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New wellsprings of vitality in Finland after the crisis

Finland is experiencing a period of fundamental change. These changes will affect how we perceive economic growth, well-being, as well as the way people live and work. The impact of the changes will be so great that it would be fair to talk of a cultural transformation. Sitra’s new book, After the Crisis, and the report, Finland: Wellsprings for a Vital Future, shed light on these changes and suggest a way forward for the future.

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Finland is experiencing a period of fundamental change. These changes will affect how we perceive economic growth, well-being, as well as the way people live and work. The impact of the changes will be so great that it would be fair to talk of a cultural transformation. Sitra’s new book, After the Crisis, and the report, Finland: Wellsprings for a Vital Future, shed light on these changes and suggest a way forward for the future.

“For decades, Finland’s wealth has been underpinned by an economy that is based on exports and industry. Globalisation has now changed the geography of industrial production and we are transitioning from production-based activities to a service economy focused on people and solutions. This transition requires a totally new way of thinking,” says Sari Baldauf, Chair of Sitra’s Wellsprings of Finnish Vitality development programme.

The concept of a service economy focused on people and solutions means that today’s growth engines are no longer those on which Finland’s success has been built. In order to succeed, industrial and social institutions are increasingly having to create new service solutions and products for their operations, and ones based on users’ needs.

The change also encompasses how we perceive economic growth, the nature of work, as well as the way people exist and work as part of working communities and society.

“No single sector will lift the country, and neither will there be a new Nokia. The easy times are simply something of the past. It is now time to look for new sustainable growth areas. At the same time, we must develop our welfare model so that its good elements are retained and the detrimental ones that make us passive are reduced,” says Pekka Ylä-Anttila from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) and editor of After the Crisis, which contains perspectives from top economists.

New growth sectors must also be based on sustainable innovation. On a global scale, climate economics, global networks and open innovations will create new growth and businesses. Water purification, which is giving rise to rapidly expanding research and development activities, can serve as an example. This kind of growth and way of operating is an opportunity for Finland.

At the local level, social enterprises, hotbeds of innovation at the grassroots level, small welfare service enterprises and peer production instead of hierarchical institutions and operating practices are the ways of working that can help build the future.

“The need for change existed well before the financial crisis. However, as a result of the crisis the pressure for change has increased. The crisis demonstrated once again how difficult to predict the world has become. Economic policy must plan for many different types of future,” says Pekka Ylä-Anttila.

People as implementers of change

The Wellsprings of Finnish Vitality development programme presents the ideas of 200 Finnish decision-makers and opinion leaders on how Finland could be a good place to live and work also in the future, despite the unpredictability and threats of the age. The key solution was considered to be having the courage to grasp the changes.

“Working and leadership in a vibrant service economy focused on people and solutions is of a different nature. Managers must be able to manage creative interactive networks and to make them attractive. Working, on the other hand, will be based to an increasing extent on knowledge work; work will be based more strongly on tasks rather than a position, and will often be changeable. What is needed is the development of individual skills, an internal sense of entrepreneurship and initiative,” Sari Baldauf elaborates.

”The changes in our operating environment will require us as people to exhibit greater initiative, alertness, as well as the skills and desire to act both in local communities and global networks. More people need to have the courage to try and grow their businesses towards international markets. We must open ourselves up more boldly to multiculturalism and understand that we cannot hide away in our northern outpost,” says Sari Baldauf speaking about some of the problem areas in Finland’s culture and way of thinking and the need to change them.

Sitra’s President Mikko Kosonen is very satisfied with the bases for discussion presented in Finland: Wellsprings for a Vital Future and After the Crisis.

“Sitra is in this way participating in the ongoing debate about Finland’s future. After the Crisis presents convincing opinions from top economists on the cause of the financial crisis, its impact and the direction that should be taken now. The Wellsprings of Finnish Vitality development programme, for its part, has enabled an exceptionally wide group of participants to work on setting out the future path to Finnish vitality.

For more information

www.sitra.fi
www.elinvoimanlahteet.fi (in Finnish)

Mikko Kosonen, President, tel. +358 9 6189 9289, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Pekka Ylä-Anttila, Research Director, +358 50 5253697, firstname.lastname@etla.fi

Elina Kiiski, Communications, Sitra, +358 44 540 3367, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

The report Finland: Wellsprings for a Vital Future (in Finnish) can be downloaded free of charge from Sitra’s website at ordered by contacting julkaisut@sitra.fi +358 9 6189 9289. The book After the Crisis is available from well-stocked bookshops and is priced at EUR 42. The book can also be ordered from Taloustieto tilaukset@taloustieto.fi, tel. +358 9 609 90212.

Details about the publications Finland

Wellsprings for a Vital Future report
Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund
ISBN 978-951-563-712-3 (paperback)
ISBN 978-951-563-713-0
Helsinki, 2010

After the Crisis
Sitra 288 ISSN 0785-8388
ISBN 978-951-628-500-2
Helsinki University Print, Helsinki 2010
Wellsprings for a Vital Future report (pdf, in Finnish)

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