HELSUS Co-Creation Lab Gala
Last Thursday saw the last meeting of this year’s HELSUS Co-Creation Lab go by. The Gala concluded months of reading, writing, analysing and workshopping for the students, who presented the results of the work they had been doing for their theses, as well as the conclusions of their group to the topic given to them.
The HELSUS Co-Creation Lab is a cooperative, scheduled and facilitated process for Master’s students doing their Master’s thesis. In the lab the students take on sustainability challenges presented by partners and produce their Master’s thesis on a subject developed during the process.
The Co-Creation Lab is arranged by HELSUS at the University of Helsinki, and the next lab is planned to start in the fall of 2022. The interdisciplinary nature of the lab and the co-creation aspect of it speak to the needs of the developing field of sustainability science at HELSUS and the University of Helsinki. The theme of the Lab changes every year, and the partners vary, too. The theme for this year was biodiversity and the partners included HELEN, Kemira, the City of Helsinki, UPM, and Ministry of the Environment.
The Gala and the results
The Gala was arranged via Zoom, and in it the students presented their individual results, and the groups’ common conclusions, followed by discussion.
The challenge given to the students by HELEN was to find out what sort of a role biochar could play in energy transition and protecting biodiversity. The students’ results showed that microbial and earthworm communities are stable in the presence of biochar and biochar has the technical capacity to mitigate climate change. However, the results also showed that biochar usage is often expensive and there is a gap between expectations placed on it and reality. The group recommended that there should be a standardised testing or analysis method for assessing biochar’s effectivity, and that institutions, policies and regulations need to be implemented to facilitate biochar’s usage.
Kemira presented the students with a challenge to analyse the biodiversity impacts of bio-based raw material use in the chemical industry and its value chain. The students found out that there are generally difficulties to link companies’ actions and operations and their biodiversity impacts in the chemical industry. As biodiversity is complex and difficult to measure, there is a need for clear measurable data, and for stronger and clearer guidance to achieve positive change in regards to biodiversity.
Ministry of the Environment challenged the students to analyse adaptive biodiversity conservation in socio-ecological systems and the ways how it could be monitored and evaluated. The students’ results showed that achieving adaptive biodiversity conservation involves inducing transformative change – for that, new forms of policy instruments and incentives are needed to create better conditions for protecting biodiversity. The students concluded that systems change is needed over a problem-solving approach – increased coherence, communication and information sharing between different sectors of governance and policy makers, a clearer and more concise definition of biodiversity, and addressing competing agendas and viewpoints regarding the importance of biodiversity are all key parts in this change.
The challenge provided for the students by UPM was to research what sort of a role biodiversity plays in the acceptance of forestry and what is the role of current harvesting methods in biodiversity trajectories. The students’ results showed that news reporting on biodiversity fortifies the divide between the forestry field and the rest of the public. Also, different stakeholders have differing perspectives on the biodiversity issues linked to the acceptability of forestry – this showed, for example, in the different ways different media outlets framed the issue. The students’ results showed that forestry activities could be improved towards more versatile ways of use – e.g. mushrooms could also be grown in commercial forests – while acknowledging biodiversity and other sustainability aspects. The results also revealed that self-regulation can play a role in protecting biodiversity and it could be used to achieve environmental goals.
The City of Helsinki asked the students to find out how to accomplish city planning, construction and maintenance and use of environmental data to prevent biodiversity and ecosystem service loss in urban aquatic environments. Overall, the results showed that there is a need to better understand how people value biodiversity, what kind of subjective and objective indicators should be used to understand its state, and how to promote it by designing more participatory and transparent urban planning. The students found that dense town plans, lack of space and high efficiency goals of construction are complicating factors when considering nature values in city planning. However, the research also communicated that information availability increases efficiency and success rate in negotiations, and that data analysis can play a role in preventing damage to urban aquatic environments.
The results raised a lot of interest among the participants, and they were discussed after each group’s presentation. The partners are now waiting with interest to receive the students’ final theses and their more precise results for reading and comments. On behalf of the HELSUS Co-Creation Lab’s team, we want to wish good luck and energy to the students finishing up their work, and we want to thank all the partners, supervisors and facilitators for joining us in this year’s co-creation lab!
HELSUS Co-Creation Lab team