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Former students give back to the city which educated them

2016-12-16

‘Collaboration’, ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘sustainability’, they can at times just feel like empty buzzwords. But for two former international students of Malmö University, these concepts have been the building blocks for a company which is now attracting the attention of leading global brands.

Former students - Connectors project

Meet Connectors Malmö, an initiative borne out of the ambitions of a handful of students who met while studying the International Relations BA programme.

Julieta Talavera from Argentina, and Joshua Ng from Malaysia, explain how a desire to give back to a city which had provided them with an education has ended with them working with multinational giants like Sony, Sweden’s national television network SVT, and construction company Skansa.  

While Connectors has morphed since its outset, it is in essence a creative network which uses urban design to re-energise city spaces. But its use of collective intelligence is helping big business and public sector authorities re-evaluate working methods and helping them engage with an audience they would otherwise struggle to reach. 

Universities can be a key resource

Studying at Malmö University provided the impetus which kick-started the whole thing.

 “Being a student gives you a great framework for doing things without having massive expectations, you can think ‘we are learning, things can be fresh, but there are no expectations.’ 

Julieta Talavera“There is one massive resource at a university that you don’t get in other places, if you are at university you get access to all kinds of expertise. And because the faculties at Malmö are so interdisciplinary you have access to many people and resources. We have used the university’s equipment, and it is these sort of things which adds so much value,” said Julieta.

Connectors started with a weekly meeting where they invited guest speakers from the city to inform and inspire.

“We asked people we thought were doing interesting things so we could build a network and hear about what they were working on. People who worked with some kind of start-up, or creative art projects, people who were in some way connected to the city,” said Joshua. 

“It came from a feeling that as international students we felt we were part of Malmö, but were not sure how we fitted it,” comments Julieta.

“We were making the city our home and this was about finding our space. What is our role in Malmö? How do we contribute back? Because Malmö is a place which has given us our education, but how do we give that education back to the city?" she adds.

Joshua Ng“A few of us had this idea that we are at university to get some tools to do something, so we said let’s meet up and make an open call to meet other students who want to make some kind of something. We wanted to turn ideas into action,” said Joshua.

They survived on a shoe-string budget and exchanged their services with other companies.

 ”We got a company which is doing consulting and branding and which gave us help in exchange for us doing a focus group with a target group they would not otherwise reach, international students. These type of things opened up a lot of doors,” remarked Julieta.

“After the residency we decided we wanted to continue working on spaces and felt it was a good opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary space,” reflects Julieta.

Connectors’ hub STPLN, in the former heart of Malmö’s docklands, is funded by Malmö City and houses a collective of entrepreneurs and serves as an incubator for creatives ideas. It's Connectors current task to ‘connect’ these initiatives.

“There are lots of workshops going on and our job here is to integrate all this, so the place itself can be an incubator for ideas. Our job is to make all this one synchronised space," saidJoshua.

STPLN houses everything from a drop-in bicycle repair facility to a 3D printer service. It also serves as a meeting point for workshops complete with a stage and professional lighting and sound equipment. It is the combination of these facilities and the collectives’ creative intelligence approach which is attracting big name clients and public sector authorities.

Alterantive ways of working

“We know there is a big issue with very specific office spaces, very specific dynamics and ways of working and relating to co-workers. Companies are realising there is a benefit of getting out that box and being in a different environment where employees get to meet people working in different fields and where the space itself can inspire them.”

Erica WongErica Wong is very much in tune with Connectors way of thinking. She is an urban design student from Canada but currently studying International Migration and Ethnic Relations as an exchange student.

She discovered Connectors after a Google search led her to their doorstep and is now volunteering on some of their projects. 

“I always want to try to see how urban design is different in different cities. In school you learn that this is the formula, ‘this is how you will make a space which will work’, but I don’t think that there is one principle which can apply to every city.“I find it super-fascinating how they bring people together and let the user design the space. That is something which is not happening in other cities.”

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist