Stockholm (NordSIP) – As schools and offices prepare to close for the Summer holiday across Sweden, Almedalsvekan (Almedal week) brings the country’s political and business elites together in a buttoned-down “democratic meeting place for everyone” around Almedalen, a park in Visby, Gotland.
The tradition started in 1968, when then Social Democratic Education Minister Olof Palme began giving impromptu speeches at the park while on his summer break on the island. Since then, the event has grown into a civic festival, first attracting other political parties to the island, until all were represented in 1991. Although the event continues to be a platform for political parties to engage with each other and the voters, it also attracts innumerable civic organisations, NGOs and lobby groups who organise thousands of side events.
To better understand Almedalsveckan in general and this year’s edition in particular, NordSIP reached out to Emma Heikensten (Pictured), Senior Sustainability Specialist at SEB, who is in attendance this week.
The Appeal of Almedalsveckan
“This is my second time at Almedalsveckan. To me, this is a festival for grown-ups and a place for democratic discussions on- and off-stage,” Heikensten says. “There are several interesting seminars, many of them with a focus on sustainability, energy and electricity supply, among other topics.”
Given the multitude of events on offer, participants are spoiled for choice. To decide, Heikensten recommends using this as an opportunity to go outside one’s comfort zone. “When choosing a seminar, I try to look outside of my box. Otherwise, I won’t learn anything. Clearly, it’s pleasant to listen to people speaking about diversity and gender equality as I myself will, but listening to politicians and experts on other subjects can be even more interesting, especially during an election year,” she adds.
The Hope of Almedalsveckan
This time around, however, Heikensten is not a mere passive spectator of the festival. She’s a contributor. “Apart from working with sustainable investments at SEB investment management, I’m engaged with a think tank called ‘Ownershift’. We are arranging a seminar on Power, Ownership and gender equality,” Heikensten explains.
Panellists include the general secretary of the Swedish bar association, representatives from SEB and Avanza, the civil society and VC. In that seminar we want to shine a light on inequality in ownership and how politicians, the respective industries represented as well as individuals can improve the situation. I’m also participating in a panel together with the Swedish Finance Minister about reforms for economic equality between me and women,” Heikensten continues.
Much as she hopes to gain for herself as a spectator, Heikensten would like her contribution to help others too. “I hope to increase the knowledge about ownership as an important parameter in the debate about and for equality between men and women, raise awareness about the issues and what solutions are easily applied, for individuals, corporations, politicians and society at large,” she says.
Ultimately, Heikensten argues that Almedalsveckan offers attendees and participants the opportunity to engage in open dialogue and grow. “My expectation for this week is to learn new things, impact some people to work more with equality and make new friends and acquaintances,” she concludes.