Innovation portfolios for transformation

Global and societal challenges are often so complex that they can’t be solved by single projects or experiments. Innovation portfolios are an approach that can be used for leading systems transformation. At their centre is the notion of connecting initiatives and actors who are working with similar challenges and promoting their co-ordination and mutual learning.

Cover of the memorandum

Radical uncertainty requires radical collaboration


Wicked problems require radical collaboration – five principles for developers

More impact on societal challenges using innovation portfolios

Perhaps the main reason why we have not successfully been able to tackle the global and societal challenges we face today is not that we’re not working hard enough on them but rather that we don’t coordinate what we’re doing. Single projects and organisations do not necessarily have visibility into what others are doing and this results in overlapping projects that do not collaborate. A single project can however have a broader impact if it is part of a collection of supporting projects. This is what innovation portfolios seek to enable by collecting initiatives to learn from each other, make shared sense of what is happening and create insights that can help with adaptation.

Innovation portfolios are an emerging approach to systems transformation that we explored with our international and Finnish partners during 2020.

Our goal was to strengthen the capacities of developers and managers working on societal challenges in responding to broad, complex challenges in collaboration.

Over the last years a lot of great work has been done in applying experimentation, design and other adaptive approaches to practical challenges. These are all great approaches for developing single solutions. Global and societal challenges however transcend the limits of single organisations, services, products and experiments and are subject to broad uncertainty. Innovation portfolios and the practices related to them seek to promote initiatives that can learn from each other and collaboration between organisations.

Radical uncertainty requires radical collaboration.”
Kirsten Dunlop, EIT Climate-KIC

Sitra’s goal is to strengthen change makers’ capacities and capabilities in solving broader challenges together. The Radical uncertainty requires radical collaboration memorandum created as a result of the project is partially based on the workshops in which we were joined by professionals from various organisations working on systems change to explore applying the approach and take the thinking forward.

What did we do?

In January 2020 we organised the two-day Innovation Portfolio Sensemaking & Management workshop where we heard about the experiences of the international pioneers.

To promote capacities and applications of the approach in Finland we organised another four workshops over spring 2020 where we explored the different practices related to the topic. We also supported organisations that were thinking about applying or already applying the approach.

To support the work further we created web materials and the memorandum to help developers learn about and take innovation portfolios forward in the organisations.

Who did we work with?

We partnered with EIT Climate-KIC UNDP, CHÔRA Foundation and Narrate Ltd (associated to the Cognitive Edge network) on the January workshop. We were joined in the workshop by innovation portfolio practitioners from Canada and Sweden’s Sida. We also hosted about 20 organisations based in Finland that represent institutions operating internationally, government, regions, cities, associations and companies.

The Finnish innovation portfolio group:

Biomimita Oy, Niina Kuusanniemi-Abbots
Capability Oy, Arnaldo Pellini
Cultura Foundation, Anna Sidorova
City of Espoo, Katja Hagman
City of Espoo, Päivi Sutinen
City of Helsinki, Mari Männistö
City of Helsinki, Jenni Räsänen
The ITLA Children’s Foundation, Marika Tammeaid
Kela, Pekko Iso-Koivisto
Kela, Eeva Jouvenel
Kela, Tuula Soukkanen
Kukunori ry, Markus Raivio
Kukunori ry, Markus Vähälä
Association of Finnish Municipalities, Tuula Jäppinen
Association of Finnish Municipalities, Tiina Rinne
Motiva Oy, Elina Ovaskainen
nommoC seugolaiD osk, Timo Järvensivu
Nordic Development Fund, Aleksi Lumijärvi
Finnish National Agency for Education, Anna Häggman
Finnish National Agency for Education, Ulla Teräs
Council of Tampere Region, Päivi Myllykangas
Council of Tampere Region, Marko Mäkinen
Council of Tampere Region, Tiina Ramsted-Sen
Sitra, Timo Hämäläinen
Sitra, Kalle Nieminen
Sitra, Riina Pulkkinen
UNTIL Finland, Marketta Gland
UNTIL Finland, Tiina Neuvonen
Finnish Tax Administration, Johanna Kotipelto
Finnish Tax Administration, Jukka Kyhäräinen
Vincit Oyj, Toni Mikkola
Finnish Ministry of the Environment, Virve Hokkanen

The group was invited and facilitated by Mervi Porevuo and Mikael Seppälä from Sitra.


Ruskea c-kasetti sinisellä pohjalla

Lab log #27: How are innovation portfolios applied in Finland and around the world?

metallinen rengasketju keltaisella pohjalla

Lab log #23: What can you read to learn more about innovation portfolios and applying them?

tummansininen c-kasetti vaaleansinisellä pohjalla.

Lab log #22: How are innovation portfolios employed internationally?

Kuvituskuva, jossa c-kasetti ja SItra Lab -teksti

Lab log #20: What are innovation ecosystems and what to they have to do with wicked problems?

Kuvituskuva, jossa c-kasetti ja SItra Lab -teksti

Lab Log #13: We have to take collaboration seriously


Lab log #12: Innovation Portfolio Sensemaking and Management Workshop

Contact us

Mervi Porevuo
Mikael Seppälä
Kalle Nieminen
Director, Foresight and learning
Päivi Hirvola
Director, Sitra

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