Pentikäinen, L. 2014. Team Finland doing good home and abroad. GREAT Insights Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 6. June 2014.
What is Team Finland?
Team Finland is a network that brings together public bodies and actors who promote the internationalisation of Finnish companies, Finland’s country brand, external economic relations and bringing foreign private investments to Finland. The operational model applies a coordinated whole-of-government approach under the guidance of the Prime Minister’s office. The strategy of Team Finland is drawn up annually.
The recent Team Finland strategy from June 2013 emphasises that “the interaction between development cooperation and business activities will be increased and supporting tools and means developed. There are promising opportunities, for example, in cooperation related to clean water, development of cleantech solutions, health care services or education”.
Team Finland helps create jobs
The promotion of Finnish business both in Finland and abroad, as well as that of foreign investments in Finland, facilitates job creation in Finland. The Finnish companies’ increasing business interest in low-income emerging markets also accelerates the economic activity in those developing countries and helps them reduce their need for external aid. Building more profound synergies between business and trade promotion, on the one hand, and development cooperation, on the other, is already a reality in today’s world.
Economic development is not the only benefit that Team Finland can potentially bring to poverty reduction and sustainable development. For example cleantech companies can improve energy supplies and energy efficiency, thereby reducing both costs and the use of natural resources. Finnish cleantech know-how is of high quality and is being utilised internationally, increasingly also in developing countries.
“The engagement of the private sector in sustainable development is a rapidly growing phenomenon globally”. The so-called Post-2015 discourse revolves strongly around this theme. ECDPM’s activity in this area is also most welcome.
All this necessitates, of course, that companies act responsibly. International standards, tools and networks, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, United Nations Global Compact and the ISO26000 of the International Organization for Standardization, help companies in their efforts to improve their corporate social responsibility.
From theory to practice: developing the bottom-up operation model for joint pilot projects
In May 2013, the Team Finland network initiated, together with Kuopio Innovation Ltd., the Finnish business development company, a new kind of pilot experiment: a co-creation workshop in Zambia in a mining area with the locals of the Lumwana village.(1) The co-creation operational model ensures that the cooperative development projects are created with the bottom-up principles to serve local needs. Companies, public officials, representatives of civil society organisations, educational institutes, developers from both of the countries involved and local beneficiaries participating in the workshop. Some 100 people participated actively in analysing the burning developmental needs, co-creating solutions for them and forming partnerships between Finnish and Zambian private and public sector players and civil society organisations for further development cooperation projects. The projects launched or still in evolving phases will, for instance, incubate and accelerate new enterprises, improve energy supplies, provide low-cost housing and increase the contribution of arts to development.
“Innovations for development” programme on the horizon
Various ministries and other state agencies in Finland have traditionally availed their own support and funding arrangements for companies, civil society organisations, academic institutes and others. These instruments are compartmentalised in that they are administered by different operators, have different application processes, forms and schedules, use different criteria for assessing potential projects, and so forth. It goes without saying that the walls of these siloes have been almost impenetrable. Neither is the prevailing situation conducive to partnerships in the first place.
In February 2013, Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Employment and the Economy set up a Task Force on Innovations for Development and Business. The Task Force includes representatives from the Team Finland network, trade and industry organisations, universities and civil society organisations.
The Task Force’s work culminated in a seminar with 250 people, “Business & NGO Forum”, where it proposed a new “innovations for development” programme and related fund to be established. The aim of the programme would be to find sustainable solutions for poverty reduction and the promotion of sustainable innovation and business activities directed at the base of the pyramid markets in developing countries. The idea behind the proposed programme would be to combine development, growth and innovation funding of various ministries into a single entity. The programme could also provide support for joint pilot projects initiated and implemented by enterprises, civil society organisations, education institutes, state agencies and other actors together with their local partners. The momentum is building now.
Leena Pentikäinen is a Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Finland and Dr. Mika Vehnämäki is a Senior Economic Adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland.
This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 3, Issue 6 (June 2014).