Jakob Ohlsson is a consultant with an unusual CV. As a self-taught activist-turned-entrepreneur he founded Reform Act – the first agency in Scandinavia focusing exclusively on political campaigns.
As Scandinavia’s leading innovator in political campaigns, Jakob has had the role of introducing modern campaign tactics and technology in a political environment that lags 5, perhaps 10 years behind the American political space. Working mostly in Scandinavian countries, but with clients in other Western European countries as well, Jakob has focused on the digital side of grassroots driven campaigns and trying to fuse digital with field.
Jakob was head of Studio 68, the Swedish Social Democratic Party’s secret in-house agency; his responsibility was to scale modern american campaign tactics to a country of 10 million people with different culture and legal framework.
Jakob has won multiple Reed Awards and Pollie Awards for his work.
AAPC: What does being a 2017 AAPC 40 Under 40 Award winner mean to you?
Jakob: I’m the first Swede to ever be awarded it so I’m really, really happy for the award. The political industry isn’t and industry in the same way in Scandinavia and Europe as it is in the US (which is probably a good thing – but that’s another question) so I don’t get to shine that much. Also I would say many of my friends and family don’t really get what I work with, now at least they know that I’m good at it, haha.
AAPC: What are you most looking forward to this year?
Jakob: After the Trump win I’m looking forward to progressives, researchers and groups like the Analyst Institute digging deeper into right wing populism and the dynamics around that. We Europeans have more experience in running campaigns against (or for) candidates like Trump – but since the political industry in the US is stinking rich I hope that some of the insights that come out of the work that is now being done in the US will give us better insights on how to counter right wing populism and safeguard our democracies.
AAPC: Who do you look up to in the industry and why?
Jakob: My colleague and best friend Jacob Åström, a great guy and one the most creative person I’ve ever met. If I have to name someone that anyone reading this would know of I would say Michael Podhorzer at AFL-CIO. I met him a few years ago and it felt like meeting Springsteen (I’m a dork).
AAPC: Tell us about something you’re most proud of accomplishing in your professional career.
Jakob: At least this year it’s helping GroenLinks to quadruple their vote and pushing back Geert Wilders (the Dutch Trump, actually the original Trump – they are identical – carrot skin tone, zany hairstyle, even zanier political views).
AAPC: To what do you credit your success at such a young age?
Jakob: All the generous and kind people who’ve shared their knowledge with me. Matt McMillan, Matthew McGregor, Katharine Segal, Jan Larsson and Jacob Åström there’s so many of them. And my colleagues, most of the work that I’m credited for are team efforts.
AAPC: What advice would you give to a young professional who has their eye on being a future 40 Under 40 Award winner?
Jakob: Find people who are more talented and experienced and learn from them. And once you yourself become one of those people – don’t slam the door behind you but share your knowledge with others. Work hard, have fun and if your advice isn’t being taken – quit.