Sustainability, SDG’s and Futures Work

On her recent visit to Finland, Cat was invited to speak by The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, a future-oriented organisation that promotes Finland’s competitiveness and the well-being of the Finnish people.

As a Senior Lead in Strategy, Eeva Hellström is responsible for the further development of Sitra’s model for a sustainable well-being society. Eeva has previously headed Sitra’s training activities for societal decision-makers, including the Synergize Finland forums with their changing themes (Sustainable Economy 2012–2013 and New Security 2013–2014). She has also been in charge of Leadership Training for Sustainable Economic Policy, which was revived in 2013. Eeva directed Sitra’s Landmarks Programme focusing on demand-based rural development (2009–2012) and led the preparation of a natural resource strategy for Finland (2008–2009).

Below are the common features and challenges of Sustainable Development and Future Studies that Eeva Hellström highlighted in summary at the session:

  • Long-term perspective
  • Dealing with complex interdependent issues in a ”big world”, e.g. wicked problems
  • Dealing with and enabling transformations
  • Aim at paradigm changes
  • Involve disputed issues and contested contents (no “right answers”)
  • Issues are easily rather abstract for ordinary people and decision-makers è Need for knowledge brokering
  • Require creativity
  • Need to increasingly utilise participation and co-creative processes
  • Struggle with connecting long-term thinking and short-term solutions

Cat recommends the Israeli case study ‘The Capital Approach for Sustainability and a Bequest for Next Generations’, Asaf Tzachor from the Ministry of Environmental Protection in Israel calls for a new role for governments as stewards of capital assets. In particular, this role requires long-term investments in society and a need to understand the interdependencies between human capital, economic capital, social capital and natural capital. The case study is an example of how the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) framework has inspired a wide ranging intellectual and practical policy debate in Israel on the value and purpose of sustainability and notably a national level framework, identifying key priorities with standards and metrics.

Additionally the SDG oversight and leadership structures that Finland has put in place includes all the features of a successful system:

  • Building on previous national vision and strategic planning
  • Led by the Prime Minister
  • Looks widely and comprehensively across the domestic and foreign domain, and squarely sees this as a national strategy issue not a “green” or “poor countries issue” – ie fully internalises the universality of the framework and acknowledges that much has to change in developed countries (especially patterns of work, equality, consumption) in order both to achieve the goals of a sustainable planet and also to show other countries that Finland has taken the framework seriously

All this, together with Finland’s global leadership of this area and existing championing of foresight means they are a pivotal case study to examine and should be given huge credit and recognition for investing in innovative governance.

Cats Sustainability, SDG’s and Futures Work Sitra session slides.

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