Gathering the skeptics and the innovators of tomorrow for Gather Festival

Published September 2018

In the days leading up to Stockholm Tech Week, we spoke to Stockholm native Paulina Modlitba, who is an engineering MIT Media Lab graduate, tech geek, entrepreneur, diversity driver, networking genius and program editor for Gather Festival, to get her view on gathering curious minds from all over the world to solve the problems of tomorrow.

Gather Festival boasts the tagline, "not your average conference or music festival" since their mission between 13-15 September, is to investigate society and its future, embrace complexity and burst filter bubbles to offer inspiring and unexpected experiences for the curious minds.

The festival was founded by Jakob Grandin, who runs one of city's flagship outdoors nightclubs, Under Bron (Under The Bridge), open during the summers and attracting visitors from all over the world. It takes place at 15 different venues and 15+ innovation labs in Stockholm, hosting 50+ of the most exciting speakers as well as 100+ artists.  Paulina's role as the program editor includes booking all these exciting speakers.

"I actively look for people who are less positive about the future because we want a mix of people from different areas, as well as people from different viewpoints. If you mix optimists with people who are a bit more skeptical about the future, interesting things happen"

Paulina Modlitba

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The lineup includes academics, entrepreneurs and some controversial speakers like Sheela Birnstiel, former spokeswoman of the Rajneesh movement and convicted for multiple attempted murders, featured in the Netflix documentary series, Wild Wild Country.

Also, Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower in the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal who was previously the director of research at Cambridge Analytica and helped set up the company.

"It will be fascinating to hear these speakers’ thoughts in a time where we are becoming more and more divided, whereby Chris and Cambridge have played a part in affecting our democracy. At the same time, opinions are fueled by social media and people are seeking to form new groups and communities. They might not be as extreme, but it is still interesting to put this in perspective to the Rajneesh movement."

Paulina Modlitba believes the reason why they, even as a startup, have been able to get such an impressive lineup of speakers to Stockholm is by creating and emphasizing the context where these curious minds can meet and that the city's progressive nature relates to the festival’s and speakers’ ambitions.

Paulina was recently awarded "Alumni of the year" by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, for her work in making tech more accessible to women, and has been a driving force in creating initiatives like Women In Tech, Tekla Festival, and Geek Girl Meetup.

When asked what got her involved in these questions, she realizes she has never defined the mission but relates it to how her father was very supportive and created a safe space for curiosity and learning, and in some way, she might today be striving to do the same for young girls of coming generations.