The Swedish Institute (SI) is a public agency that promotes interest in Sweden. One of the major goals for establishing the SI is to create mutual relationships with other countries around the world. In order to achieve that, awareness of and interest in Sweden must increase. The SI believe that contacts and strong networks increase sharing and application of knowledge and innovative ideas to all areas; whether they be trade, culture or even politics. That has set the ground for the birth of the Young Leaders Visitors Program (YLVP), a program that uses social media at its core in order to lay a foundation for dialogue, mutual understanding and knowledge-sharing among young opinion-makers from different Arab countries and Sweden.
The Danish Cartoons highlights Cultural Barriers
Being the northern neighbor of Denmark, Sweden felt the heat of the aftermath of the cartoon facade. Cultural barriers and common misconceptions aggravated the cartoon problem and left the Danish government with no clue of how to handle the rage of Muslims around the world while at the same time maintaining their own values of sacred freedom of speech. Denmark has most probably been very -let’s say- unlucky, but what are the chances that a similar problem would hit Sweden next time? There are obviously big cultural and moral differences between countries around the world, differences that may just spin out of hand and turn into a huge financial and economical loss.
Would stronger communication channels and networks help?
The huge risk of a similar problem necessitates better communication channels and stronger networks. That is exactly where the YLVP program excels. Started in 2008 – with yearly iteration in mind – the YLVP brings around 25-30 young entrepreneurs from different Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries and Sweden together in an attempt to build a stronger network. The selection criteria of the participants focus mainly on their level of engagement with their local societies through different media outlets (newspapers, blogs, film making, …etc) and their passion towards human rights and human development related issues.