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Sitra’s Annual report 2021 – Three future themes and dozens of experiments across the country

The year 2021 was a turning point for us at Sitra, as we began to implement our updated strategy. In addition to providing future-oriented studies, tools, events and training, we participated in dozens of practical experiments throughout Finland. Sitra’s annual report and financial statements for 2021 represent a cross-section of our diverse work for the benefit of Finland and the Finnish people.

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Taru Keltanen

Specialist, Communications and Public Affairs, Sitra

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The new strategy identifies three themes for Sitra’s work: Sustainability solutions; the Fair data economy; and Democracy and participation. The development of these themes has a strong impact on the development of our society and everyday life in the long term.

“The megatrends shaping the world have not vanished, but the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression are currently capturing most of our attention,” says Sitra’s President Jyrki Katainen. “The challenges in Finland and in the rest of the world – from international tensions to global warming and from the power of algorithms to marginalisation in society – require quick and innovative solutions.”

Sitra offers tools for future-oriented thinking and the promotion of societal change for everyone in Finland. These tools include the Megatrends and Weak signals lists published in alternate years, the Futures Frequency workshop method published at the beginning of 2021 and the free public online training course Outlook on the capacity for change.

Ambitious climate and nature policies and the push for a circular economy

Sitra is particularly known for its climate and circular economy work. With biodiversity diminishing at an alarming rate all around the world – including in Finland – strengthening the vitality of nature is a significant new goal, running in parallel with the three main themes. For example, before the summer 2021 municipal elections, we clarified the climate and nature goals for all municipalities in Finland in order to encourage discussion and the implementation of appropriate measures. What gives us hope for the future is that people in Finland have a strong relationship with nature: according to a survey we carried out, the majority (87%) of respondents consider nature to be very or rather important to them.

The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) was held in September, jointly organised by Sitra, the Canadian government and international partners. A record number of 8,000 participants signed up for the three-day online event. WCEF has established its position as the leading event in the sector, further emphasised by the decision of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE), a partnership between the European Commission and the United Nations, to convene during the forum in future.

One important initiative last year was the joint PSLifestyle project between eight EU member states, which Sitra was chosen to lead. This project is part of the EU Green Deal and aims to activate Europeans to combat climate change. For example, the lifestyle test launched by Sitra in 2018 continues to attract widespread attention across Europe. London is already planning to use the test as a sustainable everyday life tool for its residents.

Competitiveness and societal resilience from data

Europe-wide solutions are currently being sought for data economy regulation and eradicating unfair competition, which means that international co-operation is vital. Sitra aims to become a trailblazer in this sector, both in Finland and in the EU.

Our continued contribution to European development is underlined by two new projects: the Gaia-X initiative probing Europe’s digital future and the TEHDAS project focusing on the joint principles of health data use.

The IHAN project to create fair data economy principles ended in the summer of 2021. The lessons learned from this project have helped to build a national data economy road map and strengthen the data-driven competitiveness of companies. The project’s concepts also continue to thrive outside Sitra: the Growth from Data business programme to enhance data-driven innovation and value creation continues under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment; and the IHAN testbed for practical development work in the field of digital services is used by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Virtual Finland project.

Better democracy, increased engagement and influencing opportunities

The democratic space is shrinking around the world and the global system that we have been building for decades is faltering. In Finland, interest in elections and trust in parties have diminished dramatically.

Sitra aims to support democracy by developing new participation methods. For the first county elections, Sitra created a means to support the hyvinvointialueet (regions providing well-being services) to increase participation.

The comprehensive reports of the Updating Democracy project, which ended in the summer of 2021, prompted much societal discussion, for example on leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and the power of algorithms. The Libraries as forums of democracy experiments in six libraries, funded and co-ordinated by Sitra, also came to an end, but as a result nearly 40 new democracy projects to be funded by the parliament will be launched in libraries around the country this year.

Sitra is a financially independent fund

Sitra’s operations are funded by the returns from its capital. At the end of 2021, the market value of the investments was 1,107 million euros. The return on investment was 16.6%. Sitra invests its assets responsibly, while aiming for a profit. According to its climate strategy published in 2021, Sitra’s long-term goal is that all its investments are in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Sitra’s operational expenses amounted to 34.1 million euros. Approximately one third of project expenses were used for different experiments and pilot projects.

Our work is guided by our values, which were updated in 2021: togetherness, independence, respect and responsibility.

The annual report and financial statements for 2021 are published in Finnish, Swedish and English. In addition to the financial statements, we will also publish Sitra’s purchase invoices for the previous three-year period, covering 2019-2021.

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The future belongs to everyone:
Annual report and financial statements 2021

Sitra
Helsinki, 2022

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