“SI opened the doors to a world of inspiration”

Last week SI alum Olga Ryabova organized an event in Moscow, focusing on sustainability. Olga tells The Local why she wants to continue organizing events and what it's like to be part of the SI legacy.

“SI opened the doors to a world of inspiration”

When NFGL students graduate from their programmes in Sweden, they join a global network of alumni – not just from the NFGL programme, but from one of the Swedish Institute's other intiatives, the Management Programme.

Olga Ryabova is an alum of the Swedish Institute Management Programme (SIMP), unique opportunity for managers from Africa, Europe, China and India to study combination of theory and practice, including advanced business-related problem-solving, seminars and meetings with prominent experts in the commercial, political and cultural fields, as well as company visits.

Just like NFGL alumni, Olga says that SIMP provides extraordinary opportunities to connect even when the programme is finished – and a forum where alumni can continue contributing.

“Due to this great attention to the experience and engagement of future participants of the programmes,” Olga says, “the Swedish Institute alumni community is a priceless asset and a unique platform to stay connected.”

Olga valued the opportunity to host gatherings where alumni could meet, share what is going on in their lives, think, and create together.

So when a new round of grants for organizing alumni events was announced by the Swedish Institute, of course she pounced.

She joined forces with fellow SIMP alum Alexander Panko (who is now working with VisitSweden in Russia), and they decided that Impact HubMoscow would be the perfect spot for an SI alumni gathering.

“Impact Hub Moscow curates community, spaces and programs for entrepreneurs and change makers,” Olga explains.

“To make it more thematic we asked Olga Sitnik, co-founder of ExploRussia to make a presentation on the topic of sustainable tourism. Olga is not a SI alumnus yet, but her project to many extents has the same core values as the ones we have learned and integrated into ourselves during SIMP.”

Olga notes that the most challenging part of hosting the event was actually gathering the participants. Many of the members had shared official e-mail addresses during the programme, but had changed jobs afterwards and switched e-mail addresses.

“We received many emails saying the email address was not valid anymore,” she says. “So we used social networks to find people by name, and we also invited the Impact Hub Moscow Community.”

After all, newcomers to the SI programmes are selected each year from such communities, so why not get them involved already?

The organizers chose the open-mic format for the event, encouraging everyone to share their experiences.

“It means that the participants of our evening gathering will follow the whole journey after SIMP with all the alumni who decided to share their own experiences, their own findings during this journey,” Olga says. “And – who knows? Maybe some invitations to join the journey will follow, and we will witness the new stream of synergy between the alumni and their projects.”

The event took place on October 1, where the inspirational evening was completed with Swedish cookies and dishes, a reminder of Swedish culture and compromise.

“The evening was full of inspirations and reflections, thoughtful discussions and ideas to develop further,” Olga says. “The meeting lasted till late – there was so much to say and to share, many of us have not seen each other for years. And it was great to make new connections, learn new people and new stories.”

Many participants expressed a desire to have similar events in the future, and Olga says they are already looking forward to the next meeting.

“For us alumni, the Swedish Institute opened the doors to a new world of making real difference, the world of unity, the world of sharing and inspiration,” she exclaims.

“Many of us took these lessons to our lives and continue to inspire other people around us. Many have started their own sustainable projects and help and support other people in making the difference.”