The SÄRÖ/FRACTURE pre-incubator programme for society, education, communities & law, kicked off on September 30th with 14 teams being selected to participate in its first instalment. Powered by the City of Helsinki, and organised in collaboration with the Centre of Expertise for Social Enterprises and the Helsinki Think Company, the 2-month programme for early-stage impactful ideas attracted interest from a number of teams and individuals, and in the end, most of the 17 applicants were accepted. Teams are now hard at work developing their solutions before presenting them at the programme's final on November 25th.
The organisers are happy to see a positive and supportive entrepreneurial community forming among the programme's participants, and is proud to be able to showcase a different, more socially minded side of entrepreneurship.
"It's clear that everyone who applied to the programme shared both a sense of frustration with societal issues being poorly addressed, and a burning passion for creating a better world for us all," explained SÄRÖ/FRACTURE Project Lead Mari Karjalainen. "We're optimistic that this first iteration of SÄRÖ/FRACTURE will inspire many others to either take part with their ideas in the future, and maybe even embolden some to take action on their own."
As a sign of its commitment to supporting the broader community, the programme features a handful of open sessions aimed at those who could not take part in the programme but still wish to learn some valuable insights in creating socially impactful ventures. The first of these three open sessions was the Inspiring Business Stories-session on October 6th, where the speakers presented the different ways in which one can practice societally meaningful entrepreneurship.
Attendees got to hear from Anna Juusela, founder of We Encourage, a start-up helping victims of domestic abuse, Susanna Pykäläinen of Omenasieppari, a certified social enterprise which employs people with disabilities to collect apples from the yards of homeowners who are overwhelmed by their harvest and turn them into juice, and University of Helsinki professors Pia Olsson and Terhi Ainiala of Tositarina, where the pair offers companies help in developing their narratives for more effective communications.
The programme will still feature two more sessions on How to Found a Social Enterprise and Scaling Up Social Innovations on October 18th and November 15th respectively. You can find out more about the sessions and register for them here.
You’ll find a summary of all the participating teams below. For more information, you can also check the programme's 2022 participant page.
1. Justice 4.0
Access to Justice has been identified by the United Nations as a key global issue in its Sustainable Development Goals, and it is a key part of UNSDG 16, “Peace, Justice, And Strong Institutions”. As it stands, equal access to a Court of Law is limited. The Justice 4.0 team seeks to remedy this situation by creating a user-friendly digital court that is always accessible from anywhere in the world with both smart devices and strategically placed “Justice Pods”.
Much of the work done by researchers across the world has the potential for wide-ranging, if not global impact. Yet oftentimes the findings and outputs generated rarely leave the confines of journals and conferences, with their full potential remaining unexplored. Why? Put simply, researchers in academia, companies, and public institutions have, generally through no fault of their own, a lack of both communication skills and appreciation of the benefits of communicating the results of their work to the broader world. The team at ClariSci, itself made up of current and former researchers, wishes to bring clarity to the world of research by training the professionals conducting it to better communicate their work and its results to the people who need that information in an accessible way. By broadening the reach of research, the team hopes to increase the beneficial impact it can have on society.
3. Work opportunities for immigrants
Members: Laura Ruuskanen
Unemployment is a difficult situation for anyone. Being unemployed can have adverse effects on your physical, mental, and social wellbeing, in addition to putting additional stress on those closest to you. The situation is especially arduous for immigrants and refugees who find themselves unemployed in an unfamiliar environment. Yet despite their willingness to work, they often face a harder time finding employment due to factors like difficulties with the local language & work culture, hesitancy from employers, and different levels of formal education. The solution being proposed is a service which supports these jobseekers by facilitating the development of competencies and assisting them in finding & keeping a job, as well as supporting employers when onboarding their new hires. The hope is to reduce long-term unemployment and facilitate the integration of immigrants into the workforce and society at large.
4. Ahaa Learning Platform
Members: Noha M. Abdelmonem
Engaging with students can be difficult for several reasons, one of them being that students find the materials they’re using difficult and boring. This drives students away from studying and leads to worse academic performance. Ahaa wants to develop an app-based education platform where materials are made more enjoyable, relatable, and easy to understand. The aim is to first develop the product for high-school students before eventually moving on to cover study materials for other levels.
Members: Petri Wilska
Employee well-being remains an under-addressed issue in many organisations due to a lack of access to adequate means and tools to do so in an effective and measurable manner among HR professionals and employers. This can lead to employees being prematurely forced into retirement due to potentially avoidable both mental and physical health issues born from occupational conditions, significantly lowering quality of life for those affected while adding undue strain on the pension system. Ympakti wants to help the well-being ecosystem by creating a centralised platform facilitating the creation of and access to tools to measure well-being and follow-up on results.
Members: Dmitry Mizulin
A problem among large white-collar organisations is reduced physical and mental well-being born from mentally taxing, largely sedentary work. This drop in overall health can lead to burnouts and employees quitting, which in turn leads to significant resources being dedicated to hiring & training replacements. Omnisport wants to offer companies an easy solution which provides unlimited company-wide benefits at selected sports & wellness facilities, helping address the well-being issues. In addition, by combining all their sports & wellness benefits to a pre-determined set of partners through Omnisport, organisations can improve mental & social well-being by facilitating the creation of smaller communities among their employees centred around common interests, as those practicing a particular type of sport would start attending the same facility and potentially bond together.
7. Teaching Life
Members: Monika Kis
Managing life and combatting stress & anxiety is a growing problem for many, adversely affecting people’s mental health and productivity. And when a person is struggling with these issues, the effects often reverberate to those around them. Teaching Life wants to help individuals be better equipped to deal with these issues by providing easily accessible life management tools through various workshops initially offered as work-benefits at companies, but eventually to a wider audience though a host of different channels. By utilising neuroscience and positive psychology approaches, the workshops will help reduce stress and increase well-being holistically, leading to people becoming more effective in their professional and daily lives.
8. Seurasauna 2.0
For Finns, the sauna is a ubiquitous object of national pride, with one sauna for roughly every 2 Finns. Indeed, sauna culture in Finland is so important that UNESCO has recognised it as part of humanity’s cultural heritage. Yet as it stands, the full potential of the Finnish sauna remains untapped, with issues of accessibility, equity, and ecological sustainability still holding it back. Seurasauna 2.0 wants to help the sauna get ever closer to reaching its full potential by addressing sauna accessibility and equality matters affecting the disabled, the gender diverse, and groups who are poorly served by the current reality of the sauna. By offering consulting services on sauna accessibility and equality to public saunas, sauna pal (saunakaveri) services, and more, the team hopes that the sauna-going public will join them in making the sauna a more inclusive place for all.
Members: Diógenes Díaz Osorio
Despite being highly trained and educated, immigrants often face discrimination when trying to enter the professional market, with employers having misconceptions regarding these capable professionals’ skills, talent, and capacity to integrate into their companies. This leads to the perpetuation of socioeconomic inequalities and the prevalence of mental health issues among this group. Data-Games wishes to address this issue for marketing professionals of immigrant backgrounds by organising skill-based competitions where participants can prove their expertise in the field. By inviting companies to follow these competitions, Data-Games believes that it can help break the misconceptions these companies may have and help make its participants seem like more attractive talent.
10. How to build a career in Finland
International students struggle to find work in Finland. Why is this a problem? International students are at an increased risk of an extended employment search (i.e. more time in unemployment) or taking a job where they are in underemployment. At the same time, Finnish society loses out on opportunities for cultural and knowledge diversification, as well as the international graduates' economic potential. The team’s solution is a centralised information resource of the best job search information that international graduates have learned during their job searches combined with a community of current and former international students in Finland who can support each other in building careers here. By providing an easily accessible information resource and community where international students can easily find everything they need to learn how to build a career in Finland from the people who know the most about the subject, the solution reduces barriers to this information and risks of knowledge loss, allowing international students to support each other in their job search, and helping to builds a more realistic and positive narrative around this topic.
Immigrant youths experience a higher drop-out rate from education and lower admission to STEM, in addition to experiencing mental health struggles and being demotivated in their educational lives. Support in these matters from schools and others has been inadequate, with more emphasis being put on lowering aspirations and powering on through with teaching despite the students’ challenges. This perpetuates a reality of racially and ethnically based socioeconomic exclusion and apathy among those affected without properly addressing the discriminatory and demotivating learning environment they face. The solution cannot be a one size fits all approach, and rather be one based on a community for youths where, in addition to the sense of belonging peer support can bring, individuals can benefit from one-on-one mentoring, support, guidance, and inspiration. By having these interactions, youths can be exposed to global opportunities, have their sense of identity strengthened, and have an increased sense of belonging, all contributing to increased motivation and more varied professional dreams and desires. And while the problem is largely structural, the experiences that this solution provides will be constructive for those involved, empowering them to see themselves as changemakers who can make a better environment for themselves and their peers.
12. Societal Understanding of Disabilities
Members: Olivia Engström
Disability remains a matter poorly understood by society at large, and this lack of understanding by the nondisabled can lead to difficulties in the workplace for those dealing with disability. The professional world is oftentimes unaware of or unable to interpret the various needs that disabled people have, and interactions with the disabled can turn awkward – or worse. The proposal is a consulting service for workplaces where, based on research-based practices, disability awareness is first explored through an anonymous survey. Based on the survey’s results, a workshop is held to help improve awareness, followed by a follow-up survey with ideas and suggestions for improvements from the employees. The goal is improved working environments and mental well-being for the disabled with practical solutions and increased knowledge on how to address their needs among their nondisabled colleagues, as well as the propagation of this insight among their social networks.
13. Conscious Entrepreneur Community
Members: Minna Mustapää
Entrepreneurial communities help their members succeed by sharing information and peer support among each other in a mutually understood language, while also attracting new members by encouraging others to engage in similar activities. The Conscious Entrepreneur Community is a burgeoning inclusive multicultural community primarily for international female entrepreneurs, although it is open to all. The community helps foster well-being among its members while providing opportunities to grow their business through collaboration and the sharing of resources. It is currently trying to grow to have a dedicated community space for showcases and workshops while providing a platform for improved digital communication and resource sharing while aiming to develop courses and training materials on conscious business practices. By taking part in SÄRÖ/FRACTURE, the CEC is trying to facilitate this evolution to the next level.
As global populations shift towards dense urban centres, existing infrastructures struggle to cope with the pressures caused by increased density, magnifying the impact of climate change. The result is a drop in quality of life among those living in these communities as critical systems buckle and fail in the face of climate events of growing severity. SISU's solution aims to develop a platform to certify resilient carbon neutral communities, providing an incentive to less urbanised cities to rise up to the challenge. How? As these communities, which are already in a better position to meet resilience and carbon neutrality goals due to being under less pressure than their more dense & urbanised counterparts, work to become certified, they'll become hubs of low-carbon sustainable development, attracting investment and talent interested in furthering these goals. And once these communities are certified, they'll attract new residents who are looking for the higher quality of life associated with certification. This, in turn, will alleviate the pressure in struggling dense urban zones and, it is hoped, lead to a lowering of greenhouse gas emissions across the board.