Building friendships with diplomats at Roving Soirée
By David Stone, Jakarta Post
Wednesday, February 11th 2009
There are no secret handshakes, passwords, backstreet entrances or a private clubhouse; this social club is not exclusive, which might come as a surprise when you see who has been turning up to Roving Insight’s get-togethers since 1996.
Diplomats and local and foreign executives encircle the bar, drinks in hand, stripped of suits, ties and batik shirts, to socialize uninhibited by the formalities that might otherwise bring them together.
At Jakarta’s Roving Insight Executive & Diplomatic Club gatherings, friendship building comes first, founding member Loreen Neville says.
Club members, called “Rovers”, meet monthly – frequently on workdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. – at chic restaurants, cafes and bars.
The Jakarta Post was invited as a special guest to the recent moveable feats, featuring food, drink and conversation, at 9 Clouds Dine and Dance in Jakarta.
Loreen Neville, says when she moved to Jakarta over a decade ago, there were no existing organizations encouraging casual inclusive professional networking. When she first arrived in Jakarta, she found the existing diplomatic, expatriate and Indonesian communities did not mingle.
“I decided I wanted to create a multinational community where people would mix freely,” she says.
Loreen says having these get-togethers in a different place every month is a good way for guests and members to get to know new places in the city and for new places to get potential new clients.
She recalls the early days of the club when, like girls and boys at a high school dance, the groups would not mix, the bules and the Indonesians were reluctant to mingle despite the free-flowing beer and Loreen’s coaxing.
Tough as it might have been initially, this particular gathering has no cliques – time has worn down whatever was impeding the club’s intercommunication and now perhaps the only remaining evidence of the early days is Loreen’s preoccupation with making sure everyone has a full glass of beer or juice.
One of Roving Insight’s first members, business owner Raju Dhingra has been “roving” on and off since the club was founded in 1996.
“This is a very good platform for those who are new to this city,” he says.
“Any foreigner or expatriate coming from any part of the world has the immediate chance to meet a large variety of people in one place,” he says, beer in hand, leaning against the bar.
Raju remembers in its early days the club was mostly frequented by diplomats, but he says now it is more of a mixed community.
Loreen says, that while the main theme of Roving is friendship building, inevitably there is always some business to be done.
“Within Roving, although it starts off social, many of them [the members] conduct business,” she says.
Newcomer to the Roving scene Patrick Christian, who recently returned home to Jakarta after eight years working in the United States, hopes the club will offer new opportunities to increase his circle of professional friends and contacts and perhaps land him a job.
Patrick sees the club as a networking opportunity to better his chances at finding work during the global economic slump.
“During a financial crisis is a hard time to find a job, especially for international workers like me, but I came tonight to make job contacts and meet new people,” he says.
After dinner, the beer drinking competition ensues for the men and a water drinking competition for the ladies, followed by the distribution of door prizes. While business cards are traded under the low-lit din of casual networking, Loreen hops from one group to the next making sure introductions are made and everyone feels included.
Miroslav Dijakovic from the Croatian Embassy says he enjoys attending the gatherings because it is not about work.
“If all they did was talk about work I wouldn’t come,” Miroslav says. Attesting to Roving’s success, a lot of similar societies have popped up in the last decade organizing similar functions. Loreen attributes Roving’s success to keeping it informal.
“If it’s too formal then it’s just another embassy function,” she says. Organizers for next month’s gathering have yet to decide where it will be held, but information can be found on their website, www.rovinginsight.org
Published in The Jakarta Post