Colleague to colleague was started spring 2019 with the goal to develop a method to strengthen the ability of newly arrived and non-established writers and journalists to continue to practice their profession in Sweden, and for the Swedish media and literary scene to get in touch with them. From 2020 Colleague to Colleague is incorporated in the Art to Participate project that works for all artistic disciplines and has from 2020 been ensured governmental support.
- Our 35 pilot journalists and writers from different countries who have relocated to Sweden has, together with as many established Swedish colleagues, revealed what is needed in order to support their writing in a new context. Colleague to Colleague has also been about making the Swedish media/publishers aware about how to find their colleagues with valuable international experience. The mutual exchange has been key to the project and the result is a hands-on-method on how to work with this locally and on a national level. - Says Åsa Steinsvik, Project Manager, RSF Sweden.
Three Pilot Regions
For a year, Colleague to Colleague has worked with the regions of Västra Götaland, Jönköping and Uppsala, which are already involved with similar projects. The regions have matched the colleagues with each other, carried out study visits to editors and publisher, created meeting places for networking, and organised courses on how to work as a free-lance journalist in Sweden and other practical issues. Coordinators in Region Jönköpings län Märit Lundsten and Peter Nyberg says:
- The group of participants of unestablished and established colleagues has in our region created a tight network of mutual respect. A positive effect has been that the participants now take initiative to create events and platforms for writing. Also, the project, through the participants stories, has created understanding of the wider newly arrived artists and how to include them in the cultural scene. We as a region has also worked closely with the region of Västra Götaland and through this taken part in and used each other’s networks.
ICORN's role has been to support RSF Sweden in developing the project Colleague to Colleague together with the other partner organisations. ICORN writers and journalists in Sweden have been offered a space at network meetings, training courses and participated in investigations related to the project.
- Colleague to Colleague has created an opportunity for me to get to know some of the writers in my new hometown Uppsala. We take walks and talk about the troubles that are in my home country Iran, and about the differences between the two countries. My new colleagues give me ideas about work life in Sweden and I feel that they will show me the best ways to find a work. - Ashraf Bagheri, ICORN – writer in Uppsala and participant in Colleague to Colleague.
Knowledge and method incorporated in a national network
The knowledge and methods accumulated through the project will be incorporated in the national network the Art to participate. The network consists of ten regions in Sweden and works to support more diversity in Swedish cultural life, helps stakeholders to find international competence, and to facilitate new and unestablished artist within all disciplines to continue to express themselves.
RSF Sweden will continue their work for the freedom of speech of exiled journalists through an information project funded by Forum Syd. It includes translating articles to get published, inviting journalists to panel discussions at central venues like bookfairs, as well as lectures in high schools around the theme of freedom of speech. Another project is currently in the making to offer courses and workshops about journalism in Sweden together with educational institutions.
ICORN's Communication Manager, Cathrine Helland, says:
- ICORN is an organization of cities that work for freedom of expression by offering residencies to writers, journalists and artists who can no longer work freely in their home countries. It is our common task to make sure that their voices are heard and become the object of interest of the media, authorities and ordinary people of the free world.
We are therefore extremely happy and privileged to be part of Colleague to Colleague, which is at the heart of what the ICORN programme is all about: creating relevant connections and opportunities for writers and artists, for them to be able to continue their work after having been forced to flee their home country.
We hope that this project can be adopted by other member cities in the network, so that the methods can be transferred and adjusted to fit different contexts. From a cooperation like this there would also be great potential to create further international networks to explore creative and journalistic possibilities and ideas emerging from its members.