SI Alumni Forum in Indonesia – Food entrepreneurship

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 8.30 am, but the organizing committee 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) is a new initiative from SI to maintain and strengthen its alumni network. A pilot project for 2015, this forum is held in three selected countries: Indonesia, Belarus, and Uganda. The Swedish Institute fully sponsored this event, allowing 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 in Jakarta.

Attended by about 60 alumni, the day’s schedule is packed with 3 different sessions, all of which aimed to provide alumni with aspiration and inspiration on how entrepreneurship – using our best skills, passion, and network – can create a better Indonesia. Moreover, we have chosen food entrepreneurship as our sub-theme because food unites people and it can open doors to countless opportunities, whether or not you are in the food industry.

 

‘Indonesia Calling’ was the first session, followed by ‘Change-Makers’ Path’, ‘Support System’, and concluded by ‘Bring Back Home’. In ‘Indonesia Calling’, each of us was asked to find one news clipping (among a hundred!) that caught our interest. Based on the clipping’s topic, we formed a group and discussed about why a certain issue interests us, what can we do to improve the situation, and what is the positive thing about that issue. This session also provided an excellent opportunity for the alumni to get to know each other, especially for those who have never met before. After the group discussion, we presented the result briefly in the plenary.

Following the first session was our favourite – lunch and FIKA! After delectable food, coffee and cakes, we proceeded with the second session ‘Change-Makers’ Path’, which features 3 inspiring individuals who have changed their path to follow their passion, sharpen their skills, and contribute in making changes for a better society. They were Lisa Virgiano – a coffee aficionado 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.

 

In many ways, Lisa was the highlight of the session. An alumnus from Malmö University, she is a real example of how alumni of Sweden can foster entrepreneurship in Indonesia. Lisa is pursuing her work to assist and encourage Indonesian small-scale 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 Project 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.

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

To conclude the event, we gathered again in the plenary and shared our reflections of the day and the lessons learned. 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!

To make the event even more memorable, Chef Lotta had prepared a very scrumptious and authentic Swedish cuisine – 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 felt like we were back in Sweden for one night!

But we didn’t just come home with full stomachs. We came home feeling energised and empowered, realising that our alumni network is very strong and consists of people from diverse backgrounds. By having the chance to talk with the speakers and companies, we are also grateful to be able to expand our professional networks. All of this is certainly very valuable in empowering entrepreneurship in Indonesia.