The narrative of Bildung (in Finnish: sivistys) must be updated to match today’s challenges. The social transformation that we all will be facing takes Bildung that gives us the capacity to reform and the wherewithal to respond to today’s wicked problems. Such Bildung also creates meaning and well-being that can replace consumerism.


This is what´s happening right now.


The Bildung+ project will increase the value of the traditional Bildung, and update and expand this concept and all it encompasses. Hence the “plus” in the title of the project. The project is being launched in spring 2020 and will run until June 2022.

The goals of the Bildung+ project are:

  • strengthening public discussions on Bildung amid the societal changes caused by megatrends;
  • updating the narrative of Bildung, so that it becomes an enabling force for facing current societal challenges; Bildung+ creates meaning and well-being that can replace consumerism;
  • supporting new kind of Bildung activities.

What are we doing?

We have planned the following activities:

  • Investigating how ideals change and how that influences society.
  • Developing the concepts of dynamic museum and heritage futures and starting heritage futures workshops in museums in order to make them more future oriented (based also on new ways of looking at heritage and collections). This kind of dynamic museum can foster Bildung and the transformation towards societal sustainability.

Other possible activities:

  • Searching for “Bildung start-ups”.
  • Bringing the debate on (eco-social/planetary) Bildung to a pragmatic level especially in liberal education.
  • The exploration of the wider content of Bildung through art and culture. Art has the potential to add to our ability to imagine and make sense of the future and new meanings. Art also offers an interesting interface between the abstract and the concrete, the elite and the people, stability and change.

Who is involved?

Bildung+ project will also seek to involve a wide range of operators, such as researchers, journalists, teachers, educational and cultural experts, and artists.

Where are we now?

The first subprojects will start in the summer of 2020. The Bildung+ project engages three experts and it is headed by Vesa-Matti Lahti.

Why “Bildung”?

It is quite difficult to write about Finnish language concept of sivistys in English. There is no direct translation of the term. Sivistys encompasses aspects of such English terms as self-cultivation, scholarship, sophistication, civilisation, civility, education, edification, culture, creation, formation and literacy.

The same difficulty is also evident while trying to translate the Finnish concept to many other languages. The German word Bildung probably comes closest to corresponding to the meaning of sivistys. B

ildung is a complex concept that refers to knowledge acquired through education, transformative civic education, mental development and open-mindedness towards new information. However, even Bildung fails a bit in capturing the exact same meaning as sivistys. Bildung focuses perhaps more on the development of individuals than the term sivistys, which can cover more of the collective cultural aspect, too.

Sivistys is a broad concept that includes aspects from collective culture and its development to self-cultivation. The main aspects of sivistys could be described with three concepts: Bildung, civilisation and civility. But if one needs to choose only one, then Bildung is the best counterpart for sivistys to be used in texts, even in English.


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