The Tällberg Foundation, launched in 1981, exists to provoke thinking—and action based on thinking—about the issues that are challenging liberal democracies. Those challenges are profound: the world that we have known since the mid 20th century, which produced unprecedented peace as well as human advance, is changing at a pace and in directions that already seem to exceed our ability to cope, never mind manage.
But the forces for “good” still exist even if they need to be renewed, made more muscular and more effective. The Foundation aspires to be part of that process.
Tällberg’s foundational premise is that people of good will, from different cultures, backgrounds, political orientation and expertise, can best explore the challenges facing humanity—and then imagine creative solutions—through informed, respectful, fact and value-based conversation. In that sense, the Tällberg Foundation is more a platform than an organization, more a process than a place, more a constantly evolving network than a rigid hierarchy.
For several decades, the Foundation defined its activities in relation to the exploration of a simple question: How on earth can we live together? Today’s version of that question might be: How can we make democracy work again?
We think there are at least four systemic elements to the answer, and will focus Tällberg’s future work program on them:
- Re-inject ethics into leadership;
- Manage, instead of being managed, by disruptive technologies, climate change and other exogenous forces;
- Re-imagine the architecture and re-establish the legitimacy of governance;
- Recognize that the quality of economic growth—well distributed and sustainable—is at least as important as the quantity of growth, within and among countries.
That agenda is obviously too “big” for any single organization. But it seems clear that liberal democracy will continue to falter without a concentrated, creative and urgent effort to operate on all four elements. So, it is imperative for the Tällberg Foundation not only to try to make a contribution to the new thinking required by this moment in history, but to collaborate with anyone similarly inclined.
In this spirit, we will significantly expand the Foundation’s activities during the next four years, primarily along three vectors:
- Broadening the reach and visibility of our leadership initiative;
- Building a network of Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Tällberg Fellows: thinkers, innovators and doers from diverse geographic, partisan, cultural, professional, and ideological backgrounds who recognize that questions can be more powerful than answers, but also that learning and experience generate their own moral responsibility to act;
- Sustaining a global, non-partisan conversation about key long-term trends that are shaping our societies—especially the acceleration of technological innovation, mass migration, and climate change—through workshops, interactive webinars, etc.
The most visible and broad reaching of these activities will continue to be our leadership initiative, which aims to identify and recognize leaders who are innovative, courageous, optimistic, and—above all—ethical. We seek to encourage leaders who are pushing back hard against the rising tides of nationalism and populism, who recognize the need to operate at a systems level and who can scale not only their visions, but also their operations.
Tällberg’s leadership initiative is built on three key elements.
- An ever-widening, global-as-possible conversation about the kinds of leadership needed today;
- A deepening network among Tällberg Global Leaders who engage with each other in an ongoing dialogue that contributes to their individual projects in practical ways;
- A concerted effort to increase the visibility of the Eliasson Global Leadership Prize of the Tällberg Foundation.
The recent naming of the Foundation’s leadership prize in honor of Jan Eliasson, a leading international and Swedish diplomat, encapsulates our belief that great leaders can make a profound difference only if they operate in concert with universal human values, are tireless in their efforts, and innovative in their approaches—exactly how Jan Eliasson continues to mobilize forces for good.
The Tällberg Foundation is primarily funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, as well as other charitable foundations and individual donors.