In early October, a group of experts from Espoo travelled to Brussels once again. It was time to attend one of the largest and most important events for urban and regional developers, the European Week of Regions and Cities.
We also participated in organising an event at our regional office in Brussels, known as Helsinki EU Office. Themed around ethical use of customer data and artificial intelligence, the event turned out to be one of the most interesting and practically oriented events of the week.
We also participated in the organisation of a joint event by 6Aika and the City of Oslo, addressing the role of cities in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
6Aika, also known as the Six City Strategy, is a sustainable urban development strategy that involves the six largest cities in Finland. 6Aika is implemented through various projects, and about 50 projects have been funded to date.
The most recent 6Aika-funded projects – Low-carbon transport in mobility hubs and the Partnership model for sustainable neighbourhoods (KIEPPI) – are firmly linked to our sustainable development goals. The same themes are being tackled by two projects launched last spring: HNRY – Carbon neutral and resource-wise industrial areas and Energy Wise Cities (EKAT). These are examples of the cities’ climate efforts that we showcase in Brussels.
At a general level, the activities that take place under 6Aika tend to be focused on the kind of development that is the most crucial for the largest cities. In Espoo, important development areas include not only sustainable development but also learning, transport, coaching for job-seekers and the development of data analytics in Social and Health Services, to enable the city to adapt to the residents’ changing needs also in the future.
The largest Finnish cities and other partners that participate in 6Aika projects are learning these lessons together. Companies, research institutes, education organisations and residents are often referred to as clients, stakeholders or targets audiences. When developing services, we see them above all as our equal developer partners. In Europe, we can find even more partners and new opportunities to assess our strengths and the areas where we have the most to develop and to learn from others.
Operating in different networks requires long-term efforts. It is essential to understand how we differ from other European cities and what we have in common. On the one hand, Finnish municipalities have a more extensive responsibility for organising services than their European counterparts.
On the other hand, we are fairly independent of regional administration and the state. We still have lessons to learn from the way things are done elsewhere. The first step is to understand why things are done. Not all information can be obtained from seminars and reports. We need to meet people and talk with them.
6Aika activities have also taught us that hands-on cooperation is important. EU projects (6Aika projects included) are usually carried out with a wide network. In making use of EU funding, it is not only important to identify important development targets. Openness to partners’ perspectives and competences is equally essential.
Programme Manager, 6Aika