Participation creates a sustainable and tolerant urban environment – demographic change influences Espoo Cultural Services

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2020-01-16 10:00

The EspooCult research project looked at cultural services and recreational activities as means to increase people’s opportunities to get their voices heard, boost their self-esteem and participate in the activities of local communities. Diverse cultural offering and opportunities for self-expression are at the heart of participation.

The growing population and internationalisation guide the development of cultural activities.

At the end of 2018, Espoo was the home of 283,632 residents, making it the second-largest city in Finland. Espoo’s population is growing rapidly compared to other cities in Finland. At the end of 2018, some 17% of Espoo residents were speakers of languages other than Finnish or Swedish. The total number of languages spoken in Espoo was 118. The most common foreign languages were Russian, Estonian, Arabic, English, Somali and Chinese. The services provided by the city must therefore take on new forms and develop in pace with the rapid changes of the operating environment.

The City of Espoo wants to make sure its cultural offering is available to all residents even more widely than before. Identifying and removing barriers to participation are important steps to build a city that takes account of all residents. Improving access to culture requires active cooperation between different sectors, cultural actors and representatives of immigrant and minority groups. Espoo is also working to make activities possible in neighbourhoods and in low-threshold spaces.

Espoo-based libraries and museums also provide services for municipal residents whose mother tongue is not Finnish or Swedish. Sello Library for example includes Russian Library, and several museums conducted the Museum as a Sanctuary project that aimed to improve the participation and well-being of young asylum seekers and their families.

Culture for All – bringing cultural services closer to Espoo residents

The Culture for All service promotes cultural offering that is genuinely accessible to all residents. One way to ensure this is Kaikukortti, a card whose holders can receive free tickets to cultural venues, events and courses that are organised by members of the Kaikukortti network. The Kaikukortti card is intended for social and health service clients who cannot afford to buy tickets due to their financial situation.

The activities also include the KULPS! culture and sports path that introduces Espoo-based comprehensive school pupils to the cultural and sports offering and library services of their home town. Free of charge, KULPS! is part of the comprehensive school curriculum. Culture Call, meanwhile, makes art and culture an everyday part of early childhood education in Espoo. Launched in autumn 2019, the Culture Call visits are now available to all 175 municipal day-care centres in Espoo.

The City of Espoo develops its cultural offering in cooperation with the residents and partner networks.

Espoo will continue to uphold cultural diversity and strive to ensure the accessibility of its cultural offering. The residents are encouraged to actively participate in cultural activities and intercultural encounters. During the EspooCult study, the residents were asked to describe the cultural activities they would like to see in Espoo in the future. They for example suggested that Espoo should offer communal and resident-oriented cultural services in different areas.

Involve residents in the planning and implementation of activities. City-owned premises (e.g. schools) should be better available for residents’ activities and culture. Make culture available in all areas of Espoo. (EspooCult – a response from the resident survey)

I would like to see inclusive cultural activities where it would be natural for all kinds of people to meet others from outside their own bubble.  (EspooCult – a response from the resident survey)

The resident survey was conducted between 4 June and 27 October 2019. A total of 232 people responded. Espoo also develops its cultural offering by establishing new partnerships and actively collecting feedback from Espoo residents.

The two-year EspooCult  research project looks into Espoo as a city of culture. The study will provide a solid knowledge base for the development of the city. The study was commissioned by the Cultural Unit of the City of Espoo and conducted by the Center for Cultural Policy Research Cupore . The research project was launched in January 2018. As research progresses, a total of four fact sheets will be published. The first fact sheet was published on 26 April 2018, the second on 11 December 2018, the third on 28 May 2019 and the fourth on 16 January 2020. The fourth fact sheet was created in cooperation with KEA European Affairs, the research centre that acted as the international research partner in the EspooCult project.

EspooCult Fact Sheet 4 (pdf, 360 Kt)

More information

Researcher, Research Coordinator Anna Kanerva, Center for Cultural Policy Research (Cupore)
tel. +358 50 302 1414 or

Cultural Director Susanna Tommila, Cultural Unit of the City of Espoo 
tel. +358 43 825 5074 or

Specialist Katja Koskela, Cultural Unit of the City of Espoo 
tel. +358 43 827 1080 or