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I've just returned from an incredible week in Tallinn, Estonia attending the European Young Leaders summit put on by Friends of Europe.  Friends of Europe selects, curates and supports outstanding young European leaders for conversations and sessions on "making Europe a global champion for a better world."  For the first time ever, they extended an invitation to some of us in North America and the Middle East to broaden the conversations and I was so honored to participate.  



As America retreats inwards; as nationalism rises once again in Europe; and as narratives of fear overtake those of hope, the opportunity to learn from and to connect with diverse, globally-minded changemakers is imperative.  And it was an absolute pleasure to surround myself with some truly incredible and inspiring futuremakers: members of parliament, social entrepreneurs, innovators, writers, artists and more.

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With Ilhan Omar, fellow North American Young Leader and the first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States.

With Ilhan Omar, fellow North American Young Leader and the first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States.

The first day of our seminar, held in the old Tallinn airport, kicked off with a debate of neoliberalism between an Economist from the Reagan administration and an Anthropologist from LSE.  

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This was followed by a visit to the e-Estonia showroom to learn more about Estonia's incredible digital initiatives.  They are absolutely at the forefront for incorporating digital into the life force of the country.  Highlights include:

  • Considering internet access a human right;
  • eVoting as the norm;
  • Tax filing which takes under 30 seconds because of integrated data collection and APIs so that the tax agency can automatically calculate returns for you;
  • eResidency inviting entrepreneurs around the world to become business creators in Estonia, availing themselves of all kinds of government services, for less than 400 Euro.
  • 99% of government services -- everything but marriage and buying real estate -- online.
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I then took part in a conversation on my very favorite topic: leadership.  We discussed what makes a good leader, which is a fascinating conversation to have among so many diverse leaders representing different cultures and different fields.  I taught about "microleadership" and how we must separate titles of leadership from acts of leadership.  And the imperative we have as leaders to create a culture where we empower those around us to step up as leaders themselves.  All of which requires incredible self awareness, the key, in my opinion, to being a great leader.

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Our first day concluded with a bucket list item I never knew was a bucket-list item: a zero-waste dinner with the Estonian Prime Minister!  Story below:

Day 2 was hosted at the Tallinn University of Technology at their innovation/co-working space Mektory.

Conversations centered around the future of work, the future of education, climate/environment and building entrepreneurial societies.  Fascinating!

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I also took the opportunity to explore the magical, fairy-tale city of Tallinn.  Here's a gallery of some favorite photos:

Day 3 closed the program with a discussion about the potential risks of artificial intelligence with Jaan Tallinn (aptly named!) the co-founder of Skype.  I also learned that the name Skype comes from the combination of "Sky" and "Peer," e.g. your peers in the sky.  

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Although my travel back to San Francisco required a 5.30AM alarm the next day, I spent my last evening wandering the beautiful old town of Tallinn and enjoying the final sunset of my EYL experience.  

I am fond of saying that the role of a changemaker is not just to feel hope when others feel fear, but to transform our own hope into actions which help the fearful find reasons to hope again.  Europe -- and the world -- needs more changemakers and more hope right now.  And it's the incredible changemakers I met in Tallinn which give me hope that a more collaborative, equitable, purpose-driven and sustainable world is not just possible, but is ours to create.  Thank you, Friends of Europe, for introducing me to so many new changemaker friends.