By helping each other, we can reach the top

The NGO Kyiv Initiative Group Alpbach (KIGA), which is a part of the Forum Alpbach Network (FAN) was founded in 2012 by a few former scholarship holders of the European Forum Alpbach, and I was one of them. In 2011 I got a scholarship from the European Forum Alpbach. Honestly, I didn’t know so much about the Forum, of course, I had searched and read as much as possible information about the EFA before I applied for the scholarship, but I could not have visualized a scope of the event. When I was on my way from Kyiv to a picturesque Tyrolian village Alpbach in Austria, I couldn’t imagine that those three weeks in Alpbach would change my life and I would become an ambassador of the Forum and my further activity will make a positive impact on the other young Ukrainians.

The mission of KIGA is to support the European integration of Ukraine through the EFA’s summer educational program for the young people and to be the ambassadors of Ukraine at this international platform by hosting the Ukrainian events in Alpbach together with our scholarship holders on social-political, economic, historical and cultural topics. Our primary focus is on the young generation, we want to help the youth to build a better future in their own country, that is why we also help out students and young graduates to find a job and to make a career in the international companies in Ukraine by organizing HR International Forums in Kyiv’s universities.

Annexation of Crimea and the war conflict in Eastern Ukraine drew our attention to a vulnerable group of the Ukrainian youth – internally displaced people (IDP) from the conflict areas and those who still live there. Last five years 29 IDP received scholarships from KIGA. For many of them, the Forum became a turning point, some of the scholarship holders had never been abroad before and had not experienced international communication with so many peers from all over the world.

The Forum helped to shape their personalities, stimulated them to gain additional education abroad and to bring the ideas brainstormed in Alpbach home for further implementation.

The EFA is a unique and one of the oldest international events; it was established in 1945. The Forum offers almost three weeks of the intensive program with more than 900 speakers. Seminar week, Symposiums, breakout sessions conducted by one of the best professors from the prominent universities in the world, practicing judges of the European courts, such as the Court of Justice of the European Union, high-level politicians such as Indira Gandhi, Jean-Claude Juncker and Jose Manuel Barroso; financial institutions, Tech, innovation companies and environmental organizations.

Not only the program of the EFA makes Alpbach so unique but also the people that attend the Forum. They come from all over the world. Just imagine a number more than 5000 participants, 102 nationalities, and there are 750 scholarship holders amongst them. In Spite of the serious topics discussed in Alpbach, there is a very easy-going atmosphere for discussions.

There are no geographical and political borders in Alpbach, during these three weeks Alpbach village transforms into one international and multicultural community.

Participation in the Forum can give you a lot. It broadens the range of your knowledge, understanding, and experience in a specific area whether you are humanitarian or a tech-nerd. You can discuss issues that matter for a global and local level with one of the world's leading experts on economic development such as Jeffrey Sachs on a picturesque meadow of the Tyrolian mountains. You can learn from the international decision-makers that have a critical role in public policy, exchange ideas and tackle the problems with the Nobel laureates in physics and mathematics or brainstorm how technically the world will be changed in the near future and these ideas are not only theoretical, many of them are applicable in the industries already.

Alpbach is the right place for a network and connecting with people and outstanding individuals. You can exchange ideas with your peers in an opened mind space; some of them will become a future generation of decision makers. Just one of the examples is Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria who previously became the youngest Foreign Minister, and he had also been a scholarship holder of the EFA.

Many of the EFA’s participants are actively involved in civil society activities and social entrepreneurship hubs to bring a social change to the business culture, to create a more sustainable environment and society. You can learn a lot from the pioneers in these fields; furthermore, their experience will inspire you to implement changes in your community in Ukraine. On top of that, you will practice your English as mostly the entire communication during the Forum is held in English.

Alpbach is also a place where you make a friendship. The mix of the meaningful program of the EFA with bright and positive thinking people in combination with Alpine nature create a “Spirit of Alpbach", which you can experience only by participating in the Forum.

The impact the Forum makes on the scholarship holders, and the changes it brings to their lives is a sign that KIGA does the right things and it inspires us to continue our activity.

Olena Drost

Co-founder & Honorary President of the NGO Kyiv Initiative Group Alpbach,

a former scholarship holder of the European Forum Alpbach

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© NGO Kyiv Initiative Group Alpbach, 2019