About Facilitating Competencies

Today, I took part in a workshop on facilitation organized by the Finnish Association of Facilitators (FAFA Ry) at the HUB13 Business Hub in Helsinki. I am a member of the association, as of last year, when I first met Piritta Kantojärvi, the CEO of Grape People and the author of several excellent books on facilitation.

FAFA Ry is the Finnish chapter of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). The IAF is a worldwide professional body established to promote, support and advance the art and practice of professional facilitation through methods exchange, professional growth, practical research and collegial networking.

During the workshop, the participants collaboratively took on to examine the core competencies of a professional facilitator. I found the event a very interesting one in the sense that it gave me insight and information on the competencies of a certified professional facilitator.

I am also a member of the Finnish “Fasilitointi 2.0” network since last year, and have so far taken part in two meetings of that group. I have found these meetings give the participants a great deal of new ideas, information on useful methods, and boost the professional competencies of the participants.

The very first time I took part in a meeting of that group, the theme of our discussion was “How to deal with difficult people?”.

As even professional facilitators may sometimes encounter participants with negative attitudes in a workshop or other collaborative event, and it may also affect the outcomes of the event, I think sharing experiences and insight on difficult situations and how to solve these with other professionals is very important.

The outcome of our discussion of that theme seemed to revolve around creating “a safe space”.

To me, this simply translates to that the people participating in a collaborative event must be able to trust the facilitator. There are many external factors that might affect the situation, of course.

But basically, the facilitator must be able to create a relaxed creative atmosphere.

To me, this means being relaxed and confident yourself, first getting people to know each other via ice-breaking exercises, and only then establishing a clear context of the session, and evoking a sense of a shared mission in the group. I find that keeping up with the original plan for the session and schedules during the session is very important as well.

If some disruptive behavior or a conflict should arise, the facilitator must be able to face that issue with diplomacy, assume a neutral position, and gently lead the group on to create a collaborative resolution for the situation.

In brief, it makes sense to hire a professional facilitator for a collaborative event of any kind.

The core competencies of a certified professional facilitator are listed at the IAF website.

You can find the list behind this link: https://www.iaf-world.org/site/professional/core-competencies

On Visiting Finland and the Contemporary Finnish Art Scene

As Finland is a remote destination at the outskirts of Europe, we currently only receive approximately 0,4% of all of the travellers worldwide. And most of these travellers only stay for a very short stopover.

However, Visit Finland currently attracts over half a million visitors to its website every month. This goes to show that a staggering figure of annual visitors to the organization’s website must be very interested in Finland as a holiday destination. How to make more of these visitors book a trip here?

I visited Berlin two weeks ago. The city is, of course, one of the most hip destinations in Europe. During my stay there, I visited various sites related to its history, as well as the most popular contemporary art exhibitions currently going on, and many excellent clubs. Perhaps it is the combination of these three types of attractions – historical and cultural, as well as the nightlife – that makes me return there every so often?

I think that Finland, as a holiday destination, caters for many tastes as well, and we can certainly add the spectacular nature to our list of attractions. Now, as the summer is just about to begin, I am looking forward to spending a few weekends at least outside of my hometown Helsinki. For the Midsummer night, there is no better place to be than one with a view on a still lake in the middle of a forest.

But the nightlife scene in Helsinki is hot as well. A few weeks back, we had yet again the Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann playing an excellent 6-hour set in a club in the vicinity of Kallio. And many local artists are a treat for any house or techno lover. Many outstanding festivals for all tastes in music are organized here, the most hip one being the Flow Festival of Suvilahti, and are featured in international travel publications.

For the history and culture lovers, there are many things to experience as well. But perhaps the country brand would benefit of emphasizing the original culture and the excellent contemporary art scene, for example, instead of merely highlighting Suomenlinna Island and other such sites that have more to do with distant events of the past? Helsinki currently has several exhibitions going on that feature contemporary art’s finest international figures, such as Neto and Weiwei.

While I mention that, the Finnish contemporary artist scene is well worth getting acquainted with! Anssi Kasitonni, one of my favourite Finnish artists, is curating this year’s Mänttä Art Festival, first organized in 1993. Being the most hip annual art event outside of Helsinki, this festival that has a history of over 20 years is a must-see. Certainly worth travelling all the way to Mänttä!

And if you should miss that, the contemporary art festival ARS 17 will be taking over Kiasma next year.

The ARS festivals, much like the Documenta in Kassel, have a history ranging back to the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

While the Documenta will be open in Kassel again the same year, and will certainly yet again be an event beyond comparison most likely attracting over one million art tourists worldwide, I suggest visiting the ARS festival in Helsinki as well. Kiasma will also be the partner organization of Frame Finland during next year’s Venice Biennale.

In two weeks, Visit Finland will organize a seminar related to travel and the field of culture. I will be attending the seminar, and I am very much looking forward to it. The CEO of Creative Tourism Barcelona, Caroline Couret, will be giving a keynote talk, and there will be workshops on the topic, one of them being on contemporary art and country image and facilitated by the Museum Director of Kiasma, Leevi Haapala.

About Urban Planning and Ikigai

Today, I attended an intriguing lecture by the architect Hella Hernberg, the author of the book “Helsinki Beyond Dreams – Actions Towards a Creative and Sustainable Hometown”. This book came out in 2012, as Helsinki was a World Design Capital.

Hernberg is one of the key professionals behind initiatives that transformed the former cargo port of Kalasatama, still in the middle of its ongoing construction, into a hip area in Helsinki. This area was opened to the general public in 2010, as I moved to neighbouring Kallio myself, and has so far witnessed the creation of open-for-all graffiti fence, urban gardening, a pop-up sauna, and various self-organized events. It’s one of my absolute favourite places in Helsinki, especially in the summertime.

Hernberg’s book explores new perspectives of a city in transition. As Hernberg states, it’s the “new we-spirit and enthusiasm of its people” that has turned Helsinki into an inspiring place to live. “In the past few years our previously quiet and reserved Nordic hometown has been a source of constant surprises”, she says. Helsinki is indeed bubbling with new ideas and creative endeavours. “People are motivated by doing concrete things that have an impact – however temporary – on their environment,” Hernberg writes.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an “ikigai”. The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: “iki”, referring to life or spirit, and “kai”, which roughly translates to “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”. Finding one’s ikigai, according to the Japanese requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to everyday life. An ikigai is essentially ‘a reason to get up in the morning’ – a reason to enjoy life.

Reflecting on the concept of “ikigai”, perhaps we would benefit from letting more people have an impact on their surroundings. As ikigai, more or less, consists of doing the things you love, which you are good at, which you can be paid for, and most importantly, that which the surrounding world needs, I think this concept is extremely useful in relation to crowdsourcing urban planning. One example of such co-design is the project coordinated by the University of Helsinki in the abandoned Marian sairaala hospital area.

According to Hilde Heynen “architecture – in its most broadly conceived sense – forms the framework for life”. Heynen also says that “But in accepting this as a starting point, one should also recognize that there can be something more”. In Heynen’s view, “the critical impact of an architectural project is not equivalent to its smoothly fitting into the international magazines”. Nor should it be. According to Hella Hernberg, the designer or the architect should act as an agent for a positive change. I am happy that my hometown is co-designing urban projects more and more.

Urban Explorations

What to do with abandoned, liminal spaces in cities? Should the city’s inhabitants be let to make use of them? And how to design a space where everyone feels welcome?

These are some of the questions that I have been facing lately in conjunction with my university studies.

I have always been interested in terrains vagues, so-called “dead zones” in different cities. The term was coined by the architect-philosopher Ignasi de Solà-Morales Rubió, who has famously stated that “When architecture and urban design project their desire onto a vacant space a terrain vague, they seem incapable of doing anything other than introducing violent trasformations, changing estrangements into citizenship, and striving at all costs to dissolve the uncontaminated magic of the obsolete in the efficacy”.

Considering this statement, I wonder if another kind of transformation of a “dead zone” could also take place – such as for example the transformation of the Tempelhof airport into a party location in Berlin?

I’m currently participating in two different courses related to the aesthetics of space and spatial design at the University of Helsinki. I’m fascinated by the hands-on part of the curriculum this spring, as it also involves a small-scale hands-on urban development project in the “Marian sairaala” area of Helsinki.

The work on this project kicks off tomorrow with lectures and two workshop type sessions with other students and our Project Manager, Rami Ratvio. The “Marian sairaala” area is an abandoned hospital site in Helsinki, in the close proximity of the residential coastline areas of Jätkäsaari and Ruoholahti, where I spent most of my childhood as these parts of the city were still in the middle of their construction.

The city of Helsinki is currently planning on transforming the hospital area into a new use, and this, mainly, is what this cross-disciplinary course is all about. The participants of this project are planning on organizing a public block party or a small-scale festival event to take place in the hospital premises one month from now.

While the concept of this event is still to be discussed and refined, yesterday I found myself browsing the internet for different modular venues for such parties.

As the designated area is very close to the coastline, cargo containers would certainly complement the overall venue. They would make for an affordable and a practical choice for constructing various spatial structures in the area, as well as a strong visual element. While we have yet to make any decisions on utilizing these type of elements and the outside area of the premises, I find the containers inspirational.

See different container venues constructed by the Berlin company “2X20 FT”:

http://www.twotimestwentyfeet.com/

Read more about the University of Helsinki course “Tilapioneerit”:

http://tilapioneerit.fi