With the initiative of a Halmstad University alumni, Rana Babaç, four years ago Section for Swedish Turkish Development Corporation at Swedish Consulate in İstanbul founded Swedish Alumni Network Turkey.
Since then in corporation with BrandCritique Marketing and Communications agency, we have created two branded events both of which are four years old today in addition to involving the community in İstanbul to our cultural promotion events such as Mid-Summer festival by Business Sweden in İstanbul, Lucia celebration and Christmas drinks events.
The purpose of the Swedish Alumni Network Turkey are simple;
Bringing the Swedish alumni together
Creating synergies which we hope would lead to mutually beneficial social and business relationships between friends of Sweden
Promoting Swedish Culture
And consequently strengthening the relationship between Turkey and Sweden
Today Swedish Alumni Network Turkey has two active chapters in İstanbul and Ankara as well as a developing chapter in İzmir.
In Rana Babaç’s own words…
"6 years ago as I returned to Turkey, I realized there were vibrant alumni communities managed by every other consulate but Sweden. I reached out to a Swedish friend of mine whom I knew to attend the events which took place at the Swedish Consulate in Istanbul. He kindly introduced me to the Section for Swedish Turkish Development Corporation which was also responsible for promotion of Swedish culture in Istanbul. At the time Sevil Özmen with Didem Özalp - who still co-manages the network with me - kindly supported this endeavour and together we build Swedish Alumni Network Turkey to the large network of almost 750 people from an initial Swedish Institute list of 200 alumni."
Swedish Alumni Network in Numbers
Number of Alumni 2013: 200+
Number of Alumni 2017: 750+
Number of Sunny Speaker Series İstanbul Events: 7
Number of Cultural Events in İstanbul: 9
Number of Swedish Pop-Corn Club Events in İstanbul: 17
Number of Student Fairs: 16
Number of Out-of-Istanbul Events: Ankara (2), İzmir (1)
Swedish Alumni Network Events
SANİ (Swedish Alumni Network İstanbul) Speaker Series
Sweden loves the sun. So do the friends of Sweden in Turkey. Four years ago when we founded the network in İstanbul, we were looking for ways to bring the alumni together, and what was a better way to do it if not through the notable alumni themselves? In the past four years, Swedish Alumni Network in İstanbul (SANİ) hosted notable alumni, friends of Sweden as well as public figures who shared their stories; stories about how they became who they were, why they do what they do and how Sweden has supported them in their endeavours. We choose our speakers from different back-grounds, industries as well as paying attention to the correspondance between the field and zeit-geist of the country. These events are held in a casual coffee-talks format, where by our guest of honour shares his/her story for about half an hour, answers questions for another thirty minutes followed by refreshments and networking. These were successful events which started of as 30-40 people attending and today as the interest grew, the attandance increase up to 70-80 people.
Some of the SANİ speakers hosted:
Ahu Özyurt; Chief Writer at CNN Türk in Istanbul. She also anchors on special events and big stories. Ms. Özyurt also was the Washington Correspondent of CNN Türk and Milliyet Newspaper between 2007-09. She also occasionally blogs for the Huffington Post on issues related to Turkey and the Middle East.
Sercan Çelebi; Founder and the first president of Oy ve Ötesi - an independent election monitoring organisation and Turkey’s first and foremost grass-root movement also supported by the Swedish consulate. Çelebi is also one of the Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum.
Ali Argün; Venture Capitalist, Founder of Vagus.tv - one of the only medium which was able to report from the epi-center of the biggest social upheal in Turkish history, Gezi Protests.
Rayka Kumru; A social-sexologist, sexuality educator, consultant and author based in Istanbul, Turkey. Kumru teaches Sexology and Basics of a Healthy Relationship at Yıldız Teknik University and Kültür University as well as writing for a periodical column for the major national newspaper in Turkey, Hürriyet.
Bültent Kozlu; Vice President of TURKVEN, Turkish partner of Advent International, consulting funds over 5 billion USD in investments.Robert Hanna; Swedish MP from the Liberal Party who at the time visited Turkey both for the midsummer celebrations and PRODE Istanbul to show his support.
Robert Hannah; Swedish MP from the Swedish Liberal Party who at the time visited Turkey both for the midsummer celebrations and PRIDE Istanbul to show his support.
Swedish Pop-Corn Club
Movies are the most advanced forms of story-telling. As stories work their way through borders and cultures, they open windows to different lives and different worlds. In the past three years Swedish Alumni Network Turkey in Istanbul organised 17 Swedish Pop-Corn Club events where stories were shared, tales were told and our culture was promoted through master story-tellers of the Swedish movie industry. The movies we show are supplied by the Swedish Institute who make these selections in corporation with the Swedish Film Institute. We try to pick titles that correspond to current affairs or issues that our foreign ministry wish to highlight or emphasise. Some movies are in English however as most of them are in Swedish, we make sure that our screenings are subtitled in Turkish.
The regular cultural events which take place at the Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul are good opportunities to bring alumni together in a more informal way. Our alumni enjoy seeing each other as well as taking a heart-warming tour down the memory lane. Through out the year Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul organises different events around Lucia, Christmas, Cinnemon Bun Day, Semlor and Mid-Summer, to all of which we welcome the alumni.
Student fairs are very popular in Turkey and they help out-going students discover about their study-abroad options. In the past two years Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul in corporation with Swedish Alumni Network Turkey attended over 15 fairs across Turkey and promoted Swedish higher education institutions. Alumni were present at some of these events to give their insights to prospective students. Our efforts were awarded by Swedish Institute for promoting Study-in-Sweden initiative to the highest degree.
Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul organizes a "Pre-Departure Event” for all outgoing students to Sweden. This event is composed of several parts. At the event Consulate General staff gives essential information about visa procedures as well as information about life in Sweden in general. Invited alumni gets together with outgoing students and share their experience about Swedish education system and student life. Through this event, Swedish Alumni Network Turkey aims to support out-going students, help them get to know each-other and be more prepared therefore more confident about their next couple of years in Sweden. Swedish alumni are our good-will ambassadors.
Swedish Alumni Network in Turkey Expansion & Spin-offs
Two years ago, with the recruitment of a Trade Officer in Ankara, The Swedish Embassy also joined the initiative by undertaking the creation of a website and organising a kick-off event. This year, the Ankara chapter became more active and formed a team to increase the number of events and communication between the alumni in the region.
In April of 2017, Swedish Alumni Network Turkey visited İzmir and hosted an alumni brunch with the attendance of Yiğit Tatış, Honorary Consul of Sweden in İzmir. In addition to the alumni, Swedish citizens living in the area, businessmen who work with Sweden as well as outgoing students were invited to the event. Although the general purpose was to bring friends and alumni of Sweden together, Swedish Alumni Network Turkey used the opportunity to explore if an alumni could be recruited to make these gatherings regular and spread Swedish cultural values.