Alumni event in Nairobi!

The below article comes from Aleh Kliatsko who organised an alumni networking event at the Embassy of Sweden on 5 November and a study visit to UN-Habitat on 6 November.

On Thursday, November 5th, the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi held an alumni networking event for former Swedish Institute scholarship holders from Kenya. The event gathered 24 people at the residence of Johan Borgstam, the Ambassador of Sweden to Kenya. The topic of the event was ‘Role of NGOs to empower youth’. Aleh Kliatsko, organizer of the SI Alumni event, shared his experience from NGO Global Playground Stockholm. After his presentation there was an interesting and fruitful discussion on how to consolidate the alumni network in Kenya and make it move forward.

On the second day, November 6th, a study visit to UN-Habitat in Nairobi was organized with a presentation by Rafael Tuts (coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch; UN-Habitat) on the outcomes of the United Nations conference in New York on the 2030 Agenda.

What do participants think about the event and future of alumni network in Kenya? Here comes feedback from some of them:

“The alumni had the opportunity to brainstorm about what activities they could engage in to strengthen and empower the Kenyan chapter. A first step was the development of a Facebook Page for Kenyan SI Alumni to provide a platform that will allow for simple communication and connection regardless of where members are based, in the hope of fostering an inclusive community that engages on a variety of issues on a regular basis. This forum is currently being put in place.

This event was a first positive step in moving forward the new Kenyan chapter of SI alumni.”

Krystle Kabare


”The event provided an awesome opportunity for different SI alumni generations to meet and touch on their experiences both in Kenya (before Sweden and after Sweden) and in Sweden.

I particularly liked the meeting most. I got to share my re-integration challenges as an individual, to the culture (more so how we choose to do things as people and the unnecessary bottlenecks we create for ourselves), challenges in penetrating the job market which is dictated by social capital more than matching opportunities to expertise/qualifications and generally readjusting to the way of life. Unfortunately, when we got back, there was no one to walk us through the reverse culture shock. It was also amazing to see new Kenyans through their eyes, they had such great ideas and energy that lit the fire in me again, it was an awesome experience. It was evident that we as the alumni need to take on a proactive role in coming together more often. A facebook page was formed and this allows us to pool resources around areas of common interests without alienating others. If an alumnus has something they want to work towards, those interested simply join in and contribute – there is always something for everyone.

Meeting the ambassador and Aleh, was also very interesting. I learnt that you do not need to have much to make a difference and that the most sustainable ventures are the ones that are around you and that you are passionate about. If you want to being changed and ensure it has an impact, start with what is at your disposal and watch it ripple outwards.

Thank you for the opportunity.’

Olive Maitha

“The UN Habitat visit was timely mostly because the SDGs are a hot discussion in the global community as we speak. All of us, regardless of our different areas of expertise or profession, will be in one way or another affected by the outcomes of these discussions and/or responses that different stakeholders give to these goals. Secondly, being that majority of the participants were from Kenya — a developing country that is both socially and ecologically affected by the effects of climate change- the visit (at least to me) spurs an eye-opener of what the global community is doing to tame these adverse effects.

The most interesting part in this regard was the walk-through in the department of urban planning. It was particularly interesting to note that cities across the globe have solutions being designed for them in Nairobi! One reflection I am left with is: how best can Kenya as a country tap in to the abundance of expertise that is available both internationally and locally to foster local sustainable urban transitions?

It was equally exciting to break ice with the Swedish embassy in Nairobi. The ambassador is particularly approachable and carries an admirable charisma as well. I however think that the embassy shouldn’t shy off from giving suggestions or offering facilitators’ spaces for the Kenyan SI alumni. My reasons are that it is a new community and pretty embryonic. Therefore for the different SI generations to solidify, a common glue-these facilitation spaces-would come in handy for the community to successively hatch in to a fully fledged and vibrant alumni.

What a great pleasure to have been part of the activities! I look forward to seeing greatness emerge!”

Ezekiel Wepundi

I would like to say thank you to the Ambassador of Sweden to Kenya H.E. Mr. Johan Borgstam; Jenny Andersson – Political and Trade Policy Officer at the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi; Thomas Melin, Head Ag, External Relations Office, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); Nathalie Garner, Programme Management Intern, UN- Habitat External Relations Division; and Jasdeep Randhawa, Consultant (Lawyer & Public Policy Analyst), United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities for all help and making this SI Alumni event in Nairobi possible.

Aleh Kliatsko
4 December 2015