Dear Swedish Institute Alumni worldwide!
We are the team of the first Swedish Institute Alumni Forum (SIAF) on Entrepreneurship in Belarus (SIAF) and we would like to share our experience in the arrangement and conduction of the Forum. Unfortunately, we are not able to describe all the peculiarities, details and specifics of the Forum organization in one short blog article but we’d like to bring your attention to the most important parts.
Writing “we”, we mean the core of the team – 8 active participants: Ivan Tikota, Katsiaryna Syrayezhkina, Natalia Romeiko, Pavel Makhnach, Aleh Kliatsko, Aliaksei Kazlou, Maryna Barouka and Liudmila Fokeeva. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we did everything by ourselves. Within the organizing process a lot of other alumni in Belarus provided their support in different stages and in various activities.
Frankly speaking, the first step of the SIAF was not made by us. The Swedish Institute initiators (Markus, Mikael, Niklas and their colleagues) invited us to Stockholm to the Swedish Institute office where we had an opportunity to determine the draft of the Forum agenda in accordance with potential SI alumni interests and our own skills. It’s interesting to mention that some of us were not familiar to each other. That’s why the meeting was important for us to divide our responsibilities and spheres of arrangements. We decided that the overall management process should be carried by Maryna Barouka, the Deputy-Chairman of the Association of European Business in Belarus (AEB) and the Belarusian State University Associate Professor. The Financial management was carried by Ivan Tikota, who has significant experience with international finance and accounting. Katsiaryna Syrayezhkina, the Head of International Affairs of the AEB Belarus, was responsible for administrating the SIAF opening as one of the most significant parts. Here in Belarus we have a proverb: a bad beginning makes a bad ending. So, our common task was to make excellent start! Due to the reviews and comments – we did it!
Three more members of our team were based in Sweden. Therefor we decided that Pavel Makhnach, Aleh Kliatsko and Aliaksei Kazlou were responsible for managing all the processes in Sweden, if needed, besides being responsible for their own events. Pavel also carried all the staff with administration of Skype team charts, aggregation of pictures before and after the Forum. Aleh, being one of the most active Belarusian alumni in Sweden, was responsible for development of the inspiring presentation speech for the SIAF opening.
We made the program such that we could present opportunities not only inside the city (where most SIAF events were concentrated) but also outside of Minsk, in spheres such as agro-ecotourism. Thus, Liudmila Fokeeva, as an Associate Professor of the Geographic Faculty of the Belarusian State University and professional guide, was responsible for the visit to the farmstead not far from Minsk.
And finally, the closing event of the Forum was arranged by Natalia Romeiko, doctor and teacher of the Swedish language, in cooperation with the Swedish Center in Minsk.
As you can see above, SI Alumni in Belarus work in different spheres and organizations. It helped us involve such partners as the Association of European Business, Belarusian State University and Swedish Education Center. Such partnership and strong connection between AEB and the Business Community in Belarus allowed implementing the Forum in the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in Belarus (for free!), one of the most significant economic events in the country that is held once a year globally. All the SI Alumni Forum events were announced on sites of AEB. Two SI events were promoted and advertised via GEW informational sponsors. It helped to disseminate information as wide as possible and attract attention of those SI alumni who work in small and medium sized commercial companies, and those who would like to start their own business.
The SI Alumni Forum started in Minsk 3 days before the opening of the Global Entrepreneurship Week with an event on creativity in entrepreneurship titled “Morning coffee: Swedish style” (November the 16th). By arranging the event before the opening of GEW we wanted to create wide informational coverage about the Forum in Belarus among SI alumni and interested partners. The event was arranged by Pavel Makhnach and Ivan Tikota. The concept was simple: breakfast and two short talks. The event also kick-started the SI Alumni Forum and served as a meeting place for 40 participants, including 28 SI alumni.
The official opening gathered 70 attendees in total, including 2 representatives of the Swedish Institute, 2 representatives of the Swedish Embassy, 39 SI alumni, 8 students of the Centre for Swedish Studies (CSS), Swedish experts (speakers at SIAF events) from the Swedish-Belarusian Business Association, the International Council of Swedish Industry, co-founder of the Uniforms for the Dedicated and representative of the Oriflame Swedish company.
The day after the ceremonial opening (on November 19th), the work of the SI Alumni Forum started with the seminar “The Swedish-Belarusian Business Cooperation: trends and obstacles” held by Katsia Syrayezhkina and Maryna Barouka with the support of the Association of European Business.
The seminar “Sustainable Development and Fashion” was the next event on the same day in the evening. It was organized by Aleh Kliatsko and held at “ЦЭХ” modern venue. Among the guests and participants (about 50) were SI alumni, language students from the Centre for Swedish studies and there were guests who had never been to Sweden but were interested in the topic of sustainability, design and fashion. The main speaker of the event was Michael Lind – Sustainability Manager at ‘Uniforms for the Dedicated’ (http://se.uniformsforthededicated.com/).
The next day, November the 20th, was devoted to field events (outside of Minsk) through the seminar “Ecotourism as a new stream of entrepreneurship in Belarus” organized by SI alumni, Liudmila Fakeyeva and Maryna Barouka. 27 people participated in the seminar – SI alumni, representatives of scientific organizations, representatives of government organizations in the sphere of tourism, business and NGOs. Participants got to expand their theoretical and practical knowledge on how it is possible to implement eco principles in the tourism business and what benefits it gives. After the event, an open lecture was arranged in the Belarusian State University, where Arne Ellefors shared with more than 120 students the Swedish experience for development tourism in Belarus.
At the Official closing of the Forum in Minsk we revised all what had been done during the week: meetings, workshops, discussions, travel to eco-village. Natallia Rameika talked about the SI Alumni Network in Belarus, who can become a part of it and how to run a project of your own in the framework of SI alumni supporting program. In addition, participants listened to a small motivating presentation about science in Sweden, the Nobel Price and the most distinctive winners. Nastassia Varashylina held a lecture about business communication with a focus on differences in Belarusian and Swedish corporate culture and social and historical cultural particularities. Elena Sezenevskaya shared her experience about communication with Swedish partners and gave participants many tips for future work. Natallia Rameika and Elizaveta Korsak made a detailed presentation about different Sweden-related events, happening here in Minsk during the year and briefly presented study, research and co-working possibilities between Belarus, Sweden, and resources, where people can read about it carefully.
The final event was arranged a week after Forum, as a post-SIAF seminar in IT/ICT entrepreneurship: “How to enter the Swedish market with Belarusian IT products/services?”. It was made in order to remind all the participants about the Forum and keep the attention to it for a longer period. Belarus has strong comparative advantages in terms of well-trained IT engineers who are relative cheap in the IT segment of the world labor market. Whilst Sweden admitted labor deficit in the IT sector (according Migration-board statistics). The simplest opportunity for cooperation between two countries seemed to be outsourcing in IT business when Swedish company make order for Belarusian subsidiary.
In conclusion we would like to mention that an SI Alumni Forum is the best way to gather alumni, to remind them that they are alumni , show them new possibilities and show students, future alumni, that education for Belarusians in Sweden is not completed after the graduation. You are SI alumni for ever!