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

Synthesis is the word of the day


This is the Kotka Old Port development team checking in again. We have at this point come to a fairly satisfying solution that has been approved in a way by our partner when we presented it to them last week. Our biggest challenge now lies in making our ideas presentable and clear. We each have a field or topic of our own that we have focused on and now we have to integrate them, to create a synthesis. We would like to come up with a solution that is a package with several dimention, a portfolio.

We have divided the workload, as we have multiple concrete ideas for the indoor and outdoor spaces of the area, digital solutions and services, information and accessibility, which we will try our best to tie together under the umbrella of sustainability. We have most of the ingredients, we just need to come up with the best recipe for a old port pie. The atmospheric look is one of our main subjects. We are aiming for a Kotka that is attractive to residents and visitors alike.

We started todays lecture with a vote and debate on the best solutions we had at that point. Or we were supposed to, but as our solution is actually many solutions, we instead talked about how to combine them, which, in fairness, was also one of the instructions. After that we thought about the people our ideas would affect. The users of our solutions are surprisingly easy to think of. We have locals residents as well as entrepreneurs and visitors. A good question is how our solutions will make these peoples’ lives better. The entrepreneur will earn a living, residents will enjoy the beautiful and stimulating environment, which will increase their wellbeing. Visitors will have a relaxing and unique experience in a new relatively unknown travel destination outside Helsinki. All will have an opportunity to enjoy nature and culture. We then had to present our guests in a TV Shop-style interview, but failed to reach the accurate level of desperate enthusiasm. The exercise was a good way to try and identify with the people our decision effects.

We are all a bit stuck on our old ideas. It has been hard to look at the bigger picture bringing our ideas together while focusing on more practical solutions. Filling out the impact assessment canvas at the end of the session was helpful in that. We did our best to look at our problem and solutions in a new light once more before we start making deeper research and backgroud work on the components of the solution we have envisioned. We filled out the form. Thinking about the impact of our solution and change it would bring to the area was especially productive and a great way to try and get a new point of view. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but we have definitely made some progress.


-Team SANE

A day with the Seahawks

This Wednesday was the day, when we were meant to present further developed solutions. The first real thought we had, was how farmers can enhance carbon sequestration into soil in ways that are the best in increasing the concentration of soil organic matter. We focused on the water retention of soil. Our marvellous idea was, if soil can hold water, it can hold phosphorus as well. Other words, leaching would be a smaller problem than it is now.

Last Monday was a project day among others until we saw that our search for solutions to our problem was simply unneeded. The knowledge how to stuff carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into soil already exist. The true barrier in enhancing carbon sequestration into soil is farmers themselves, not the gaps in the knowledge of carbon farming. We noticed that the question should settle down how to get the farmers and the rest of the lot partake in carbon farming. How can we convert them to accepting the carbon farming as the norm of farming?

Thank you, Laura Kaikkonen, for opening our eyes and made us realise that we should focus more on a problem where there’s no already existing answers. To be honest, I was pleased that we didn’t have to find answers to this first question. It was challenging because most of the group members had no experience or education from the agricultural studies. The problem started to change into dilemma. So, we focused our minds on a totally different challenge in carbon farming.

We discussed our new problem with our partner Laura Höijer. Laura approved of the new problem and provided us with new information. In the meeting, we shared our ideas that came out last time. We were glad to hear that the partner said our ideas and information are helpful for them. Although the time we have with the new problem is distressingly short. We still try to find some ways to find solutions for Baltic Sea Action Group.


The groups met their partners at the lecture. The groups provided their ideas of the main problem to the partner and discussed the solutions with cinnamon buns and coffee for around one hour.

After meeting Laura Höijer, we started discussing with our group mentor Nina Janasik how to proceed with the new problem. She gave us a lot think about how we should approach the snag and what are the aspects of it we should discuss in.

After the meeting with the partner, we discussed and summarized the meeting today in group for another one hour, and then planed the next step.

We decided our new goals are how to Carbon farming more appealing to farmers and finding possible partners for networking with BSAG. We keep fighting on the problem!

All about new solutions!

Today’s session was all about finding new solutions to our challenges and to look back what we have already done and where we are now.

This blog post is presented to you by Mammals: Monica, Toni, Sami, Veera and Annie!

Our challenge is to develop an ecological compensation design for our partner Helsinki City. The ecological compensation should address the increasing use of the Helsinki Archipelago region and the resulting harm to the nature. The idea of ecological compensation is to prevent the biodiversity loss in total. So when we decrease the biodiversity somewhere we have to increase it elsewhere.

During the last week we interviewed people from our target group: residents of Helsinki or potential users of the Archipelago. The results were similar, as all interviewees liked the fact that more islands are made available for the public. Almost all of the interviewees were ready to pay more for conservation purposes and they also wanted clear restrictions of valuable areas on the islands. So our ideas on solving the challenge seem legit.

We began the workshop by reformulating the problem and vision (again, but in a good way). It seemed that the term “ecological compensation” is not the best term for us to use by the information we reserved from an expert we called last week. Well, lets see what our partner is going to like about that change of plan on our next meeting on Wednesday.

To get new ideas and perspectives on the challenge we were encouraged to write by ourselves the funniest, most difficult, weirdest, boldest and the most expensive ideas for our solution. We got some crazy and awesome new ideas, e.g. sky train on the islands, alternative transportation to the island, i.e. swimming, paddleboats and parachutes. We also invented solutions so that people would not even need to visit the islands, e.g. our Monica-ranger could present the nature of the Archipelago via a vlog. (see  pic)

Post-its, post-its, post-its…

Then the groups were mixed so that other groups would invent new ideas for the other groups. The mixing of the groups brought even more great ideas. Our group was joined by some members of Post Plastics, who proposed the idea of promoting environmental friendly activities, e.g. bird watching towers, kayaking, butterfly house etc. on the islands. We of coarse invented also awesome ideas for their group!

Post-its, post-its, post-its…

In the end of this session all of the ideas, new and old, were evaluated in terms of problem solving capacity and attractiveness (see pic). The best ideas will be presented to the partners on Wednesday. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed that the partners will love the solutions we have came up so far!

A look into our week of information gathering…

A look into our week of information gathering…

Hello there! Here is AquaBusters team providing you this week’s blogpost.

This one will probably be a little special. As no workshop happened on Wednesday 27th, we decided to give you a little insight into our week that has been dedicated to collecting information that will help us solve our problem.

Talking about our problem, we have been working on understanding and analysing it for 3 weeks now and we came up with this formulation: How to increase the usage and knowledge of the Espoo waterfront: Rantaraitti, according to the SDGs?

Map of the Espoo waterfront: Rantaraitti.  Source: by Antti Vettenranta on Espoo Liikkuu.

We began our week by meeting with our partner, Elina Wanne from the city of Espoo, in Espoo. It was an enriching meeting as Elina introduced us to one of her colleagues, who is an environmental expert. She could give us very interesting facts about the local flora and fauna in Rantaraitti. Elina and Sarah also helped us to refocus our problem by targeting it mainly towards Espoo residents.

AquaBusters discovering the starting point of the Rantaraitti route: Laajalahti (Photo credits:Elli)

After Monday’s workshop our goal was to collect more qualitative information and contact more experts to strengthen our understanding of the problem.

As a team we discussed who could be the most useful to get in touch with.

The first person that was contacted is a designer for the city of Espoo and she is currently working as a service design and user experience expert in the development team of Rantaraitti.

We thought that she was the person to talk to in order to obtain information about what is actually being done on the waterfront so that our solutions will add-on and not “overlap” theirs. Elli contacted her at the end of the week.

What did we learn? Well, a lot is being done already, especially in the upcoming months. We learnt about a project called Perille-asti whose primary goal is to improve the boat connections to the Pentala Island and around Rantaraitti. She also informed us that a new application, Tripsteri, is in development. They intend to make it an interactive source of information about nature and the environment in Rantaraitti. Finally, she discussed different new events happening around the waterfront such as cleaning events, organised by the boat club and the “opening of summer” that would be an action-based event. They see these events as a good way to attract people to Rantaraitti.

The second person, or more exactly type of person, we thought about was Espoo residents. Indeed, they are our main target in this challenge so getting in touch with some of them and gathering a general idea of what they think/know about Rantaraitti seemed obvious.

Riikka and Marie-Claire know some Espoo residents, so it was a good place to start with. They could ask them some questions about Rantaraitti. Most of the questions were related to their usage and knowledge of the place and also its potential future.

What did we learn? It was surprising to learn that one person who has been living in Espoo their whole life doesn’t know what Rantaraitti is… There is definitely a knowledge/communication gap that needs to be filled there!

Other residents from Espoo, who know about Rantaraitti, describe it as a peaceful and natural place, with great views. It seems particularly appreciated as a jogging and exercising area. It is also appreciated by families to spend time outside with the kids.

Some resident suggested that the area could be provided with more grilling places to enjoy evenings there.

People seem to be attracted by the nature and do not want this aspect to change. They love a natural Rantaraitti and want it to remain that way. They are open to have measures or actions to protect the area from pollution (e.g. educating youngsters about the importance of not throwing anything in the nature or taking part in cleaning events).

The route starts with a protected area, popular among bird watchers. Photo credits: Marie-Claire

Still on our quest for information, we thought about contacting an expert in marketing and communication since we uncovered that part of our problem was the result of a lack of knowledge surrounding Rantaraitti.

Therefore, Ville-Pekka contacted a Digital Marketing Specialist for St1 Oy. She provided us with good information on the marketing and communication efforts surrounding what is currently happening in Rantaraitti.

Finally, Marie-Claire decided to reach out to Natura Viva Oy, a company that organises outdoor activities such as shore excursions and group tours in popular places such as Nuuksio or Vuosaari. We thought it would be interesting to ask them how they manage to increase the pressure of visitors while barely altering the natural areas. We questioned them about their strategy to attract people’s interest in the first place. We also thought it could be interesting to have their professional point of view directly regarding Rantaraitti and environmental awareness.

We are waiting for them to get back to us.

So, no workshop this week but still a pretty fruitful week of personal work, good job AquaBusters!

As a team we discussed how, given all the information we collected, we are still struggling a little to properly identify the problem. It looks like a lot is already being done to solve it and our solutions will have to take into account everything that’s already in the process… But hey! AquaBusters are resourceful and we won’t give up!

I will conclude this blogpost with a quote from a great man we all love and respect in France:

“Persévérer, secret de tous les triomphes“, let me translate:

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs”

-Victor Hugo


Brought to you by Estelle, French spirit of AquaBusters.

Visiting partners

Hello Dear readers.

On the 25th of March, the blog was written when workshop was taking place, by group SANE. Let’s introduce group SANE:

Simon – our collected and nice social and environmental student. Anna – Your one and only seal artist, exchange student and today’s blogger. Noora – our cool and hip social psychologist. Emilia – our calm aquatic science environmentalist, editing today’s post.

Today we had to summarize the information we received on our meetings with our partners, ours being Kotka. Anna and Emilia had hopped on a bus on the Friday before, meeting up in the City Hall of Kotka with the architects planning the Old Port area that was a focus for our project as well. After looking at maps of what exists today and what might be there in the future, we headed to the sight. Visiting the Maritime Centre Vellamo and then walking across the island (the distances are very short) to the Maretarium, an aquarium with Finnish fish. Getting a glimpse of what the town is like was on our agenda. It’s a beautiful town with a lot of potential.

Based on our visit to Kotka, we reformulated our question. Having been confused for the last couple session but filled with ideas, we were unsure of the direction we should take. Our partner had given us free hands, so a     conversation was in place of what we wanted our focus to be. At first, everything seemed even messier than before, but towards the end of the session our vision started to become more clear.

After small summary, there was need to call experts for further information concerning our project. There was feeling of suspense, who is going to make the call? Noora and Simon volunteered to make the calls.

Our friendly group teacher came with a smile asking, “Who are we gonna call?”

“Ghost busters!”  I answered almost automatically (What? Ghostbusters is good movie). Okay jokes aside, time to get serious! Time to decide to whom we should call. Emilia and Noora were searching for people who are in sustainable city development and tourism. One moment Noora was affected by the Life sucks virus, some minutes passed, and Noora was cured in the moment when she found a person to call – “THE LADY” (who the lady is, you may ask.  I have the same question, hope to find it later).

(P.S. Funny thing from bloggers perspective – I feel like a Homus Creepus (did you see what i did there), observing my group mates deciding who to call, sometimes jumping from English to Finnish).

Still we have not called anyone, Simon, Noora and I decided that “We should call, but who?”

Emilia – our saint and saviour, invented new mantra ‘’Anything is better than nothing, breathe in breathe out” (P.S. Course mates who I hope are reading this blog, we all struggle, think of cute seal which will either way give you seal of the approval). While we were thinking to call my group mates switched to the Finish. (I must admit finish is pretty language and I can distinguish some words like “turismi” and “Kotka” and “joo” meaning yes, an indication of success!).

ATTENTION: switching to Finnish is not discrimination or a bad thing – it is easier to think of the concrete problem in your mother language.

Time for calling has come! Noora went to call “THE LADY”, I’m remaining hopeful that she will return, but if not, it has been nice to know her. Simon has also gone to call a Demos think tank representative (“Demos” sounds awfully like “demon” – I hope there will be no need to sell his soul to succeed in this course). Some time has passed and I was starting to lose all hope to see Noora and Simon ever again.

Oh! I see Noora and Simon in the horizon, they have come back from their quest. Now for the results – both representatives are really nice and polite, but they were quite busy there will be needing to call later this week. Success nonetheless!

After calling specialists, 20 minutes of summarization of the information has started. We have created 6 information groups – Kotka’s view: what they already have, what they’re focusing on in this project, changes that will happening and ideas they’ve already come up with. The two remaining groups are what we think is missing from Kotka and the ideas we’ve come up with.

The next step is to present our summarization to other people and visit other groups in the clockwise direction. Our mission beginning, me and Emilia set on this campaign. Our journey brought us to the Kasvitieteellinen puutarha, or masters of the cardboard (P.S. they are not cardboard). They were trying to make marketing for paper packaging without diminishing and being mean to plastic.

Next were the Sea Hawks, one thing we all should be admire is that they are incredibly determined to find a good and sound solution for their problem, which is quite HARD and requires a lot of scientific research.

Next part of Emilia’s and mine journey had brought us to the group Mammals – one of their main ideas is that people are to be fined for visiting archipelago islands. A project quite like ours but taking a very different approach. After the Mammals Emilia’s and mine journey was brought to the halt. Our group mates went to continue our campaign, me and Emilia becoming the knowledge keepers of our project.

After our clockwise journey we gathered around the square table to discuss the future of our project – we decided to focus on accessibility, making a full circle of what we thought at first.

In the end of the lecture our we received the homework our independent work has started. We will head to city centre of Helsinki on Wednesday morning, wish us luck!

Anna and Emilia

Post Plastics – Solutions Solved

The next step along the road – what are the solutions to our problems, and how do we refine them! We started with a game of ‘Chinese whispers’, with a secret problem passed from one person to the next, who in turn had to pass on a secret solution to the next who then had to propose what the problem was… An interesting game, opening our eyes to the fact that there are many solutions to a problem – but that dialogue and cooperation are key to the best solutions, as in our case:  Problem – ‘too much dog fouling in the park’ Solution – ‘humans should walk less’ wasn’t the most useful!

Back in our teams we then defined the problem of our group and set out what the vision of our project was, an important clarification to verify our solutions going forward. Next – solutions, solutions and … solutions, thick and fast. The more creative the better.

Organising our solutions was next, here we worked our way up from the most unworkable/unrealistic at the bottom – to the easiest, but uninspired – to the best and most workable solutions at the top. We then shared our solutions with the other groups, while also walking to other tables and viewing what solutions the other groups had to offer. It was enlightening to see the different ideas and styles, but one thing was clear – everyone was sold by the idea of an App to market or raise awareness of their ideas… an interesting idea. Another idea that resonated with us was the concept that one has to ‘offer the carrot’ (i.e. offer subsidies for using alternatives to plastic) before swooping in with ‘the stick’ later on (i.e. legislation for a plastic tax).

Finally, we considered three characters who are affected by the problem. Never in fear of generalising we decided upon William, the CEO of Plastic Co; Susan the single mother doctor; and Manny the Manta Ray. William is ignorant of the plastic pollution, focused only upon increasing revenue for his beloved Plastic Co. Susan is aware of the terrible effects of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems after watching Blue Planet II, but only has time to buy ready meals and takeaways generating two bin bags full of plastic a week! Manny yearns for the times of his forebears, where life was one big plankton party in the azure seas – but now he has to battle discarded fishing lines and the plastic soup flooded out to sea after heavy rains. Three very different individuals, but all linked to the same issue. Plastic.

Since the session, we’ve all met our partners again. We visited the Kemira R&D department to discuss how we can try to decrease the epidemic of single use plastics. A really interesting afternoon ensued – are biodegradable alternatives better than bio-based ones? How does one really effect a fundamental change upon the industry when the plastic packaging change consists of Kemira → Board & paper producers → Brand owners → Retailers → Consumers → Waste management? Legislation is key, but what is a ‘plastic’?

To sum up, a question: do you recycle your cartons in the plastic bin or the cardboard bin?

Answer: Liquid packaging board (recycling code 81) is 75% paperboard, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium and so is recycled in the cardboard bin.


Group Post Plastics

Defining problems and formulating the vision

This time on the project course, it was all about further defining and selecting the final problem that the groups would then start working on. Selecting only one problem, from the wide array of dilemmas that we had earlier come up with, seemed like a difficult task at first. Our given challenge is broad with many issues linked to it. We would have wanted to pick up at least two problems to concentrate on, but time and resources are limited in one course. We’ll save the rest of the world later…

We were asked to think how our group’s skills would be useful in solving the problems. At the end of the day, the existing abilities and resources would in part facilitate possible solutions. Our group quickly noticed that the proficiencies we had listed were more general, whereas the problems we had in mind were quite specific. We started by stating that all technological solutions are off the table. After agreeing on one problem to focus on, we went ahead to meditate on preliminary solutions. At end of the session, we realized that these ideas about solutions turned out to be somewhat technological – the only thing we had thought it couldn’t be. Keeping an open mind and especially not limiting the things you think you can do seems to be a key to greater solutions.

We were also asked to form a vision: what do we want to solve and why and, what change do we want to achieve in the world. Our group consists solely of environmental science students, so we already had a shared vision: we want to go after problems and create solutions that really matter for the betterment of environment and the world. Within the framework of our given issue this means enabling more energy-efficient solutions to be used in the public buildings.

Now that the problems are more precise and concrete, it feels exciting to get to go forward creating solutions. At the end of the session we shared with others our group’s vision, the given challenge and the problem we had decided to concentrate on. The problems and plans in each group seemed ambitious, and we can’t wait to see how the solutions come together and what they will be at the end of this course!

Group Ekat

Challenge accepted!

Time to move onto the next stage! On today’s agenda the biggest and most nervous chatter-inducing event was meeting the partners. During the brief introductions by all of the partners’ representatives, quick glances were exchanged between group members which seemed to say “maybe they will be our match…or what about them”. Safe to say, the anticipation and expectations were high.

Finally, we were united with our partner, Metsä Board! During the briefing we got sucked into the world of bio-fibre and the future of packaging. Interestingly our challenge focused on effective, factual and ethical communication, a subject of which our knowledge at this point is still scarce, but which makes the challenge even more interesting. We feel that through treading through this, as of yet, fairly foreign field, we are embarking on an adventure that can provide us with a lot of new and exciting knowledge. We truly have the opportunity to step outside of our current ‘disciplinary comfort zones’. Throughout our conversation with the representatives of Metsä Board, and of CLIC, an innovation company whose mission is to find sustainable solutions to bio- and circular economy, and to energy systems at large. Good questions were asked and at the end of it we had gotten a good overview of why the issue at hand is important and we were no more ‘out like snowmen’ as the saying goes in Finnish. In other words, good groundwork was laid out. After the partners had left, we got to hear what the other groups had gotten their hands into. One of the groups got to go to Kotka and some to Espoo.

Then it was time for a workshop that consisted of many, many post-it notes. Thanks to the workshop’s questions themes, actors and problems related to the challenge started to arise. Even though in the end the number of post-it notes seemed overwhelming, we managed to create order from chaos with the help of grouping, lines and arrows. The results of the first workshop seemed promising and we cannot wait to continue forward on our journey!

Group Kasvitieteellinen PUUtarha 

Welcome to the ECGS Project Course 2019

Students from the University of Helsinki’s Environmental Change and Global Sustainability (ECGS) Master’s program know that ensuring a healthy and productive planet for tomorrow means addressing sustainability issues today!

On Monday March 11, they, along with their instructors, gathered in Viikki to kick off a hands-on project course, allowing them to do just that. The course offers students the opportunity to throw their ideas into the ring and develop solutions to pressing sustainability challenges in Southern Finland and the Baltic Sea. Throughout the course, workshops will guide students as they grapple with these complex issues, but it is their own expertise and innovation that will propel them toward the finish line!

Before the beginning the race in earnest, Monday was spent breaking the ice, getting acquainted, and learning about the structure of the course. Instructors prepared the students for the days ahead, discussing project management tips, intellectual property rights, and expectations. Afterwards, during the “find your flock” game, students met and mingled with their new teammates and discussed the plethora of skills and backgrounds they bring to the table.

Next up, the big reveal! The sustainability challenges, submitted by the course’s seven external partners, will be revealed on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash