Action! 101

The Helsinki University Action! -group kicked off with a semi-official meeting at Pub Kaisla. An eclectic mix of people from a multitude of backgrounds and with a plethora of interests gathered to rub shoulders, raise pints and most importantly to voice their ideas. We shared views and ideas on where we are now, what we would like to see happen tomorrow and how to get from here to there. Below is an all too brief account of some of the topics and themes discussed in the group.

Going around the table, we had lively discussions on a number of ideas for new entrepreneurship and what the Action! –group could possibly achieve. We heard from people who are interested in opening up urban public-spaces for common activities and actions. Could this group be a platform for socially meaningful entrepreneurship within the open spaces of this city we call home? There are a number of initiatives based on entrepreneurial action already going on, which take city space into their own hands and make use of it in ways that promote social inclusion and a sense of ownership to public space (case in point, the Restaurant Day). Yet a lot of work needs to be done to reach the truly open agora of the 21st Century.

We heard from an anthropologist who having spent a length of time in a developing country had witnessed at first hand, how data produced through his work was not being used for the greater good, but stayed in the hands of and hence only benefited a minority. The same can surely be said of lot of the data produced at our university. Each and every student writes one essay after another to be graded – and then what? What happens to all that information and hours and days of work spent to generate new ideas? Could we utilize the work we do at university at the time of production to achieve something more concrete than a number on paper? In addition to being the greatest learning experience ever, couldn’t uni-work also aim at some tangible real-life change or improvement?

In similar vein a city activist and block-party organizer talked of how unused resources exist in surprising places and if you just know what to look for, big things can be achieved with meager beginnings. His example came from Los Angeles, where unemployed actors, writers and movie industry workers have made use of idle filming equipment and started making films with very little funding to start off with. By pooling common resources and the plethora of skills we have at hand, this group could be off to a great start – whatever we choose to work towards!

We also talked on many a turn about how the very notion of work is changing. Many of us feel that career oriented work-lives are turning into ones of trial and error and experimentation in many fields. No longer trapped in offices, alienated from what we do and just waiting for the next paycheck or possible future promotion, we feel that the skills and knowledge we gain at university must have more than a simple utilitarian value to get us that “dream job”. We wish to gain a more profound understanding of what we can do right now. Work can be something that we make for ourselves.

Many things discussed are left uncovered here. Our work has only just begun and it is yet unclear where we are headed. But let us not view the unknown as a hindrance, but an opportunity. We came to the realization that an open and functioning working space should be the next course of action in order to seize this opportunity. A common space will make the work more hands on and real. A common space will be the first physical expression of our work. A common space will tie together our many needs and aspirations and imaginations. By moving from the notion of place to one of space, we can also move from the notion of time to one of instance and from ideas and concepts to concrete manifestations – indeed, to Action!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *