Inclusive societies: Social Economy Mission in Seinäjoki

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Over 40 attendees from Finland, Slovenia and Northern Ireland share their thoughts on horizontal policies to support social economy at local or regional level.
14 May 2021 - HOPE  project
HOPE lead partner, City of Seinäjoki in South Ostrobothnia (Finland), in collaboration with Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, has hosted the first virtual session of the project on the 10th and 11th May. Entitled 'Good practices on inclusive Societies through multi-professional and multi-sectoral Collaboration – Social Economy Mission in Seinäjoki', over 40 key stakeholders from Seinäjoki, Maribor (Slovenia) and Derry & Strabane (Northern Ireland) have attended the online workshop, moderated by Dr Jari Kolehmainen from Tampere University.

Participants had the opportunity to listen about the situation of the three partner cities and, afterwards, to discuss and exchange thoughts on the similarities and differences in the presented regions. The origin of the discussion has been ‘Actors and policies tackling the phenomenon, which are the key stakeholders constructing social economy?’ HOPE partners and stakeholders have brought into the spotlight the local intersections of (un)employment, inclusivity, wellbeing and health.

Talking about the similarities between the partner cities and regions, attendees agreed that the three cities and regions seem to pay attention to social economy. Among others, they have focused on the aging population, high unemployment, also increasing within young people, and the challenges of a long-term unemployment situation. Furthermore, mental health isolation and loneliness seem to be common in all areas. In addition, the lack of mental health services or the difficulties getting services can make the situation even worse. Some of the attendees from Northern Ireland have also expressed that mental health issues have increased due to the Covid isolation. 

In reference to the differences among cities and regions participating in HOPE, the attendees have highlighted the fact that the three cities are different sizes. Regarding social entrepreneurship, attendees have concluded that Maribor takes the lead on this field. The Slovenian city has developed social entrepreneurship and social economy very strongly through, for example, the SocioLab model. In comparison, Finland’s approach is lower, although multi-professional and multiorganizational working method is seen to be a core when developing wellbeing. With regards to Derry & Strabane, it was also admitted that the area has excellent strategic partnerships models. 

Attendees from Northern Ireland have remarked another fact that might affect the well-being of individuals: the “intergenerational trauma from the NI conflict”. According to participants, this affects mental well-being through high levels of depression. On top of that, they have mentioned that Derry & Strabane area has the highest homelessness figures in NI. Another aspect discussed was the number of asylum seekers, which is very low at Seinäjoki and Southern Ostrobothnia Area, the lowest in Finland.

How to enhance well-being of individuals, foster employment and entrepreneurship
Over 40 attendees from the participating regions have used this chance to share thoughts on other topics aiming at developing horizontal policies to support social economy at local or regional level. Among others, participants shared the following points of view:

  • Neuropsychological rehabilitation: as a basic health care level, children and adults need help in order to maintain or achieve good health and their paths in education and working life, in order to avoid the exclusion path or mental health problems.
  • User involvement perspective: it is very important to hear the voice of those who use the services, how do they see these services? Do they reach them? 
  • Trust between organisations: the key factor definitely is interaction. Trust can only increase when interaction is respectful to one another. We should be able to increase positive attitudes towards social economy and social enterprises as well as competencies in social economy. Knowledge about social economy should be shared, we should do also marketing together concerning social economy.
  • Digitalization of working life: what kind of challenges brings, and possibilities does it give.

Retaining young talent and promoting entrepreneurship
Commenting on the impact of horizontal policies for inclusive societies and young people, representatives from Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences mentioned the situation of students with international origin and how to get them to stay in the region, the resources available from municipalities and NGOs.

Furthermore, it was also discussed how young people could be educated in entrepreneurship. An attendee mentioned that, “building an aspiration to be entrepreneurial is the first step. Low or no aspiration is a big barrier to most personal growth”. Commenting on that, another thought was shared: “it is important to get more information for students and teachers about the different options. Students have a good opportunity to strengthen their entrepreneurial and professional skills during the study period"

All participants agreed that, (un)employment, inclusivity, wellness, and health are closely connected and influence the well-being of individuals. Therefore, constructing social economy requires acknowledging these different dimensions. We should not forget that: “there is always a person behind these statistics”.

Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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