Torsti Hyyryläinen, Vice Director UH/Ruralia Institute, and Toni Ryynänen, Senior Researcher UH/Ruralia Institute, speak about their participation in the project, the benefits and challenges, services they are developing and the expected results for their Finnish region.
Why did you decide to join EMERGREEN?
The University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute is committed to strive for sustainable futures in rural and remote areas. Located in the City of Mikkeli and within the region of South Savo, we face several societal challenges such as aging and sparse population, long distances and scarce economic resources common to all NPA areas. In this context, the objectives of the EMERGREEN felt concrete and necessary. We combine the development needs of the associate partner City of Mikkeli and the EMERGREEN project partnership with the academic community of the University of Helsinki.
To-date, what has been the biggest benefit of participating in the project for your organisation?
EMERGREEN is the first NPA project for the region of South Savo. The benefits include learning from the other partners working with the similar challenges, establishing new contacts and partnerships. From the regional perspective, the greatest advantages are realised by passing these experiences on to our local stakeholders. For example, we have been able to share the earlier technology contributions of the other EMERGREEN partners to our associate partner and other local stakeholders. The exchange of experiences between the other participating regions and organisations has been rewarding.
And the biggest challenge?
Our aim is to develop and test participatory digital technologies in remote and rural areas. These emerging technologies need to be customised and tailored for the novel usage context resulting in unexpected technical challenges. New co-operation projects and partnerships always take some time to get up and running as the development task need expertise from several fields ranging from local residents to technology developers.
What services are you currently developing?
Our main task is to develop and test a digital platform for citizen participation. The platform should enable multiple ways of participation, be user-friendly, allow flexible development and ideally include some attracting new elements like gamification.
What results would you like to achieve through them?
A platform for citizen participation is connected with several service areas and processes. The City of Mikkeli and the neighbouring municipalities are currently formulating a climate action strategy and several circular economy initiatives. The participatory platform promoted through EMERGREEN is well suited for managing related participatory consultations and surveys as well as multichannel communication processes. All this contributes to the citizen engagement in sustainable and climate aware regional development.
How do you think that EMERGREEN will benefit your region?
The benefits are manifold. The more intense and widespread use of novel digital technologies as such is an obvious benefit, but also enhancing responsive and ultimately effective public services and processes. Our planned pilots will specifically contribute to the citizen engagement in sustainable and climate aware regional development. The key drivers in the platform development are flexibility, transparency and transferability that allows its application in other contexts. We will certainly experience a rewarding process that we will document and analyse in the Ruralia Institute for the purposes of reflection, learning and sharing. We also trust that the new partnerships build during the EMERGREEEN are enriching for the region of South Savo and vice versa across the NPA areas in many coming years.