A Thank You Note from SIAF 2015 Jakarta

It was a bright Saturday morning on the 21st of November, 2015, when we began arriving at the Swedish Residence in Jakarta. It was only 8.30am, but the organizing committees was already there, as well as other participants who come from as far as Aceh and Makassar. Smiles were stretched, handshakes exchanged, name tags on – it’s time for the first Swedish Institute Alumni Forum 2015 in Indonesia!

The Swedish Institute Alumni Forum (SIAF) was a new initiative from the Swedish Institute to maintain and strengthen its alumni network. The pilot project for this forum is held this year in three countries: Indonesia, Belarus, and Uganda. Swedish Institute fully sponsored this event, and enabled alumni from other cities (and other islands!) to come and participate as well. It was such a privilege for us, Alumni Swedia, to be hosting this forum in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy Jakarta.

IMG_9310The day’s schedule is packed with 3 different sessions – all of which with the objective of providing alumni with aspiration & inspiration on how to best use our skills, passion, and network, to create a better Indonesia. The first session was called ‘Indonesia Calling’, followed by ‘The Change-Makers’ Path’, followed by ‘Support System’, and concluded by the last session ‘Bring Back Home’.

IMG_9312In the first session, each of us was asked to find one news clipping (among a hundred!) that really interest us. Based on the topic of our news clip, we then gathered in a group and discuss about why a certain issue interests us, what can we do to improve the situtation, and what is the positive thing about that issue. After the group dicussion, we present the result briefly in the plenary forum.

IMG_9320Following the first session was our favourite – FIKA! But after coffee and cakes, we proceeded with the second session, which features 3 individual and inspiring speakers who have changed their path to follow their passion, sharpened their skills, and contribute to the making changes for the society. They were Lisa Virgiano – a coffee afficionado who travels around Indonesia to help coffee farmers practice sustainable farming, improving the quality of their coffee, and promoting fair trade; Lotta Lassesson – who moved from Sweden in a spontaneous manner to start a bed & breakfast in Bali and is now a successful chef/entrepreneur, owner of the well-known Café Smörgås in Sanur, Bali; and John Higson – who moved from Ireland to Sweden to Indonesia to shift career from alcohol distributor to eco-region promoter and activist in the Nusa Tenggara area in Indonesia.

Lisa, who was an alumni from Malmö University, was particularly very passionate about her work in assisting and encouraging small coffee farmers to produce better coffee beans. She actively promotes her activities, and coffee beans from different parts of Indonesia, to various international events. Her Indonesian Coffee Projects aims to transfer knowledge and guarantee premium price for green beans paid to the farmer, as well as to create a simplified and sustainable supply chain of distribution. Her work really brings a different light to the theme of food enterpreneurship that we highlight in the discussion.


After being inspired by Lisa, Lotta, and John, we were then thrilled through two discussion sessions by IKEA and Ericsson. IKEA shared about their values and principles in trading and in making everyone’s daily life better, and after that we engaged in an interactive QnA session. Ericsson shared 10 consumer-predicted trends and asked us to vote for one that we think reflects Indonesia. We then discussed in smaller group about what we can contribute to that trend, as alumni with our network.

To conclude the event, we gathered again the plenary forum and shared our lessons learned, or what we get from that day. Most of us were very happy with the event because it enabled us to get together in a more meaningful way, and because we get to meet other alumni from other cities that we won’t otherwise meet. It was also a great day to reminisce the ‘good ‘ol Sweden days’ with friends who really understand. There were certainly a lot of talk about lax and kanelbullar!

IMG_9352And, to make the event even more memorable, Chef Lotta had prepared a very scrumptious and authentic Swedish meal menu – featuring all kinds of food that we all miss from Sweden! We had three sorts of herrings, gravlax, smoked salmon, roast beef, potato, red beet salad, skagenröra, poached salmon, prinskorv, köttbullar, Janssons frestelse, kanelbullar, kärleksmums, and jordgubsstårta. We reallly felt like we were back in Sweden for one night!


But that day we didn’t just come home with full stomach. We came home feeling energized and empowered, realizing that our network of Swedish alumni is very strong and consists of people from different background. This rich network of motivated individuals is vcertainly very valuable in powering enterpreneurship in Indonesia.

Thank you Swedish Institute for making this happen!

*)an edited version of this post is also published at the Swedish Institute blog



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