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What’s become of Sitra’s Sources of Vitality projects?


Helena Mustikainen

Senior Lead, Fair data economy


Sitra’s key tasks include anticipating forces of change and their effects on Finns. In 2009 and 2010, Sitra organised the Sources of Vitality development programme for 200 Finnish decision-makers, who discussed the foundation for Finland’s future success. The programme resulted in five continuation projects, the last of which – the WOMENTO network for educated immigrant women – has now seen the end of Sitra’s involvement. So, how have the projects fared?

Sitra partnered with the Family Federation of Finland, which launched the WOMENTO network in early January 2011. This pilot project aims to create connections between immigrant women professionals and their Finnish colleagues through voluntary work. It helps women who are immigrants to learn the Finnish language, find employment and integrate into Finnish society through networks and mentoring.

The WOMENTO network is based on pairs of mentors and mentees. The mentor has a Finnish cultural background and helps the immigrant mentee develop her competencies and find paths to employment in the field in which she was educated. This makes Finnish society better prepared to integrate immigrants into everyday and working life, while also increasing participation opportunities among immigrant women. The operating model is based on the Danish KVINFO information centre, among other networks.

A total of 13 mentor-mentee pairs had been created by the end of October 2011, and all were offered training and support. As a result, the network of influential women interested in helping immigrant women has expanded.

Sitra funded the pilot phase, and the project is now funded by the Finnish Slot Machine Association and the Finnish Cultural Foundation. During 2012, the project will be expanded gradually to cover Turku and other towns with large immigrant populations, in addition to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

“WOMENTO relies on mutual understanding and solidarity among women,” says Project Manager Satu Mäki-Lassila from the Family Federation of Finland. “I strongly believe that professional encounters at grass-roots level play a significant role in integrating immigrants into Finnish society. Finns definitely want to welcome immigrants, but to do that, they need to find a form of participation that suits their personal abilities.”

According to Mäki-Lassila, it has been a pleasure to continue a project funded by Sitra in the pilot stage. The concept development work carried out and experiences gained during the pilot phase lay a solid foundation for expanding the project in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and beyond.

Other projects

The Local Sources of Vitality project studied the current state and future prospects of three cities: Oulu, Kuopio and Salo. For this project, Sitra partnered with Fin Brands, an Oulu-based company that organised two forums for local people of influence in each of the three cities. These events resulted in plans for boosting local vitality. Moreover, two associations – Made in Oulu and Made in Savonlinna – were established to help local companies to network and increase their visibility.

The Inspiration at Work project launched campaigns in several pilot organisations. The goal was to encourage inspiration by learning, creating new ideas and sharing good experiences as well as testing these practices at workplaces and in the pilot organisations as a whole. Sitra partnered with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Outokumpu, Tapiola Pension, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Maintpartner, Mobile Spa and the VATES Foundation. As a result, Tapiola Pension has started to offer training on inspiration at work to its customer companies.

The Mental Health Information, Skills and Tools Online project was carried out by Sitra in collaboration with the Finnish Association for Mental Health (FAMH). The project created a mental health training model and offered related training for organisations and other operators involved in youth work in social media. It also piloted the use of social media in enhancing resource-oriented information and skills related to mental well-being. FAMH continued this work by launching the Mental Health Knowledge and Skills for Youth Work project, which is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

In addition, Sitra prepared a report on employment opportunities for the disabled in collaboration with the VATES Foundation. The report focused on the significance of securing employment for the disabled and those with partial work ability for the national economy. Instead of being viewed as subsidies, employment support for these groups could be seen as a significant investment in the national economy – a win-win-win situation that benefits the individual, the company and society alike. As part of the project, the VATES Foundation carried out a survey of decision-makers in companies. The results show that businesses are interested in hiring disabled employees and people with partial work ability, but they need more information and practical examples. The results of the survey also give reason to accelerate the ‘dissemination of information on support measures and other arrangements meant for employers’, one of the goals of the Government Programme.

New training opportunities

The Sources of Vitality programme spurred Sitra on to resume its discontinued training operations. Sitra has a long history of providing training with a social impact; however, it discontinued its training operations after adopting a programme-based operating model in the mid-2000s. To advance the awareness gained through the Sources of Vitality programme, Sitra launched a series of Synergise Finland forums for decision-makers in March 2010.

The forums bring together a diverse group of people from all levels of society to learn from one another and identify structural and cultural changes needed in Finland. The forums will result in practical experiments and measures that facilitate creative solutions to the identified problems. The first Synergise Finland forum was organised under the theme New Work (2010–11). The theme of the second forum was New Democracy (2011–12).

The third Synergise Finland forum will begin under the theme Sustainable Economy in the autumn of 2012. It aims to create sustainable economic thinking in response to global challenges and produce a concept for leadership training in sustainable financial policy.

Sitra’s training in sustainable financial policy will be based on the Sustainable Economy forum and its insights into new economic thinking. In line with Sitra’s earlier financial policy courses, the training in sustainable financial policy is intended for people with influence in politics, administration, business, organisations, research, culture and the media. However, the content and ways of working will be thoroughly modernised as part of the Sustainable Economy forum in the autumn of 2012. Sitra expects to organise its first courses on sustainable financial policy in the spring of 2013. Recruitment begins in late 2012.

More information


Satu Mäki-Lassila, Project Manager, Family Federation of Finland
womento(at), tel. +358 9 2280 5108

Local Sources of Vitality

Jaana Paavilainen, Founder, CEO, Fin Brands
jaana.paavilainen(at), tel. +358 500 484 477 

Inspiration at Work

Hilkka Malinen, Head of Human Resources and Well-Being, Tapiola Pension
hilkka.malinen(at), tel. +358 400 621 791

Mental Health Information, Skills and Tools Online

Marjo Hannukkala, Project Manager, Finnish Association for Mental Health
marjo.hannukkala(at), tel. +358 40 58 11 068

Report on encouraging employment for the handicapped

Marjatta Varanka, Managing Director, VATES Foundation
marjatta.varanka(at), tel. +358 50 5164 485

Training by Sitra

Eeva Hellström, Leading Specialist
eeva.hellstrom(at), tel. +358 294 618 276