WORK, WORK, WORK!

It’s your food security experts from the Salty Liquid team here!

Our today’s session (6.4.2020) was very intense! We had three workshops focusing on solutions, evaluation, and their possible impacts. In addition, one of the main goals was to prepare for the meeting with the mentors this Wednesday. Mentors are university researchers who work in collaboration with different stakeholders. They will hopefully provide some new perspectives which will help us to evaluate our current progress.

Our solution is rather a question itself (What are the most pressing questions and challenges in the context of Finnish food security during the Corona pandemic?). Therefore, we have found it difficult to follow the workshop instructions. Today was no different. We had to improvise a little bit but, in the end, we managed to proceed. During the first workshop we concluded that based on the news and public conversation the two most pressing questions are:

  1. Where and how to get enough seasonal workers for food production?
  2. How to ensure nutrition for people in the most vulnerable positions?

We decided to go on with the question no. 2 and used it as a base for the next two workshops. While evaluating the impacts and the extent of the question, we found out that there are 112 000 school children coming from families with low income (Tilastokeskus). And did you know that in 2019 there were approximately 4600 homeless people in Finland (Vailla vakinaista asuntoa ry)?  From the global perspective, the number is small but still, ideally, the number would be closer to zero. As the Corona pandemic has also changed the routines of food aid, homeless people might not have access to any proper meals. Nutritious food is one of the basic human needs to which everyone should have access, whether they have a kitchen or not.

Finally, we prepared our 5-minute pitch for Wedn

During this month we have gone through a vast amount of news and articles about the effects of Corona pandemic on different parts of the food chain. The availability of seasonal farmworkers has been a hot topic.

esday. Luckily, we have introduced our work to different people in this course earlier, so we had good material for it. We were also told to think about some questions to ask from our mentor and came up with two. For example, one thing we have started to think more and more is how to summarize and visualize the discussion we have followed. What sort of graphs or figures would be most useful and understandable for people who are not familiar with the subject? We hope to gain some ideas about that in our meeting.

To end today’s blog post, we want to reflect on our teamwork so far. In the very first lecture (when we could meet live!) it came up that the motivational value thriving all of us to work among sustainability is EQUALITY. So, it seems that this group is tackling the right problem. The challenge that E2 gave us was huge and has definitely required some flexibility, improvisation and dancy moves (which were recognized as some of our strengths btw 😉) on the way. We keep on going and look forward to the pitches!

Best of luck to the other groups for their pitches and have a good Easter break!

Do your Easter food shopping respectfully; keep your distance and don’t stay in the shop for too long! And don’t forget to buy some mämmi 😀.

The Pathfinders – On the Path to Solution

This is the 2nd blog post of The Pathfinders. We are the group working with the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki to solve the trampling problem of urban nature areas. Our current problem formulation is: How to digitally monitor and limit the degradation of footpaths due to human activity in nature areas in Helsinki?

Today we had a (remote) meeting with our partners and mentors. We presented them with our best solutions for the challenge;

-Set cameras at a certain distance and periodically take photos to track changes in paths. Photos taken by the users would complement this.

-Bluetooth tracking

-Educational campaign

-Mobile app

-Prevent off-trailing: Fallen logs + thick edges with abundant trees and bushes + covering the unwanted paths

-Robot doggies for the kick to get people interested + monitoring

With our solutions, we want to both monitor and prevent trampling. Here’s what our partners thought. The main comments we received from our partners and mentors were mostly positive and they stated that they really enjoyed many of our ideas and some of them were ideas they had thought of before but never pursued. The most praise was for our Bluetooth tracking idea as they had thought of this previously and we validated the fact it was a good idea through our past research as well as our communications with our experts. We received lots of constructive criticism on our ideas, such as: 1) Us trying to find more background research/past studies on using mobile phones for pictures and data as this would help to validate this idea more. 2) They also talked to us about calculating the financial yield of the solutions we presented. This is probably one of the main hurdles we have come across as a team so far, as our partners hadn’t given us an explicit budget to work with, but we will keep in mind that we don’t want something too expensive to implement whether this be through the original implementation costs or through the maintenance afterward. 3) We also got feedback on our idea of using cameras for monitoring and were given some questions facing the legality of this and whether it was too harsh of an option to be constantly monitoring people? Thus, through our team discussion and with help of our partners we decided we could modify option 1 so that the cameras wouldn’t be a permanent fixture all over the park but only monitor on some days and only be fixated in certain spots in the nature areas.

It was also a pleasure to meet our new mentor Jukka Lehtonen. We were relieved to hear that our work made sense for a person, who hasn’t heard about it earlier. He gave us a lot of valuable feedback considering our work. E.g. going through our solutions this far and listing the pros and cons of them, which would clarify our next steps in this project. Also a pro tip for the future was to introduce our backgrounds while doing a presentation of our work, which gives a better idea of our process for the listener.

Next, we are trying to concentrate on monitoring the changes in the paths with the first idea of using drones and cameras. The preventing part, on the other hand, will probably be made up of a campaign that combines social media and website/app. Let’s see what we can come up with!

FOUR OF A KIND – KEEP CALM AND DON’T GET CORONA

The Corona situation has changed significantly in the last few days. The Uusimaa area has been set up for isolation, there has been talk of closing down the Alko, and visiting at the restaurants will be banned temporarily. Indeed, we are going through dramatic times and the near future does not look very bright.

However, today we talked together via ZOOM with all the classmates. The situation was updated as each group had gathered information or interviewed experts. Here are some examples of group progress. The Salty liquid group had focused its resources on researching the Finnish food supply chain and what impact Corona pandemic had on it. The good news is that Finland should have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, the development of the United States was considered as a bad example. A burning topic that will surely become more visible to us all as the pandemic proceeds.

Pathfinders are reporting their research on the effects of forest tramping and how they could be rescued by drones. Unfortunately, drone monitoring in the forest has been found to be difficult and for example, making an application to avoid forest damage is a feasible option. They also received valuable information on the National Parks of the United Kingdom. Grey seals also gained valuable insights from expert interviews and literature research. The sounds of leisure boating clearly disturb marine organisms, but boaters themself are not always aware of the problem. It brings contradicting emotions to the surface that will surely be resolved in the future.

Last but not least is, of course, the Four of a kind. Our group consists of Valtteri, Arttu, Janina and Juho. Our own project is focused on updating the WWF’s Meat Guide. The task is to update the meat guide to meet current requirements. After the first meeting with our partner we are very confident because we got a lot of good positive feedback. The Meat Guide’s interactive site is good when compared to other guides, but the main problem is probably reaching the general public.

It is important to move enough and enjoy the company of your loved ones in these dark times. You can go and even enjoy the beautiful Finnish nature by the lake, so all the bad news about Corona will be forgotten.

Salty Liquid, at your service!

Hello fellow students and teachers!

Our team, Salty Liquid, consists of 5 ECGS-students: Reija, Aku, Suvi, Saara and Pauliina. Our initial problem, from our partner e2, was how to ensure food and nutrition security for all. Since that is a huge global topic, we started to narrow it down. The Corona pandemic was getting worse and worse as the course started, so we decided to solve the possible problems that Finland’s food security might face. We met with our partner already last week and agreed the aim and the study type of our work.

Salty Liquid, at your service!

On Thursday we didn’t have a workshop, but we still felt like meeting with our team on Skype. Our group’s agenda for this week has been browsing social media and the news about the development of coronavirus’ effect on people’s thoughts about Finland’s food security. More specifically, we are now monitoring news and social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. We want to find out whether there are weak spots in Finland’s food security during a crisis like the Corona pandemic. Our aim is to tackle down the difficult questions that rise up in public conversations and to find the right questions to ask in order to enhance food security and food policy in the future.

On Monday we decided to contact experts and each of our group contacted at least one professional. We chose experts from different sectors of the food chain: The National Emergency Supply Agency, Finland’s Martat ry, Wealth and spending expert from the University of Helsinki, Sitra and Diakonialaitos. It was a bit scary to call these experts, but we survived! (In the end, it was also pretty darn fun.)

On Thursday we went through all the answers we got from the experts and picked up the main points to Flinga, which we use as post-it notes now that we are doing this project online.

Flinga-art:  Analyzing our expert’s comments together via Skype and Flinga!

Shortly, what main points did we find?

Professionals are not worried; they have a high trust in Finland’s food security. Finland is well prepared and there is no stress of food ending in Finland, even though people are hoarding food from supermarkets.

There are some critical points that must be secured all the time, but thanks to a well-organized system, these are well handled. For example, ferries are important for Finland’s trading, but this is not only in Finland as it is a global necessity of fluent economy and food chain that trading continues even though pandemic.

Media has a huge responsibility on how they reflect the ongoing situation for people. Is it necessary to post pictures of empty food shelves, as this creates panic among people?

It is highly important to contemplate well-deliberated politics, so that misjudgments are not made.

But the research continues! The next step is to find connections between our professionals’ comments and start the detective work of “what are the pondering questions of Finland’s food security?”

Picture: pixabay.com

Grey Seals against underwater noise pollution in the Baltic Sea!

The Grey Seals go remote!

The project course changed its format due to the Corona virus pandemic. In accordance with the governmental regulations and the University of Helsinki guidelines the course moved online, and so did The Grey Seals. Our team, Anna, Elli, Emmi, Ilona, & Salla, all either ECGS or AGERE students, have become model citizens in social distancing. We keep in touch via WhatsApp at all hours of the day and talk and share our work in Teams. Every week we get workshop instructions from the course pages, and support and guidance from tutors in Zoom meetings.

The topic of our project is how to reduce underwater noise pollution caused by leisure boating in the Baltic Sea, and we are joining forces with the Baltic Sea Challenge, organized by the cities of Helsinki and Turku. Underwater noise caused by human activity has abundant negative effects on the biota and ecosystems of rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.

We had workshops to brainstorm ideas and researched for information about our topic, and today our group had a Teams meeting with our partner, Baltic Sea Challenge Coordinator Mari Joensuu to discuss our project. We discussed and planned many possible ways to approach our problem and together decided towards an information campaign to spread the knowledge about the damage of underwater noise. We are planning to make a social media campaign, as well as a leaflet and a poster to be distributed to the boating community.

Meeting up with the project partner was important and fruitful at this stage of project work. Brainstorming and discussing together with our partner developed new ideas and pushed the project forward and getting tips, ideas and targets from the partner moved us closer to the actual product of this whole course. Also, lessons were learned when getting knowledge from a person handling Baltic Sea issues on a daily basis. For example, not to use the oh so cute and fluffy grey seal as a mascot for the social media campaign as it divides opinions throughout our target audience. Who would’ve thought about that!

 

 

 

The Pathfinders Kick Off the 2020 Sustainability Challenge Blog

The series of blog entries for this project course is kicked off by The Pathfinders, who are tutored by the course leader, Jarmo Saarikivi.

Our group (Charlotte, Eero, Jenni, Kaisa & Riikka) mostly consists of environmental scientists, but luckily we received a British reinforcement with a background in natural geography for some diversity. Between us, we possess skills in natural and sustainability science, communication, creativity, and remote sensing — and Karelian pie baking!

The City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki presenting their challenge.

Electricity was in the air as the students prepared themselves for the introduction of the partner organizations and their challenges. Four were presented, one for each student group. Topics vary but are closely related to two major themes: food and protection of nature from recreational activities. More specifically, the group working with Baltic Sea Challenge faces a challenge in decreasing noise pollution from pleasure boating, the group working with e2 Research attempts to ensure healthy and safe food for all, while the group working with WWF tries to tackle meat consumption.

Our group received the following challenge from the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki: How to monitor the decay of nature areas in Helsinki caused by visitors and prevent further decay? The partners face problems with visitors, who are leaving the designated walkways to create new paths, stomping on plants, and leaving the area in an ever more decaying state. They propose a solution, which utilizes open source remote sensing databases to create a modern solution for monitoring the change in the nature areas. Gone are the times of signs and ropes. Now is the time for drones and satellites.

Ready to face your challenge? The Pathfinders sure are!

The Pathfinders started tackling the challenge right away.
To understand the given challenges better, each group had to create a system map to outline the actors, themes, and problems around the challenge.

 

 

Convince me

What kind of solutions can be created to use ecological compensation in the context of developing Helsinki archipelago?

How to make city officials aware of how the physical environment shapes building users’ energy behaviour?

At the beginning of the course, our partners challenged the students to find solutions with issues they are struggling with regarding sustainable development and protection of the Baltic Sea. The initial challenge was transformed into a problem, expanded and stretched along the way. Sometimes groups had to take a few steps back, re-visit old ideas and continue with modified visions. The groups came up with a ton of different solutions, among which the most feasible and novel ones were chosen.
The final solution had to approach the challenge in a fresh way and provide the partner with a practical and interesting new opening that they could put into practice.

So how to convince the partner of your own idea and the superiority of the solution? Educate the listener, get inspired to act and assure them of your team’s expertise – these are the people that know the solution and its details best. The groups had  five minutes to present, and the voice of each group member had to be heard.

At the final seminar on the last week of April, the groups had polished their final pitches into their best form. Everyone had given their presentation the best they’ve got, with beautiful pitch decks, compelling narratives and even a tune to accompany one group’s  solution. At the end of the course, the groups received feedback from each other and from the partners. Some of the solutions were directly adopted by the partners, and we look forward to hearing more about how collaboration with the students advances!

Dress rehearsal for the big pitch!

Due to Easter break and changes in weekly schedules, we were today orientating ourselves to a new location, the Helsinki Think Company’s Viikki branch. A nice colleague from the Think Company gave a quick briefing to all of us who had already found our way to the new location. Coffee was on the house, which was a nice surprise and helped us to keep our good working pace. See more https://thinkcompany.fi/

Today was the second last session of the whole course and our final change to fine-tune and practice our solutions before the big moment when we will be pitching them to the partners. A big dress rehearsal day!

First we needed to identify on a post-it note (final post-it for the course 😉 the part of the project that still needs work before the final pitch. This was quite an easy task as almost all of the groups summarized it in one word “presentation”!

Thanks to hard work done by group members, presentations were already well on their way at the start of the afternoon sessions. Our group, Mammals, started to slice our presentation to bits and distribute roles and draft speaking notes. At the start of the afternoon session it was still unclear if we are going to do an actual rehearsal in front of all the course participants but indeed that proved to be the case.

After a break mid-way, we started presenting and once again, our Mammals group went first because of conflicting schedules of one of our group members. Teachers paired the groups in order for all to have actual opponents and comments. The exercise was useful for us to test the limits of strict five minutes time for the pitch, try out how our nice storylines sound as read out and get the needed practical advices from the floor and the teachers. Some learning of lines needs still to be done in front of a mirror as homework 😉

One of the heated discussions was between do we need to ensure that all group members are “given a voice” or can give choose a one representative for the group who does the pitch as a whole? Typically in business environment we would choose only one person to represent and convince the audience but here the point from the teachers was that everyone should get a change to practise their pitching skills, at least by saying a few words.

Presentations looked already very professional and stylized, a lot of work has clearly been put to them. Solutions are credible, clever and some quite funny also. Kasvitieteellinen puutarha even amused us with some drawings and a catchy tune! Great work.

There was a lot of discussion also on what is sufficient amount of info to stuff to such a pitch. We don’t want to have too little or be too vague. In fact, I think many, at least us, were struggling on too much stuff! All in all, everyone were good on time keeping so we are convinced that this will not be an issue in the final presentations.

Seeing the pitches made us also understand how diverse our challenges were, from all aspects of socio-economical-environmental fields. And also how innovative and at the same time practical we environmentalist can be when faced with new problems. Great to take home that message for all of us in our future endeavours.

Practice run would not be a practice run without technical hiccups. There is a fine balance with animations and other added elements being very convincing and attracting but they can also create technical problems in the pitch. So it was a good thing that we had this opportunity to try out our different presentations before the actual pitch day. Jaanika reminded us on checking these technical aspects before hand and also requested us to submit the presentations on Moodle before the Monday session, to have everything ready on the moment when partners walk in to the room for the final time. Exciting!!

Group Mammals

 

First pitch training

This Monday started with recapping the prototyping that happened during the previous week. Each of the groups had prepared a “prototype” of their solution, ranging from visualizations to verbalized ideas, and asked around from relevant stakeholders as well as from friends and family, what they thought about the prototype. Every group presented their prototype-shenanigans shortly and after this we moved onto solidifying the solution.

We were supposed to make some final (though not penultimate) touches on our solution and then prepare a pitch for it. Time was running fast, maybe a bit too fast, while we tried to gather up all relevant stuff concerning our solution and cram it into a 5-minute-long pitch. Pitching was something that basically all of us had heard of but not all of us done ourselves. One of the instructors described the purpose of the pitch well by saying that it is a sort of an appetizer that is meant to awaken the interest of the listener. It is meant to act as a “hook”, something that pulls the audience member into wanting to know more details about the solution.

When the time for pitching training came, we had been able to put together a pitch that would hopefully be coherent, even though the time for practice was at this point scarce. We joined another group and a couple of instructors in a separate room and fired away with our presentation. As we expected, our pitch was not perfect (though not a train wreck either :D) but at this point that was a good thing as we got some good feedback from our listeners. Most of the feedback focused on at what level of specificity we should present our solution. This feedback was tightly related to our homework of the day: To finalize the solution and to develop the final pitch. Being our organized selves (or as we would at least hope to be), we divided some final tasks between us and agreed on a final deadline-panic-aaah-meeting for the next week before the final pitch training is happening. Now the end is already on the horizon, onwards we go!

 

Mentors and users’ perspectives

Despite the weather having turned cold and wintery again, we are headed towards the summer and the solutions being created on this course are becoming slowly clearer. The last part of the hour glass, narrowing down the ideas, is here. With this task we had help form mentors, a bunch insightful people from the UH, Motiva and Sitra. Each group gave pitch talks to two of the mentors and received some super useful feedback. Also, having had to give this talk made us even more familiar with our topic, and will be valuable experience when we will present our solution to our partner and our companions at the course.

After the mentoring the groups sought to render their solutions more concrete by using a canvas of four questions on how the solution works and who uses it, the resources required and the ways in which it can be put in practice. The solution was considered not only from the partners perspective, but also from the group’s as well as from the society’s point of view.

Each group also came up with a name and a slogan for their solutions and started planning a prototype to test the solution. We have heard that in every process there is that what-on-earth-are-we-doing-phase in the middle, and it seems that we have passed our’s now. It feels like we are quickly getting closer to the concrete concept.

Our group needs to find more detailed information for our solution, which means reading through a pile of scientific articles. It’s going to be good to have some scientific and theoretical background to our solution, of which we are slowly growing quite fond of.

For homework our group visited a Helsinki city office building, planning how to put our plot in action. We’re feeling ready for the next session in Viikki, preparing the final presentation.

Group Explores