OGP volunteer story: “I felt like a global citizen”

21. Sep 2023

The 8th Open Government Partnership Global Summit brought more than 2,000 people from about a hundred countries to Estonia at the beginning of September. Many volunteers were included in the team in order to welcome the foreign guests in Tallinn and to help the participants of the summit get all the necessary information in the Telliskivi creative campus. We talked to one of the volunteers, Tam, about being apart of the summit.

What were your tasks as the volunteer at the summit? 

As a volunteer at the summit I was providing information to participants, in French and English, so I was at the main information centre doing the following tasks:

  • looking up the meetings participants want to attend and identifying the rooms for each meeting,
  • guiding participants to their different meeting rooms, 
  • helping participants to understand the program of the day,
  • guiding them to download the App, so that they can see the various meetings and activities directly,
  • suggesting to participants where they can go for lunch based on their choice of food,
  • moving across different meeting rooms: either by taking participants there or checking that no participant is stranded – when the info centre was less busy, 
  • providing more focused assistance for special participants using support to walk,
  • listening to participants when they share some challenges they had at different points – as feedback and sharing useful information/feedback with the team immediately.

Was that similar to your daily job or something different?

My regular work involves onboarding businesses across countries in Europe and North America, in line with different jurisdictions’ laws, and financial regulations according to the business legal type. Part of the legal requirements I must fulfil is the identification of Beneficial Owners (BO) and directors behind each business to prevent/combat financial crime. 

Interestingly the issue of BO was raised at the summit and reinforced for all OGP countries. Using Ukraine as a good example, every OGP country must demand businesses at the point of registration to fully disclose BOs. As Samantha Power further emphasized, such countries must use technology to achieve transparency of BOs to combat corruption.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer at the summit?

I have an MA in eGovernance and Public Sector Innovation from Ragnar Nurkse department at TalTech. During my studies, I had classes in different fields including Open Government (and Project Management). On June 2 2023, I did a webinar for the Global Project Management Institute on the topic:  Adaptive Projects in the Public Sector using the Estonian eResidency as a case study. During the webinar, I made a lot of reference to Open Government, without going into the details, but I also explained that Estonia is open-by-design and can serve as an example. As a follow up to that webinar, I was preparing to do another webinar on Open Government, so while searching the web with the key words “Estonia” and “Open Government” I stumbled on the request for volunteers for the summit. I decided to postpone the follow-up webinar, and applied to volunteer for the summit to gather more up-to-date information.

What kind of experiences did you get from being a volunteer? 

First, I am passionate about the public sector (of course modern public sector) because of the many opportunities of positively impacting citizens at all levels. Finding myself collaborating with people from the public sector was a very fulfilling experience for me. 

Secondly, I was particularly impressed by the success stories shared by participants from different regions. For example, on day 2, I randomly worked in the black room “MUST” and heard about how primary school children influenced transformation in the educational sector of their country – thanks to “freedom of information”. 

Moreover, meeting people from over 100 countries in one event made me feel like a global citizen. But the most humbling and exciting experience was realizing that I was representing eEstonia at a global scale.

What was the most exciting or fun for you?

There are several perspectives of excitement and pleasant memories about this summit that I can hardly forget. The pre-event meetings, especially the meeting in Stenbocki maja was proof that the summit is really high-level.

Wearing a sweatshirt with the inscription “I have all the answers” while still figuring things out made me feel smart. It was really exciting how we quickly adapted to changes and updates. Personally, the sweatshirt was also a brand and symbol of authority that made me feel important and powerful as people looked up to me for help.

Having the summit in Telliskivi without restricting normal activities of the creative center is by itself an innovation in event management. The summit was of course high-level but the participants were very friendly and relaxed – I think the environment/atmosphere contributed to that serenity.

Overall, it was well organized as the participants themselves acknowledged. Thanks to Kristel Konsa and Ott Karulin for giving me the opportunity to volunteer for the summit!