Postcards from Finland II - An equal playing field

Last year, Heist lead design researcher Naima won a scholarship to do her Masters at the EIT Digital Academy in Finland. Immersing herself in the culture, Naima has written to tell us of her life in Finland, from education to depressing winters. We’ll be sharing her experiences over the next few weeks. Here is Part II of Postcards from Finland. To read Part I, please click here.

The Finnish Library - a mirror of society?

In 2017, Finland celebrated its 100th birthday by gifting a new state-of-the-art library called Oodi to its citizens. At Oodi, and at other Finnish Libraries, citizens have free access to more than books; they have sewing machines, 3D printers, audio-visual recording studios, and even a karaoke bar. They can even rent items and gadgets of occasional use such as sports equipment and power tools. These offerings reflect the sharing economy and openness to second-hand purchases, something I have repeatedly observed in Finland.

As a public building, Oodi is also designed as a platform for visitors to interact not just with each other but also the space, so they can express themselves. Service design and co-creation was used to involve the citizens, discuss the solutions for each floor and design the furniture and signs. This appreciation of active citizenship is reflected by a co-creation space inside the library where visitors are invited to note down their observations, ideas, and opinions. Everyone is welcome at the library and this reflects the keys to Finland's success: equality - learning and education for everyone - and democracy. When standing on the new library’s balcony, people can take a look straight into the building next door which is located at the same level - the Finnish parliament.

Finland does quite well when it comes to gender equality. By this, I mean that the notion of having one girl sitting alone in the Mechanical Engineering class is a thing of the past. But even if there is only one girl, the girl would not be addressed in a different way. A student is a student. Of course, equality is still not perfect when it comes to top management positions, but Finland can lead by example. Perhaps gender equality here is somehow correlated to the fact that the Finnish language knows only gender-neutral pronouns?