Hi, and welcome to a series of blog posts we'll be releasing before the launch of TREMOR, our social impact incubator for ideas in society, education, communities, and law. We'll be introducing some of our esteemed senior mentors, talking about how they see the role of social innovations in society, and ask them how they feel about joining TREMOR as mentors. Today we're talking with Varpu Rusila.
Varpu Rusila, MSc (Econ.), is a senior mentor for the social impact incubator TREMOR, and the creator of Her Finland. Her Finland is a Finnish platform that helps international people turn their Finnish dreams into reality. Over 12 000 students all around the world use Her Finland's online courses, and in 2022, Her Finland’s content has had a global online reach of over 8 million people who were interested in Finland.
Finnish dreams into reality – one syllable at a time
The platform was born in January 2018, when Varpu noticed that it was easy to find general advice about Finland on the internet, but much harder to find detailed information from a native point of view. Before starting her own company, Varpu had worked in various managerial and expert positions in retail and big science both internationally and in Finland.
“I believe that we all can make a difference, and there are so many ways to make an impact. It will take some time to find your voice, but the only way to find it is to start using it," Rusila explains. "For example, social media gives us a unique opportunity to connect all around the world and to use the platforms we choose for good. It's not social media, it's social mission.”
From "talkoot" to social enterprises
In Finland, social businesses and social innovations have brought prosperity in many ways. Finns have over 100 years' worth of experience with co-operatives in business life. Furthermore, the spirit "talkoot" a.k.a. communal work is embraced by individuals. Without the social innovation of "talkoot", we wouldn't have been able to build schools in villages throughout Finland so successfully in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In today's world, we have complex problems to solve. These problems don't go away under the governance of a singular organisation or top-down leadership. We need collaboration beyond anything we've seen before.
“For an individual, supporting a social entrepreneur can be as effortless as allocating a bit of time and giving access to helpful networks. Building networks is key in accelerating a system change,” says Rusila.
In general, we also need education and more awareness on the topic to help social entrepreneurs secure funding and be recognised as changemakers by society.
And finally, we all, also innovators and accelerators, need to be constantly encouraged to be more open-minded because the human mind easily falls back to the old tracks.
Mentoring is changemaking
When talking with Varpu, we had to ask about what societal challenge she would like to tackle:
“I want to help the success story of Finland as a welfare state. We must normalise diversity, improve structures, and forget unnecessary Finnish language requirements. With my Her Finland platform, I do my best to start conversations and increase understanding. For example, when it comes to Finnish culture.”
Varpu wanted to join the TREMOR programme as a mentor to inspire the people to make a change.
“It's clear that what got us here won't get us to the next level. I'm very excited to see all the ideas that the entrepreneurs in TREMOR will have. I'm also already fascinated by all the side ideas that these ideas will spark. For me, social entrepreneurship is a meaningful way to make an impact and provide for my family. If my insights can help future entrepreneurs, I'm grateful.”
TREMOR info session on November 9th
TREMOR is the University of Helsinki's social impact incubator programme. The programme is looking for potential participants and mentors, and those interested in taking part as a participant are invited to apply here by November 23rd, 2022. Those seeking to join the programme as a mentor are invited to reach out to the TREMOR Project Lead Minttu Ripatti at firstname.lastname@example.org
Those seeking more information about the programme are invited to attend the programme's info session on November 9th. The session will be held at the University of Helsinki’s Minerva Plaza at 4-6 P.M. The session will include a presentation on social entrepreneurship with Markus Vähälä of the Citizen Network, a global network of over 200 value-based organisations working to engage people and communities through local actions, and Malviina Hallamaa of the Center of Expertise for Social Enterprises YYO, followed by an introduction to the TREMOR programme, a Q&A session concerning the programme, and ample time for networking. To attend, please register here by November 7th.