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Helsinki invests in older people – HelsinkiMissio to coordinate culture companions

True to its strategy, the City of Helsinki wants to maintain and improve the engagement and well-being of older people. One service form has been the culture companion operation, which has allowed older people in particular to find a companion for attending cultural events. The COVID-19 pandemic whittled down the culture companion operation, but now it is being revitalised by acquiring the service from HelsinkiMissio, which has more than 20 years of experience in successfully organising voluntary activities. The city will continue to work closely with the organisation.
Three elderly persons sit on a bench in a courtyard.
Photo: ©HelsinkiMissio

In 2022, the Culture and Leisure Division of the City of Helsinki investigated the possibilities for developing the culture companion operating model as part of a broader reform of its voluntary activities. As a result, starting from the beginning of 2023 the coordination of the culture companion operation is acquired from HelsinkiMissio, which has a long history of producing voluntary activities and an abundance of expertise and opportunities related to the development of the operation. In the future, the culture companion operation will focus on elderly Helsinki residents.   

“Improving the engagement of older people is a joint priority of various city divisions in the promotion of well-being and health. The culture companion operation supports the mobilisation of older people in particular, and there is a clear need for revitalisation after the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. HelsinkiMissio is a strong and established operator in the field and, as such, has the best possible resources for maintaining and developing the culture companion operation. Resource allocation should allow for increasing the volume of the activity,” says Head of Partnerships Veikko Kunnas of the Culture and Leisure Division of the City of Helsinki. 

“The new operating model will also reduce overlap in the operations of the City of Helsinki and HelsinkiMissio and provide an opportunity to develop new cooperation models in the future,” he adds.

HelsinkiMissio is highly motivated to organise the culture companion operation as the city’s partner.  

“HelsinkiMissio is excited about this new opportunity. Our goal is to quickly turn culture companions into a permanent service form that brings much-needed variation, encounters and cultural experiences to the lives of seniors. The goal for 2023 is to arrange 1,300 culture companion outings. We rely on our extensive experience in the coordination of professionally managed voluntary activities,” says Tuula Colliander, Executive Director of HelsinkiMissio.

Relying on volunteers and cultural operators 

Helsinki has been coordinating voluntary culture companion operation since 2013. It involves voluntary culture companions accompanying older persons to events in which they would probably not take part on their own. A culture companion can also act as a group companion or organise cultural experiences to service centre for seniors.  

“The culture companion operation also maintains the volunteer’s activity and functional ability. At the same time, the accessibility of cultural services improves. We hope that our culture companion volunteers and cultural operator partners will continue this valuable work with the new operator,” says Veikko Kunnas.

HelsinkiMissio hopes that the existing culture companions will continue to develop and implement the culture companion operation together with the organisation. “We will bring culture companions together and offer them additional training, recreation and support. This will allow them to continue their invaluable voluntary work as flexibly as possible,” says Tuula Colliander.

The city will continue to participate in the planning of the operation, monitor the implementation and development of the culture companion operation and manage the commitments concluded with cultural operators. The procurement was carried out in the form of reverse tendering, where the selection was based only on qualitative factors. A four-year contract has been concluded with HelsinkiMissio.