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New Dreams Ahead

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Co-Creating a Sustainable City breakfast discussion, organized with Punavuori based +Studio in September focused on pioneering sustainable lifestyles and businesses, and on how everyone could contribute in building a more sustainable way of living in the city and beyond. Photo: Arsi Ikäheimonen

Dear Readers – It’s the last day of 2012 and it’s been terribly silent at the blog front. That of course means that the year has been exciting and busy in other ways. 2012 has passed so fast and so full of events it’s hard to believe it’s been only one year.

After touring with Helsinki Beyond Dreams in London, New York, Helsinki and beyond, and participating in numerous inspiring events and discussions, it’s finally become time to start new projects. In the previous years I have been spending a lot of time with grassroots and especially working on the question of how to create better dialogue with citizens, planners and policy makers. A logical step now is to learn more about how the world of policy making works. This logic has led me to a new and exhiting project: I have become a bureaucrat for a year and moved my office to the Ministry of the Environment. The new project is part of Sitra’s Design Exchange Programme, which aims to offer goverment new tools and new ways of thinking through strategic design.

The spirit of UDM continues in this project in many ways. Firstly, the main focus is on engaging with citizens and co-creation – and secondly, one of the main projects will deal with the renewal of empty or underused spaces. A familiar and favourite topic for me, a large issue in our society but something that has been outshadowed by other issues in public discussion and in policy-making too.

Now, before 2012 ends, I’d still like to look back a little and summarize some of the thoughts and events in the aftermath of Helsinki Beyond Dreams. It’s been really rewarding to notice that the book has inspired a lot of discussion and new actions – not to mention all the articles and reviews in the media. The ever-expanding boom of Helsinki urban culture is of course not a result of our book, but it would be nice to imagine it has played a certain part in fueling this process.

One of the great things that happened in spring 2012 was that – thanks to people of Cable Factory and Abattoir – the book was delivered onto the desks of many city bureaucrats and council members. We organised a little discussion themed “activists vs officials” where it became clear it’s not at all necessary to talk about a “x vs y” confrontation but rather to combine forces and work together. The city already has a lot of good will in its strategy but some practicalities might still need twisting in order to make the seeds of urban happiness grow and blossom.

Activists vs Officials gathered together Helsinki city leaders and grassroots activists to build better collaboration. In connection with the event, Helsinki Beyond Dreams was distributed onto the desks of many city bureaucrats and council members.
Being part of the “smart room” of European Cultural Foundation’s Advisory Board in Amsterdam
Exchanging thoughts and publications with Mobile Studio in London
Hel/Lo Let’s Talk about Dreams, organised by the Finnish Institute in London, brought together dreamers from Helsinki and London in June. Photo: Aleksi Niemelä. http://helloletstalk.fi/

Perhaps the most interesting and important feature in the rise of new urban culture and citizen activism is the possibility of creating new, more sustainable ways of living in the city, which are self-motivated and grow from the ground up. New pioneering initiatives such as time banking, urban farming and community sharing services, and numerous business ideas as well, point out to a new understanding of sustainable living. New forms of co-creation and community effort reshape people’s role from that of a passive individual consumer towards an active maker and doer. I believe that co-creation and mutual learning can have a great power in finding the solutions to tackle the complex challenges our societies are facing, in terms of climate change, finite material resouces and economy.

With these thoughts I wish you all many good dreams for the coming year!

During next year, I’ll be updating news regularly on the Design Exhange Programme blog.