Conversation festival LAMPA
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)
In an increasingly divisive and polarised world, the annual nationwide Conversation festival LAMPA in Latvia has become an outstanding platform for discussing matters of societal concern about Latvia, Europe and the world in face-to-face conversations. Co-created by a diverse array of civil society organisations, public authorities and private companies, the festival opens up policy-making processes to wider audiences and creates an open platform for direct engagement among people in Latvia.
A broad range of events, thought-provoking discussions and hot topics all feature at the Conversation Festival LAMPA, a nationwide, open-air annual summer festival organised annually in Cēsis, Latvia since 2015. LAMPA provides a rare chance to spend two uplifting days sharpening one’s mind, expanding one’s horizons, and challenging one’s assumptions. It’s an inspiring and energising platform for everyone with something to say. It’s for everyone who wants to learn and talk about issues important to Latvia, Europe, and the world.
The mission of the festival is to strengthen democratic conversation culture, foster civic engagement and active involvement in social and political processes, and encourage a desire for lifelong learning in an ever-changing world.
The two-day festival takes place every year on a Friday and Saturday in late June or early July. Creating the festival events are civil society organisations, private companies, public authorities, universities, media, civic-minded individuals and churchgoers. In 2018, LAMPA featured more than 270 events – conversations, debates, talks, lectures, workshops, performances, stand-ups – in Latvian, English and Russian. Admission is free.
The number of festival attendees has increased from 3500 in 2015 to 16 000 in 2018, indicating that the festival has picked up on a desire or even need for people in Latvia to convene on an annual basis at such an event.
The festival brings together people in Latvia from all walks of life, engaging them in conversation and an exchange of ideas. Being the first and only of its kind in this country, it clearly serves a vital role in fostering openness and dialogue, something that is of great importance in this diverse country with its eventful history.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The idea of a festival was inspired by political festivals organised in other Northern European countries. However, the Conversation festival LAMPA has its own model, with the core idea of creating an open platform, where important issues can be discussed among people from various walks of life. It is a unique public forum, where anyone has a chance to put forth a topic for a public discussion.
If previously the festival format was only utilised for entertainment, and discussions on significant issues only took place in conference halls, then the festival has changed this conventional model. Moreover, its joyful and open atmosphere has made the format for public discussions attractive to young people, who comprise almost half of festival attendees. Public authorities, led by the State Chancery, have become important partners and co-organisers of the festival almost from its inception, organising various events in a festive spirit. Thus, bringing engagement with society to a new level.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Conversation festival LAMPA is a long-term initiative, not a project which is about to end in the near future. Moreover, we are in a constant process of the evaluation, which helps us to improve the festival and make it more attractive for even wider audience.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The festival champions a co-creation process and cross-sectoral cooperation. In 2018, its fourth year, the festival was co-organised by 235 organisations and civic activists, among them civil society organisations, companies and political parties, as well as governmental and municipal institutions. The main organisers of the festival are the Foundation for an Open society DOTS, Swedbank, Armadillo ad agency, Deep White communication management agency, Cesis municipality, and the British Council.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The people of Latvia are the prime stakeholders and beneficiaries. First, anyone can apply and organise a conversation on any issue of importance to him/her. Second, festival attendees have plenty of opportunities to enrich themselves with new knowledge, discuss the things they care about or are interested in and meet new people they otherwise would not meet.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The number of festival attendees has increased from 3500 in 2015 to 16 000 in 2018, indicating that the festival is needed in Latvia. The festival has become a national event where ideas converge and people meet. Conversations can serve as a spark for a new idea. An idea first put forth at the festival could later be on developed into a project, business or even legislation.
Our expectations: a continued increase in the number of participants, further growth in interest in organising an event/conversation, and the participation of public authorities becoming a tradition.
The festival has ambitious long-term goals – to strengthen democratic conversation culture, empower people to take active part in public life, and promote critical thinking, a culture of curiosity and life-long learning. We also aim to bring political and democratic culture to a new level, where civility and dignity are respected and celebrated, but this requires time, partnership and persistence.
Challenges and Failures
In 2016, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, reacting to a tweet, inspected the participation of the State Chancery and other state institutions at the festival, as to whether their participation constituted a conflict of interest. Although it found no such conflict, the whole process proved challenging, since participation of public authorities is crucial to the festival’s mission.
Overall, there have been no significant setbacks.
Conditions for Success
The festival should be built on a strong set of clearly articulated values and a strong mission statement. An open platform for everyone, reflecting societal diversity. Therefore, partnership and co-creation are key to success.
All opinions are welcome and important, but clear rules should be in place for all events to ensure that conversations are held in a respectful manner.
Participation of public authorities is crucial for achieving the festival goals.
The festival idea can be further replicated both locally and internationally. On the local level – local civic activists can organise regional conversation festivals all over Latvia to discuss and debate local issues. On the international level – other countries can follow our example and organise their nation-wide conversation festivals. So far, the Conversation festival LAMPA has inspired creation of the festival of discussions BUTENT in Lithuania, the Jubel festival in Belgium and a Ukrainian conversation festival to be organised next year in Kyiv.
Start with why – what is your mission statement, values and goals you are trying to achieve.
Know your audience! Be very specific in your first year – whom you wish to attend and how to reach them. You can expand your audience in the following years.
Don’t be boring – it’s a festival! Create a joyful, lively, open, trusting and optimistic atmosphere.
Do not limit conversations only to politics. Events should be on a range of topics – health, science, education, culture, politics, lifestyle and many more.
Be creative in event formats! Audience engagement should be a priority.
Co-create! The festival should unite civil society organisations, businesses, public authorities, religious organisations and civic-minded people.
Think young! The festival should be attractive for young generation since its inception.
Financial sustainability should be a priority from the day one, but beware of commercialization! Do not allow any plain product/service advertisement; all the events and activities should be aimed at societal benefit.