tällberg experience is impossible, but here are some key learnings:
- Telling stories is a natural way to communicate. Having non-judging conversations is a great way to get further.
- There are some built in conflicts in today’s society, but communication and trust between people is the way to deal with them. That goes for all politics.
- There has been a sense of understanding and “we-ness” here that I don’t feel out in society today. Somehow, our goal must be to make this state of mind ever present, and the complexities ahead will be smoother.
- If you get the chance to come here, don’t hesitate. Tällberg is a honey-pot of inspiration, information and great people.