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Global perspectives are crucial to Sitra’s impact in Finland and beyond

Since 1967, the year of Sitra's establishment, the world has changed tremendously. It is more interconnected than ever and the notion of a “national mission” now intrinsically extends to working beyond our own borders. Our International advisory panel helps us do just that.


Heidi Humala


Sitra has a national mandate and even a special Finnish law governing its activities, with the mission to improve the overall competitiveness of the Finnish economy and the well-being of the Finnish people. The world has changed tremendously since Sitra was established 50 years ago. The world is more interconnected than ever and the notion of a “national mission” now intrinsically extends to working beyond our own borders. We should embrace the fact that both our action and inaction on an international level has an impact on how well we fare as people and as institutions, as governments and as economies in our national context.

“Our international engagements increase the overall impact of our work.”

This is precisely why Sitra, as a future-oriented organisation, sees value in its various international engagements. Whether it’s about benchmarking and understanding what other countries and organisations are doing in any particular field, whether it’s about actively engaging and consulting experts internationally in its programs or projects, or whether it’s about going out there and seeing what something somewhere else looks like in practice. At the end of the day, Sitra’s international engagements increase the overall impact of Sitra’s work and help us design and implement better programs for the competitiveness and well-being of Finland.

Sitra’s International advisory panel helps us do just that. We are excited to have this incredible group of thinkers and doers from Sweden, the US, Japan, Germany and the UK with us over the next two years to bring global perspectives and expertise to our work. The co-operation works both ways – when it comes to Sitra’s strategic themes and programmes, there are beneficial takeaways from Finland to the rest of the world as well.

So what did the International advisory panel have to say when they came to Helsinki this autumn? What do these like-minded organisations and people have to learn from each other? A lot, as it turns out – on both accounts. During our meeting in late September, Sitra had the opportunity to spar a new societal vision, The Next Era of well-being, and to present a few projects that we could potentially collaborate on. Comments from the Advisory Panel members on the vision confirmed that Sitra’s approach to societal well-being is truly holistic. In something that is such a complex undertaking, Sitra together with its various stakeholders and partners has succeeded in defining concrete themes and recommendations for action to create a world-class and sustainable future for Finland. Thoughts on the building blocks of The Next Era of well-being will be presented in Sitra’s 50th anniversary gala in November 2017.

As a member of the panel Mariana Mazzucato put it, Sitra’s new vision “is going to the core of the Nordic model… what I think it is and what makes the Nordic model different from most others is that is focuses on stakeholder [vs. shareholder] capitalism”.

Likewise, Aart de Geus commented that the vision is a “concise presentation of three arenas where political debate is expected and will be nurtured by Sitra’s work”. Nonetheless, Aart continued that it would be important to also look at trends that we “cannot influence [as directly], such as technological change, climate change, demographic change and the globalisation of the economy.”

In part, these trends can be found within Sitra’s annual Megatrends work – and they will link back to the updated vision through forming some of the key boundary conditions for future society.

Importantly, Sitra also heard updates from some Advisory Panel members on issues such as purpose-driven public policy, the winners and losers of globalisation, as well as advanced foresight practices and their application. It was also important to get outside Sitra, so the group visited the Smart & Clean Foundation and Maria 01, familiarising themselves with examples of mission-driven partnerships and platforms that bring together both the public sector, the private sector and – most importantly – the people.

It is an important year for Finland and for Sitra. What we do from 2017 onwards is even more important. Sitra’s International advisory panel is a valuable sounding board and partner for our work. We are now finalising a few “pet projects” for the panel members, particularly around the themes of Public sector leadership capacity building, Circular economy and Foresight. This work will frame our cooperation for the next two years. Stay tuned for more blogs, updates and insights!

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