Written by Carol Macavilca Paredes, Elizabeth Miller, Ingrid Monroy, Beth Williams and Blakey Larsen
Our IBD Project took us to Stockholm to help our client, Civil Right Defenders (CRD), a nonprofit organization devoted to human rights founded in 1982, to implement a new Innovation Program that will foster the development and launch of innovations. We started with one simple question, how can we apply innovation to human rights? Easy to answer, right? To be honest, none of us knew the answer four months ago.
Work hard, travel hard was definitely the motto of our team. We worked 3 weeks in Sweden and visited 2 countries, Finland and Norway.
Our first week in the CRD office was a whirlwind: We started by introducing our project to the entire CRD staff, who gave us a warm welcome. In the days that followed, we had a lovely meal at Communications Manager’s house with Swedish pizza…
…and participated in the Stockholm Internet Forum 2017, focused on the Internet Freedom for Global Development, in order to interview innovation experts for our project.
During our second week, the most memorable highlight was to be in the CRD office when it was revealed that the organization had won a court case in which they had been working for four years. Representing 11 of about 4,700 people included in the police registry of Roma population, CRD won the court case against the Swedish state in the Svea Court of Appeal. The state was found guilty of ethnic registration and discrimination and was ordered to pay 30,000 SEK in damages to each of the 11 Roma plaintiffs. We were moved by the words of Robert Hardh, Executive Director of CRD to all the staff the day they received the news, that these are the days they live for.
Also, we had an unexpected but happy news for us: two and a half days of holidays. We decided to visit the IBD Finland team in Helsinki. At the recommendation of our client, we went to Finland by boat. The ferry ride was 15 hours of fun!
We also went to Bergen, during that holiday. We took a full day tour to see some of Norway’s most beautiful fjord scenery. We experienced the scenic Bergen Railway, the breathtaking Flåm Railway, and the narrow and dramatic UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord.
Our team was surprised to experience a uniquely Swedish challenge: doing laundry. In Stockholm apartments, washers and dryers must be booked weeks ahead of time in order to wash your clothes. With limited options, our team had to cancel plans one evening to get our laundry done. The team at CRD said we were real Swedes now!
One fun fact is that in Sweden, purchasing alcoholic beverages isn’t a simple matter. There are no privately owned liquor stores nor do grocery stores sell wine or any liquor. Sweden has a state-run chain of liquor stores called Systembolaget, the only retail stores allowed to sell alcohol. Problems arise due to their opening hours (especially for unaware visitors like us). The stores generally close at 6pm on weekdays, at 3pm on Saturdays and all Systembolaget are closed, without exceptions, on Sundays and holidays! So you need to keep this in mind and don’t wait (like us) until 2:50 pm on Saturday to run to the store.
Last week. We had our first fika in the office and our final presentation. Fika is a tradition in Sweden, is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it.