Collaboration takes patience and coordination
Managing and bringing forth solutions to systemic challenges necessarily requires interdisciplinary collaboration. Pelkonen, who has extensive experience in managing collaborative networks, knows first-hand the challenges of nurturing systemic change. She states that because of the lack of immediate and tangible value created in the collaboration, there are lots of difficulties between public and private sector partners. Organisational logics might differ greatly, so patient nurturing of trust between partners is needed for the collaboration to achieve its goals.
Adopting circular economy practices widely requires not just internal communication within the networks, but also well-managed outreach. Sorasahi highlights the importance of public participation. “Extensive involvement of citizens in addressing urban challenges is important and developers should especially pay attention to opinion-leaders on topics that are being addressed”, he thinks.
Pelkonen thinks that higher education institutions have an important role in unlocking fruitful collaboration through their capacity for knowledge-creation.
“Without good knowledge and data, good initiatives and solutions are not possible. Good collaboration between higher education institutions and industry partners is needed to ensure the knowledge created is useful in practise”, Pelkonen says.
Collaborative networks can be great ways of addressing urban challenges such as adaptation of circular economy and efficient use of resources. These collaborative networks need to be created and managed correctly to yield best results.
“During the first phase of a collaboration to address urban challenges, it must first be defined what exactly is the challenge to be solved. Next, clarity is needed on what the solution could be and what impacts it would have. Only at this point is it sensible to start building the ecosystem of relevant stakeholders. Too often it’s the other way round, with stakeholders first coming together and only then thinking about what they could be doing. There needs to be specific ecosystems for specific challenges and ecosystems need someone to coordinate them”, Pelkonen finishes.
Jaana Pelkonen is a Leading Specialist at Smart & Clean Foundation, a five-year ‘step change’ project with 29 public-private partners from the Helsinki Metropolitan cities, leading businesses, universities, research institutions, and state actors. The project ran from 1st July 2016 to 30th June 2021.
Heikki Sorasahi is a Senior Specialist of circular economy at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.
The Erasmus+ project Urban GoodCamp aims to empower Higher Education Institutions and their urban stakeholders to tackle pressing urban challenges. The project’s primary mission is to develop and implement multidisciplinary learning interventions for university students, researchers, and life-long learners and establish real-life solutions to pressing urban challenges. Learn more about Urban GoodCamp from the project webpage and from our previous article.
The Urban GoodCamp partners: Madri+d, Bespoke, Institut Mines-Télécom Business School, The University Industry Innovation Network, Aalto University, Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana, Advancis, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, and Ca’ Foscari University.