Veera Heinonen is Director of the Democracy and Participation theme. She is responsible for ensuring that Sitra’s strategic objectives to strengthen democracy and engagement in Finland are implemented in practice.
The programme’s objectives include advancing participatory democracy in Finland by means of experiments, pilot studies and supporting the adoption of new forms of participation. The aim is to disseminate this work across Finland and strengthen the coupling of these new forms of participation with decision-making.
Veera and her team also focus on investigating how algorithm- and data-based means of operating and influencing can be harnessed to support democracy and participation. The rapid change in the media environment in recent decades has brought with it many new ways of participating in society and exerting new kinds of digital power.
Throughout her career, Veera has been, in one way or another, involved in the promotion of democracy. First as a journalist and a correspondent, then as a civil servant and a diplomat, and finally as the Director of Communications, both at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and at the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland. Before her current position, she worked as Sitra’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs.
Her current role focuses on not only defending but also renewing democracy as the ongoing transition from the democracy of the era of industrialisation to the democracy of an increasingly digital society requires new ways of “practicing democracy”. This includes the readiness of citizens (information, skills, enthusiasm) to affect matters that are of importance to themselves. Also, technological, and digital information literacy skills are essential for the modern democratic citizen.
During the pandemic Veera took up tennis and although there has been little progress in her skills, she is nonetheless a firm believer in the life-long learning concept. All in all, exceptional circumstances in recent years including the brutal war in Ukraine have offered a lesson on how individuals and societies need to constantly adapt to new circumstances – and how democracies only survive through constant reform. Defending democracies will not suffice.