Diversity is Helsinki’s asset
”The fact that Helsinki has such diverse population generates the biggest challenges but also opportunities for the city. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to segregation and increase general inequality. However, we must tap into the community-oriented spirit of Helsinki in order to bring together different people. A lonely, elderly person may live in the same building with a family with young children who wish they had an adopted grandmother or grandfather. There is huge potential in being able to bring these people together.”
This is according to Tuomo Lähdeniemi, Vice President and co-founder of the management specialist company Fountain Park, who has a broad view of the trends affecting the future of Helsinki. Through his work, Tuomo has worked with Helsinki City Library to find out what the library of the future will be like; with Helsinki Education Department to discover about the future of schools; and with Helsinki Social Services to ascertain the needs of families with children and how to meet those needs in the future. He has also worked with the Parishes of Helsinki to outline the parishes of the future, and been involved in preparing the future strategy for the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
”The most rewarding aspects of my work are being able to gain new information and exchanging information in a profound manner, thanks to the latest technology.”
The importance of making a difference
Collaborative development plays a key role in the operations of Fountain Park, and Tuomo Lähdeniemi is passionate about increasing social inclusion.
”It is important that people can have their say in what happens in their living environment.”
According to Tuomo, Helsinki has improved social inclusion and taking account the residents’ views. He mentions the central library as a positive example of this; the residents were involved in the design process.
”It is important that the residents are heard. However, the key question remains how much influence is given to the residents’ views in the final decision-making.”
Unique and lively districts and suburbs
According to Tuomo Lähdeniemi, the key strength of Helsinki, diversity, is strongly connected to the sense of villages; that this one city contains so many different districts and suburbs.
”Helsinki has extremely urban areas, and genuinely rural environments, such as Tuomarinkylä. I myself am always moving between two very different areas. I live in Itä-Pakila, the home of one of the oldest primeval forests in Helsinki. And our office is in Arabianranta, a waterside district undergoing considerable changes.”
Then again, as Tuomo says, city districts are not static; they are in constant change.
”For example, the residents’ age structure has a major impact on the character of a district. If I were to compare ’my’ two districts, I would say that Arabianranta is home to many families with children, whereas Itä-Pakila is also home to families, but many children have already left home. The character of the districts is alive and it follows the age cycle of the residents.”
Training can strengthen regional identities
Community-oriented spirit and regional influence are close to Tuomo Lähdeniemi’s heart even when he is not at work.
”I am a sociable person and like to network. I have been involved in my children’s school boards and taken on roles of responsibility in their hobbies. My children are grown up now, but I have remained friends with the parents of their childhood friends. We meet regularly to enjoy cultural events at venues such as the Finnish National Theatre and Helsinki City Theatre.”
Tuomo is also actively involved in matters in his district, Itä-Pakila. For example, he was one of the founders of the Itä-Pakila-yhdistys (The Association of Itä-Pakila) and continues to be an active member of the association. He was also one of the writers of the history of the local Metsola School.
”Metsola School is in the middle of the woods, which is great for bringing nature into education. My wish for the future is that, instead of confining education to the school building, the learning environment could be seen in a broader perspective. In this way, education could positively enforce the different regional identities.”
Text: Piia Raitavuo
Picture: Anna Dammert
Maarit Rossi nominated Tuomo Lähdeniemi as a future maker of Helsinki.