Finnish Association of Design Learning at exbibition

Summary of the ND Future Forum 2019

The Annual Northern Dimension Future Forum was organized by the Northern Dimension Institute on 28th November 2019 in Dipoli, Espoo. This year the Future Forum presented Northern solutions and experiments, which may enable building more sustainable future. The forum consisted of panel discussions, and an exhibition presenting concrete projects.

The focus of the forum was on solutions and experiments as drawing from its strong academic and educational systems, the North has economic, intellectual and social capacities that can be used to combat sustainability challenges in a constructive manner. Many of them could be replicated for global use, too.

Finnish Association of Design Learning at exbibitionThe Finnish Association for Design Learning presenting at the exhibition

The forum was organized in cooperation with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and it served as a people-to-people pre-event for the next day’s high-level event in Finlandia hall. Both events celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Northern Dimension.

Several organisations gave their greetings to the Forum: Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (State Secretary Johanna Sumuvuori), EC (Audrone Perkauskiene, EEAS), EU (Antti Peltomäki and Maria Blässar, European Commission representation in Helsinki), and Russia (Igor Kapyrin, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation).

Audrone Perkauskine Audrone Perkauskine giving the greetings from the EU

The Future Forum was open for public, free of charge, with panels uniting views from research, students, NGOs from Russia and Belorussia, the Business community, and the public sector. Bringing a wide range of stakeholders together is at the core of the work at the NDI, as in the ND Family it is the role of the NDI to channel knowledge from research and the society to the decision-makers.

Forum audienceForum audience listening the opening words by Johanna Sumuvuori

The Future Forum presented technology and human centered solutions to sustainability challenges in the fields of health, transport, environment and culture. Topics in the panels covered themes, such as climate change, aging of population, need to develop new sustainable materials and need to develop digital solutions that would be accessible to everyone.

The panels also underlined the need engage the whole society to make sustainable solutions work: accurate knowledge from research, knowledge-based policies from the public sector, investments and social responsibility from enterprises, NGOs to engage people to build a better future, and motivated students to acquire skills that equip them to take charge one day. All these viewpoints were included in the panel bringing their viewpoints.

Plenary panelIgor Kapyrin opening the Plenary Panel

The plenary panel discussed solutions to sustainability challenges from several perspectives, including how the business community has formed a proactive coalition to combat climate change, how environmental awareness is raised through education and media, and how individual citizens can adopt resource-wise lifestyles.

Dmitry VasilenkoDmitry Vasilenko giving greetings from the Russian university sector

In the second panel, the two sides of the coin of new technologies were discussed pointing to ways in which new technologies and materials save the environment and resources, on the one hand, and may cause potential ecotoxicological risks, on the other.

Technology panelThematic panel on technological solutions to sustainability challenges

The last panel presented ways to engage citizens into co-creation of user-driven services in transports, in elderly care, and to encourage people to apply more sustainable lifestyles.

Elena GolubevaElena Golubeva contributing to the human-centered solutions panel

The Future forum pointed to several positive approaches to sustainability challenges. Businesses are increasingly believing that sustainable solutions can be made profitable in many ways. These range from putting a price on CO2 emissions, to creating new businesses from re-used resources, even from left over food. Also, the society is starting to look at waste in a more positive way as a loss that can be transformed into a resource. Furthermore, rather than urging people to give up their present life styles, it is possible to increase their consciousness positively through education and communication.

In the field of media, there is a trend towards more solution-oriented journalism that acknowledges the complexity of sustainability challenges and undermines polarization and simplification of social discussion.

ND 11282019 0586 8307Participants of the last panel listening the closing words by Riitta Kosonen

The forum reminded that underlying all this is increasing need for people-to-people interaction in all sectors of society: within the interdisciplinary academia, between producers and end users of knowledge, and between the civil cociety and formal decision making. To enabale this, a range of platforms are needed. The panels stressed that it is equally valuable to create local cohesive ecosystems that produce local solutions as it is to scale up Northern solutions to serve global challenges.

The greetings from the ND Future Forum were presented in the next day at the high-level event in Finlandia Hall. It was underlined there that the Northern Dimension Structure, with its Partnerhips, and other established concrete platforms and mechanisms of cooperation, has an excellent toolpack for intensive and innovative people-to-people interaction, which is the most important ingredient needed to solve complex sustainability challenges.

Finlandia taloThe former Prime Minister of Finland Paavo Lipponen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto and the organizing team from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and NDI


Video from the ND Future Forum 2019 “Fresh and Sustainable Experiments of the Global North”


All photos in the article hilife.