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Sitra Lab training programme will address the bottlenecks to democracy – apply now!

We are looking for teams that aim to expand or establish forms of societal participation, particularly for people who are in a vulnerable position.


Sitra Lab’s future laboratory is a practical training programme focused on finding new ways to solve complex societal problems. The application period for the third future laboratory is open from 1 December 2020 to 11 January 2021. This time around, the theme is “bottlenecks to democracy”.

“This is a very topical issue right now,” says Riina Pulkkinen from Sitra Lab. “We encourage the applicants to take a broad view of democracy and participation. Where can we find new avenues for participation and how can we make them have a genuine impact on societal development and decision-making?”

Looking for applications from change-makers

A future laboratory is an intensive programme based on future-oriented thinking, systems thinking and design thinking as well as the social innovation process. It brings together professionals from different sectors of society to co-operate and learn together. We are looking for a diverse group of participants to combine various types of knowledge, competences and experiences.

“We will have been successful if the participants in Sitra Lab feel that their ability, willingness or potential to achieve change has been improved,” Pulkkinen says.

For the future laboratory that will start in the spring of 2021, we are looking for participating teams that can represent any organisation or community. The team must have an idea or project related to the theme of the future laboratory. A maximum of 10 teams will be selected. The teams selected for the training programme may apply for pilot funding of up to 8,000 euros to support the development of their idea.

Examples of the intended participants in the future laboratory include people who work on service development, those who engage in preparatory background work for political decision-making, reformists with vision and specialists who want to apply their knowledge. What these groups have in common is the desire to address a current social problem and take action to solve it.

Sitra Lab seeks solutions to bottlenecks to democracy and social participation

The avenues of social participation are changing. Technological development, the diversification of the population, social media and the forms of relational power are reshaping the old avenues of participation and creating a growing number of new opportunities. The transformation involves both direct and representative participation methods.

Societal activity, meaning participation in decision-making and the development of society, is becoming more unequal. This leads to the marginalisation of people who are in a vulnerable position, such as children, young people, those without a vocational education, people who are not part of the workforce and immigrants. A recent survey by Sitra showed that there is a tremendous number of people in Finland who would want to exercise influence on societal issues if it were made easy enough for them. The avenues of participation must also enable real influence to ensure that people feel that their voices are heard and their participation is genuine.

We are looking for teams that aim to expand or establish forms of societal participation, particularly for people who are in a vulnerable position.

The teams could represent a movement, community or operating model that has already been successful in creating the experience of participation but faces difficulties with the impact or dissemination of the model. The initiative could also be an effective service or solution that a team wishes to apply to democratic participation. The solution can be related to the effectiveness of representative democracy, democracy education or forms of direct participation.

We are looking for teams that work across the boundaries between sectors and bring together complementary competences, such as an understanding of political decision-making and the accessibility of civic action or experience related to new social media channels and democracy education. We particularly value teams that have the necessary resources to reach target audiences that suffer from a participation deficit. For example, a team could focus on how to make democracy education reach more people or how young people who play games can be encouraged to participate through the platforms they use.

For more information on the training programme that will begin in the spring of 2021 and more detailed instructions for applying, please visit our website. Click here to view the application form (in Finnish) directly.


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