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Weekly notes – week 10: a hundred ideas for research



Sitra’s research team has at its disposal almost 100 new, inspirational ideas for research. They arose as part of a multi-phase process, in which all Sitra personnel were able to take part and present their ideas and views on the need for research data.

The ideas for research are broadly about social phenomena and the knowledge gaps that have been identified in the other work Sitra does. During the first phase of the brainstorming process, ideas might be big or small, concrete or abstract, and they also tend still to be at various stages of maturity. Every idea put forward is nevertheless valuable and may contain the embryo of a project that is of relevance to Sitra.

Every year, Sitra’s research team launches several new research projects. Some of our studies are conducted from start to finish under our own steam; in some, we also acquire expertise and know-how from outside. Because we cannot proceed with all the ideas put forward, of the rich crop produced we have to identify the best to work on up until the actual planning stage.

Research demands a strategy

Our team prioritises research concepts according to how we think they reflect the criteria derived from our strategy, what importance they have and their innovative value nationally and globally, and what our added value and expertise might be with regard to the theme or specific issue. 

Prioritising research concepts is also guided by the functions associated with research at Sitra and its nature. Our research work has a very special role to play in relation to strategy: its task is to call for a strategy or improve understanding of some aspect of it.  Research helps us to build new perspectives and create practical applications for producing a vision of sustainable well-being.

Our research activities entail the gathering of existing data and its application. The research produces data that helps Sitra’s work in thematic and key areas. As with the work that is designed to have an impact, our research also approaches social phenomena in a diverse and multi-disciplinary context.

Data on sustainable well-being

When ideas for research are examined against the principles underlying Sitra’s vision, a good picture is obtained of the issues that are keeping Sitra personnel and our teams busy.

1. Well-being we examine from the perspective of value creation and competitiveness. The interest in the promotion of well-being also relates to intergenerational chains, their effects, and operating models that exploit the resources afforded by multigenerationalism.

2. For the earth’s planetary boundaries to adapt it is necessary to examine the gap between economic growth and natural resources, ecological sustainability as an ethical and human rights issue, biodiversity as a factor in shaping the future, and the wider social impact of climate, with attention being given to the time span in which these matters must be addressed.

3. The research ideas for sounding out the opportunities that individuals and communities have to exert an influence place the emphasis on greater awareness of the new approaches to having a say and empowerment, the media revolution in relation to policymaking and the promotion of volunteer work, the help-giving culture and empathy.

4. To promote a revitalised, communal economy we need a systematic analysis of a new, evolutionary industrial policy, Finland’s competitiveness potential and the establishment of a business ecosystem that promotes well-being. Can we, for example, conduct a global comparison on economic policy that promotes sustainable well-being? A revitalised economy requires an understanding of a new approach to formulating values; where and how is a value created, how is social and ecological value measured and what is value creation, for example, in a sharing economy or one based on circulation?

For us to be able to build 5. Competencies for a complex world, we need knowledge and information on learning and teaching in the sustainable well-being society. And are there perhaps good arguments for a deeper analysis of the breakthrough in science and expertise and the challenges that go with it?

6. Developing inclusive and adaptive governance is a principle that is explored through ideas for research that consider the extent to which political decisions can be implemented or reformed, incentives for structural reform, the promotion of dialogue in Finland and new forms of diplomacy in a complex and changing world. In addition to the principles underlying the notion of a vision, we also identified a category of research ideas for work and employment in the future; for example, from the angle of the fixed costs of basic security and the growth in immigration and its impact on employment.

Our team is now working on pilot studies related to these themes. These will help us select concepts that will be refined to produce research plans and, ultimately, research projects. The other ideas will go back to the ideas bank for a reassessment which is to take place within a year from now, when once again we will introduce a more comprehensive brainstorming process.

Weekly notes is a series of blogs offering insights into the topical issues being discussed each week by Sitra’s research and strategy team. You will find a more detailed introduction to our team’s work here.

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