Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Baiba Rubesa at TEDxRiga 2013

Translator: ilze garda reviewer: maricene crus somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Ladies and gentlemen, before you stands a pretty down-to-earth dreamer.

I believe that dreams come true, but very rarely in the way that you imagined them. I've spent most of my life addressing the conundrum of creating a better community, big or small.

Over the years, i've realized that there are three key elements that bring about change: it's listening, trust, and dreaming. You have to listen hard in order to understand the community you want to impact and be ready to manage its expectations.

Listening is certainly not easy for most of us, and I for one have to work on it just about every day.

Trust mutual trust is quintessential if change is to happen. Now, another word for trust is transparency. We all need to demand more transparency in our actions and decisions. More transparency is actually a strength, not a weakness, that needs to be managed.

Increasingly, I see people paying mere lip service to transparency. They actually underestimate its power, but do so at their peril. Listen, trust, and last but not least, dream dream big.

And allow that dream to change the way all dreams do. I've lived my life working on the dream of living in a tiny, perfect nation: latvia. Perfect in terms of being free, independent, kind, happy, bountiful, nurtured by latvians from all around the globe.

Now, at times, this seems to be the impossible dream. And today, i'm worried that the path we are currently on may lead to latvia and latvians disappearing into the annals of history.

Now, why tiny and perfect? I associate these two words with a politician who was known as the tiny, perfect mayor of my hometown, toronto.

This endearing description of mayor david crombie's physical stature was directly related to toronto seeing itself as the little apple but really wanting to be better than the big apple new york city.

Crombie is known for ushering in an era of socially responsible urban development in toronto, making it actually one of the most attractive cities in the world to live in.

I should add, a city with a population double that of latvia. I aspire to latvia being a tiny, perfect nation known for being a socially responsible society that is the envy of other nations of its kind, starting with estonia.

Now, I don't have a solution for how to get there, but I do have some ideas for what is needed for change to happen. The last three years, I served on the board of the extractive industries transparency initiative, or the eiti.

From rio to lusaka, we met in some pretty amazing places around the world. One day, I was at the meeting in amsterdam, in the center of the city, a posh meeting room, overlooking the castle square, three simultaneous interpreters in place to assist.

There, I learned a major lesson about the first element of change: listening. We were about 60 representatives from business, government, and key international non-governmental organizations, heartly engaged in arguing about revenue disclosure models and I won't get into the definition of that this time its legal ramifications, legislative and political challenges, et cetera.

We were from all walks of life, different races, creeds, ages, and certainly life experiences. And then, in the middle of our deliberations, a representative from africa raised her hand and said, " I don't understand why we are discussing this and where it's going.

I'm here to make sure that my children have clean water, food, and an education; you know, stop the poverty in my country! I don't understand why this should be so complicated." and she was right: it shouldn't be this complicated.

And a light bulb went on. Many of us thought that revenue disclosure was about addressing tax evasion, but what communities really want is to eradicate poverty.

Some of us thought that revenue disclosure would ensure that a corrupt regime is forced to invest tax revenues more fairly in societies.

We thought that the target was the corrupt regime. Wrong. The target is the community. It wants to clearly see that the taxes are used for roads, affordable food, and good education for their children.

Influencing corrupt regimes is actually secondary. Now, does that ring a bell with anybody here? Understand the community, its aspirations, listen. Officials from government and business, most probably also in this room, will say, " we do listen to communities. we do social impact studies.

We invest an awful lot in political analysis, we take the pulse with market and opinion surveys. This creates our platform for change." the problem is, dear officials, that all of these ventures are from a distance, and therefore you don't have a robust platform for change, and with robust, I really mean strong, knowledgeable platform for change.

Change comes from actually talking to real people, face to face, mano a mano, understanding the individual needs, history, and cultural context. So knowledge and analysis plus listening generate solid plans for change, and such dialogue generates trust.

Yet all across the globe, we don't trust anymore. We don't trust institutions, governments, business, the media. We barely trust data, in spite of all this stuff that we've seen here today.

We trust twitter more than our neighbor. Building better societies means that you need to have trust from the community you want to change. Now, about a year ago, I visited a tiny community in indonesia, far from the twitter world, where we were considering investing in offshore oil exploration.

There, I learned a lesson about building trust. Our analysis identified that there were two key community issues: access to water and enough jobs. We decided to invest in different ways to create shared economic value, in this case helping women set up small businesses.

I met with women who had created a prawn chip business in their communal kitchen. It was pretty hot in that kitchen, you know, children running around, large, wok-type pans all over the place, plastic boxes in the corner that were ready for packaging, vegetable oil bubbling in the air.

And then imagine a dozen indonesian women that were fluttering around like these beautiful birds, dressed in indonesian batik skirts, but with hands that clearly showed that they had toiled under a lot of labor.

This is where they made the prawn chips. They showed me their production process; we laughed and we tasted a lot, and we took a lot of pictures, and I bathed in their pride of having successfully established a profitable business, and I assume probably outdoing their husbands though nobody would say that.

Later, I heard from my visit of half a globe away that it had contributed to strengthening the community's trust to our company, simply by listening, sharing, laughing and being there.

However, personal interaction is but a small step in building trust in a community. My former boss, the ceo of statoil, tends to be a man of few words. But when helge lund makes a point, it sticks, sometimes provocatively.

In a room of ceos from the top oil companies in the world, he declared that transparency is the new currency of trust. Transparency is the new currency of trust. There were ceos in the room who tacitly begged to differ, i'm sure.

I don't differ though, i agree 100 percent, and helge is bang on about transparency and trust, so the real question is, " what do we mean by transparency?" if people know where the government's money is coming from and who is getting it, what it is being spent on, and individuals have the ability to influence these decisions, then local communities grow and flourish.

If people know and understand why and how business leaders make decisions, it is easier to participate in the development of that community because trust is established. In an era of wikileaks, pietiek. Com, prison and so on, we need to accept that nothing can be hidden anymore.

So sharing information in detail, sharing dilemmas in detail, is key to a transparent and open society. Transparency international corruption perceptions index has long proven that the less corrupt a society is, the more robust it is.

As a matter of fact, it is proven that the more transparent a society is, the healthier and wealthier it is. I can't understand why latvia has such a hard time grasping this. Yet cooperation and collaboration are the most difficult processes for creating anything.

But if you are able to truly listen to each other, generate trust, openly discuss and resolve disagreement, projects, communities, societies, and nations thrive. So, listening and trusting is hard, cynicism is easy, criticism is easy, constructive creation is hard, and the hardest of all is actually dreaming.

I've worked in business for a good 30 years. My business colleagues know how much time and care is invested in business planning and business forecasting.

At times, I actually call it crystal ball gazing. But though a necessary tool for planning, five, ten, twenty-year business plans for me are nothing but dreams, as they hardly ever come true as planned.

So they need to be adjusted as things change in the business environment. And so dreams need a regular readjustment too. After visiting the soviet latvia in the early 1970s, I was absolutely committed to the dream of a free and independent latvia.

Never in a million years believing that this would come true in my lifetime, much like the berlin wall would never fall. But it fell, and latvia regained its independence. At that point, I guess I assumed that the new latvia would simply pick up where the war had interrupted its development and swiftly become like the western europe that I knew from the 1990s.

West germans thought the same of the east, really. And boy, was I wrong! Once latvia was free, there were so many demanding factors to resolve to create its renewed independence.

How free should free be? How to move the society's expectations from a planned economy to capitalism, and a very brutal capitalism at that? How to establish sustainable political parties? How to restructure the eduction system for the 21st century? Who are our friends? Who are our foes? How do we keep them apart? and when do we collaborate? How to protect the nation - physically, economically, culturally? How to care for the weakest in the community? How will latvia have enough latvians? And how to be simply great? All of these questions demand that a community and a country change, and none of these questions have gone away.

As a new democracy, we haven't learned to deal with them transparently and openly. Today, 20 years later, our freedom feels pretty fragile. Indeed, on a high level, it feels like our community is quietly falling apart.

Where did that dream of a free, independent, kind, happy, bountiful country, nurtured by latvians go? Somewhere over the rainbow where the skies are no longer blue? I hope not.

I fear I don't have the answer to repair the troubled path of the last 20 years, and I don't have a recipe for success.

I do know that our path can take the turn for the better with more mutual trust and mutual dialogue. Because dreams have to change, just like innovations change, just like demographics change. My dream of a tiny, perfect nation remains and evolves.

So this is where you all come in. I invite each and every one to make the tiny, perfect nation your dream as well.

Again, afresh, anew. I dare you to truly listen, instead of barking at each other. I dare you to genuinely build trust and to dream, dream, dream these practical, down-to-earth dreams.

And if we all do, someday i just may wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me: in that tiny, perfect little nation called latvia.

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