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Published October 29, 2012

New leadership through sustainable financial policy courses

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Author's profile page: Eeva Hellström
Senior Lead, Foresight and Strategy, Sitra
Eeva Hellström is a senior lead in strategy in Sitra's foresight operations. Behind these words, you can find someone who is both a thinker and a doer. In her hands, complicated content is creatively fused and individual ideas are shaped into effective concepts.

Sustainable financial policy training is designed to boost the ability of Finnish decision-makers and opinion leaders to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the sustainable economy of the future. To further develop the training concept, a pilot course will begin in December. The training is organised in cooperation with Aalto Executive Education Oy.   

Sitra has a long tradition in organising training in financial policy. By 2005, nearly 2,000 influential operators from various social sectors had participated in these courses.

The leadership education on sustainable financial policy is a new concept to be launched in spring 2013. The approach will be markedly different from that of the earlier financial policy courses organised by Sitra between 1977 and 2005. The courses will provide information of the makings of Finnish financial policy and, perhaps more importantly, develop visions of how to use the tools of financial policy to promote a sustainable economy. The courses aim to increase understanding of how the comprehensive, long-term approach typical to sustainable development can be achieved in the practices and management of financial policy.

Participants will be decision-makers in the fields of politics, public administration, the business world, organisations, research, culture, and the media. They share the need to build and understand sustainable financial policy in their work.

Sustainable financial policy: what is it and how can you learn to make it?

Challenges of financial sustainability are a natural area of focus in the current economic crisis: themes such as the future of the Euro and the public debt tend to dominate public discourse. However, a wider approach to sustainable economy should be adopted.

Sustainable economy is not just about financial sustainability; it must also include long-term and balanced work towards the objectives of ecological and social sustainability. The leadership course on sustainable financial policy focuses on financial policy as a way to advance sustainable economy. Financial policies are also considered from the viewpoint of the requirements that today’s society sets for political leadership and transparency. Knowledge of sustainable development and the steering of politics is therefore also used in the course, in addition to economic theories.

The financial policy toolbox contains a range of means for promoting sustainable economy. These now need to be employed in an efficient and innovative manner. For example, how could financial accounting and decision-making better take into account the negative external impact of economic activities? A new, comprehensive method for setting economic objectives and measuring the outcome is also needed.

At the same time, open and constructive social discourse is necessary on the challenges of sustainable economy that may never be solved even through the most effective application of the existing toolbox. What are the issues that may require changes in the system level?

The changing role of various economic operators in the construction of a sustainable economy must be assessed. What are the roles of companies and communities in the promotion of a sustainable economy, and what methods could society use to encourage such operations? How to create value for companies, their customers and society at the same time? How can financial policy advance a sustainable way of life?

People create their own operating models that promote sustainable well-being at the grass-roots level. A society that aims at a sustainable economy must support these initiatives even when they don’t add to the national income.

Sustainable financial policy training aims at collective learning. Knowledge, understanding and reality are constructed together with the participants. The course is not merely a lecture on theory, but also includes extensive exercises. Participants develop proposals targeted at the makers of financial policy for a long-term sustainable economy programme. The courses also seek solutions for particular challenges of the sustainable economy. The challenges have been identified together with various stakeholders.

Experimenting with the new training concept

The leadership course in sustainable financial policy is prepared through experiments. We believe that the best ideas for education don’t come from meeting rooms or the trainers’ drawing tables. The participants of the training should also participate in the creation of the concept.

The sustainable financial policy pilot course from December 2012 to February 2013 will act as a testing platform for various methods and types of content. Ideas for the training will be developed through successes and failures. Even a failed experiment often produces information on what should be done differently and how the idea should be developed.

The experimental course is based on the work of 30 experts who possess a wide range of viewpoints on the sustainable economy. The group will discuss the challenges of the sustainable economy and prepare both theoretical and practical solutions. The group, called the Sustainable Economy Forum, will work from October 2012 to February 2013.

The final training concept will be developed based on the experiences from the pilot course and related experiments. The first leadership course on sustainable financial policy will be launched in spring 2013. There will be an average of two courses per year.

Approximately 20 decision-makers who believe that they need sustainable economy and financial policy know-how in their work will be invited to participate in the pilot course. Since the themes of the course will extend far beyond economics, and because learning from other participants will be an important method, participants with in-depth economic expertise will also be very welcome.

Collaboration with Aalto EE

Sitra will create and further develop the training concept, and recruit participants. Based on competitive tendering, Aalto Executive Education Oy was selected as the partner for this initiative.

Economic expertise will be brought to the team by Sitra Senior Advisor Sixten Korkman and Professor Matti Pohjola from the Aalto University. The practical exercise projects of the courses will be planned and carried out in cooperation with Aalto University, the Ministry of Finance, and specialists from the Prime Minister’s Office, among others.