The City of Helsinki successfully implemented the international Designing Better Life event series in Asia in 2021, even though travel restrictions prevented the city’s event teams from travelling to Japan and China. The event series showed that international events can only be implemented remotely with the help of seamless cooperation with the Team Finland network.
The largest event of the Designing Better Life series was held in September 2021, when Helsinki acted as the official Guest City of Beijing Design Week, the largest design festival in Asia. Helsinki’s programme, held in part virtually, was explored by more than 10,000 festival visitors.
Helsinki’s programme was organised in connection with Design Expo, the main event of the design festival. A wooden installation showcasing what good daily life in Helsinki is like was set up on location in Beijing in cooperation with JKMM Architects, and it also served as a stage for the event. The programme included workshops and discussions planned together with business partners as well as two seminars on sustainable urban development and educational innovation.
“Acting as the Guest City of Beijing Design Week really demonstrated the power of cooperation. This was the first time that the City of Helsinki implemented an international event of this scale remotely, and at the same time, we took a massive digital leap in event production. The support of the Team Finland network was vitally important as we were unable travel to the site ourselves. The event was a huge joint effort, and it was a success,” says Marja-Leena Rinkineva, Director of Economic Development at the City of Helsinki.
Cooperation brought visibility to Helsinki and the entire Finland
The Team Finland network extends all over the world. Its purpose is to increase awareness of Finland across the world, help companies and promote trade. In China, the Team Finland network includes, in addition to the Embassy and consulates of Finland, Business Finland offices, Finnish trade associations and the Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Its local contact networks are extensive and cover many different sectors.
“By working together, we are able to achieve bigger and more visible results. The Helsinki Guest City programme and design concepts were also strongly linked to Team Finland’s priorities in China, such as sustainable urban development and education,” says Eija Tynkkynen, former China Country Manager at Business Finland.
Beijing is Helsinki’s only official twin city, and the event further strengthened the connection between the two cities. According to Eija Tynkkynen, it is important that Beijing sees that despite the pandemic, Helsinki is up and running and continues to maintain its relations with its twin city. This brings visibility to the entire Finland in a major market area.
“Twin city cooperation is considered very important in China. The Chinese certainly appreciate the fact that despite the pandemic, Helsinki did not back out but implemented its programme,” Tynkkynen says.
Caption: Beijing Design Week was visible on the streets of Beijing in September–October 2021. Attending the largest design festival in Asia also brought visibility to Helsinki and Finland. Image: Embassy of Finland in Beijing
The importance of local partners is highlighted during the pandemic
The success of the Beijing Design Week’s Helsinki event was based on close cooperation with an extensive network of partners, both in Finland and in Beijing. Due to travel restrictions, the City of Helsinki event team operated completely remotely while the staff of the Embassy of Finland in Beijing and Business Finland as well as other local event partners made an important contribution to the on-site programme. At the same time, the cooperation provided an opportunity to promote common goals.
“Cooperation between the state administration and city promotes multi-level work on the country’s image. Helsinki brought to Beijing an event series that promoted the image of the entire Finland in China. We were delighted to see that, in the spirit of Team Finland, the City of Helsinki and the Embassy of Finland functioned smoothly as a single team guided remotely from Helsinki. In this cooperation, the Embassy’s local knowledge and networks supported Helsinki’s expertise in event production and conceptualisation,” says Timo Sysiö, Press Counsellor at the Embassy of Finland in Beijing.
After the event, the fruits of the cooperation took on a new life when suitable local applications and purposes were found for nearly all the materials used in the Beijing Design Week programme.
Caption: In the spirit of circular economy, new local applications were found for the wood, calligraphy works and fabrics of the installation after the event. The picture shows Soile Kauranen from the Embassy of Finland in Beijing giving her address. Image: Embassy of Finland in Beijing
Three events were held in Japan as a result of cooperation
The Designing Better Life event series was also strongly present in Japan in 2021. Three separate events were held in the cities of Fukuoka and Tokyo during the year. For the part of 2021, the event series was concluded with the Designing Better Life – Helsinki Meets Japan event, held at the beginning of December in Tokyo.
Team Finland’s local network also supported the City of Helsinki’s event team in organising the events in Japan. In Tokyo, the venue was the Metsä Pavilion, a representative of Finnish wood architecture located on the grounds of the Embassy of Finland. In addition to the local Embassy and Business Finland, the Finnish Institute in Japan also played an important role in Tokyo’s event production. Anna-Maria Wiljanen, the head of the Institute, helped to plan the content of the seminar on education, among other things.
Caption: The last Designing Better Life event of 2021 was held at the Business Finland Metsä Pavilion in Tokyo on 7 December 2021. Image: Petri Artturi Asikainen/City of Helsinki
The implementation of the Designing Better Life events organised in 2021 was successful in promoting the common goals of the City of Helsinki and Team Finland. Cooperation, especially in practical work, produced significant benefits as the events were tailored to suit the local audience. The event series, implemented during a challenging pandemic period, shows that there really is power in cooperation and that international events cannot be produced remotely without working together.
In cooperation with partners, a good life can be turned into something even better – also in the future.
News main photo: Juhana Vartiainen, Mayor of Helsinki, participated in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Design Week event virtually on 22 September. Image: Embassy of Finland in Beijing