Guest writer
Estimated reading time 5 min

Making the voices of the Friends of Finland heard through networks

These days, we rely on reviews and recommendations for choosing our travel destinations, jobs and places of study alike. But so far, we have not used this approach enough to promote Finland’s recognition. The Siilonmurtajat (Silo Breakers) took on the challenge to change this.


Laura Lindeman

Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

Mari Taverne

Senior Business Advisor, Talent Attraction, Business Tampere


People listen to and follow those who are like them, relying on the experiences of their peers. Until now though, we have not capitalised enough on this trend for endorsement to promote recognition of Finland, find business opportunities or attract experts.

Together, operators in the public sector have recognised the need to expand the internationally mobile network Friends of Finland into a network that could sell the different aspects of Finland through its contacts and channels. The only question that remains is how to create this shared concept for the public sector.

Finland – the best place to be!

In a world of global challenges and major transformations, Finland and Finnish values have a lot to offer. A vision of this has already been created by country branding: Finland wants to be a country that is known for being unafraid of challenges, and that is at its best when faced with challenging situations. Finland has one of the best standards of living in the world. Finland is an open, caring and well-functioning country whose competitiveness is built on high levels of competence, sustainable development, an unprejudiced attitude and doing things together. Relating the narrative of Finland requires power in numbers and people’s own voices.

Finland’s centenary in 2017 was a fine example of how people are willing to do their bit for Finland if frameworks and premises are provided for their activity. As agile operators, cities have been developing their own ambassador programmes and individual higher education institutions have established their own international alumni networks. The KAATO network, organised by former Nokia employees, has played an active role in promoting investment in Finland. What are known as Finland ambassador activities have been approached as well.

Using Friends of Finland to promote the nation

Sitra’s Siilonmurtajat experimentation programme allowed us to perceive an opportunity for the conceptualisation of this approach. The Friends of Finland network was selected for the Siilonmurtajat programme and we threw ourselves into the experiment with open minds, without any preconceived expectations. We gave the project the working title “Friends of Finland”.

Our aim was to co-operate with ministries and cities to create a model that would allow the Friends of Finland to systematically participate in communicating about our country and to use their international networks for the benefit of Finland.

Sitra and the service design company Hellon offered an opportunity for untying the knots that had previously prevented tackling the issue. The process strengthened the co-operation between governmental operators and cities and succeeded in engaging genuine Friends of Finland whose voices should be heard at every stage of the development work. The groundwork carried out during the spring culminated in the Design Sprint organised in May, where we answered the following questions in diverse teams: Why and what are we doing? For whom? How?

A direct connection from Tampere to embassies

A few years ago, Business Tampere took the initiative to co-ordinate the Tampere Ambassador network. In three years, the network has expanded to include around 140 ambassadors in both Finland and abroad.

Today, the Friends of Finland initiative enables the expansion of the ambassador activities of cities to the national level and the creation of a new interface for co-operating with embassies and engaging in new forms of collaboration around the world. The wider network also creates new opportunities for ambassadors. It brings credibility to the activities of the entire network and inspires and activates the ambassadors to develop Finland’s international recognition.

Life is simply Finntastic!

This sprint enabled giving a more concrete form to the Friends of Finland. We decided that, at least in its initial stage, the network will focus on promoting the country’s image and attracting experts.

The Friends of Finland can include internationally networked persons in Finland and abroad. At the same time, this generates a new kind of Finnishness in which a person’s place of birth is less significant than shared values and an ability to do good things for Finland.

Tools and material for communicating about Finland already exist, so there is no need to start from scratch. The next step will be to make Friends of Finland work. This requires more joint development, “sisu” and a collaborative attitude, but that is all part of the deal. Isn’t this Finntastic?

In addition to the writers, the project group includes Tiina Vihma-Purovaara of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Meira Pappi of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Susanna Perko of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ulla Hiekkanen-Mäkelä, Janne Kari and Janne Karjalainen of Business Finland, Joanna Kumpula of the Finnish National Agency for Education and Kati Shibutani of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Mari Taverne of Business Tampere, Päivi Oliva of Turku University of Applied Sciences and Ulla Pietiläinen of the City of Helsinki brought the point of view of the cities’ ambassador activities to the development stage. In addition, ambassadors of cities and internationally networked professionals, i.e. potential Friends of Finland, participated in the sprint.

Follow the progress of the work using the hashtag #friendsoffinland.

The Siilonmurtajat (Silo Breakers) experiments are used to gather experiences and lessons from cross-administrative development and new procedures suitable for central government. The lessons learned will be openly shared for everyone’s benefit.

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