The Foundation Estonian Cooperation Assembly, operating under the aegis of the President of the Republic, has published the Human Development Reports for a decade now.

While the Report, the product of a select team of leading scholars, is increasingly quoted and has an ever-growing effect on the governance of the Estonian state, the process of preparing the Report has received little attention. As the publisher, I would like to shine some light on this process.

Academic cooperation is an essential element of the process of drafting the Reports. In each report, the authors come from at least three Estonian universities. Research centres, such as the Estonian Institute for Futures Studies, the Estonian Institute for Sustainable Development, and Think Tank Praxis, have also contributed to the Reports. The Reports build on the scientific knowledge, data, descriptions, and analyses of the socio-economic development of Estonia.

In order to maintain the Report’s relevance as a knowledge-based mirror of Estonia’s reality and development options, the Council of the Cooperation Assembly identifies the focus of the Report approximately 18 months before it is published. The focus of the Report is drawn from the processes in society and the essential issues that require in-depth consideration, bearing in mind that the selected theme continues to be relevant at the time the Report is published.

The themes of the Reports published over the last decade vary greatly to reflect the important social trends at the time each Report was published:

2006 – Estonia’s position in international rankings! (Editor-in-Chief Mati Heidmets);

2007 – How to transform from a country of simple jobs and simple ideas into one of the most successful countries in Europe (Editor-in-Chief Mati Heidmets);

2008 – The Estonian quality of life in the context of the European Union and the world’s leading countries (Editor-in-Chief Marju Lauristin);

2009 – The quality of the living environment and human activity (Editor-in-Chief Marju Lauristin);

2010/2011 – “Baltic Way(s) of Human Development: Twenty Years On”. The achievements of Estonia compared with Latvia, Lithuania, other countries of the Baltic Sea Region, and the European Union (Editor-in-Chief Marju Lauristin);

2012/2013 – “Estonia in the World”. Estonia’s position in highly respected European and global surveys, and its competitiveness in a globalised world (Editor-in-Chief Mati Heidmets);

2014/2015 – “Escaping the Traps?” The role and impact of the long-term development strategy of Sustainable Estonia 21 on Estonia’s development (Editor-in-Chief Raivo Vetik);

2016/2017 – “Estonia in the era of migration.” Increasing well-being and migration turnaround in Estonia (Editor-in-Chief Tiit Tammaru).

The process of preparing the Human Development Report has not changed much over years. In the autumn of 2015, the Council of the Foundation Estonian Cooperation Assembly set the major theme of the Report: The vitality of ‘Estonianism’ (Estonian language and culture) in the era of migration. After that, the Cooperation Assembly held a public competition to find an Editor-in-Chief – a doctorate holder and preferably a Professor. Two candidates submitted their visions of how the overall theme should be covered, including the structure of the Report and the names of the chapter editors. The Council of the Cooperation Assembly met with both candidates and chose Professor Tiit Tammaru as the Editor-in-Chief. After this, a timetable for preparing the Report was drafted, contracts were signed with authors and editors, and the concept was developed further.

This Report is the result of a joint effort by the Editor-in-Chief, co-editors, and chapter editors. The Editor-in-Chief gave the Council of the Cooperation Assembly regular updates on the progress made in drafting the Report. The Council of the Cooperation Assembly did not intervene in the content of the Report, limiting itself to monitoring the process to ensure that the Report formed a cohesive whole and that the articles did not go off on tangents. As a rule, no specific surveys are conducted for the purpose of the Human Development Report. The Report builds on the existing data and analyses, and consists of articles written in the style of popular science. The Editor-in-Chief and co-editors kept an eye on the whole picture, and advised the authors to ensure that the chapters remain consistent with the overall theme, and communicate the Report’s messages and conclusions to the public. All articles were subject to two internal editing rounds and one external peer-review. Olari Koppel was the Report reviewer and has been involved in drafting and publishing previous Human Development Reports; Koppel also has long-term experience as an editor.

This time, what is different from the previous reports is that the editors and authors introduced the main messages of the Report at professional events and in the media before its publication. The issue of migration is highly topical and communicating the opinions of researchers helps to maintain the ongoing public debate. Our second objective was to make the process of drafting the Report more transparent. The early communication of the Report’s messages served this purpose.

The staff of the Cooperation Assembly took care of language editing, translation, and design as well as of the effective communication of the key messages. The team also sought cooperation from various development initiatives, such as Estonia 100 and the Opinion Festival.

The Report was funded from the operating grant awarded to the Cooperation Assembly from the state budget.

The Cooperation Assembly has suggested that the focus of the next Human Development Report should be the living environment of ‘Estonianism’, i.e. the topics related to living and public spaces. A discussion of the links between the physical environment and well-being would be a logical follow-up to the topic of transnational Estonia.