Constructive societal discussion is a fundamental requirement for democracy and a functioning society, but it has proved difficult to come by in recent years. Therefore, four major societal funders have established a new foundation aimed at moving the discussion culture in Finland in a more constructive direction, reducing the entrenchment of society and increasing people’s participation in society together with other parties interested in dialogue.
“We are concerned about the polarisation of society and the tensions increasing within it. The ability and will to engage in constructive discussion are increasingly important so that we can understand each other in spite of our different backgrounds,” says Antti Arjava, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Timeout Foundation.
Underlying the foundation is the work carried out by Sitra between 2016 and 2019 to develop and disseminate the Timeout operating model. Timeout emerged from observing that societal discussion had become overheated, the democratic system was in need of reform and there was a growing need for dialogue in a complex world. Timeout is a way of engaging in constructive societal discussion so that people from different backgrounds can be equally involved and those who are often left out of discussions are included.
The new foundation will continue and further develop Sitra’s work and unite organisations already engaged in dialogue in Finland so that expertise in dialogue spreads as far as possible.
“It has been great to see how much demand for Timeout there has been in Finland; already more than 100 organisations have adopted Timeout, and more than 6,500 people around Finland have taken part in Timeout discussions,” says Janne Kareinen, who was head of the Timeout work at Sitra. “With the new foundation, completely new kinds of opportunities will emerge, and the Timeout work will only become stronger.”
Laura Arikka will begin in the position of the foundation’s Executive Director on 1 June 2019. Arikka has previously worked as an expert in human rights and co-operation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. She was a member of the Timeout developer team and has continued as a Timeout mentor.
“It is great to be involved in leading Timeout forward! I have seen several times how the method works, and seen that discussion is worthwhile. Joint encounters have touched people who are very different from one another. Finland’s social peace will strengthen through dialogue,” says Laura Arikka.