We will need to work together to save the planet

2021-02-19 Hannele Tiitto

Experts, households or organisations should not be left alone to struggle with circular economy actions. Large-scale cooperation is needed for effective action, which is often too scarce here in Finland. We try to do everything alone, working from our own office with insufficient resources, and this means that the leverage needed to change things is not achieved. Circular economy is easily diminished into small and superficial measures, and nothing is done to the root causes in consumption and structures of society.

To boost cooperation, the Council of Tampere Region has carried out a collaborative development process with Ekothon to contribute to a common understanding on the sustainability crisis with several organisations and actors. This crisis meant a basis of cooperation. Klimathon, a Norwegian programme where the expertise of climate researchers meets the municipal officer holders involved in grassroot work, is the model of the Ekothon process.

Sufficient background work to shake off failures

With background work, I mean mutual understanding and trust between organisations and people, which is what we at Ekothon are trying to achieve. Too often we blame the Swedish for “over-discussing” everything, because it is typical for Finns to want to roll up our sleeves and get to work immediately. As we are constantly busy, we dive into action without wasting any time. At some point, things tend to go wrong. We start to realise that each person involved has their own idea of the concept at hand, with their own goals and ways of doing things. This is a source of friction and frustration, when the action that began with some speed turns into aimless wandering.

There is no need to mimic Sweden in everything, but they are the champions of the Eurovision Song Contest. When Sweden had yet again won the Eurovision Song Contest, I heard an interview with Swedish event organisers. They were explaining that as many people as possible will be informed of the details of the arrangements at the earliest possible stage. This means a lot of time discussing. As a result, on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest, it is not a disaster if someone falls ill, because so many others know what they are supposed to do. We would also need more of this type open sharing of our competence to others, and endless discussions together. This type of a shift in operational methods is needed so that we will be able to accomplish things that are greater than we are and that are needed so we can detach from the linear economic system.

More cooperation instead of ready-served solutions

Ekothon is a collaborative process resembling a hackathon. It can be roughly divided into three parts:

  • Background work and organisation
  • Actual meeting and small group assignments
  • Interaction between participants and more in-depth future cooperation

The entire process takes at least six months. Boosting local cooperation is at the core of Ekothon. We do not attempt to build a new network from scratch; instead, we try to offer an environment for existing parties and networks to become even more closely connected to each other.

Ekothon will culminate in a two-day joint effort that can take place digitally, utilising remote connections, or as a face-to-face event. Work will take place in small groups that are put together with deliberation. Each group has people from different types of backgrounds, so that new kinds of cooperation can take place between the participants and to help us better understand how different types of people and organisations work and see the world around us. Small groups members have common interests and factors, which will help to ease conversation. Business and politicians, art and academics, farmers and urban planners, civil society and administration exchange ideas and get new spark for working together in the small group conversations hosted by Ekothon.

Ekothon aims to avoid excessive facilitation and steering of the work of the groups. The goal is for the people to truly stop at a theme, to help them find room for their thoughts, finding solutions and genuine interaction. Continuing with the ideas and operative concepts developed during Ekothon is in the hands of the participants.

Networks to help operations

It is not the goal of the Ekothon concept to find solutions in just two days. The primary goal is to help give a nudge for more in-depth cooperation. With people from different backgrounds sharing their ideas and what they have done, the threshold for cooperation will become lower, and we are one step closer to really solving the challenges. With bigger and more closely knit networks, it is possible to reach the critical masses in the regions, and this will really help to accelerate the sustainability revolution.

Do you want to learn more about the Ekothon concept and its realisation? Contact us:

Hannele Tiitto, Project manager, Council of Tampere Region, hannele.tiitto@pirkanmaa.fi, tel. +358 (0)44 422 2250

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