“The greatest threat to our planet is that someone else will save it.”

Since coming back from the most awesome adventure to Cederberg mountains (which requires its own post soon), I’ve been studying corporate governance, business ethics and managing sustainability. I’m so fascinated by this that I’ve found a new passion towards large businesses. After all, besides governments, they are the most impactful institutions we have on earth. Change how things are done there and you know you’ll make a positive impact on the world. As long as my work involves human resources development & talent management, aligning operations to be highly ethical and sustainable, I can totally see myself working for a corporation. Excited for what the future brings…

Integrated reporting = holistic and integrated presentation of the company’s performance in terms of both its finance and its sustainability

Components and focus areas of corporate governance:

  1. Ethical leadership

– Responsible corporate citizenship

– Ethics management

  1. Boards and directors

– Integrated view of strategy, risk, performance and sustainability

– Chairperson must be independent and non executive

– Appoint CEO

– Majority of non-execs on board and to be independent

– Competent secretary

-Annual evaluation of board, committees and individuals

– Compensation fairly

  1. Audit committees

– Skilled and independent non-execs, chaired by independent non-exec

– Oversees integrated reporting, internal and external audit

– Reports to the board and shareholders

  1. Governance of risk

– Determine levels of risk tolerance

– Delegate risk management to management

– Continual risk assessments and monitoring

– Risk disclosure to stakeholders

  1. Governance of IT

– Monitor and evaluate IT investment and expenditure

– IT to be integrated with risk management

– IT to be aligned with performance and sustainability objectives

  1. Compliance

– Compliance with all applicable laws

– Compliance risk to be integrated with risk management

– To be delegated to management

  1. Internal audit

– Effective risk-based internal audit

– Assessment of effectiveness of internal controls and risk management

  1. Stakeholders

– Perceptions affect on reputation

– Stakeholder management to be delegated to management

– Equitable treatment of stakeholders: protection of minority stakeholders

– Transparent and effective communication

  1. Integrated reporting

– Financial and sustainability reporting to be integrated

Levels of business ethics

Systemic – What is the most ethical economic system? Capitalism vs socialism

At a macro level, ethics are influenced by the wider operating environment in which the company exists. Factors such as political pressures, economic conditions, societal attitudes to certain businesses, and even business regulation can influence a company’s operating standards and policies.

Industry – How does the industry behave?

Different industries have their own set of ethical standards.

Company – How does my company behave?

At a company or corporate level, ethical standards are embedded in the policies and procedures of the organization, and form an important foundation on which business strategy is built. These policies derive from the influences felt at macro level and therefore help a business to respond to changing pressures in the most effective way.

Individual – How do I behave?

Since businesses are run by people, the ethical standards of individuals in the business are an important consideration. Management needs to be able to align individual ethics with corporate ethics.

Integrated stakeholder communication: role of Investor Relations today

Below are my reflective thoughts of the role of investor relations in business today.

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1.0. Introduction

This is a reaction paper to three articles: “A descriptive account of the investor relations profession: a national study” by Laskin (2009), “A review of IPO activity, pricing, and allocations” by Ritter & Welch, and to “Instrumental and/or deliberative? A typology of CSR communication tools” by Seele and Lock. I will introduce the main ideas of the articles supported with my personal views to the issues discussed.

Laskin reviews comprehensively the nature of investor relations; its role historically and why and how this role has been reshaped in the past years. He claims that investor relations today cannot be categorized into its own separate box; building interactive relationships and trust with stakeholders is the main function of IR today. Ritter & Welch contribute to research of IPOs; they seek to find patterns on why companies tend to underprice their stock in initial public offering. First, they argue that the long-run performance of IPOs is highly sensitive to the choice of sample period. Thus, time-variation in research deserves higher emphasis. Further, asymmetric information theories are unlikely to be the primary determinant of fluctuations in IPO activity and underpricing. In other words, there is no single dominant theoretical cause for underpricing. Seele & Lock argue that CSR today is strongly dependent on effective communication; main goal of CSR communication is to build moral legitimacy in the eyes of stakeholders. For this aim, authors present a toolbox for corporations to engage their stakeholders in two-way communication. They claim that meeting the expectations and satisfying needs and informational interests of stakeholders is the main function of CSR. I will discuss these issues in more detail below. I will then present some final conclusions of the nature of investor relations today, based on my personal view supported by the articles discussed.

2.0. Reaction I: “A descriptive account of the investor relations profession: a national study” Laskin (2009)

2.1. Introduction: IR historically

Laskin states that the corporate scandals that shook the U.S. investment market (e.g. Enron in 2001) have resulted investor relations receiving heavy attention from the public. These scandals made shareholders think more carefully their investments in companies as well as wanting to get involved in decision-making. Consequently, the function of communication has changed significantly to adapt the demands of share- and other stakeholders. Laxis argues: “In the post-Enron era, investor relations vaults to the top of the corporate agenda, as companies must begin to rebuild investor confidence”. How I see it, a company cannot exist without its stakeholders; having their trust, support and engagement is vital for its survival. Thus, investor relations is all about having a mutually beneficial relationship with the stakeholders.

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2.2. IR today: finding synergies in merged finance and communication

As said, communication and relationship building is now more important than ever. Laxis argues that a communications professional is likely to be able to communicate more effectively and understandably to the investor. Thus, cooperation between financial and communication department is crucial. Effective IR reduces uncertainty and lowers the risk premium that investor demand for their investment. IRO’s need to provide investors with reliable information about the company to let investors make an informed decision. I strongly agree with Laxis’ view; investor relations will highly benefit when finance and communication expertise is merged in a company to develop targeted and effective strategic communications programs.

2.3. Acknowledging all stakeholder groups

Laxis argues that it is increasingly important for a company to speak in a unified and coordinated voice to all of its publics. Though I agree that it is vital to communicate not only to shareholders but all stakeholder groups, I however, do not agree that this should be done in a unified voice to all. Rather, due to their different interests, investor relations’ task is to provide relevant information to each group considering their individual information needs.

I believe that companies are widely realizing that IR today is all about satisfying the informational needs of stakeholders, according their interests towards the company. Thus many companies are outsourcing IR to professional communication agencies. Growing trends are, to mention some, CSR as well as storytelling in annual reporting and marketing strategy.

2.4. Conclusion

Laxis claims that investor relations cannot be categorized into its own separate box anymore. Building relationships – trust – with stakeholders is the main function of IR. In order to succeed in this, effective cooperation between communication and finance departments is necessary. Optimally, communication is not a separate business unit but tied to each business function in the company. In my opinion, even the term department is outdated; companies should integrate its functions and avoid categorizing them in order to reach maximum synergies between different expertises among the company’s human capital.

3.0. Reaction 2: “A review of IPO activity, pricing, and allocations” Ritter & Welch (2002)

3.1. Introduction

 Ritter and Welch state that a strong trend has been noticed in research: at the end of the first day of trading, shares have traded almost 20% above the price at which the company sold them. IPOs have returned on average 23% percent for an investor buying shares at the first-day closing price and holding them for three years. However, over three years, the average IPO underperformed the market index by 23%. This is naturally is paradoxical. The article seeks to find explanations for patterns in issuing activity, underpricing, and long-run underperformance. For a non-finance professional, the research method used remains relatively complex and challenging to grasp. How I understand it, the authors conducted a literature review on the earlier research of the issues on hand.

3.2. IPO activity: Why do firms go public?

The main reason for a company to go public is to raise equity capital. Also, the risk of ownership is spread among a large group of shareholders. This is especially important when a company grows: original shareholders wanting to cash in some of their profits while still retaining their ownership. Ritter & Welch argue that the most important factor in the decision to go public is favorable market conditions, however, only if they are beyond a certain stage in their life cycle. By favorable market conditions, I understand to be the state of company’s surrounding environment – economical factors such as gas price, trends in the field the company is operating on and so on. I personally believe that another reason for a firm wanting to go public is its desire to get access to a new market. It is important for a company to consider on which stock exchange to list. Each stock exchange has their special knowledge; for example, Norwegian exchange is professional in oil-related matters. Further, by listing itself, the firm achieves higher credibility and recognition.

3.3. What influences investors’ behavior?

Research shows that first-day returns and underpricing has correlated highly for decades. Ritter & Welch further argue that IPOs of operating companies are underpriced, on average, in all countries. When decision of going public is made, the firm hires an investment bank to make the IPO happen. The bank spreads awareness of the listing for investors and based on investors’ estimated demand and desirability, a stock price is set. After the first day of free stock exchange, it can be seen whether the stock was over- or underpriced.

Welch & Ritter suggest winner’s curse as one explanation for underpricing; in this case, the investor holds more information than issuer. Thus, issuer faces a placement problem; not knowing the price the marker is willing to bear. Another kind of issue is an informational cascade, in which investors only request shares when they believe the offering is hot. Pricing too high leaves the issuer with a high chance of failure: investors withdraw because other investors withdraw. As already stated, as a non-finance professional, I find it challenging to form a view for the reasons behind the phenomenon of underpricing. Further, as presented in the conclusions, even the authors could not find a theoretical explanation, based on their comprehensive research work.

3.4. Conclusions

Underpricing is a persistent feature of the IPO market. While asymmetric information models have been popular among academics, the authors feel that these models have been overemphasized. Welch & Ritter favor the behavioral point of view, presented above, in the research of long-run performance in IPOs. However, they emphasize being cautious with generalization of these views. Long-run performance of IPOs is highly sensitive to the choice of sample period; thus, time-variation in research deserves higher emphasis. Further, they argue that asymmetric information theories are unlikely to be the primary determinant of fluctuations in IPO activity and underpricing. To conclude, the authors argue that there is no single dominant theoretical cause for underpricing.

4.0. Reaction III: “Instrumental and/or Deliberative? A Typology of CSR Communication Tools” by Seele & Lock (2014)

4.1. Introduction

Scherer & Palazzo state the firms are taking a new political role as global corporate citizens; helping to solve public issues in cooperation with stakeholders while conducting profitable business. According to Seele & Lock, political approach to CSR refers to not only the economic, social and environmental, but also political responsibilities that corporations bear in the globalized economy. They state that successful CSR is strongly dependent on communication. Its main goal is to build moral legitimacy with its stakeholders; satisfying whatever needs and informational interests they might have for the company. For this aim, the authors present a toolbox providing directions for corporations on how to engage their stakeholders to company’s activities. My view is very much in line with the authors’; CSR today is all about acknowledging and meeting the versatile needs that different stakeholders groups have.

4.2. Credibility gap & moral legitimacy

Credibility gap, how I see it, refers to information asymmetry that stakeholders believe to hold between themselves and the company. Stakeholders have different expectations and interest for the company. Naturally, a company cannot exist without stakeholders. Thus, it is crucial for the company to establish CSR communication that builds a base for a mutually beneficial relationship between these partners. For this aim, the authors claim that open discourse, participation, transparency, and accountability are needed to get the CSR messages across to stakeholders. Further, reaching consensus is seen as the core element; company should seek ways to enable stakeholders to engage in a dialogue. The moral legitimacy obtained in this discourse depends on credibility as suggested by the authors. If truth, sincerity, appropriateness, and understandability are present in CSR communication, consensus, understanding, and credibility will be reached.

4.3. Conclusions

Authors argue that two-way communication and reaching consensus with stakeholders is in the core of CSR communication. Further, open discourse, participation, transparency and accountability are key components in building credible CSR. The tools provided by authors can be used as part of the bigger picture on how companies may handle their responsibility to society. Authors emphasize importance of closing the gap of credibility; meeting the expectations and satisfying needs and informational interests of stakeholders.

5.0. Discussion

How I see it, a business today cannot be successful without full support of its stakeholders. Investor relations is not about satisfying the informational needs of purely investors, but rather all stakeholder groups. Figure 1 is a simple illustration of different stakeholder groups:

Its goal is to address needs of stakeholders, as well as to engage them to two-way value-adding communication. Thus, IR is all about having a mutually beneficial relationship with the stakeholders. In order to succeed in this, effective cooperation between different departments is needed; communication is not a separate business unit, but rather tied to each business function. In my opinion, companies should avoid categorizing its functions in order to reach maximum synergies among the company’s human capital.

6.0. References:

Laskin, Alexander V. 2009. A descriptive account of the investor relations profession: a national study. Journal of Business Communication 46: 2, 208–233.

Ritter, J.R. and Welch, I. 2002. A review of IPO activity, pricing, and allocations. Journal of Finance LVII: 4, 1795-1828.

Seele, P. ad Lock, I. 2014. Instrumental and/or deliberative? A typology of CSR communication tools. Journal of Business Ethics.

Figure 1: https://wikis.engrade.com/stakeholdersinbusiness

Sonja Hannus

Investor Relations: Pre-examination

Fashion in La Grande Bellezza

The Great Beauty is a 2013 Italian film co-written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The main character is an aging socialite, Jep Gambardella, who once wrote a famous novel in his twenties, only to retire into a comfortable life writing cultural columns and throwing parties in Rome. After his 65th birthday party, he walks through the ruins and city streets, encountering the various characters, reflecting on his life, his first love, and sense of unfulfillment. We watched the film observing its fashion. It was not an uncomfortable task:

“If there is one film we wish would guide the direction of men’s style it is La Grande Bellezza.”

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Researchers need to be aware of philosophical issues in research

I’m starting my thesis project soon.. Here’s some of my concluded thoughts on the link between academic theories and practise.

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Introduction: How I view research

This is a reaction to Beginning qualitative research: a philosophic and practical guide by Maykut & Morehouse, as well as to Business Research Methods by Bryman & Bell.

Bryman & Bell state that research is systematic investigation into, and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. The more I’ve personally got involved to the business life towards the end of my studies in the business school, the more I’ve began to question academic research. I question whether academic research actually contributes profoundly to practice or not, especially in the field of business. In human science, for example, I understand perfectly that research enables fundamental findings that can save lives. These findings can only be made through profound research and testing the human body.

In business, however, how I see it, everything is context-dependent. How do you know whether findings are trustworthy? To what extent can they be generalized? Further, if the researchers are not actively involved in the business life, are they qualified to give recommendations of best practices and tools? And when they do, how do we know that these implications will enhance organizational performance? Does the new knowledge even reach relevant people?

Philosophic questions on nature of research

My thoughts are very much in line with philosophical analysis in literature. Nature of research raises questions that researchers need to be familiar with and further, have their view on it. Epistemological assumptions concern the origins of knowledge – the nature, sources and limitations of it and whether there can be factual knowledge in the first place. How trustworthy are research findings? If there is no such thing as factual knowledge, what is the point of research?

In my opinion, the academic language is too complex and theoretical; people in business simply don’t have time and interest to read highly academic articles, even if they wanted. Information today needs to be quickly and simply absorbable and adaptable. Thus I’m afraid that the valuable work of researchers is too rarely utilized – practical and academic languages might simply not find mutual communication ground.

Ontology, then, questions the nature of reality. What can be said to exist? What is a thing? Can we sort existing things into categories? If yes, on which basis? I agree with Bryman & Bell, who claim that researchers have to very carefully determine how they conceptualize a noun in their specific piece of research. According to a constructionist view, nouns cannot be pre-given and assumed to be something constant and specific. Social actors are continually shaping social phenomena and their meanings; they are constantly in a state of revision.

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Research methods

Quantitative research collects and analyses data, with the aim to test an existing theory. Social reality is seen as an external, objective reality (ontological). Qualitative, by contrast, usually emphasizes words and sees social reality as constantly evolving by individuals’ creation. As Maykut & Morehouse emphasizes, it is important to choose an appropriate research method based on what is being researched. If we are interested in the worldviews of members of a certain social group, a qualitative research method that is sensitive to how participants interpret their social world is likely to be better option than quantitative.

The question of influence of author’s values in conducting research is highly important. As Bryman & Bell points out, choice of values can intrude in the process of business research, in for example:

  • Choice of research area
  • Formulation of research question and choice of methods
  • Data collection techniques and implementation
  • Analysis and interpretation of data
  • Conclusions

Clearly, there are several phases, which may result in a bias research; values being intruded consciously or unconsciously. Academic research always comes with limitations that are elaborated in the article; how generalizable and trustworthy the findings are.

Maykut & Morehouse highlight the importance of logic. Logic deals with the principles of demonstration and verification. Are causal links between bits of information possible? Teleology is generally concerned with questions of purpose. What is research for? What is the possibility of generalization? What does research contribute to knowledge? What is the purpose of research?

Conclusion

In the field of business, as I see it, situations are context-dependent and hardly generalizable. Each organization faces their individual problems. Research findings should always be questioned and their feasibility into context thoroughly considered. Despite the criticism presented above and limitations that research will always have, the findings will be very useful in organizations, when their limitations are carefully considered and understood by practitioners.

Corporate Communication Research

Sonja Hannus

Baggaless traveling with Luggi

I’m cherishing the memories of a great course I took last Spring. The Aalto Internship Innovation Project I2P was jointly provided with ESADE Business School. We did a business case for Finnish Post. Together with my team, we designed a service that will take the pleasure of flight traveling to a whole new level 😉

Luggi is baggage check-in at hotel or home, which allows you to check-in your bags at your doorstep.

 

Proposal for the Next Helsinki project

I took my first course in University of Helsinki; Critical Themes in Promotional Culture, master’s course in International Communication and Media program. The course was held by Melissa Aronczyk, an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, New York. Our final project (of an intense one-week course :D) was to argument whether or not The Guggenheim Museum would be a strategic investment for Finland. This is our counter-proposal with few arguments against the Guggenheim. Unfortunately we only had one day to do conduct the project but  I’m happy I got to do some research on the agendas and desired outcomes of this investment.

 

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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation maintains a worldwide network of art museums. Their purpose is to increase public awareness of and appreciation for art, architecture and visual culture. The Guggenheim Foundation has long had the ambition of opening a fifth museum in Helsinki. Advocates of Guggenheim Helsinki state that “Finland has capability to advance the Guggenheim’s mission to promote the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture, urbanism, and other manifestations of the visual culture of our time”. They argue that the Guggenheim Helsinki project would be a strategic investment for both Helsinki and Finland, raising the international profile of the entire region. Guggenheim Helsinki would present internationally significant exhibitions of artworks from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries while also specializing in Nordic art and architecture. Its prestigious, waterfront location would act as “a welcome center for visitors and a year-round focus of culture and entertainment for city residents.”

The City Council of Helsinki voted to reserve a prominent waterfront site for the architectural competition of the proposed museum. Advocates state that from a global perspective, Helsinki is emerging as a city to watch. During the past few years, Helsinki has earned positive mentions in international media channels, including high rankings on Monocle Magazine’s ‘Most Livable Cities in the World’ list. Finland’s political stability and high-quality education system have laid the groundwork for a strong national economy. Creativity, design and technology are sources of national pride. “Helsinki is one of the best places in the world. We are convinced that the museum would benefit the city and the country as a whole as well as the Foundation,” said Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, to the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.

For the time being, there is a debate going on in the City of Helsinki, whether about 130 million Euro (plus VAT) tax money should be invested in the construction of a new trademark art exhibition space. This would also mean that the city would donate the most valuable piece of land in the Southern Harbor for this purpose. In addition, the city would pay 5 – 10 mio Euro annually in salaries, maintaining the building and the purchase of exhibitions. Obviously, this is a major investment of the State and City of Helsinki. Opponents of the project have launched a counter-competition, Next Helsinki, as a riposte to what critics have branded a misguided vanity project (Wainwright, 2014), and as a symbol of the Finnish capital ‘selling out’ to an American brand. In the next section, we will share our view on the proposal, and raise few points that, in our opinion, make the Guggenheim Helsinki extremely risky project.

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Though we appreciate and agree with the claims presented. However, several factors make this investment a major risk. We will provide our counter arguments for the Guggenheim Helsinki project, in the light of analysis of the official proposal and our knowledge of the economic situation. First of all, the economic situation in Finland does not look bright at the moment. Being part of European Union, Finland is exposed to decisions coming from the European Bank. Also, tourism of Helsinki is very dependent on Russian tourists visiting the city. However, as Russia is undergoing an economic depression as well (among other uncertainties), tourism from our eastern neighbor has declined enormously. There are no guarantees about the situation getting better anytime soon. Another argument can be made; Russian tourists are not coming for cultural activity but rather shopping and other activities. This applies to some extent to Asian tourism as well; thus Guggenheim cannot trust on Russian and Asian visitors, which in recent years have been top tourists segments.

As for Finnish visitors; though Finnish people would most likely be excited of the new cultural space and visit, their visit would hardly be frequent. Rather, they would most likely visit once or twice in a time period of several years. Also, many Finns are resisting the project in the first place. This is a comment when asked a local security guard near the site (Wainwright, 2014): “I’m not paying my taxes to be handed over to an American corporation to do with what they want. If we’re spending that kind of money, it should be on our own national museum, not another outpost of a global company.

The proposal was renewed 2013 with new estimated financial figures. Estimation of previous 527 000 visitors was raised up to 550 000. This figure is based on an estimation by BCG questionnaire that got 2500 responses from Finnish people and 550 tourists. From an accounting perspective, we claim that 3000 responses, only 500 of which from foreigners and rest from locals, is not enough to estimate an amount of visitors with such estimate. 550 000 will unlikely been hit for the reasons elaborated above.

Benchmarking can be made for further analysis. With close to 11 million commercial overnight stays per year (Stockholm Business Region, 2013), Stockholm ranks number ten on the list of the most attractive destinations in Europe. Copenhagen, then, has 8.5 million annual overnight stays (Wonderful Copenhagen Annual, 2013). The number of overnight stays in Helsinki is less than a third of Stockholm’s figures, and less than half of Copenhagen’s. These cities’ most popular museums, Moderna Museet and Louisiana Art Museum attract 500 000 and 600 000 visitors respectively. Estimated 550 000 seems extremely high compared to those figures and places considerable emphasis on the so-called ‘Guggenheim Effect’ (see e.g. Deutsche Welle, 2012).

Is the Guggenheim brand really going to attract equal amount of visitors with Louisiana and Moderna Museet, two of the most popular museums in Scandinavia? For example, Louisiana is currently displaying The Celia Asher collection, including works by Picasso, Miró, Kandinsky, Pollock, Dubuffet, Kiefer and Kelly. Moderna Museet is just finishing up with an exhibition including works by Jeff Koons among others. These two top quality museums are arguably a good representation of how many museum visitors can be attracted in a Nordic capital and the numbers may not be realistic to replicate in the smaller Helsinki.

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The Guggenheim Foundation is often refers to its success in making Bilbao a world famous cultural destination. In the Guggenheim Helsinki proposal, the foundation claims Bilbao to be an appropriate comparison for Helsinki. The Guggenheim Bilbao has been largely defined as a success and the financial benefits of the project are indeed impressive. However, in reality Bilbao’s narrative is not very compatible with Helsinki. Pre-Guggenheim, Bilbao was an industrial city trying to complete a complete transformation into a modern European city.

The city’s project was arguably a great success, but Guggenheim has perhaps taken too much of the credit, since many other improvements and investments were made in Bilbao during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Similar efforts to become a cultural destination by the Spanish city of Valencia failed miserably, leading into great financial difficulties (Kippo, 10.7.2012). It is hard to argue Helsinki is in need of a similar turnaround, although the discourse around Guggenheim suggests Helsinki needs something new. Guggenheim has been presented as this form of progress (Aronczyk, 2013, pp. 128). The success of Guggenheim Bilbao has created a phenomenon, often referred to as the Guggenheim Effect (Deutsche Welle, 2012) or the Bilbao Effect (Wainwright, 2014; The Economist, 2013). However, the Guggenheim Foundation does not have a track record of creating this effect repeatedly. According to the Guardian (Wainwright, 2014), franchises in Las Vegas, Berlin, Salzburg, Vilnius, Guadalajara, Rio de Janeiro and lower Manhattan have all been cancelled or closed down.

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In addition, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project has so far been a disappointment. There have been multiple delays, and especially the labour practices surrounding Abu Dhabi’s enormous cultural project have been heavily scrutinized. For example the activist group Occupy Museums has stated that ‘each time the Guggenheim speaks, its approach to migrant labour issues on Saadiyat Island sounds more like that of a global corporation than that of an educational or art institution’. Guggenheim Foundation’s failures in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere suggest, that instead of being a transcendent cultural force, the foundation might well be a one hit wonder which many cities and countries do not want to collaborate with.

 

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Helsinki already has several prestigious museums and due to the downturn, the city is cutting budgets for these. Why bring in another museum if the current ones are not profitable either? We wonder; does Helsinki and Finland really need to adopt an international concept that has nothing to do with the Finnish identity and culture? Isn’t Finland a strong enough brand already – why not build something truly unique and innovative around what we are known for, and in particular, want to be known for? There is hardly a need for Finland to brand itself as more western or global (Aronczyk, 2013).

We argue, that Finland simply does not have enough demand, at least right now, for another cultural museum. Finland should invest in a more ‘real’ phenomena, which we will elaborate in the next section. The investment is very significant at the time of economic depression. The estimated visits are very unlikely to happen. We argue that the investment is too risky and unnecessary.

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We argue that we should not “sell” this project for an international brand; rather, we ought to build something new and unique, built around the strengths of Finland and Helsinki. Thus we propose to use the site and investment of Guggenheim for another kind of space that would raise interest and approval among Finns and raise global interest as well as attract foreigners.Finland has strengthened its brand world-widely during past decades. Finnish brand itself is already strong yet mysterious. We have certain trademarks such as sauna, Santa and the northern lights. We are known for our high level of education and strong information technology know-how. Finland is quickly becoming a technology startup hub.

However, although Finland has some strong internationally known icons, our proposition would focus on the people of Helsinki and Finland, and their activities. Instead of communicating a singular ‘national brand’, the proposition puts emphasis on communality, diversity and creativity. Instead of trying to bridge ‘a gap’ between local and foreign understanding of Finland (Aronczyk, 2013, pp. 162), our purpose is to present Finland more like it actually is, not just Santa and sauna.

The Finns have always had a do-it-yourself mentality. One of the most famous lines in Finnish fiction is: “In the beginning, there were the swamp, the hoe and Jussi”. Today, this enterprising spirit is found in the many grassroots activities Finnish citizens take part in. There are for example over 135 000 registered associations in Finland (Patent and Registry Bureau). Some DIY-happenings like Restaurant Day and Cleaning Day have become significant movements. Student-based activities like Aaltoes and Helsinki Think Company are re-defining and motivating entrepreneurship within and outside the universities. This potential should be used as what can be called as a strong nationality; brand identity must not only be representative of particular ways of being but actually lived – embraced and embodied – by the county’s citizens if it to be effective as a modern version of nationality (Aronczyk 2008). The new multipurpose space would embrace the Finnish DIY-spirit.

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Our proposition: a multipurpose public space

Our proposal is centered on a multipurpose space offer facilities for the citizens of Helsinki and their innovative activities. There are enough one function buildings in downtown Helsinki (Kiasma, Music House etc.) already. In addition to supporting already well established Finnish events such as Restaurant Day, Cleaning Day and Helsinki Design Week, new events could be launched. This would be done with crowdsourcing event concept innovation, also on a global scale. The space would also be open to international non-commercial events seeking for an interesting space. The usage of space would be based on the ideal of co-creation; this would allow for the continuous emergence and exploitation of creative and valuable forms of consumer labor is the true meaning of the concept of co-creation (Zwick et al.). The risk of exploitation would be small, since activities are produced and consumed by the same people. All activities and events would be free of charge.

Overall, the intention is that the space would inspire people to come up with different activities so that the purpose of the building and its surroundings would change over time to reflect the interests of its users. Below are examples of uses and ideas the final concept could include:

Art and event facilities

Our space would include various different facilities for artists and organizers. Different kinds of events including art, music, dance etc. could be organized in the new premises. Individual, association and bigger non-profits would all be allowed. The public art institutions such as Ateneum and Kiasma could offer special exhibitions including co-operative displays with other Nordic museums, such as Arken and Moderna Museet (this has been a good way to attract international artists for Nordic music festivals). For many ascending artists, the space would offer a first chance to show works for the general public. There should be adequate space for un-organized activities as well, leaving space for smaller groups and amateurs as well.

Public Space

We envision plenty of seating, outdoor garden areas and spaces without a certain purpose. The center could become a meeting spot for the people of Helsinki and its visitors. Unlike many public outdoors spaces, restrictions on e.g. skateboarding and street performances would be loosened. The building could also offer quiet rooms for relaxation and working in peace.

The food hall

The renewed food hall next to the site would greatly complement the event space. The food hall concept would be developed even further, offering both more classic and modern Finnish cuisines. Local producers from all around Finland would have a chance to impress visitors with their self-produced goods. Iconic Finnish goods such as licorice, reindeer meet, Fazer chocolate, berries and so on would be available. Torvehallerne in Copenhagen could be used as benchmark.

Co-operation with Aalto University, Taideyliopisto (University of Arts) & The University of Helsinki

Education is a key component of the Finnish society. The higher education institutes of Helsinki could offer free classes to interested visitors and also display student projects. All three universities have a different profile so they would offer a diverse selection of interests.

Support for Slush and other start-up events

In addition to student organizations, start-up event Slush is the focal point for Eurasian startups and technology talent to meet with top-tier international investors, executives and media. The two-day event takes place every fall in the wintery Scandinavia amidst one the most dynamic tech ecosystems in the world. Slush 2014 took place on in Helsinki with more than 10.000 attendees. In the past three years, Slush has grown from a local, 300-person event to become one of the leading tech and startup events in the world, reaching attendees from 68 countries in 2013.

Slush a non-profit event organized by a community of first-time entrepreneurs, students and professional music festival organizers, while backed by founders of Nordic success stories such as MySQL, Rovio, Supercell and Skype. The event keeps expanding every year, leaving very few available spaces in Helsinki to be able to fit it in. The event has been offered to buy so far both to Russia and Sweden with millions of euros. Organizers naturally want to keep it in Finland, however, the space issue will continue. The new hall could serve as a space for Slush, which is quickly becoming one of the most potential and well acknowledged events in Finland. We are in the top of the world in technology and gamification – this potential should be fully captured and supported.

Architectural considerations

The building would stray away from so-called WOW-architecture, and be more based on the tradition of Finnish architecture, such as modernist styles of Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen. The building should be environmentally friendly, communicating our close association with nature and green values shared by many Finns. The milieu surrounding the area should be utilized, we envision a close relationship with the waterfront and good use of outdoor space.

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