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Sitra’s Forum for New Security: security is not just the authorities’ responsibility

The old ideas of security need to be broken down if we're to cope with society's growing challenges...


In an ever more complex, faster changing world society needs to invent new forms of co-operation, tools and thinking, according to Sitra’s Forum for New Security. The forum views the idea of a distinct security authority as outmoded: all Finnish authorities – and everyone in Finland – should begin bearing responsibility for security.

Top expert Tomas Ries from the Swedish National Defence College (SNDC) has joined this call for new forms of security. In his opinion, societies need to adapt more quickly to changes in the security situation.

“I believe that our lives will become ever more dangerous, insecure and unpredictable. But instead of burying our heads in the sand, we must be aware of emerging threats, and make sure that we are prepared for them,” said Ries in his speech on 4 June 2014, at an event organised by Sitra’s Forum for New Security.

According to Ries, Russia’s strong comeback as a global power, the financial crisis, the widening equality gap across the world, the depletion of natural resources and climate change present new challenges to our traditional approach to security.

“Efficiency is the opposite of resilience: through increased efficiency, society becomes more vulnerable. Similarly, complex is the opposite of agile: complexity renders the world less agile in the face of change,” says Ries.

Established in October 2013, the Forum for New Security brought together 30 development-oriented security experts from various sectors of society to discuss the security-related challenges and opportunities likely to arise in the future. Forum members did much more than just discuss issues; they also implemented 11 practical trials aimed at identifying solutions to security challenges.

The Finnish security environment has changed. For the first time in a long period, the Ukraine crisis focused minds in Finland on the traditional approach to security – the kind that relies on national defence, preparedness and national security authorities. On the other hand, phenomena such as climate change, rising social inequality, loneliness and marginalisation, cyber threats in a digital world, and a financial system prone to crisis are gathering strength, exacerbating the feeling of insecurity and lack of control over one’s life.

In a rapidly changing world in which security threats can loom out of nowhere, society needs foresight and flexibility.

“We can no longer rely on traditional security sector operators to bear total responsibility for security,” according to Elina Katajamäki from the Ministry of the Interior, one of the forum members. “From now on, society as a whole and all its functions – including food supply, housing, infrastructure and services – must be designed with foresight and security in mind. This is like mixing eggs and dry ingredients when baking; we need to incorporate security into everything we do.”

The Forum for New Security also noted that security is, in essence, a feeling that can be bolstered through trust, inclusion and community spirit. Authorities provide the framework, but the feeling of security comes from within. Everyone can help to make people in their own community feel more secure.

The forum believes foresight, agile practical trials and service design methods are among the tools needed for this purpose.

Fast reactions and practical solutions are required when facing dynamic situations.  Two of the forum’s 11 practical trials, Kirjastomummo (senior volunteers) at the Hakunila library, and Onnelliset taloyhtiöt (Happy housing companies) by Dodo ry, emphasised the importance of creating a sense of belonging within a community.

Even by Helsinki’s standards, Hakunila is a multicultural community. Wondering where they could find adults willing to play and chat with children, the library’s employees decided to ask whether anyone from the local elderly community felt like lending a hand. Three volunteers signed up immediately and, in no time, two library grannies and one granddad were on duty at the library two evenings a week. The library’s senior volunteer programme provides a means of fostering security among children who live in the multicultural Hakunila area. This is achieved by promoting involvement, regardless of cultural background and age. It is an excellent example of a low-cost, practical trial that can be launched quickly and would be easy to apply in other Finnish libraries. In the forum’s opinion, practical trials like these are ideal ways of meeting security-related challenges. Extensive planning is not always necessary.

Another type of security-related practical trial was implemented in co-operation with the Ministry of the Interior. “Service design for the public administration” involved testing of whether service design methods could be used to improve the processes underlying the reporting of racist crimes. Although the number of racist crimes reported to the police has fallen in recent years, no reliable information is available on whether this is the result of a fall in the number of racist crimes, or due to less reporting of such incidents. The entire reporting process was made more transparent by developing the existing system and introducing some visual tools. While the initial goal was to break down language barriers and build trust between the police and victims of racist crimes, as a bonus service design professionals also managed to improve the service experience of anyone who visits the police to report a crime. This practical trial suggests that service design should be used more extensively in the planning of public sector services.

Further information on the insights, practical trials and lessons learned at the Forum for New Security are available in Finnish at

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