Learning city through co-creation by schools and companies

Published: 20.9.2021 12.26Updated: 5.10.2021 6.16
Hands of two young people with mobile phones, laptops on the table.
Photo: Taru Turpeinen

Learning is always an essential part of all development work. In the 6Aika strategy, co-creation and various experiments have become an increasingly common way of learning together with partners. The changing world requires ever closer cooperation and challenging the working methods.

Co-creation with schools

Espoo’s schools and learning environments have been opened up to co-creation in two 6Aika projects. The Open Innovation Platforms project started in 2015. During this time, we developed a new method of learning together, the KYKY accelerated co-creation by schools and businesses. The work continued in the Smart Learning Environments for the Future project, where we further developed the activities and extended the cooperation to more city services, a wider business field and between cities.

Katja Sjöholm, Project Manager of the Open Innovation Platforms project, states that the project was an excellent success because many things went just right. Companies had a genuine need to develop with schools, gain a pedagogical perspective and user feedback for the development of their EdTech services. The city personnel and pupils found the development of services that support digital learning meaningful. The teaching management hoped to develop an easy, safe and ethical cooperation model.

Meri Vainio, Project Manager of Smart Learning Environments for the Future, also emphasises that the cooperation must be fruitful for all parties. “It is useful for companies to see how schools today operate. Co-creation gives the company valuable information to develop its service. Pupils and teachers learn about product development and the activities of companies. The cooperation must support the learning objectives of pupils. It also promotes entrepreneurship in Espoo.”

Companies have been satisfied with co-creation. For example, Mightifier and 3DBear have expanded into international markets, where a reference from the Espoo schools is valuable.

What, then, is important in building a co-creation model? Sjöholm and Vainio agree that time and transparency are needed in order to form sufficient common understanding and build trust between the parties. The parents of the pupils should be included. The experiment itself may be very limited, but the key to learning is to identify the objectives carefully and evaluate the experiments.

The process must also be made easy and safe for the personnel. Co-creation requires designated personnel to communicate ideas and support the process.  In addition to the process, the coordinator supports the parties involved in co-creation in data protection matters, agreements and other administrative matters. The coordinator also ensures the evaluation of the effectiveness of the experiments and the identification of further development needs.

From schools to the development of the whole city

Sjöholm and Vainio say that all parties, companies, city personnel and pupils, have found co-creation useful.  Around a hundred companies and dozens of schools and day-care centres have participated in the activities. Cooperation has also been carried out in Espoo City Museum, the library, youth services and sports. In the longer term, the aim is a broad, city-wide model of co-creation and an electronic platform for sharing ideas. Companies, pupils, teachers and residents can present ideas for development.

Harri Rinta-aho, Espoo’s Deputy Mayor for Growth and Learning, sees the activities as important and part of the city’s strategy. “In line with the Espoo story, we are developing and improving together with our partners. The activities combine innovation, technical expertise and pedagogical competence, which together produce good solutions for all parties.”

The city has invested in a new team for co-creation and innovation, led by Sjöholm. “This work has not just been a series of experiments, but a broader six-year development cycle in which new roles in urban development have been sought among partners. Genuine reform of operations requires a new way of thinking. It requires a shared vision and small steps in the same direction,” Sjöholm says.

Additional information

This story is part of a series of stories about the City of Espoo’s work in the 6Aika strategy in 2014–2022.  The joint 6Aika strategy of the six largest cities in Finland (Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu and Turku) develops more open, smart and sustainable services in cities. The focus has been on identifying the city’s challenges and trying out new solutions between the city, companies, residents, educational institutions and universities.

Other parts of the series of stories:

  • Innovation work