A humanist who speaks the languages of the world – and the language of caring
Jessica tackles both her work and the world at large with boundless commitment and energy – most recently as Secretary General of Star for Life. She thinks the fancy title is fun, but it still feels like an odd fit for a “woman of the people” like herself. On the other hand, she sees herself in everything that Star for Life stands for. Indeed, 17 years ago, it was that sense of connection that led her to “apply” for a job at the then-fledgling foundation.
“I’d just started the non-profit association Transfer and gotten Dan Olofsson to join the board of directors when I heard that they were planning to launch Star for Life. So I told Dan I wanted to work there,” says Jessica, describing her first contact with Star for Life.
Yet hiring processes can sometimes become drawn-out affairs, and it was not until October 2021 that all the pieces fell into place and Jessica took over as the new Secretary General.
But Jessica has always run projects that support vulnerable groups and people in vulnerable areas. Jessica was already eager to make a positive difference in the world when she began studying the humanities at university, where she majored in Language. Back home in Klippan, she got involved in politics. She then headed abroad for more language studies.
“When you learn about a language, you learn about an entire culture. And when you learn about cultures, you also gain a better understanding of how other people live, think and act, which is very useful in my job,” ruminates Jessica, when asked about how her studies have influenced her in her current position.
2022 has been a busy year, and Jessica has initiated several projects aimed at updating and improving the organisation. This has meant a great deal of travel, many meetings and long hours on airplanes and in airports.
“If you’d asked me before what I like to do in my spare time, I would have said travel. But now I appreciate being home with my family. Puttering around the kitchen, making dinner. Italian food is my favourite, but after all the travelling, there’s not much that beats meatballs, cream sauce, potatoes and lingonberries,” grins Jessica as she describes her new perspective on leisure time following her first year at Star for Life.
Jessica believes in a transparent leadership style; employees should feel that they can address problems. This fosters confidence that they will be able to resolve any challenges they may face in the best possible way.
“Old truths are just that – old – and when it comes to identifying needs and problems, it’s easy to become complacent. After all, the world is changing all the time. That’s why it’s super important to be responsive, work closely with those in the field,, and listen to everyone in the organisation,” explains Jessica about her leadership approach.
When you learn about cultures, you also gain a better understanding of how other people live, think and act
– Jessica Grundström Ahldin
A lot has happened since Star for Life launched its first programme, and new conditions have emerged.
“We’re doing an ‘upshift’ to modernise our programme and make it more relevant. And now that we also have operations in Ukraine and Jerusalem, it’s important that we review how and with whom we communicate,” says Jessica about how Star for Life is establishing itself to do good in more places.
Doing good is Jessica’s primary passion, and her experiences “on the ground”, where Star for Life operates, have been life-changing. And now the humanist has become even better at the outside world and the language of caring.