‘Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens’

NFGL member Enkeleda Ibrahimi from Albania shares what she learned from attending the recent Gather Festival in Stockholm.

'Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens'

Stockholm is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, with its diversity, innovation and growth opportunities for business and individuals. Fascinated by this I chose this city to pursue my master's degree and live for the next two years.

I am happy that in my first month here, thanks to the Network of Future Global Leaders, I was able to attend the first Gather Festival. And in just three days I saw and experienced all aspects of Stockholm in the most spectacular way possible. 

So, on the morning of September 14th, I took the green metro line to go to Nobelberget. That day happened to be also my birthday. I was so excited that this year on my special day I could do one of my favorite things in the world: learn and network.

The festival started with a unique and breathtaking opening ceremony. Poetry to make us Question; a laser show about what really means to Collaborate; and meditation as an inspiration to Think Different – which were the pillars of Gather Festival. Everything came together perfectly and prepared us for some mind-shifting speeches and labs.

Gather Festival revolved around five different themes: Human vs. Machine; Communication; Economy; Urban Development; Democracy. All themes are the core of Stockholm innovation and you could really feel this from the local speakers but also from the admiration the international speakers had for this city.

They ran in parallel with each other and with the G:Labs. This made it very difficult to decide which themes and speakers to follow, but I tried to get a bit of everything (okay, maybe a bit more about Human vs. Machine, but I am tech girl, I cannot help it).

The speakers were incredible, not only because of the knowledge they shared (which was immense) but especially because of the way they made us feel and think in relation to the ideas they discussed. I will never forget Lucy McRay and Kate Stone from the keynote speeches; nor Johanna Öhlén Meschke andw Anja Melander — cofounders of social design firm Tankeapoteket — from the G:Labs.

Which leads me to maybe my favorite thing of all the experience: the G:Labs.

I was one of the lucky ones that were able to book a seat at The Future of Sustainable Fashion by Swedish Institute. As someone who is not very interested in fashion I was not convinced I had made the right selection but I challenged myself to go outside my comfort zone and learn about something different this time. I knew Swedish people were famous for being stylish, so I thought why not discover what their secret is.

As always, outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens. There I had the most amazing three hours of the festival. I learned so many interesting things – from the circular economy that is crucial for sustainable fashion, to the mind-blowing technique on how to grow fabric in your kitchen. We even worked on creating our own sustainable fashion prototype, which was one of the most fun experiences ever.

I also had the chance to meet and work with some interesting people from different backgrounds and especially from the fashion industry. And of course, I experienced the cultural diversity that I see everywhere in Sweden: my team had members from Sweden, Columbia, Vietnam, and Albania (me). Every time I shop at H&M from now on, I will be excited because I know one of their employees in the buying department, that decides which clothes to select for their collections. 

Last but not least, every night after the conference was the Music Festival. In different locations around the city, different stages featured different artists. We could learn during the day from the Night Mayor of Amsterdam about the Nighttime Economy and experience during the night how electric it is in Stockholm. I must highlight my excitement that thanks to the festival I had the chance to listen for the first time Amanda Bergman, an incredible artist with an enchanting voice.   

I will finish this reflection with the most important aspect of Stockholm that I experienced at Gather: the energy. The energy that flows in this city is incredible. It is powerful and intense, making you run every day to work hard, question everything, collaborate, and think different – which leads to innovation and growth. At the same time, it is soft and quiet, keeping that peaceful state everybody feels and enjoys while visiting or living in Stockholm, the beautiful capital of Scandinavia. 

Enkeleda Ibrahimi is studying Information Security at Stockholm University.


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.