At the Autumn General Assembly, you have been granted the full membership to ELF, effective as of January 2019. What are your plans for 2019?
2019 is going to be an exciting year for LNF! We are going to execute a Municipal Performance Index together with Lithuanian Free Market Institute and Friedrich Naumann Foundation. This is a project to develop and launch a municipal performance index in Latvia as an effective mechanism for civil society oversight and participatory policy making in promoting higher efficiency of local governments and driving needed policy reforms in favor of good governance, accountability and transparency. We are also planning a project with other local and international partners on civil society and democracy, which are at the moment under pressure in Latvia. Besides new projects and beginnings, we plan to continue public talks and free walking tours promoting liberal values and ideas in our society. 2019 is the year of the EP elections and we are going to focus on this topic as well.
Within the ELF network, you’ve been active and cooperating with several members. How would you assess the collaboration with other members so far? What can Latvijas Nākotnes Forums grasp from fellow ELF members?
LNF is really grateful for cooperation with different partners from the Liberal family. Different collaborations have definitely enriched our agenda and experience, as well as improved our organizational skills. We are still a small foundation that works on its capacities, therefore we look for even greater cooperation and exchange of ideas and views. We are about to implement a project developed by our partners LFMI in Lithuania, therefore learning from our colleagues’ experience and ability to apply it to our country is a valuable opportunity for us.
Among the initiatives you presented, there is a Freethinkers tour. Could you tell us more about the idea behind it? And what were the participants’ reactions?
Liberal ideas and word “Liberalism” as such became haunted and stigmatized in Latvian society recently. These values and ideas are being under constant attack by populists and nationalists, labeling them as something imported by George Soros. At the same time we have come to a point where we realized that our public events reach pretty much the same specific audience. Therefore, wanting to reach out to people who normally do not attend liberal talks or discussions, together with two professional historians, we have created a special city tour or walk through Riga called “Freethinkers’ Riga”. Together with a professional guide we invited participants to dive into our society’s history to discover that many ideas and topics we discuss in present were already there by the end of the 19th century. This is not a classic tour, we switch between the centuries and decades, cover topics from politics, popular culture, literature, food, to city life in general. Though lacking a linear story, this approach nonetheless allowed us to better represent the diversity and richness of our society’s history, so that next time some topics are deemed “foreign” by the populists, the participants could use their gained knowledge to debate it. The free tour was very well attended and accepted and we shall try to continue the tours.
Here is a link to the video invitation to attend Freethinkers’ Riga tour, though in Latvia, it gives a visual idea of what it is.