It all started with a crazy idea. That’s how we describe the way The Great Listening was formed. But who is the person that came up with the idea? We are proud to present Niklas Wass, founder of TGL, a creative and inspiring person who loves politics, motorcycles – and a good talk.
May 14, 2018. Niklas Wass is sitting outside Starbucks in Austin, Texas at 9 am, when we reach him by phone. It’s already ninety degrees outside, but Niklas is used to the heat. For the last six weeks he has been working out of the southern metropolis. Normally, the small city of Falun, Sweden is his home. That is where he lives with his family; his wife Caroline, their three children, (5, 12 and 14 years) a horse, a dog and a cat. ”I often get the question where I live. I have a home address, but for the last few years I’ve been living globally, without borders in mind”, Niklas explains. At the moment his focus is 110 percent TGL. Previously, Niklas was a consultant for, among other things, the Peace & Love music festival in Borlänge, Sweden. In the United States he is known as Nic the Swede, and is usually called a social entrepreneur. But he would rather use non-job-related titles to describe himself, such as biker and cosmopolitan. ”The whole thing about TGL is that we never want to label people. We do different things. But for some strange reason, we always relate the question about who we are to our profession. When I meet new people they often say, “It’s so annoying, I can’t really place you”. That’s because I’m trying to be me, and I am always changing.
A biker and a cosmopolitan, whose mission is to spread the concept of TGL across the globe.
But what exactly is TGL?
”It is a forum for democratic debate, where solution-oriented people who want to help society move forward can come together. A place where we put ideology aside, and try to be more focused on solving problems. It is also a place where we can come together, share ideas, perspectives and successful projects in our respective communities, cities and countries.
The idea behind TGL is quite a long story. It started when Niklas met his wife Caroline.
“She was a politician and I was a happily bitter entrepreneur. I was running my business but always arguing with local politicians over alcohol licenses and such. The only experience I had of politicians was negative. But she introduced me to people from both sides, and then I saw that we were really the same. I want to change things through entrepreneurship, and they through their political platform.”
But there was also another thing that played a significant role in the formation of TGL – a speech by the legendary reverend Jesse Jackson at the Peace & Love-festival in 2011. A few days later, when Niklas and Jackson visited the Almedalen week, Jackson exclaimed that a similar event was needed in the United States. And as Niklas ran in to more American friends and politicians, (both democrats and republicans) in the streets of Visby, Nikla’s entrepreneurial heart said, “This is possible”. “My brain said no, no, no. But the heart won, and seven years later we have the platform”. And the platform is evolving rapidly. The first TGL event will take place in Austin in November. Further ahead on the horizon, events are being planned in two African countries. So far, Niklas has held eight workshops in Austin for representatives from politics and business. This summer, he is also holding a seminar in Sweden, at the Almedalen Week in July, while simultaneously working on PR, marketing and fundraising. In addition to all this, Niklas is also writing a book about TGL.
“Things are happening all the time. From the beginning I wanted to create an event and a place for people to meet. Now it’s a constantly ongoing and evolving thing. TGL is driven by participation, built by open source. We build it together, and without participants, nothing happens.”