Sitra is at its best when it is allowed to multitask
Mikko Kosonen’s presidency at Sitra will finish at the end of this year. In this blog series, Mikko will summarise what he has learned during more than a decade at Sitra. This is the first post in the series.
Sitra’s comprehensive report, which was finalised in September, aptly describes the future fund’s internationally unique position and duty as an agent of social change.
Sitra operates under the auspices of the Parliament of Finland. This arrangement allows it to focus on long-term and vexing problems, while its self-financing nature enables it to engage in risky endeavours that benefit both the public and the private sector. The versatile selection of tools that Sitra has at its disposal also provides it with the prerequisites for focusing on complex issues, from the conceptualisation of a given phenomenon to practical experiments and the dissemination of new best practices.
Indeed, Sitra is at its best when there is a need for new solutions to systemic challenges such as climate change, the changes in working life, social inequality or the crisis of democracy, to name just a few.
We need a social visionary like Sitra that can employ a wide selection of tools, but how widespread can and should its focus be at any given time?
When the problems at hand are vast and complex, should Sitra focus on one issue at a time, such as climate change? After all, climate change is a challenge that, in the long term, threatens the very existence of humanity. Would it not be pertinent to direct all of our resources towards solving it first?
In addition, climate change is a theme that affects all strata of society, so it would be a suitable lens through which to examine all of Sitra’s activities. For example, how could we utilise democratic and administrative processes or digitisation and learning to solve climate change?
Sitra’s versatility is its strength
It does not sound outlandish to think that this type of single theme-oriented approach could increase Sitra’s focus and cross-operational synergy. But could Sitra function as an agent for social change if this were the case? Could it still keep its finger on the pulse of everyday life in Finland and balance the needs of different societal interest groups in the same way as the Finnish Parliament does? And would it serve Sitra’s purposes to employ only single-minded climate change experts?
Based on a career of almost 12 years at Sitra, I would argue that Sitra should continue to serve as a “multitasker”, as a place where people can passionately debate the emphases given to each theme, as is typically done in the rest of society.
Only by focusing on several concurrent and socially important themes can Sitra maintain its statutory mission, i.e. establishing the prerequisites for Finland’s reform and a better tomorrow for all Finns. This is the reason for Sitra’s existence. We can happily report that, according to a recently published evaluation of Sitra that was conducted by independent experts, “Sitra has been very successful in its strategic choices and has created high-quality work”.
I strongly believe that Sitra can best serve Finland in the future as well by creating inspiring images of the future and by offering a selection of concurrent solutions that are based on several societal fields for the issues that Finland may face.