Thursday, 26 April 2018

Bringing Finnish Culture and Expertise to Missoula's Innovation Ecosystem

A Speech by Jenni Rohrbach, at the InnovateUM working luncheon April 25, 2018

Good afternoon, hyvää iltapäivää, ladies and gentlemen, naiset ja herrat.

On behalf of the Finlandia Foundation of Montana, I am delighted to welcome you to the InnovateUM working luncheon that has some Nordic, especially Finnish touches. We, as a Finnish and Scandinavian-American cultural heritage organization, couldn’t be more excited to support the Collective Impact Work in our community. We feel that emphasizing values and practices of shared responsibility and collective care is something that is deeply rooted in the Nordic culture. It is the like-minded Nordic philosophies and Nordic models for co-creation that give a good understanding of what it means to have cohesive and open communities and how significant cross-sector collaboration is in change-making for maximizing the potential for equal opportunity.

With this cultural and collective connection in mind, we are honoured to have the opportunity to bring Finnish culture to this event. This is represented in both the decor and food we will be sharing.  To point out, the vases and candleholders here that have a red letter “I” on them stands for Iittala, a glass company that has long preserved the works of Finnish design heroes, Kaj Franck and Alvar Aalto. Some of the fabrics that might have got your attention are productions of Marimekko that is known for its bright, coloured prints and simple styles. Marimekko was brought to America in the 1960s and made famous by Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore several Marimekko dresses during the United States presidential campaign at that time.

And I’d also like to point out the colourful feathered pussycat willows at display here that are related to the Finnish Easter tradition. In Finland, the children dress up as Easter witches or bunnies and go from door to door to hand out their springy willow in the hopes of receiving chocolate eggs in return.

 Our family-style lunch and Finnish cuisine tell a story of a people who went from forest livelihoods to active interaction with neighbouring countries. On the menu, we have bread, butter, fish and potatoes! That pretty much summarizes the most important ingredients of Nordic dishes. But precisely, Rosolli, is a Finnish beet-based vegetable salad traditionally enjoyed on Christmas. Some arctic berries we get to taste are lingonberries and cranberries. Food innovators like to call these treasures as superfoods due to their strong flavour and high nutrient content. And the beauty is that everyone can access these nature’s local superfoods in Finland. This traditional legal concept of “everyman’s right” allows anyone to pick berries and mushrooms as long as no harm is done to nature or landowners.

To end, a staple of the Finnish diet is rye bread, ruisleipä, that is made from sour dough, it’s dark and fiber rich and often eaten during daily coffee breaks. And you can imagine how much “open-faced” rye bread is eaten due to the fact that Finland has the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world. But to say the least, we hope you’ll enjoy the meal and wish you hyvää ruokahalua, Bon Appetite! Thank you.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Innovative Collective Impact Work and Culture in Missoula

Community and culture intertwined are fundamental and vivid in the collective impact work bringing connections and meanings into our everyday interactions and purpose. Culture is inseparable from the development and actually in the forefront of innovation and design-thinking to inspire action in social change. Whether we need to be sensitive to cultural differences, adapt to current cultural trends, or raise our voice in support of acceptance and equal opportunity. Or whether we are getting to know the organizational culture of our working environment or simply enjoying the culinary culture from aboard to spice up a working luncheon. In whatever forms, culture is with us, in “the social and the collective”, an essence of togetherness and a major player in change making.

I’d like to say a few words about the special kind of culture in Missoula. And this observation is coming from the perspective of a Nordic Foreign Alien who left her home country Finland around the time when Finland was ranked as the best country to live in 2010. And just recently Finland was again placed first according to the World Happiness Index Report. But bring any Finn or a few Finnish experts to Missoula and they’d say the same thing: Life is gooood in Missoula with a lot of social capital and collective care that makes it almost effortless to work towards achieving shared goals.

I believe Collective Impact, Innovation and Design Thinking are not to be re-discovered or re-created amongst us, because these elements have always existed in our talented and giving community and are here to evolve. So let’s keep our focus on the good work in both preserving the old and implementing the new for the future years to come.