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Weekly notes – week 6: is politics really all about visions?

How do decision-makers balance the need to create a long-term vision with the immediate demands of politics?


Heli Nissinen

Senior Lead, Communications and Public Affairs


Measured in terms of economic development and social justice, the Nordic welfare society model is one of the most successful in the world. But Finland faces major changes and some old structures are breaking down in certain respects. Public discussion is simultaneously voicing concerns about the lack of a shared vision and the disconnect between policy ideas and everyday reality. Are visions pipe dreams, or is focusing on the problems at hand just short-sighted tinkering? Aren’t visions what politics is all about?

The repeated themes of public discourse – growth, employment and eliminating the sustainability gap – are seeking answers to what we should be doing right now. However, the worse the problems are and the more long-standing the need for change is, the greater the need is for a long-term, strategic approach to decision-making.

Sitra’s first report on the principles of sustainable well-being was published in spring 2013. Intended to initiate a dialogue, it pointed the way towards building a more sustainable future. As an updated version of the working paper, in week 7 we will launch a new web page – “A new narrative towards sustainable well-being” – as a summary of our current understanding of the subject. The main purpose of the website is to spark off a societal discussion.

On the site, we will introduce six principles on the basis of which a sustainable well-being society might be built. We will also provide concrete examples of how to begin implementing these six principles in practice: how would they reshape our working life, consumption habits and lifestyles, or our social welfare and healthcare services? The question we are trying to answer is: how can we find a new narrative for Finland that encompasses present-day solutions and a vision gazing further ahead into the future? We will also provide examples of the solutions already being used by various trailblazers to build sustainable well-being.

These were the key issues under discussion at the Sitra Debate on Tuesday 10 February. At this discussion event, we introduced the underlying principles of a society based on sustainable well-being and spin a narrative that encompasses both the future and the present, while presenting Sitra’s ideas on the government programme. Opinions from Asia and America and statements from the business and political sectors were designed to add spice to the debate. The think tanks of the four largest parties in the Finnish government will also have the opportunity to showcase the ideas they have been developing.

The Sitra Debate is a series of discussion events giving centre stage to current topics of interest on Finland’s future.

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