Johan Oljeqvist, Managing Director at Fryshuset
Fryshuset was started 30 years ago (1984) and offered young people a safe haven where they could skateboard, play basketball and jam in music rooms. Since then, there has been progress and the company still works hard to be relevant for young people. Johan Oljeqvist, CEO of Fryshuset, will tell about their work.
“Fryshuset is primarily a meeting place for people who rarely, if ever, come together in the normal course of events. Plus the conviction that prejudices cannot survive in such an environment. Some say Fryshuset is an organization, but I would say that we are better defined as a concept whereby everyone can succeed given the right role models and the right support. Our vision is to enable all young people to change the world through their passions.”
Johan goes on to explain what it is that has made Fryshuset so successful. “Our success lies in the fact that we’ve gathered together several interests, or subcultures, on the same site. Right from the start, when we had basketball, skateboarding and music all under the same roof, it was noticeable that things were beginning to happen. Positive relationships and mutual understanding developed, between groups and between young people and adults.”
It is as a result of this close contact and relationship with young people that Fryshuset has been able to reinvent itself over the years. “We’ve continued to grow our operation and make the most of what the young people want to do now, what they’re really into. Much of what we do has evolved organically, through our discussions with them, which we’ve been able to do simply because of this relationship that we’ve built up with them over time. You see, we don’t believe we can help them without having a positive relationship with them.”
We get young people to see their own potential
Johan goes on to emphasize the importance of listening to young people and then being quick to act on what they’ve said. “The most important thing is to listen and then take action. Many young people have the feeling that adults don’t care which is why it’s crucial that, once they’ve told you what’s important to them, we actually take that on board and implement it. Otherwise we’ll lose the trust they have in us,” says Johan Oljeqvist.
With the support of the Erling-Persson Family Foundation, Fryshuset has been able to expand and promote their values throughout Sweden. “Donations from the Erling-Persson Family Foundation have allowed us to share our methods and approach, and brought us into contact with young people all over Sweden. The first time the Foundation supported us, we were able to travel all over Sweden and talk to some 3,000 young people. We saw then that there was an incredible amount of potential among them – but they weren’t always able to see that themselves. We wanted to focus on them and highlight their creativity as the return is so great if we can also help those who don’t feel they’re being listened to, so that they can become an active part of society,” he explains.
Johan Oljeqvist is positive about the future and believes that the work they are doing at Fryshuset has a positive effect on society as a whole. We’re continuing to grow all the time. We’ve also become relevant in a new way in society as businesses have started coming to us to find out how to reach out and work with, for example, Gen Y kids. I think that Fryshuset is helping to bring about a shift in attitudes in society. By including everyone and creating relationships between people, prejudices can be broken down, and this is particularly the case between subcultures, ethnic groups and adults. Something that, in turn, can bring about a more tolerant society.”