Travel blog: Story-like approach makes an impression in New York

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2019-06-06 Veera Vihula

Text Make with Espoo inside a green circleSmart City development is a major phenomenon in cities on an internationally level, but discussions have often been technology-oriented and have revolved around, for example, the 5G network and sensors.

In Espoo and also in the other 6Aika cities, smart solutions have long been built with citizen- and customer-orientation, and technologies have been perceived as assisting tools in the process. The work has involved citizens, businesses, scientific communities, associations and other cities.

A year ago, Espoo was chosen as the most Intelligent Community, not the Smartest City. 

This title has brought us amazing new collaboration opportunities outside Europe, since the title made our existence known to new communities in different parts of the world.

The most recent opportunity involved collaboration with the Consulate General of Finland in New York. We were given the opportunity to share with the consulate the key aspects of the development work done in Espoo, and to consider how their networks in the US could be utilised to benefit our community in Espoo.

The consulate invited Espoo to participate in the Smart Cities New York conference and, in particular, in the Nordic City Solutions breakfast event organised jointly by the Nordic Countries. I was given the great opportunity to tell the story of how we have included the whole city community in the creation of the Espoo Story, and how we have been able to use that to build functional co-creation models and to try to develop new kinds of solutions for the needs of our growing city. Our story-like approach made an impression and the Espoo Story brochures were in high demand.

Several discussions revealed that cities in the Nordic countries have a pioneering reputation in the US. I was so pleased to be able to strengthen this image with the example of Espoo. Our strength particularly lies in the human-driven approach and, today, global discussion is trending towards building smart cities in collaboration with citizens.

At least at the SCNY conference, different speeches emphasised that now is the time to bring people to forefront. To a citizen of Espoo, it sounded a bit confusing (and a little outdated), as we have understood the value of human cooperation from the very beginning.

However, a sustainable pioneering city cannot be built by engaging in cooperation within Finnish borders alone. The best solutions will be discovered in global forums, so it is vital for us to create networks actively and to recognise suitable development partners for Espoo. The collaboration with our Finnish partners will strengthen our message out in the world and, for example, in New York we shared our stand with Helsinki Business Hub and growth-seeking companies.  

The next opportunity to shine the light on Espoo in New York will be in June when we take part in the ICF Summit of the Intelligent Community Forum where the most intelligent community of 2019 will be announced. Espoo will be present to pass on the crown as the previous winner of the title. In the same connection, we will arrange a breakfast event together with the Finnish consulate where we will have the opportunity to share our successes and how our community will continue to pursue a more sustainable and smarter future.

Veera Vihula

Veera Vihula
Project Manager
City of Espoo, Services Development