Applied learning and reflective practice: A discussion and evidence from students’ work

A discussion of the alternatives to lecture-based teaching is found high on the agenda and curriculum of most higher education pedagogical programmes. The frequent charges against the traditional approach is that most lectures are overly long – students struggle to maintain attention after 15–20 minutes – lectures promote student passivity, students’ contextual relevance is absent, and learning is somewhat superficial rather than an emergence of deep learning.

As an alternative, the problem-based approach emerged some fifty years ago in the context of medical teaching. Its premise is ‘that there is little connection between sitting in lectures and improving knowledge and skills’ (David et al. 1998, 626). This approach is part of a collective of post-modern forms of education that offer learning methods that move away from the traditional perspective in which the teacher is considered the be the authoritative expert – the ‘sage on the stage’ (King, 1993).

But, despite opportunities offered by new technologies and a drive by pedagogical reformers that ‘relegates the ancient and honorable tradition of lecturing to an Index of Forbidden Pedagogies’ (Burgan 2006, 31), the lecture-based approach receives continued support, particularly for certain types of knowledge. For example, Charlton (2006) argues that conceptual knowledge is best delivered through the traditions of a lecture. If we translate the notion of conceptual knowledge as ‘theory’ – in other words, well-known key academic ideas/ concepts and recent research/ contemporary thinking – a logical argument can be made that this type of knowledge can be quickly and effectively transmitted through traditional approaches. As Charlton (2006) expounds, with conceptual knowledge there is a gap between teacher and audience, and perhaps the ‘sage’ can best impart, or transmit, this knowledge through somewhat traditional authoritative approaches. Even here alternative approaches could be successfully utilised, but it is frequently the case that time and available resources require the most efficient delivery of this ‘transmitted knowledge’; lectures serve this demand.

But, of course, the model here is rather simple – not all knowledge on a given course is the contextual theory type that might best be transmitted in the traditional way. But neither is it necessarily the case that post-modern approaches – whereby teachers facilitate the co-construction of knowledge – are the most appropriate way to attain all of the aims of the given course or programme.

A case example

The masters level summer school course, ‘Diversity Management’, at Metropolia School of Applied Science offers participants – most of whom are ‘mature students’, with considerable work and life experience – an opportunity to not only study the subject from the academic perspective, but also to actively engage in the various topics and contribute by recounting their own experiences of working in Finnish and global organizations. Indeed, opening up their experience is crucial to the success of the course because it provides diverse real and relevant context. Diverse perspectives also emerge because the cohort is made up of an international group – including students from Asia, Europe, and Africa – resident and working in Finland or visiting the country. Understanding this diversity is employed in the design and delivery of the course, with three pillars that support the content and design. These three elements are:

  • ‘Theory’; well-known key academic ideas/ concepts and recent research/ contemporary thinking
  • Giving space for the life experience of students. This experience and the real ‘struggles’ around diversity that they meet in their personal and work lives are more contextually relevant than teacher-selected case examples
  • Examining ‘Best-practice’ in Diversity Management – often a synthesis of research and ideas from practitioner groups, which frequently informs functional departments (such as HR) on how issues around diversity can addressed in the workplace.

This structure serves to organize the course so that a blend of transmitted knowledge – the lecture approach relevant to the first element – and additional approaches are employed. In this case, these additional approaches are forms of active learning; (a) giving voice to student experience permits co-created knowledge to take place, and (b) students work towards finding best practice (in the form of investigation followed by presentation), which permits the emerge of discovered knowledge.

But what of the evidence that this model does serve to enhance student learning? Can we provide any evidence that students take away any leaning from the course (beyond that garnered through ‘happy sheet’ type feedback responses)?

Evidence of learning: Students’ work

In assessing students’ work, in this case their final written assignment, we can examine evidence of learning, and whether it has been applied; that it helps them make sense of diversity in their workplace.

The students chose any of the themes of diversity that were covered in the course and wrote about them in the context of their work and workplace. Here there was a need to be reflective; the notion that bringing together their experience and course learning develops real knowledge and understanding of the way that issues around diversity are or can be addressed, and how they re-assess their previously held assumptions about diversity.

Two contextual examples are provided from students’ written work – including quotations. These represent examples of different aspects of diversity encountered during the course: valuing diversity from an HR perspective, and employment support for immigrants (affirmative action).

In this first example, the student worked in a managerial position of a global firm and makes the comment … according to the (survey) numbers the employees’ perception of diversity management is clearly poor. Indeed she remarks that; I was not so much aware of diversity and all its facets at that point… until I found out there was so much more to diversity management.

She continues; later, also with views taken from the my course colleagues I came across one person in the company who encouraged me to think differently, out of the box, emphasizing the fact that I had this advantage as a newcomer in the organization and should utilize it for our advantage. She follows this up with a list of recommendations for how the HR department could improve the perception of diversity in the workplace.

The second examines a programme that served to increase the number of ‘immigrant’ employees in local government so that it represents the demographics of the local population. She comments that, nobody (at work) understood why you select for one reason, when others might be better qualified. Continuing, the student reflects on how she realises… the issue is so much more complicated… and there were some heavy discussions between people in the class… perhaps it made me re-think. Later, discussing her return to work, the student remarks on discussions with colleagues about their programme, and seeing real benefit (at least in the short term).

Discussion and Conclusions

Here we have two examples that demonstrate that a combination of ‘theory’ knowledge and the shared experiences voiced by participants in the class has helped students make sense of diversity issues in their workplace. These are by no means the only examples. This evidence supports the case for a combined approach whereby lecturing, a traditional pedagogy, is used to impart transmittable knowledge (the academic/ theoretical elements of the course), and this is accompanied by problem-based methods. The students themselves support teaching that provides them with ‘theory’ but that is also problem-centred. The arguments in support of an approach that goes beyond lectures can be found in research around alternative pedagogies. For example, describing the problem-based approach, David et al. (1998) provide a clear comparison between the traditional learning model (e.g. lectures), and methods appropriate for adult learning. Three points emerge that provide support for the idea that overcoming student passivity and giving voice to students’ contextual relevance and experience is crucial to successful learning.

  • The adult learner is usually a self-directing learner;
  • Their desire for learning usually comes about through their life experiences or the needs from those experiences;
  • In the authors words ‘Adults are themselves a rich resource for one another’ (David et al. 1998, 627).

While the medical model of problem-based learning – based on a learning-by-doing pedagogy – is somewhat prescribed as a set of ‘well defined steps’ (David et al. 1998, 627), this need not be the case in the social sciences. Alternative, but conceptually similar approaches that can be somewhat less structured include reflective practice (e.g. Schon 1983) and experiential learning (e.g. Kolb 1984). In both of these models there is reflection – Schon expressly brings together theory and practice, and for Kolb the learner takes new knowledge and engages in reflective observation during its application.

Thus, it is in reflective practice that theory, context, and experience are drawn together, which brings about learning that is relevant, practical and provides meaning to students and helps them make sense of issues of diversity in their workplace. This comes about by providing a learning environment in the summer school that combines the traditions of lecture-based teaching, with pedagogies that allow experienced student voices to be heard.

On the topic of reflection and learning, what of the reflections of the course teacher with regard to personal learning or development? Here learning/development can be understood from two angles: personal development as an individual, and developing one’s teaching practice.

The former is somewhat easy to express. In addition to having the theory knowledge that can be transmitted, the ‘sage on the stage’ has life experiences that move beyond theory – these are used as contextual examples. But adding the diverse stories and experience of others and their impact not only improves the quality of ‘real’ examples employed on the course, it serves to make one re-think personal views (and biases); the teacher as a reflexive learner open to new ideas and perspectives about key areas of diversity.

In terms of developing one’s teaching practice, the demands that the approach described here place on the teacher are worthy of mention. In many ways a formal lecture approach permits detailed planning in which a set of defined objectives for the session, and indeed the overall course, can be rather simply set out and ‘delivered’. However, by allowing student voices be heard the rigidity of the planned approach has to be relaxed. An individual lecture, and indeed some of the key focused areas of the course are allowed to move so that weight is placed on the issue that is salient to the moment and upon which the course participants wish to focus. That issue then becomes central either for a fleeting moment or for most of an entire session, which requires flexibility – in terms of structure, this can rather flippantly be described as ‘making it up as one goes along’. But, of course, a successful course cannot be without structure, one cannot simply let things take their own course. Balancing the tension between planned structure and allowing the issues that are important to students to emerge while also projecting pedagogical professionalism is a challenge for the teacher.

Author

James Collins, Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, james.collins@metropolia.fi

Burgan, M. 2006. In defense of lecturing. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38:6, 30–34.

Charlton B.G. 2006. Lectures are an effective teaching method because they exploit human evolved ’human nature’ to improve learning – Editorial. Medical Hypotheses, 67:6, 1261-5.

David T.J, Dolmans, D.H., Patel, L. & van der Vleuten, C.P. 1998. Problem-based learning as an alternative to lecture-based continuing medical education. Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine, 91, 626–630.

King, A. 1993. From sage on the stage to guide on the side. College Teaching, 41:1, 30–35.

Kolb, D.A 1984. Experiential Learning as the Science of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Schon, D.A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. London: Temple Smith.

Pedagogical experiment: Applying the P3P model for learning entrepreneurial mindset

Pedagogical experiments

Laurea’s P3P learning environment offers an entrepreneur with strong business experience and an open-minded attitude towards developing business an opportunity of sharing expertise and co-creating with the students innovations and solutions to a company’s actual business problems and development needs. The P3P model has been developed further from Laurea’s Peer to Peer (P2P) learning environment by students, entrepreneurs and lecturer-coaches during several development projects, and it has proved to motivate all actors to develop their competences. (Kuhmonen & Pöyry-Lassila 2015) In SMEs, there is a demand for developing especially sales and marketing skills and competences (Teknologiateollisuus 2014). The P3P cases have included the development of marketing and sales of SMEs in digital and investment service businesses.

The 21st century workplaces call for an entrepreneurial attitude and spirit (Llopis 2013). In the P3P model, entrepreneurs, students, and lecturers all act, develop and learn together. The educational target of P3P is to facilitate the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. The students are mentored by an experienced entrepreneur and are integrated into the everyday business of the company. They participate in client meetings, negotiations, trade fairs, customer relationship management trainings, and sales trainings, which facilitates the building and maintaining of comprehensive and valuable contacts and networks. (Kuhmonen & Pöyry-Lassila 2015) At the same time, the students implement the development project in close interaction with the entrepreneur, guided by the lecturer-coaches, whose role is to act as facilitators, experts, preparers, implementors, evaluators, and networkers (Raij 2014, 113). By participating in the P3P projects, the lecturer-coaches are encouraged to redefine their roles as teachers and the pedagogical skills towards supporting the sharing of expertise and the co-creation of knowledge in a multi-actor collaboration.

The active interaction between the various actors during the projects facilitates and supports learning and the sharing of expertise. In the students’ case the expertise might mean fresh business knowledge about marketing or sales. As for the entrepreneur, students create value to the company by sharing their ideas and innovative approaches to different aspects of the businesses. When thinking “out of the box” – or “no box” students give an entrepreneur an opportunity to smarten the ideas and boost the decision making. Also the lecturer-coaches both share their expertise and develop it further by participating in the innovative knowledge-creation processes.

The P3P model encourages an entrepreneur to test potential employees in a cost-efficient way without hiring a person. In P3P projects students act in ‘kind of worker’ roles while an entrepreneur acts in mentor’s and supervisor’s roles. Students are selected to the project via ‘job interview’, thus they have a chance to train their sales skills at the very beginning of the project by creating an elevator pitch including the description of the competencies or skills they use to perform their work. (Kuhmonen & Uusitalo 2014, 17.)

The goal of the cooperation is a win more – win more situation, which means either that the students get a traineeship or a permanent job at the company or that they start a company of their own and continue the cooperation as subcontractors. In any case, the students have learnt entrepreneurial attitudes and skills and the entrepreneur has received new ideas and extra resources for the business development. A positive effect is also the development of marketing and sales competences of both parties, and the professional development of the lecturer-coaches.

The innovative and modern P3P learning environment is borderless and provides students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to locate anywhere, for example, in the company’s or Laurea’s premises or they can choose to work in social media, at the entrepreneur client’s premises, or in the networks of the company. Basically, they can build a learning environment suitable for a company’s needs and choose the needed digital tools. (Kuhmonen & Pöyry-Lassila 2015.)

The cooperation in the P3P model is based on mutual trust, commitment, support, and taking responsibility. The fact that the responsibility and space for creativity is given to the students by the entrepreneur and the feeling that they are trusted, both increases the students’ belief in their own capabilities and improves their self-confidence, which is important for their future careers and taking responsibility for the development of their own life.

The P3P model has been introduced by Laurea to the Police University College, and the recognised synergies have encouraged further cooperation. European higher education reforms and modernisation in the context of the Bologna Process have emphasized the importance of lifelong learning (The European Higher Education Area in 2012). Recently, the curriculum reform of the Police University College has been realised and new programmes for police education have been launched. To enable success of the reform and change implementation, boundary-crossing cooperation with educational and research organisations, working life and society is needed. Also the ongoing societal change challenges pedagogy: According to Esko Kilpi (2015), we have moved to the world of “on demand” learning, and we need to learn to “signalise” our competencies. As a result, the role of the universities of applied sciences is changing from the substance expert towards ‘the bank of intellectual capital’ which challenges us to start to estimate the market value of the intellectual capital that we have.

Pedagogical models

At Laurea we apply the Learning by Developing (LbD) Action Model which is based on the pragmatic learning theory and integrates competence producing learning and an innovative R&D project. The defining characteristics of the LbD are authenticity, partnership, trust, creativity and an investigative approach. (Raij 2014, 15, 103.) With regard to learning theories and pedagogical models, we have conceptualized the P3P learning environment and pedagogical model through the theory of trialogical learning. Trialogical learning can be described as expansive learning (e.g.Engeström, 2009) or innovative learning that requires constructing a shared space (common ground, context, or ba). In this shared space, knowledge is collaboratively created with the help of objects, whether conceptual or concrete, as well as practices that are collaboratively and systematically developed through collective intellectual action in which the individual members of the community participate actively. This action is mediated by nature, which means that it takes place through the shared objects, using them as mediators. (Paavola et al., 2004; Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). Further, the group’s epistemic agency emerges through participation in the shared activities, i.e. intentionally pursuing its epistemic goals (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). In practice this can mean, for example, solving problems or creating a new product together.

To succeed trialogical learning requires four elements: (1) individuals with their ideas and personal knowledge and expertise, (2) a community consisting of individuals interested in participating in deliberate knowledge advancement, (3) a shared space for collaboration, and (4) shared objects (ideas, practices, and knowledge artifacts) that are developed collaboratively, and that mediate the knowledge-creation process of the community (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). These four elements are present in the P3P learning environment and pedagogy and enable the trialogical learning process and learning the proactive entrepreneurial mindset.

At the Police University College, the pedagogical models framing education and research, development and innovation consist of problem-based learning, and the triangle of Engeström and Pawson & Tilley’s realistic evaluations (see e.g. Kujanpää, O. 2008 & Pawson, R. & Tilley, J., 1997). Several similarities can be found in both organisations’ pedagogical models. Independent of the pedagogical model utilised, modern digitalized work life requires us to build collaboration instead of maintaining old structures dominated by silos, borders and gaps. The mere pedagogical models themselves are not of importance but they are valuable in the sense that they enable individual learners’ growth, open opportunities connect with other learners, and enable the learners to widen their identities.

Conclusions

Laurea’s Learning by Developing (LbD) Action Model and Trialogical learning in the P3P environment improve both students, entrepreneurs, and lecturer-coaches competences. User-driven development of the peer-to-peer (P2P) environment has modified the project environment into a P3P entrepreneurial environment that nourishes entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and thus facilitates the employment of students, but also challenges the lecturer-coaches by requiring them to act in a variety of different roles and to become more entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is seen as a mindset and as a process. The P3P model invites also the lecturer-coaches to develop their entrepreneurial skills and to expand their own roles towards acting more like entrepreneurs. Having personal experience with entrepreneurship could even be recommended for the teachers in terms of advanced professional development. The P3P learning environment provides fruitful conditions for the formulation of innovative knowledge communities, the development of shared expertise, and co-creation of innovations. The P3P model responds to the challenge of the changing of the role of the universities of applied sciences in Finland as facilitators of learning and networkers that ensure individual career paths for students.

Authors

Annemari Kuhmonen, lehtori, FM, Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, annemari.kuhmonen@laurea.fi

Olavi Kujanpää, ylikomisario, HTL, Poliisiammattikorkeakoulu, olavi.kujanpaa@poliisi.fi

Päivi Pöyry-Lassila, yliopettaja, TkL, KM, Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, paivi.poyry-lassila@laurea.fi

Engeström, Y. 2009. Expansive learning: toward an activity-theoretical reconceptualization. In: K. Illeris (ed.) Contemporary Theories of Learning. London: Routledge, pp. 53–73.

Kilpi, E. 2015. Executive Advisor. Interviewed via telephone by Annemari Kuhmonen. 24.4.2015.

Korkalainen, M-M. Oinonen & J. Oyer (toim.) Kerro kaverille kans. Kokemuksia ja näkemyksiä Laurean P2P-opiskelusta. Vantaa: Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, 16–17.

Kuhmonen, A. & Pöyry-Lassila, P. Forthcoming 2015. P2P-oppimisympäristön käyttäjälähtöinen kehittäminen: Case Talosivu.com kehittyy P3P:ksi. Monitoimisuus haastaa – AMK- ja ammatillisen koulutuksen tutkimuspäivät 2014. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän ammattikorkeakoulu.

Kuhmonen, A. & Uusitalo, T. 2014. P2P kehittyy – seinät pois! Teoksessa A. Lääveri, K.

Kujanpää, O. 2007. Poliisin prosessityön kehittäminen. Teoksessa: Poliisin johtamista kehittämässä. toim. Risto Honkonen ja Nora Senvall. Poliisiammattikorkeakoulun oppikirjat 15/2007. Helsinki: Edita.

Kujanpää, O. 2008. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) -bridging work challenges and education. Teoksessa: Policing meets challenges-preventing radicalization and recruitment. toim. Sirpa Virta. Tampere: University Press.

Llopis, G. 2013. Working with an Entrepreneurial Attitude is a Powerful Addiction. 23.4.2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/01/15/working-with-an-entrepreneurial-attitude-is-a-powerful-addiction/

Manninen, O. & Reikko, J. 2014. P3P-oppimisympäristö ja sen hyödyntäminen pk-yritysten markkinointi- ja myyntiosaamisen kehittämisessä. Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, Opinnäytetyö.

Paavola, S. & Hakkarainen, K. 2005. The Knowledge-Creation Metaphor – An Emergent Epistemological Approach to Learning. Science & Education, Vol. 14 (2005), pp. 535–557.

Paavola, S., Lipponen, L. & Hakkarainen, K. 2004. Models of Innovative Knowledge Communities and Three Metaphors of Learning. Review of Educational Research, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 557–576.

Pawson, R. & Tilley, J. 1997. Realistic Evaluation. London: Sage.

Raij, K. 2014. Learning by Developing in Higher Education. Teoksessa: K. Raij (toim.): Learning by Developing Action Model, Vantaa: Laurea Julkaisut 36, 10–26.

Raij, K. 2014. Entrepreneurship Education in the LbD Action Model Review. Teoksessa: K. Raij (toim.): Learning by Developing Action Model, Vantaa: Laurea Julkaisut 36, 103–117.

Teknologiateollisuus. 2014. Miten yritys menestyisi Suomessa? Viitattu 23.4.2015. http://teknologiateollisuus.fi/sites/default/files/file_attachments/yrittajyysohjelma_julk_1.pdf

The European Higher Education Area in 2012. Bologna Process. Implementation Report. Referred to 24.4.2015. http://www.ehea.info/Uploads/(1)/Bologna%20Process%20Implementation%20Report.pdf

Uudistava Suomi: tutkimus- ja innovaatiopolitiikan suunta 2015–2020. Tutkimus- ja innovaationeuvoston 5.11.2014 hyväksymä asiakirja. Viitattu 23.4.2015. http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/Tiede/tutkimus-_ja_innovaationeuvosto/liitteet/TIN2014.pdf

Nordic transdisciplinar adventure education for sustainable development

Introduction

The Society’s commitment is Finland’s national equivalent of the decisions made in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio in 2012. The commitment is divided into eight objectives. One of them is equal prospects for well-being. In that it is mentioned that sustainable development will be integrated in education of all fields and lifelong learning (Ministry of the Environment 2014).

Graduates from universities are in a central role for sustainable development because they are future leaders for all labor markets (Holm 2014). During the last decade, 2005–2014, the UN has focused on enhancing education for sustainable development at all levels of education (UN DESD 2011). In higher education the goal is that graduates would be able to take the social, environmental and economic costs and benefits into consideration when making decisions (Sibbel 2009).

At Novia University of Applied Sciences the overall sustainability goal was to implement sustainable development in the curricula of all degree programmes during 2010–2014 (Holm 2014). In the Bachelor of Humanities program the traditional discipline-centered teaching approach is replaced by project-based learning where theory and practice blend in logical entities and the student takes his/her own responsibility for learning and ardently seeking knowledge that is crucial in accomplishing the goals within a particular study program. Working in study groups teaches students how to work in groups and collaborate with others (Svartsjö 2014). The lecturers of the degree programme have identified participation, tolerance, equality and environmental responsibility as keywords for relevant sustainability aspects for the education (Holm 2014).

For taking all sustainability aspects into account systematic and holistic thinking is needed. Competencies that are aimed at are self-learning, problem -solving and creative as well as critical thinking. It requires cooperation among disciplines and transdisciplinary education (Rieckmann 2012; Sibbel 2009; Svanström et al. 2008; van Dam-Mieras et al. 2008). Trandsdisciplinar education differs from multi- and interdisciplinary education by that the cooperation goes beyond the disciplines and involves also users, problem owners and stakeholders (Lozano 2006). According to Lozano (2011) creativity is recognized as a key skill for sustainability. It is also crucial that individuals who are working for sustainable development share their knowledge and engage in collaboration with different sectors of society (Ferrer-Balas et al. 2010; Lozano 2011).

Multi, inter and transdisciplinar education is challenging in higher education because curricula in is based on disciplines. It is up to the faculty to explore new methods. This article includes a case where it was done in an intensive course. The transciplinar Nordic adventure course was planned and realized in cooperation among the degree programmes for bachelor of Humanities at Humak University of Applied Sciences and Novia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, the Department of Arts, Communication and Education at Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, the degree programme for Social Education at University College Lillebaelt in Denmark, and the degree programme in Sport and Health Sciences, Leisure Studies and Social Education at University of Iceland. The group was an interdisciplinary group from humanities with participants from four Nordic countries.

Figure 1. Nordic recycling tree. Task done by students at the course.

Action research was chosen as methodology, which has been identified as suitable for embedding education for sustainable development in curricula (Cebrián et al. 2012). Action research is based on the four phases diagnosing, planning action, taking action and evaluating (Coghlan and Brannick 2007), a division that we follow in next session.

Realizing the course

The objective for this network and the course was to increase awareness of sustainable development with the help of adventure education.

General objective were to exchange knowledge, skills and ideas and give opportunities for students and lecturers to network with other Nordic countries and learn from each other. The first goal for this network and the course was to develop instruction on adventure education in partner institutions. The second goal was to increase the mobility and awareness within students and lecturers of the network institutions. The third goal was to increase knowledge exchange within the partner institutions and other co-organizations.

Diagnosing

The first intensive course was held in Turku in Finland in 2011, hosted by Novia University of Applied Sciences. Luleå University of Technology hosted an intensive course in Luleå in Sweden in 2012. Year 2013 the network concentrated on mobility and student exchange hosted by University College of Lillebaelt in Denmark. And according to the original plan, it was time for an intensive program again in 2014, this time hosted by Humak University of Applied Sciences in Finland.

Planning the course

Since the partner universities of this project have different focus areas in experiential and adventure education, one goal is that both students and teachers will learn from each other. Competence and quality development for this project take place when teachers from the different universities meet and plan intensive courses and take part in teacher exchange. Self-evaluation in developing competence and quality are emphasized. Both the students and teachers are asked to give both informal and formal feedback by group discussion and by filling an evaluation form in the end of the intensive week, which consist of qualitative questions.

The course was 3 ECTS. Studying was based on adventure education, environmental education, and experimental learning methods (Priest & Gass 1997; Rohnke & Butler 1995).

Learning objectives:

  • work effectively in multicultural groups
  • experience adventure and outdoor education
  • experience environmental education
  • understand the educational goals behind the adventure activities
  • understand the purpose of reflection
  • understand how to use activities to promote sustainable development

Course delivery

The intensive course was organized at Humak University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Tornio campus in May 19th–23rd, 2014. The Tornio campus is located just on the border between Finland and Sweden, next to Haparanda. The nature in that part of Finland is ideal to use for this course, because different adventure education tasks were possible to actualize in that area.

Specific teaching material was prepared for the course. The focus was on different skills and methods that you can use for working outdoors and for creating adventures. The transfer effect of different skills was also a topic of the material.

The students were given a pre course task. They were asked to search information in various references and answer questions about: what is experimental learning, what is adventure education, what is environmental education and what does sustainable development mean?

Figure 2. Icelandic folktale. Task done by students at the course.

The students were divided into multinational teams and the learning environment was partly nature and wilderness. The program was also a lot about learning from each other. The student shared their knowledge about different aspects of sustainable development in their home countries, during the activities outdoors and indoors.

Participation in adventure activities was voluntary and was adjusted to students´ comfort level. Different team building methods were used by the students. Social media was a tool that one could see is familiar for this z generation youngsters to use for communication. Here is an example of a Youtube video that some students made during the course which shows how students are familiar with using pictures and video.

Group dynamic exercises that were used were those that are common in youth work and in teambuilding. One example that was applied was Mikka Aalto: Ryppäästä Ryhmäksi that can be translated to from a bundle to a group. Interesting was to see that a lot of the methods where the same in the different Nordic countries.

Evaluation

Evaluation of the learning outcomes was done during the intensive week. The evaluation was divided into assessment of student learning and student feedback.

The assessment of the students work was done by evaluating students’ small group tasks, their performance and ability to link experiences to bigger concepts.

One of the tasks for the student groups were to collected rubbish in the city to make environment art (see Figure 1, 2, 3 and 4). The art work was left at the Campus so that community members could experience them during the weekend at a flea market, which was organized the weekend after. The idea aim was to visualize the learning and share it with the community.

Figure 3. Recycling man. Task done by students at the course.

During the whole week the students worked with reflections, discussions and through learning journals. This was an important part of the whole sharing and learning goal of the course. The project itself was evaluated in the end of the intensive week both by students and lectures.

Conclusions

By conducting this case we found that sharing skills and ideas gives opportunities for students and lectures to learn from each other and from the experiences that takes place during a course like this. When the group is multicultural and -disciplinary it gives a dimension of understanding sustainability in a broader way.

The objective was that through these personal experiences students will gain methods for their toolboxes which they can utilize in their future.

Figure 4. Time glass of life. Task done by students at the course.

Authors

Mona Bischoff, Master of Political Sciences, Head of Degree Programme, Novia University of Applied Sciences, mona.bischoff@novia.fi

Tove Holm, Training Manager, Ph.D., SYKLI Environmental School of Finland, tove.holm@sykli.fi

Cebrián, G., Grace, M. & Humphris, D. 2012. Developing people and transforming the curriculum: action research as a method to foster professional and curriculum development in education for sustainable development in higher education, in: Leal Filho, W. (Ed.), Sustainable Development at Universities: New Horizons. Peter Lang Scientific Publishers, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 273–284.

Coghlan, D. & Brannick, T. 2007. Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization (2nd edn), Sage, London

Ferrer-Balas, D., Lozano, R., Huisingh, D., Buckland, H., Ysern, P. & Zialhy, G. 2010. Going beyond the rhetoric: system wide changes in universities for sustainable societies. Journal of Cleaner Production 18, 607–610.

Lozano, R. 2006. Incorporating and institualization of SD into universities: breaking through barriers to change. Journal of Cleaner Production 14 (9–11), 787–796.

Lozano, R. 2011. Creativity and organizational learning as means to foster sustainability. Sustainable development.

Holm, T. 2014. Enabling change in universities: enhancing education for sustainable development with tools for quality assurance. University of Turku.

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Baltic University Programme – A network joining students, teachers and researchers in the Baltic Sea Region

Providing a solid platform for cooperation

It is a well-known fact that networking and internationalisation improve the opportunities and provide a critical mass for partnerships in projects, and through international cooperation institutions can also widen their educational offer and enhance the development of new areas such as sustainable development. Higher education networks can also provide their partners with opportunities for activities such as common seminars and courses, competence development and institutional change. In addition, networks function as platforms for individual contacts at all levels, students as well as researchers and teachers. One example in our region is the Baltic University Programme (BUP, www.balticuniv.uu.sewww.bup.fi), a network which in addition to common projects, also supports the introduction of sustainability in education, research, and management, and where researchers, teachers, and students cooperate at the macro-regional level. The Baltic Sea region, internationalisation, research and development of education for sustainable development have been the guiding principles of the BUP network. The BUP network has more than 200 member institutions of higher education, of which more than 20 are situated in Finland. Some years ago the Finnish Baltic-21 network (universities of applied science) joined the BUP, bringing in an important number of institutions and expertise. The BUP also cooperates in projects with cities and other stakeholders in the Baltic Sea Region.

The long-term goals are set at the BUP Rectors’ Conferences, and the implementation of these goals is the responsibility of the international board and the secretariat situated at Uppsala University, Sweden, together with the national centres. The BUP is currently a Flagship project under the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region to support enhanced university cooperation in the region. The BUP is an open network, and participation is free, but voluntary contributions are welcome.

The students´ perspective

Having an international network as BUP is extremely beneficial from student’s point of view, taking advantage of the current advancement in the communication field makes exchanging information and latest researches effortless. Yearly over 8000 students are being engaged in the courses that the network has to offer in the field of environment and sustainability for undergraduate and master’s levels. Beside the traditional courses BUP offers different kinds of events for students in favour of their mobility and internationalisation.

Summer courses are organized across the region involving students coming from all around the network’s partner universities to learn more about topics which are relevant to the Baltic Sea region. Conferences are also organised for students, and a special training for PhD students is offered since 2013. In a participant’s own words “The conference for PhD students was perfectly organized… Individual consultations with the experts enabled us to learn the opinion of people not directly related to the subject of our thesis. This made it possible to look at the work from a different perspective and gave an opportunity to enrich and improve it. Friendly atmosphere during the meeting and additional attractions made this one of the most interesting conferences in which I have participated”. And recently BUP introduced the PhD prize, the first three prizes were given at the BUP Rectors’ Conference in October 2014.

SAIL (Sustainability Applied in International Learning) is one of the most unique courses BUP organises every summer. Where students and teachers go on-board of the Polish cruise STS Fryderyk Chopin for 14 days passing by different ports across the Baltic Sea to learn more about sustainability and develop skills which they can’t learn in any class room. During the sailing period lectures & group work takes place, presentation for on-board discussions are prepared by students. At the same time the students work as crew on board with shifts both day and night. This is why the course is also known to be physically challenging: it tests individual limits, contests prejudices, strengthens personalities, and improves personal abilities.

BUP students also take part in the Annual forum of EU strategy for Baltic Sea region. During the previous forums students had a meeting with the European Commissioner for Regional Policy and participated in a plenary panel discussion where they could express their opinions regarding the region with all the politicians participating in the forum. An invitation has already been sent form the Commission to BUP students to participate in the next Annual forum.

Having the youth participating in different kinds of events have a huge impact over their level of academic knowledge and also add a great international experience which is essential to handle the future of our common Baltic Sea region.

Acting together in the Baltic Sea region

The common efforts of the BUP network started in 1991, and now we can summarize that during more than 20 years different activities and projects have covered the whole Baltic Sea region on topics such as sustainability, water management, the Baltic Sea environment, the cultures and societies in the region, urban development, environmental management systems, and sustainable agriculture. Two of the most recent projects are in the areas of sustainable agriculture and maritime planning. In these projects the BUP has acted as a platform for cooperation between higher education and authorities and companies in the countries of the Baltic Sea region.

In fact, the “BUP-region” involves all countries which are part of the water scape, or drainage area, of the Baltic Sea. This means that also countries, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia and Czech Republic are included, although they are not situated along the coastline of the Baltic Sea itself, but water runs from these countries to the Baltic Sea. We estimate that in altogether 14 countries, more than 1500 researchers and about 120 000 students have until now participated in the common projects, courses, seminars, and conferences.

The Baltic Sea regional approach and the teaching and learning methods and technologies that were introduced have been identified as strong, unifying components. Sustainability being a new and challenging topic in higher education also has brought up the need for competence development among university teachers in the region. Understanding sustainable development usually demands both a multi-disciplinary and an international approach in projects as well as in education. Consequently, the use of learning methods should support both learning for and learning about sustainability. This was one of the reasons behind widening the offer of competence development for teachers in higher education, and so from 2013 BUP also teachers at higher education institutions have an opportunity to learn from and with each other in the course “SAIL for teachers”, on board the sail training ship.

During the last years one could observe that new partnerships and thematic groups are being formed within the network, according to expertise and institutional needs. One such current area of interest is energy. This is one more advantage offered to the partners of a large and open network like the BUP, which can help members to quickly and effectively find partners to new projects.

Authors

Paula Lindroos, Director, Baltic University Programme, Åbo Akademi University, paula.lindroos@abo.fi

Ahmed Mansour, Student, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Member of the International Board of the Baltic University Programme

Nordic higher education institutions joined forces to support sustainable development

History of Nordic collaboration supporting sustainability

The Nordic countries have collaborated officially since 1952, when the Nordic Council was established. It was followed by the establishment of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 1971. Right after the establishment, Sweden had the honor to host the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment was adopted at the close of the conference (United Nations 1972). Following the declaration, the Nordic countries developed their environmental policies, the Brundtland Commission launched the concept of sustainable development in 1987 (WECD 1987), and as one of the milestones of the Nordic environmental collaboration, the Nordic eco-label, the Swan, was born in 1989. Furthermore, the Nordic Council of ministers started to publish a Nordic strategy for sustainable development in 2001, the latest being the strategy published in 2013, A Good life in a Sustainable Nordic Region (Nordic Council of Ministers 2013).

The academic collaboration has a long history in the Nordic countries, but in 1976 a network was established to strengthen especially the collaboration between university administrations. NUAS, Det Nordiska universitetsadministratörsamarbetet, includes several working groups for different fields of university administration, such as the archives, communications and facilities. The collaboration within higher education was further strengthened by the establishment of the Nordic Science Policy Council in 1983, and the establishment of research training collaboration in 1990. Furthermore, in 2006, the Nordic technological top universities organized, and Nordic Five Tech, N5T, was established to form a strategic platform for research and education in the fields of technology and industry.

However, The Nordic higher education institutions (HEIs) did not have administrational collaboration in the field of sustainable development until 2012, despite of the long history of joint efforts in other fields, and the strategic support from the Nordic Council of Ministers. Instead, the institutions developed their sustainability work individually and adopted international connections, such as the International Sustainable Campus Network, ISCN, to find support for their work. Additionally, active national networks, such as the Finnish SD-forum for universities, prevailed in the Nordic countries.

Establishing a network for sustainability experts in the Nordic HEIs

In 2011 Finland had the chair for the Nordic Council of Ministers. As an educational contribution for the year, Aalto University organized a Nordic Climate Festival @Aalto for students (Haanpää 2011). The joint Nordic higher education -event concerning climate change was the starting point to the Nordic Sustainable Campus Network, NSCN, established in Denmark, January 2012 by Aalto University and the Universities of Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Iceland and Oslo.

The new network targeted at gathering together sustainability experts working in the administrations of Nordic higher education institutions, including also universities of applied sciences. The aim was to create platforms to share experiences and find colleagues in the framework of both, greening the campus, and education for sustainable development, ESD.

The establishment of NSCN was financially supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers during 2012-2013. Aalto University provided the home base for green campus -activities and Åbo Akademi took the responsibility for ESD-activities for the funding period. The financial resources enabled the creation of an own website with a blog, a mailing list, and a functioning organization consisting of a coordinator and a core group of representatives from all 5 Nordic countries. The first NSCN seminar was organized at Aalto’s Otaniemi campus in Espoo, Finland 2013, gathering over 70 Nordic participants to share experiences, case examples and to meet each other. NSCN was additionally introduced to the international ‘sustainability in higher education’ -community through a presentation in the ISCN Conference 2014 at the University of Singapore.

Recent activities of NSCN – The Rio+20 project

In 2013 the core group of NSCN decided to apply for funding for a joint Nordic project concerning the implementation of UN Rio+20 targets in higher education institutions (United Nations 2012a). Besides the signed parties of NSCN, also KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lappeenranta University of Technology joined the project, and the funding was granted by the Nordic Council of Ministers for 2014-2015. The project is coordinated by Aalto University.

The aim of the Rio+20 project is to follow up The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative for Rio+20 (United Nations 2012b), a declaration created in a side event of Rio+20 Conference, the World Summit on Sustainable Development – Universities, WSSD-U. The project targets to find out how the Nordic HEIs have integrated sustainable development into their activities, especially those 12 institutions that have signed the initiative. The more detailed targets of the project are to inventory the steering mechanisms directing sustainable development and the level of integration of sustainable development. Additionally the target is to inventory the enablers and obstacles affecting the implementation of sustainable actions, and to find out ways to overcome the obstacles.

The targets relate closely to the outcomes of Rio+20 Conference relating to higher education. In the Rio+20 Outcome document, The Future We Want, the effect of transparent and effective governance on the implementation of sustainable development principles in organizations is strongly emphasized (UN 2012a). Good management practices require adequate information on the implementation of sustainable development, and furthermore, change in attitudes and engagement of the management and decision makers to the goals of sustainable development. Therefore, by focusing on benchmarking and reforming the steering measures in all Nordic countries to more effectively support sustainability goals, Nordic HEIs have a full potential to work as examples of sustainable communities reflecting transparent and sustainable management practices.

In order to reach the goals of the project, a wide survey on steering mechanisms and sustainability was conducted in November 2014 in the Nordic HEIs. The survey reached 152 respondents in all Nordic countries. The results of the survey will serve all Nordic HEIs, but especially the institutions that responded the survey.

Joining forces with university administrations

NSCN has collaborated actively with NUAS from the very beginning, as it is the most central network for university administrations in the Nordic countries, though lacking an environmental/sustainability perspective until 2013. NSCN encouraged NUAS to include sustainability into their organization, and as a result, the working group ‘Buildings and Facilities’ was renamed ‘Facilities and Environment’ in 2013. NSCN collaborated with the working group in organizing their annual conferences at University of Oslo 2013 and at Helsinki and Aalto Universities 2014.

After two years of successful collaboration with NUAS Facilities and Environment and active discussions with NUAS board, NSCN was decided to form a new NUAS working group, NUAS Sustainability, from the beginning of 2015. Being a part of a comprehensive university network enables sustainability experts in the Nordic HEIs to reach the other fields in university administration easily, and hence, enables integrating sustainability perspective gradually into university activities as a whole.

Conclusions and next steps

Apart from proceeding well with the Rio+20 project targets, NSCN has created well-functioning platforms for sharing experiences and connections. Additionally, NSCN has strengthened sustainability perspective in NUAS and clarified the status of sustainable development in the Nordic HEIs in international contexts.

The active collaboration with the Nordic Council of Ministers has taken Nordic HEIs to an even wider international arena; the Rio+20 project was invited to be presented in the International Symposium on Northern Development in Quebec, Canada in February 2015 (Plan Nord 2014). The discussions are also going on concerning future projects. The main theme discussed with the Nordic Council of Ministers is Green Growth, which is a strategic framework launched by the Nordic prime ministers (Nordic Council of Ministers 2011). At Finnish level one of our targets is to support the society’s commitment to sustainable development 2050 -process (Ministry of the Environment 2013). It is evident, that we need to continue strengthening ESD and green campus activities in all Nordic HEIs and thus, also support the Rio+20 process and the UN Post-2015 agenda (United Nations 2012c). As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Ban 2007) put it: “We hold the future in our hands. Together, we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have to ask why we failed to do the right thing, and let them suffer the consequences.”

More about the network: www.nordicsustainablecampusnetwork.wordpress.com

Authors

Meeri Karvinen, NSCN coordinator, Rio+20 project Manager, Aalto University, Finland, meeri.karvinen@aalto.fi

Meri Löyttyniemi, Chair of NUAS sustainability, Senior Advisor for Sustainability, Aalto University, Finland, meri.loyttyniemi@aalto.fi

Ban, K. 2007. Secretary-General’s address to a High-Level Event on Climate Change: The future in our hands, New York, 24 September 2007.

Haanpää, S. (ed.). 2011. Shortcuts to Sustainable Global Communities. Experiences from Nordic Climate Festival @Aalto. http://lib.tkk.fi/CROSSOVER/2011/isbn9789526044156.pdf

Ministry of the Environment. 2013. The Finland we want by 2050─ Society’s commitment to sustainable development (in English). Online: http://ym.fi/download/noname/%7BFE80DF3A-FEA3-4193-9FC2-F37B84D65CCE%7D/96164

Nordic Council of Ministers. 2011. The Nordic Region – leading in green growth: Report by the Nordic prime ministers’ Working Group for Green Growth. http://norden.org/en/theme/green-growth/publications/

Nordic Council of Ministers. 2013. A Good life in a Sustainable Nordic Region – a Nordic strategy for Sustainable development. www.norden.org/en/publications/recent-publications

Plan Nord. 2014. The International Symposium on Northern Development 2015. http://plannord.gouv.qc.ca/en/symposium-en/

United Nations. 1972. Environment Programme: Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration). http://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ha/dunche/dunche_e.pdf

United Nations. 2012a. The Future We Want, sections 233-235. Outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro 2012. Online: http://un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/288&referer=/english/&Lang=E

United Nations. 2012b. The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative for Rio+20. Online: http://uncsd2012.org/index.php?page=view&nr=341&type=12&menu=35

United Nations. 2012c. Report of the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Realizing the Future We Want for All. http://un.org/en/development/desa/policy/untaskteam_undf/report.shtml

WCED, World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our Common Future. Report of the WCED (Brundtland report). Oxford University Press, Oxford.

How sharing promotes sustainability

Capitalism in crisis paving the way for sharing and collaboration

Capitalism has been largely criticized for recent financial, social and environmental crises. (Porter & Kramer 2011, Heinrichs 2013, etc.). Porter and Kramer (2011) argue that despite is shortcomings, capitalism is an unparalleled vehicle for meeting human needs, improving efficiency, creating jobs, and building wealth. During the global financial and economic crisis of the past five years, alternative perspectives on capitalism and consumerism have been voiced. Between the poles of “repairing” and improving regulation of the existing “system” and radical alternatives to a capitalist market society, a third perspective has gained attention. The concept and practice of a “sharing economy” and “collaborative consumption” suggest making use of market intelligence to foster a more collaborative and sustainable society. Heinrichs (2013) strongly believes that the sharing economy is a global phenomenon with remarkable dynamics, not just hype.

At the same time, alternative approaches rise. Jeremy Rifkin (2014) argues that during the past 10 years, the growth of the NGO sector in the US has doubled economic growth and NGOs are currently employing over 10% of the work force in US, UK and Canada. Instead of for-profit value creation, a more collaborative mindset is emerging.

The past three decades have witnessed an erosion of the categorical divide between profit-based and non-profit enterprise, as various types of businesses have emerged that embody characteristics of both. Grassl (2011) among others argues that there is a wide operating space for hybrid organizations between the current non-profit and the for-profit dichotomy as also suggested by the notions of shared value (Porter & Kramer), Base of the pyramid businesses (Prahalad), the B-Corps movement; and in fact many examples of the collaborative or sharing economy.

What is the sharing economy?

The collaborative economy builds on distributed networks of connected individuals and communities. The rise of new forms of consumption is not constrained to individual actions of buying goods to satisfy needs, but includes collaborative consumption, focusing on: products as services; redistribution markets; and collaborative life-styles (Botsman; Rogers, 2010). Solutions for the shared use of goods exist in the private (C2C/P2P), public (public sector-to-consumer) and the commercial (B2C) spheres. The current growth of the collaborative economy is due to the emergence of new urban lifestyles, and more importantly, the development of digital platforms that enable new forms of collaboration, as well as the development of professional skills and services that allow the replication of individual collaborative solutions.

The internet makes it cheaper and easier than ever to aggregate supply and demand. The advancement and dissemination of ICTs made possible new forms of sharing, and the ascension of platforms for collective practices that allow interaction, free access to information, knowledge exchange, creation and collaboration. Friedman (2005) affirms that competition and collaboration at global scale, among individuals and companies, are now cheaper, easier, less conflictive, more productive, and reaching an ever increasing number of people. According to Friedman (2005), in the 2000’s a global playing field was created and, articulated through the web, made different forms of collaboration viable, meaning the sharing of knowledge and work at global scale.

Owyang (2014) has split the collaborative economy into six distinct areas or spheres in his visual work in the following picture. Collaborative consumption currently includes prominently such areas as transportation, food, services, goods, money and space. He identifies the key forces shaping the development to be either societal, such as the desire to connect or the sustainability mindset, economic such as the financial climate or technology enablers such as the internet and mobile technologies. Botsman (2014) on the other hand sees the collaborative economy to be thriving based on five key problems of redundancy, broken trust, limited access, waste and complexity.

Figure 1. Dimensions and elements of the sharing economy. (Owyang)

The sharing economy is characterized by an explosion of practices such as carsharing, ridesharing, cooperatives, community farms, shared housing, shared workspaces, and a multitude of new micro-enterprises made possible by platforms that connect supply and demand at the peer-to-peer level. Examples of prominent companies operating in the sharing economy are Airbnb, Lyft, Sidecar, TaskRabbit and Uber.

While its definitions are varied and parameters continue to evolve, activities and models within the collaborative economy enable access instead of ownership, encourage decentralized networks over centralized institutions, and unlock wealth. They make use of idle assets and create new marketplaces. In doing so, many also challenge traditional ways of doing business, rules, and regulation.

There are only few studies of how much people are using the collaborative economy. In Germany research reveals that more than 50 percent of consumers have experience with some form of sharing economy, and that approximately 25 percent can be described as “socio-innovative co-consumers” (Heinrichs and Grunenberg 2013). Another study by VisionCritical demonstrates that 40% of the adults population in the US and 52% in the UK have used sharing economy enabled platforms to access goods, services, transportation, money or space from other consumers instead of going through traditional means (Owyang et. al. 2014). A supply-side focus suggests there has also been a dynamic increase in sharing models concerning cars, bikes, rooms, food, gadgets, etc. Similar observations can be made for product service systems within business and between businesses and consumers or redistribution markets, including upcycling and other ways of finding new uses for old things.

The growth of sharing

Due to its wide applicability, the potential of the sharing economy is substantial. In fact, the market is surpassing any other markets in outlook and market growth. Recent estimates by Forbes place the sharing economy at 3,5 billion USD in 2013 with a market growth rate of over 25% (Forbes 2013, Dervojeda et. al. 2013). At this rate, peer-to-peer sharing is transforming from an income boost into a disruptive economic force. The sharing economy is being called next big trend in social commerce, and represents what some analysts say is a potential $110 billion market (Contreras 2011).

AirBnb, perhaps one of the most raved examples of the collaborative economy, sees over 12 million annual guests staying on 34,000 cities globally (Riley 2014). Airbnb is forecasted to grow to 100 million nights per year, a figure that would likely produce revenue of more than $1 billion, up from an estimated 150 USD million in 2012 and 250 million USD in 2013. Currently, according to the Wall Street Journal, Airbnb has a $10 billion valuation, meaning it is valued at more than some of the hotel chains it is increasingly competing against. (Wall Street Journal 2014). Although this is only an example, it demonstrates the immense potential for the collaborative economy to disrupt traditional industries and force the companies in those industries to rethink their business logic.

How sharing promotes sustainability

Production and consumption seem to be converging where social and environmental problems are in focus. There is a strong trend demonstrating that access is being more valued than ownership, especially when it comes to commodities such as cars for example (Birdsall 2014, Kelly 2009). The sharing economy has the potential to provide a new pathway towards sustainability as a long-term goal (Heinrichs 2013).

The sharing economy and collaborative consumption can neither bring about sustainability by themselves. However, they may be a significant element in facilitating a new pathway towards sustainability. Collaborative systems can, in fact, be more environmentally friendly by increasing usage efficiency, reducing waste, incentivizing better products, and by absorbing the excess of production and consumption. These lead to declines in CO2 levels, noise and traffic congestion and natural resource savings through product life-cycle extensions and decreases in food wastage for example (Dlugosz 2014, p.39). Yannopoulou et. al. (2013) find references to a strong sustainability discourse and inter-personal exchange in collaborative consumption experiences such as Couchsurfing and Airbnb.

The sharing economy makes fuller use of idle resources, allows decentralized production and consumption systems and provides an outlet for surplus or under-utilized personal goods. It has also been demonstrated to bring about social benefits through engagement, building trust and enhancing community values and cohesion for example. For a great number of people, the sharing economy provides an additional source of income, sometimes even substantial. The sharing economy brings people and their work back together through sharing, gifting, bartering, and peer-to-peer buying and selling. It thus has deep implications for how cities design urban spaces, create jobs, reduce crime, manage transportation, and provide for citizens. There are clear indications that sharing can contribute to sustainability both environmentally, socially and economically, however, it is unsure whether the scale is sufficient considering the global challenges faced today.

Conclusion and outlook

The sharing economy seems to bring about substantial benefits socially, environmentally and also economically. Undoubtedly it also raises many questions, which relate to public policy, urban planning, fairness and safety for example. However, we believe that fostering the growth of the sharing economy is worthwhile and something that merits further studies to see whether it can be used to boost prosperity and resilience in times of economic crisis and climate change. Cities could act as a platform for sharing and provide breeding ground for reaping the benefits of the collaborative economy. It is our intention to study the idea of the sharing city further to learn how cities could contribute to more resilient ways of providing housing, transportation, goods, food and jobs through promoting collaborative business models.

Author

Minna-Maari Harmaala, yliopettaja, Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu, minna-maari.harmaala@haaga-helia.fi

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Botsman, R. 2014. Sharing’s not just for start-ups. Harvard Business Review. September 2014. pp. 23-25.

Botsman, R. & Rogers, R. 2010. What’s mine is yours: the rise of collaborative consumption. New York, USA. HarperCollins.

Contreras, J. 2011. MIT Sloan grad on the “sharing economy,” the next big trend in social commerce. http://mitsloanexperts.mit.edu/mit-sloan-grad-on-the-sharing-economy-the-next-big-trend-in-social-commerce/

Dervojeda, K., Verzijl, D., Nagtegaal, F., Lengton, M., Rouwmaat, E., Monfardini, E. & Frideres, L. 2013. The Sharing Economy. Accessibility Based Business Models for Peer-to-Peer Markets. European Commission. Enterprise and Industry. Case Study No. 12.http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/innovation/policy/business-innovation-observatory/files/case-studies/12-she-accessibility-based-business-models-for-peer-to-peer-markets_en.pdf

Dlugosz, P. M. 2014. The Rise of the Sharing City. Examining origins and futures of urban sharing. IIIEE Publications. Lund. Sweden.

Forbes. 23.01.2013. Airbnb And The Unstoppable Rise Of The Share Economy. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/01/23/airbnb-and-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-share-economy/

Friedman, T. L. 2005. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Grassl, W. 2011. Hybrid Forms of Business: The Logic of Gift in the Commercial World. Journal of Business Ethics, Supplement100 (Mar 2011): 109-123.

Heinrichs, H. 2013. Sharing Economy: A Potential New Pathway to Sustainability. GAIA 22/4 (2013): 228– 231.

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Interdisciplinary expertise as a goal in universities of applied sciences

Introduction

Interest in interdisciplinarity has been growing steadily within higher education in the wake of more wicked problems to be solved in the world, demands of industry for ground-breaking research-based innovations that typically happen through disciplinary boundary-crossing, and as a consequence of funding agencies’ emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration (Raisio 2010, Huutoniemi 2012, Lyall & Fletcher 2013). Moreover, philosophers of science have taken up the challenge of systematic work on interdisciplinarity as advocated recently by Uskali Mäki in his “Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity: A Manifesto” (Mäki 2013).

Interdisciplinarity is related to the discussion on multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Multidisciplinarity refers to two or more disciplines working together on a common problem but drawing only on disciplinary knowledge, that is, maintaining their basic assumptions, concepts, methods and other manifestations of disciplinary boundaries. Transdisciplinarity calls into question disciplinary thinking, as Thomson Klein argues (2004, 524). It refers to close collaboration and exchange of assumptions, concepts and methods that approaches the formation of a new discipline. Interdisciplinarity lies somewhere between these two. Concepts converse and migrate across disciplines, methods are compared and contrasted between disciplines, and, after critical analysis and evaluation, better formulations of methods may be achieved through cross-disciplinary discourse. It looks at a discipline from another discipline’s perspective and may lead to greater integration, that is, to real interdisciplinary engagement. There is typically also some reflection of each individual discipline’s basic assumptions against the assumptions of another discipline but each discipline maintains its (current) fundamental commitments, which does not happen in the case of genuine transdisciplinary enterprise. (Stember 1991, Thomson Klein 2004, Rubin 2004.)

Interdisciplinarity in universities of applied sciences and their master programmes

In the context of a university of applied sciences, discussion of multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinarity plays a role among teaching staff as they have typically all been trained in an academic discipline. Multidisciplinary collaboration in research and development projects is becoming more common as industry and services development demand it, but reflective interdisciplinary engagements are harder to find. Transdisciplinarity hardly exists since forming new disciplines is a realm of traditional universities rather than universities of applied sciences, whose mission is to educate and to conduct applied research and development work.

The master’s students of a Finnish university of applied sciences can be seen to come from different professions rather than disciplines because they enter their respective master’s programmes with at least three years of work experience after the bachelor’s degree. Their work experience is typically even longer, 5–15 years. From the perspective of master’s students, universities of applied sciences could be said to be inherently multiprofessional. Now the challenge for developers of master’s programmes and their research and development orientation is what to do with the multidisciplinary teaching staff and the multiprofessional student body if there are drivers towards greater interdisciplinarity and analogous interprofessional collaboration, as has been suggested by Hautamäki and Ståhle (2012), among others.

We remarked in an earlier article (Lindeman et al. 2012) that multidisciplinary, multiprofessional, interdisciplinary, interprofessional and their variants appeared in only one title of the articles included in the earlier book on the development of master’s degrees at universities of applied sciences (Varjonen & Maijala 2009). In the recent similar volume (Töytäri 2012), there are two articles with such terms in the title: our own and another one on an interprofessional teacher group. Otherwise, the book focuses on the relationship between working life and different aspects of educational practices of master’s programmes, without explicit attention to interdisciplinarity or interprofessionalism. However, the need for interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration is widely shared, in Honkanen and Veijola (2012), for instance.

The evolving aim at KyUAS has been to move from multidisciplinarity towards interdisciplinary work among faculty members of different master’s programmes. A further aim has been to expose master’s students to interprofessional encounters, particularly in general management and leadership studies, and, more recently, also in project management studies and multicultural studies.

A call for further development and research

A challenge that has yet to be taken up seriously concerns the development of research and development studies, together with the thesis supervision process, in a way that would increase interdisciplinary collaboration and interprofessional problem-solving (Lindeman et al. 2012). This challenge is particularly wicked with respect to thesis work and supervision. In order to fully understand the task ahead, we need a closer look at the research-assisted development work that master’s students have done in their theses. We also need to study the RDI projects of universities of applied sciences from an interdisciplinary point of view in order to find out good practices and working methods driving development towards this goal. Studying of RDI projects might also reveal hidden problems in integrating disciplinary and professional knowledge meaningfully and for the full benefit of working life partners involved.

Authors

Ari Lindeman, Team Leader, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences, ari.lindeman@kyamk.fi

Minna Veistilä, Principal Lecturer,Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences, minna.veistila@kyamk.fi

Hautamäki A. & Ståhle P. 2012. Ristiriitainen tiedepolitiikkamme. Suuntana innovaatiot vai sivistys? Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Honkanen H. & Veijola A. 2012. Kunnat tarvitsevat rohkeita uudistajia, miten ylempi ammattikorkeakoulututkinto vastaa haasteeseen? In Kehittyvä YAMK – työelämää uudistavaa osaamista, ed. by A. Töytäri. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu. 107–123.

Huutoniemi K. 2012. Interdisciplinary Accountability in the Evaluation of Research Proposals. Prospects for academic quality control across disciplinary boundaries. Academic dissertation. Publications of the Department of Social Research 2012:17, Social and Public Policy. Helsinki: Helsingin yliopisto.

Lindeman A., Niiranen-Linkama P. & Veistilä M. 2012. Kiperät ongelmat ja monialainen ongelmanratkaisu metodologisen tarkastelun välineinä ylemmissä ammattikorkeakoulu-koulutusohjelmissa. In Kehittyvä YAMK – työelämää uudistavaa osaamista, ed. by A. Töytäri. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu.

Lyall C. & Fletcher I. 2013.Experiments in interdisciplinary capacity building: the successes and challenges of large-scale interdisciplinary investments. Science and Public Policy 40/1, 1-7.

Mäki U. 2013. Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity: A Manifesto. Lecture in Pre-symposium of the European Philosophy of Science Association’s conference in Helsinki (author’s lecture notes).

Raisio H. 2010. Embracing the Wickedness of Health Care Essays on Reforms, Wicked Problems, and Public Deliberation. Acta Wasaensia 228. Vaasa: University of Vaasa.

Rubin A. 2004. Monitieteisyys, poikkitieteisyys, tieteidenvälisyys. Accessed 10 December 2013 http://www.tulevaisuus.fi/topi/topi_vanha/kokohakemistosivut/kokomonitieteisyys.htm

Stember M. 1991. Advancing the social sciences through the interdisciplinary enterprise. The Social Science Journal. Vol. 28 Issue 1. pp. 1–14.

Thomson Klein J. 2004. Prospects of transdisciplinarity. Futures 36. pp. 515–526.

Töytäri A. (ed.) 2012. Kehittyvä YAMK – työelämää uudistavaa osaamista. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu.

Varjonen B. & Maijala H. 2009. Ylempi ammattikorkeakoulututkinto – osana innovaatioympäristöjä. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu.

Healthcare logistician – New profession, new education

Introduction

The healthcare logistician (HL) profession and the education for it result from the Healthcare Logistician Project funded by Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) as part of the “Innovations in social and healthcare services” program, which aims to renew health and social services and increase business opportunities. The project was coordinated by Uudenmaan Pikakuljetus Oy as part of the global DSV group, and implemented in cooperation with two regional hospital districts and Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS). The aim of The Healthcare Logistician Project was to create a new service concept, a new profession, define a job description and competence requirements for it, and develop education for healthcare logisticians.

Healthcare logistician service concept

Healthcare organizations are process organizations that are complex and challenging, containing actions and structures that have demanding material and personnel flows in which logistics contribute greatly to the quality of the operations (Fraunhofer 2013). Logistics plays an increasingly important role in healthcare, and it has become one of the largest cost factors for hospitals (Lillerank & Haukkapää-Haara, 2008). Simultaneously, financial and human resources have decreased in the healthcare sector. This has meant an increasing demand for more efficient productivity and material flows, the reallocation of existing human resources, changes to former working methods and the development of innovative working practices.

The key idea of the healthcare logistician concept is based on the findings of Keskiväli’s (2007) study, which found that the organization of logistics functions and the descriptions of those functions are insufficient, the education of personnel conducting healthcare logistics is inadequate, and full-time employees who are educated in logistics are sorely lacking. The basic idea of the concept is to free traditional healthcare personnel from the need to conduct logistics operations, thus allowing them more time to take care of patients. The aim is that logistics tasks are given over to HLs educated for the purpose but who also understand the special characteristics of the demanding healthcare environment. As indirect effects, cost savings arise in two ways: first they move logistics activities away from expensive treatment rooms, thereby freeing room capacity for more productive use. Second, the tools and equipment used become standardized. The expected benefits of the HL concept include reduced travel and search times, improved supply and equipment flows, efficient team working, clearly defined process ownerships, balanced workloads, and better spatial use solutions, thereby improving quality and patient safety.

Healthcare logistician profession

Healthcare logisticians work in a variety of healthcare organizations. Despite the differences in their working environments, healthcare logisticians support the work of healthcare professionals. They understand nursing and speak the same professional languages as nursing staff and logisticians. They take care of all variety of goods needed in healthcare operations, so that all the goods are in the right places at the right time, although they do not participate in nursing or the handling of medicines. In addition to availability and situational logistics tasks, HLs also closely cooperate with the internal and external logistics operations of other hospitals when planning order-delivery processes and creating the preparedness of components and stock buffering, etc. A HL is also a developer, a person who critically analyses logistics processes and functions and develops them.

Competence requirements

This new profession also has new requirements for its required competencies, skills and knowledge. The competence requirements of a HL are a combination of logistics and social and healthcare skills, which are based on the concepts of job-related (Cheetman & Chivers 1996 and 1998; Boyatzis 2008; Winther & Achtenhagen 2009; Bartlett et al. 2000) and professional competence (e.g. Torr 2008). The competence description of a HL is not a set of minimum competency requirements for all HLs in all healthcare organizations but is more a collection of abilities to perform tasks and duties. Due to professional competencies being context-dependent (e.g. Deewr 2007; Le Diest & Winterton 2005; Guthrie 2004; Mulder et al. 2007; Calhoun et al. 2002), they differ not only between individuals but also between organizations, thus they should be considered based on the needs of the respective organization. Despite contextual differences, the definition of competence requirements creates a collective understanding and agreement on the professional requirements for the profession of healthcare logistician.

A competent HL professional masters their work processes by means of the methods, tools and materials available and while observing occupational safety. In addition to occupational skills, he/she also has interpersonal and personal skills; the competence map of a HL highlights functional competencies (tasks that HLs should be able to do) but strongly recognizes both cognitive (what and why) and behavioral competencies (how to behave).

The competence map of an HL contains 11 task-related competence areas:

  1. Can plan and manage warehouse operations
  2. Can carry out orders
  3. Is familiar with duties connected to goods delivery and shelving services
  4. Is familiar with duties connected to goods collection and shipment processes
  5. Can establish a shelving service
  6. Is able to carry out stock management tasks
  7. Can store and handle hazardous materials and chemicals
  8. Is able to carry out infection prevention measures in accordance with best practices, the organization’s quality system, instructions and legislation
  9. Is able to plan and develop healthcare logistics and understands the role of healthcare logistics as part of the overall healthcare process
  10. Has knowledge of acts, decrees, regulations and guidelines governing his/her work practices
  11. Can maintain and enhance customer and stakeholder relations

And four interpersonal and personal skill areas:

  1. general working life skills
  2. personal skills
  3. language skills, and
  4. technology and information technology skills.

The large number of competence areas indicates the challenging content of the new profession.

Healthcare logistics education

Due to the particularly demanding work environments, existing logistics education – as part of business or technology education – does not meet the high standards and requirements of healthcare logistics. Consequently, a special competency based healthcare logistician education (HLE) that combines logistics and social and healthcare education is required. The most appropriate backgrounds for those wishing to study HLE include people with vocational degrees in business or logistics (e.g. warehouse operative, instrument technician), or people working in social and healthcare (practical nurse). This new education programme would offer students of business logistics or health and social care the opportunity to specialize.

HLE is being developed and carried out in cooperation with social and healthcare and business logistics educators from Lahti University of Applied Sciences and also receives thorough cooperation form healthcare organisations. The education is bachelor’s degree level further education (European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6). Thus, participation in HLE is open for vocational graduates, offering new bachelor level studies at both universities and universities of applied sciences. It is also possible to integrate and/or credit HL studies (30 ects) to part of bachelor’s degree. The study programme consists of six modules including social and healthcare issues, logistics, team and interpersonal skills development, project work and practical training. The first study group, 14 students, began studying at the end of 2013 and will graduate at the end of 2014. The next study group will begin in spring 2015.

Discussion

The need for healthcare services is increasing due to Finland’s ageing population. At the same time, financial resources are decreasing. This means that healthcare services need to be developed and healthcare organizations have to find new more efficient operating models. Healthcare logistics would enable that by strengthening logistical operations and allowing nurses to concentrate on nursing. In the most progressive organizations, several HLs are already working, whereas others are only considering the implementation of a healthcare logistician model.

Defined competence requirements and HLE will decrease uncertainty, reduce resistance and increase confidence in the profession. In addition to HLE, benchmarking and sharing best practices will be important competence development methods.

Future research on the HL concept and profession is needed from differing healthcare environments and organizations. In addition, there is a need to benchmark HLE internationally.

Authors

Ulla Kotonen, Development Manager, DSc (Econ & Bus. Adm.), FUAS – Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences, ulla.kotonen@lamk.fi

Ullamari Tuominen, Lecturer, Project Manager, LUAS – Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Ullamari.tuominen@lamk.fi

Miika Kuusisto, Lecturer, Project Manager, LUAS – Lahti University of Applied Sciences, miika.kuusisto@lamk.fi

Bartlett, H.P., Simonite, V., Westcott, E. & Taylor, H.R. (2000) A comparison of the nursing competence of graduates and diplomates from UK nursing programmes. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 9, 369 – 381.

Boyatzis, R.E. (2008) Competencies in the 21st century. Journal of Management Development, 27(1), 5 – 12.

Calhoun, J.G., Davidson, P.L., Sinioris, M.E., Vincent, E.T. & Griffith J.R. (2002) Towards an understanding of competency identification and assessment in health care management. Quality Management in Health Care, 11 (1), 14 – 38.

Cheetman, G. & Chivers, G. (1998) The reflective (and competent) practitioner: A mode of professional competence which seeks to harmonise the reflective practitioner and competence-based approaches. Journal of European Industrial Training, 22 (7), 267 – 276.

Cheetman, G. & Chivers, G. (1996) Towards a holistic model of professional competence. Journal of European Industrial Training, 20 (5), 20 – 30.

Deewr. (2013). Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2007) The training package development handbook for units of competency.

Fraunhofer IML. (2013) Hospital logistics. Available at: http://www.iml.fraunhofer.de/en/fields_of_activity/health_care_logistics_en/hospital_logistics.html. Read 21 March 2013.

Guthrie, H. (2009) Competence and competency-based training: What the literature says. http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2153.html

Keskiväli, E. (2007) The logistics of an operation unit, Case The Central operation unit of Päijät-Hämeen sosiaali- ja terveysyhtymä. Bachelor’s Thesis in Financial Management and Healthcare, Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Le Diest, F. & Winterton, J. (2005) What is competence? Human Resource Development International, 8 (1), 27 – 46.

Lillrank, P. & Haukkapää-Haara, P. (2006) Terveydenhuollon tilaaja-tuottaja-malli. Available: http://ktm.elinar.fi/ktm_jur/ktmjur.nsf/all/F26FF8E12B71CEA9C2257100003540CA. Read: 21 March 2013.

Mulder, M., Weigel, T. & Collins, K. (2007) The concept of competence in the development of vocational education and training in selected EU member states: A critical analysis. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 5 (1), 67 – 88.

Torr, A. (2008) A complex view of professional competence. Paper presented at 17th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference, NCVER, Adelaide.

Winther, E. & Achtenhagen, F. (2009) Measurement of vocational competencies. A contribution to an international large-scale assessment on vocational education and training. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 1 (1), 85 – 102.

If You Can Make It There You Can Make It Everywhere – Triumph of the Metropolitan Area Cooperation

Berlin and Helsinki sharing the same capital city potential

In the future, the engines of innovation and growth are focusing more and more in big cities and metropolitan areas. When experts and enthusiasts of a certain industry are working in the neighborhood, or near each other, new ideas are unfolding and innovations get on wings. The larger the city, the more versatile is its economy structure. This fact protects against the problems that one-industry-based cities, like Detroit, have been confronting in recent years.

Moreover, capital cities as metropolitan areas draw immigration. For people from different parts of the world there are in big cities local ethnic communities, which support coping with and prospering in the new homeland. For instance Berlin and larger Stockholm seem to be real idea kettles in this sense, and that’s why they are expected to have a flourishing future.

Helsinki Metropolitan Area, like Berlin and Stockholm, have several strengths in common: they have immaterial and intellectual capital, a creative and tolerant atmosphere, well-educated inhabitants, knowledge-based start-ups, residential areas with distinctive identities and individual characters, and a set of established universities and research institutions. These capital cities also seek actively for new economies and new growth by emphasizing innovation as means for creating emergent markets. Along with this kind of development trends, radical competitiveness is expected to increase.

Networks as a source of strength

Today, highest levels of excellence and innovati­on strength are sought across all value-adding networks. The scope of expertise is extended through co-operation and alliances also within higher education institutions, not only in business or among companies. That is why three years ago, HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia – both being Universities of Applied Sciences – signed a general cooperation agreement to formally enter into a ‘strategic partnership’.

With a student body of more than 13,000, the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (HTW) Berlin is the largest university of applied sciences in Berlin. With around 70 compact and practice-orientated bachelor’s and master’s courses in engineering, economics, information technology, culture and design, the range of qualifications it provides is impressive. University rankings have consistently established HTW Berlin as one of the leading providers of a modern and professional education. Enjoying an excellent academic reputation, it has received many prizes for exceptional innovation in the university sector, for internal management reforms, the consultation and service packages offered to small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups, and for the commitment to gender equality and barrier freedom.

Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland’s largest university of applied sciences, educates the professionals of tomorrow in the fields of culture, business, health care and social services, and technology. At Helsinki Metropolia with its nearly 17,000 students and 1,100 full-time employees, people and worlds meet to create insight, expertise and well-being for both the world of work and life in general. Cooperation in and through the vivid metropolitan area, is the key to discover new ideas and solutions to build a better future. Helsinki Metropolia has 65 degree programs, and 14 of them in English. It is most popular UAS in Finland in terms of applicants, second-most popular in terms of attractiveness. It complies with the requirements of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) as one of very few universities in Finland.

The step to build a strategic partnership between these two higher education institutions took place after a longer period of student exchange, a joint international Master´s Degree, and other bilateral activities showing that there is a high potential for closer cooperation in the international framework of Europe. Also the fact that the institutions are situated in capital cities facing the same kind of challenges and possibilities, played a significant role.

Added value through alliances

At HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia, an international partnership means that an alliance is built with a foreign university, research institution, or working life organization in order to achie­ve goals which benefit both parties. A partner of an added value network is called a ‘strategic partner’ once the co-operation relationship is continuous and intensive, so that in the pace of time the contribution of the other party is clearly visible.

When talking about higher education institutions and other non-profit organizations, the objective of these partnerships is rarely direct economic profit; the goal is rather to detract new, underlying needs through the co-operation. The recognition of silent signals and the development work on them increases the know­edge of all participants. Acknowledging the new thus means an added value for both the competencies and the mental flexibility of the organization.

Both in HTW Berlin and in Helsinki Metropolia the discussions with professors, experts and top management convinced that in the future, both universities are able to see the world through innovative angles, learn new things, and generate creative breakthroughs best in interaction with an ally. This was the trigger for starting a new and more systematical phase of partnership between the two higher education institutions.

Many potential forms of collaboration

In the strategic alliance between HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia, practical methods include interest forums, brainstorming sessions, workshops, thematic seminars and annual conferences. In higher education, benchmarking of processes and administrative policies like quality management, yearly planning of teacher work or human resource development, are an important part of strategic cooperation.

In addition, a growing interest lies in mutual research activities. Developing and nurturing new relationships with people and organizations outside the universities of applied sciences has become a critical element of successful and sustainable research programs. Both institutions, HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia, seek to break into new areas and re-invigorate the already well-established strengths in the field of research, and are convinced that this is done best in partnership with each other and each other´s allies. Either partner could, of course, do business without the other, but in ideal cases it would be either difficult or not as rewarding as working in close interaction. To reach this kind of level of intensity, the partnership should be thinking 5−10 years ahead, have a strong written vision and plan the actions on this same timescale.

An effective partnership dynamo is in practice mostly the impact force of the individual, because the organization itself is never energizing. Individuals with enthusiasm are the premise of functioning. The dynamics of seeing and develop­ing partnership opportunities depend on personal relationships. At best, cooperation consists of a guild of top professionals, which is focused on people’s intrinsic motivation.

Criteria for partnership

A genuine strategic partnership has a major impact on the parties’ thinking and planning. In HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia cases, an indication of this is that the top leaders meet each other and sup­port the goals set for the co-operation. Between the parties, there is an open and effective communicati­on at many different levels.

The benefits of the added value network are realized only if the alliance between the two parties shares a very high degree of confidence. This results in an enriching balance between mutually transferable skills, knowledge and practices. It is said that a partnership is like an intimate relationship that needs to be cared for and where open sharing of things carries you furthest!

Between 2010 and 2014, Helsinki Metropolia has in­vested heavily in strategic partnerships. One outcome of this investment is a set of criteria for choosing partners. Potential partners and international alliances are estimated e.g. by going through a list of questions. The following matters should, for instance, be discussed thoroughly:

  • Is the partnership planned to be long-term and systematical?
  • Do both parties significantly benefit from the partnership?
  • Are the partner’s values and strategy ac­ceptable?
  • Is there a genuine shared willingness for mutual strategic cooperation?
  • Do the parties commit themselves to intel­lectual and financial inputs that the coop­eration presupposes?
  • Does the partnership offer sectorial coop­eration, but also generic prospects related to the development of higher education?
  • Is the partner’s geographical location ap­propriate for sustainable development and an ecological point of view to travel?

What makes the difference?

Cooperation in the field of research, tuition, student and staff exchange, human resource development, and internationalisation are the bedrock in the partnership between HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia. But there are phenomena, which make it beyond ordinary ‘cut-and-dried’ international cooperation.

Both parties have strong roots in the capital city area of their home countries and each plays a substantial role in the economic, social and cultural life of its city and region. There is a genuine commitment to collaborate to disseminate, implement, exploit and/or commercialise knowledge in these areas, but also a willingness to seek to work together in developing urban solutions, wellbeing in the society, artistic and cultural activities, too. Both parties share the mission of being influential stakeholders in the metropolitan areas, be it Helsinki or Berlin, which are very well to be compared. Acting as innovation drivers especially in the Baltic Sea Region is a natural expansion of the roles of the parties.

The two higher education institutions will also act as socially responsible partners and exchange knowledge and experiences regarding social responsibility issues including efficiency of operations and the impact of operations on the environment, and on the key stakeholders: students, staff, and both public and private sector.

The four-year experience of strategic partnership has shown that there is a mutually shared ambition about a high standard education that makes the HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia graduates fit for jobs in their home countries, but also in Europe and abroad. Combining strong applied research and development with project study and including this into education is for both parties the essential premise as well a permanent, everlasting mission.

Today, there is a clear trend towards working in partnerships and thus build up centres of creativity and innovation. HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia wish to be harbingers, not only in improving their own quality but in being models for the students. The two institutions are open for students from everywhere in the world and want to educate students who feel themselves as citizens of Europe and the world. That is what a strategic partnership is for: opening our capital cities, countries and cultures and let others take part in it and share its beauties and richness.

Authors

Matthias Knaut, Vice-President for Research and International Cooperation, Professor, Ph.D., HTW Berlin – University of Applied Sciences, Germany, Matthias.Knaut@HTW-Berlin.de

Tuire Ranta-Meyer, Director, Ph.D. MMus, Adjunct professor, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland, tuire.ranta-meyer@metropolia.fi

Hautamäki, Antti & Oksanen, Kaisa 2013. Metropolista haastavia ongelmia ratkaiseva innovaatiokeskittymä. Kvartti 1. City of Helsinki Urban Facts Quarterly. http://www.hel.fi/hel2/Tietokeskus/julkaisut/pdf/13_04_17_Kvartti_1.pdf (The article is available also in Swedish in the same publication/ web-page.)

Ranta-Meyer, Tuire 2013. Metropolia´s Strategic Partnerships. Co-creating Expertise (ed. Kiventaus & Ranta-Meyer). rdwpub.metropolia.fi, ISBN 978-952-6690-05-6.

Santalainen, Timo 2009. Strateginen ajattelu & toiminta. Helsinki: Talentum. ISBN 978-952-14-1373-5.

Strategic Partnerships Manual. University of Leeds. http://www.sddu.leeds.ac.uk/uploaded/campus-only/research/knowledge/spm.pdf. ISBN 0853162050.

Redecker, Christine, Leis, Miriam & al. 2011. The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change. Institute for Prospective Technical Studies. http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC66836.pdf.

Vartiainen, Juhana 2014. Tulevaisuus on metropolien. Näkökulma. Suomen Kuvalehti 30, 25.7.2014.

Overlook to onboard emission measurements

Introduction

The emission measurement laboratory of Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences has a track record of shipping related emission measurements for over twenty years. The laboratory has gathered a lot of onboard experience during this period. This article summarizes some of the practical challenges discovered in course of planning and following through the onboard measurement campaign.

Background

The organization behind the laboratory is Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences [referred later as Kyamk]. Kyamk is a university with higher education in both of maritime operations and energy technology. This background produces the innate call for emission control research and development. The fields of development and research include i.e. environmentally friendly energy production and emission control technology.

The emission measurement laboratory of Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences was grounded in year 1992. The emission measurement laboratory serves as reliable source of measured data for the needs of various research programmes. The laboratory performs emission measurements in land based power plants and on board ships.

Most of the workload of the laboratory is commissioned by commercial customers; however the participation in research activities is ubiquitous and a vital part of the operation. The laboratory has taken part in several considerable international projects and has completed measurements in well over one hundred vessels with a total of hundreds of engines. The emission measurement laboratory is accredited by FINAS according the SFS-EN ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard.

Previous project measurement experiences

The Kyamk emission measurement laboratory has taken part in several international projects within last two decades. There are several international projects worth mentioning amongst many: the Mobile project and the recent Snoop and BSR Innoship projects. The Mobile project was managed and conducted by VTT, the Finnish state research organization. The Mobile project included 58 measured engines over time span of several years and it was considered very successful. The Mobile project had a considerable impact of environmental research and legislation in Finland. The Snoop project focused on the ship emissions within Baltic Sea area and it was managed by Finnish Meteorological Institute. The follow-up of the snoop project, BSR Innoship was finished September 2013. An extensive campaign of nine measured ships was conducted in BSR Innoship-project.

Specialized to the practical element

The role of the Kyamk emission measurement laboratory in large research projects has been focused on the practical side of the work, which is conducting the measurements and reporting the results. The laboratory usually does not make scientific conclusions or any deep analysis of the findings. This spawns from the usual organization of the large projects as project groups normally include several fundamental scientific organizations for both basic and advanced research. These organizations do not usually have suitable field equipment or trained personnel for working in the ship environment. This is the niche for Kyamk, as the ability for perform in field operations is the main strength of Kyamk emission measurement laboratory. The diversity of usual project organization results to the current arrangement, which has been a successful and functional division of the labor between practical measurements and scientifically oriented studies.

Agreement with the shipping company

The attitude for emission research of shipping companies can vary a lot. Some companies can be very helpful and even eager to participate, and usually this is the case. In some occasions, however, there is a certain resistance for setting up and conducting the measurements. This is understandable. The measurement crew and the measurement procedure tie up operation personnel which already have a heavy workload. Measurements can also require the specific engines to run at specific loads, or the measurement can require modifications in the running modes of auxiliary equipment (a common example of the latter are the catalyst reactors or water injection systems).

Keeping in mind the need for intense shipping company co-operation the planning of a single measurement run must be started at very early stage. The initial contacts are often taken weeks or even months ahead of the planned measurement run.

One of the basic design elements is the route of the ship. The schedule or the port stop times are often not suitable for the measurement job, and the travel time of the ship sets some limits too. The measurement equipment does not fit for air transport, and this can also limit the measurement window.

The measurement details are usually agreed after the general permission to conduct the measurements is reached. The detailed plan and actions for the ship in question are usually communicated with the onboard crew of the ship. The ship’s engineer always has the final word for the operation. The course of measurement procedure is usually familiar to the technical crew of the ship. Most of the cases there is no need for any special arrangements after the access for the measurement crew is granted. The measurement crew needs to access the engineering section and the chimney premises of the ship, which are normally quite restricted areas.

Measurement process onboard

This chapter describes the generalized set-up of the measurement. The actual measurement procedure follows the appropriate standards and it is not presented here.

The conditions within the ship depend greatly of the type and age of the ship. A brad new car ferry usually does have very different environment than a two decade old bulk carrier. Some details however remain the same: the field measurement work is heavy work, and the passage ways, corridors and ladders are narrow and the exhaust system is hot.

The measurements must be conducted with accuracy and the results must be reliable despite of the environment. This imposes of course some challenges, especially if the surroundings and conditions of the measurement are particularly hard.

Measurement equipment station

The amount of equipment can be quite a lot and the equipment station needs a considerable amount of space. The combination of measurement equipment depends of the measurement details. For example, if there is a need to make simultaneous NOx measurements before and after the catalyst unit, there must be two sets of measuring devices. Also, the calibration of the instruments requires calibration gases in pressure vessels.

The auxiliary equipment and tools must be at hand and easily available. There is actually amazing amount of hardware needed, including rolls of cable and pipeline, chemicals, laptops and so on.

Usually the measurement equipment station is quite near the exhaust channels. These positions are usually small and confined. The electricity outlet can be far away, and the first thing to do is to find a way to plug in. The completion of the station from boarding to standby takes up several hours. The typical setup of the equipment station is illustrated in picture 1.

Picture 1. Equipment station with calibration gas vessels

Connection to the exhaust inlets

The pipelines and tubes for the exhaust sampling are installed simultaneously during the preparation of actual measurement instruments. The distance from the equipment station from the exhaust inlet can be dozens of meters. The passage of the pipeline is not a straight line and usually it passes through a complex maze of ship equipment and narrow boardwalks. The connection and underpinning of the pipelines must be secured and there must not be any bents blocking the gas flow. The vertical offset of the equipment station and an inlet can be several floors.

The exhaust gas is hot and the surroundings of the inlet to the exhaust channels are hot too. The mounting of the pipeline mouthpiece is usually insulated with a piece of fiberglass. This also stops the exhaust gas flow out of the exhaust channel. Example of inlet connection is presented in picture 2.

Picture 2. Exhaust channel inlet connection with temperature monitoring

Control room data gathering

The final calculation for the actual emission measurement report requires data from the control system of the ship. The control data includes various parameters, for example information about the fuel consumption, engine load and run time logs and logs of turbocharger operation. Also, a bunker certificate of the fuel used is requested from the control room.

The output of the control system can be a detailed log with all necessary information or, typically, a minimum set of information for the immediate ship operation purposes. The information can be provided as a data file or a print-out from the operator console. For special purposes there are separate logs which can be accessed by request. An example of separate log is catalyst urea consumption and bunkering log. The control room data acquiring is one of the most challenging parts of the measurement as the ship control systems are designed for actually running the ship instead of detailed data logging. Sometimes the data simply is not available only by monitoring the meters and writing down the values of analogue meters.

Measuring

The actual measurement begins with the calibration of the equipment. The calibration is repeated when measurement arrangement is changed, and a final calibration is also conducted at the end of the measurement.

The measurement process records measurement information for a determinate period. A reading of current value is usually taken once per minute. The measurement process records data to a data logger and it is assisted by a field computer with special software. The measurement keeps accurate track of date and time, and all measurement values are time stamped. Multiple samples of the exhaust gas are taken and absorbed to liquid for later laboratory analysis.

Measurement follows the measurement plan. The plan defines the order of the measurement targets and assures that all the needed information is gathered and the required samples are taken. Every step of the measurement is also written down manually together with the periodic measurement value verification notes.

Dismantling

At the end of the measurement the gathered data is secured by back-up procedure. The equipment station, pipelines and all other material are packed for the transport. The need to make the measurement period as long as possible sometimes causes the dismantling to be done very late, just before the ship is arriving to the port. The ship may only be loading and unloading passengers and head back to the sea after one hour, which makes the departure of the measurement crew quite rushed.

Measurement report

The emission measurement report is written after the measurement run. Usually there are several samples to be analyzed in laboratory before all the necessary information is ready to be processed to report.

The data gathered form the loggers and computers used onboard is transferred to readable form and the integrity of the data is checked. The time stamps and manual notes are checked. The information is then processed with special calculation templates and the results are written down.

The report is intentionally short. The measured and calculated values are presented as simple as possible. This serves most of the purposes, as the measured amounts of substances are in well-known scale and do not usually need further explaining. Table 1 gives an example of the simplified format of the tables in reports. For special needs there is of course possibility to make many kinds of analysis of the gathered information and include more detailed content to the report.

The measurement results are archived for later use. The measurement archive serves as a reference point for example in comparison of the earlier emissions measurements of same ship or the same engine type.

Table 1. Excerpt of a one table of measurement report.

Engine N

Load
(%)

NOx dry
(ppm)

NOx
(mg/(n)m3)

NOx
(g/kWh)

ME 1

80

483

980

± 7 %

5,93

± 10 %

ME 2

73

380

767

± 7 %

3,76

± 10 %

ME 4

70

901

1822

± 7 %

9,55

± 10 %

ME 4

80

417

844

± 7 %

4,36

± 10 %

AE 1

42

906

1830

± 7 %

10,02

± 10 %

Conclusions

The scientific research is based on empirical studies. Empirical studies can take many forms or shapes, and one of these shapes is the rare occupation of onboard measurements. Kyamk emission measurement laboratory perceives itself as an instrument in service of higher research by providing the empirical findings and first-hand information from actual situations.

There are several approaches to the marine emission measurements onboard. The methodology used depends on the objectives of the measurement. The Kyamk emission measurement laboratory has chosen to streamline the process and concentrate to elementary tasks. The measurement repertoire is carefully chosen and limited to the necessary and most useful measurement subjects. The process of conducting the measures has developed to a robust and reproducible form.

Ships are a very special working environment. The completion of the of the precise laboratory measurements onboard a ship with dismountable laboratory is, indeed, a challenging line of work.

Author

Jouni-Juhani Häkkinen, Technology expert, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences, Finland, jouni-juhani.hakkinen@kyamk.fi

Guidance and counseling process supporting the assessment of gained competence in RDI projects

The working life oriented pedagogical models (e.g., Learning by Developing, Problem Based Learning, Innovation Pedagogy), which have been taken in use in the universities of applied sciences, have made a change in the curricula as well as in the methodological implementations of the study programs. However, they also require a change in the models and methods by which guidance and counseling (G&C) is implemented to guarantee effective study processes.

The article focuses on the G&C processes supporting student’s working and competence-based assessment in project-based studies. The results are based on analysis of a tutor teacher’s reflective diary in a development process, which was carried out together with Laurea University of Applied Sciences and the Osataan! project coordinated by HAAGA-HELIA School of Vocational Teacher Education. The development process took place during the academic year of 2013–2014. It involved renewing the G&C process in Laurea’s working life-oriented RDI projects (HankeHops in Finnish) as well as testing and improving tools for the personalization of studies and competence assessment. The “tools”, i.e., assessment forms, are available on the websites of the Osataan! project both in English and Finnish (http://blogit.haaga-helia.fi/osataan/tyokalut/). The project was carried out in three student groups from the Business Information Technology program (Group 1: 6 students, Group 2: 19 students and Group 3: 42 students).

Laurea’s working life-oriented RDI projects are based on their pedagogical model of Learning by Developing (LbD). The role of the teacher supervising the students in projects is crucial. One of the authors of the present article has worked as a tutor teacher and his responsibilities were to organize the various phases of projects, to guide students in recognizing learning outcomes and competence generated by the projects as well as to help the students in understanding the competence areas, setting the goals and conducting self-assessment (see also Lassila & Pohjalainen, 2012).

Team-based guidance and counseling process

Students with personalized study programs need also personalized support time-wise and content-wise. This requires a lot of the teacher’s time resources and makes the G&C process heavy and sometimes even impossible to fit in the full schedules. We were interested in making the teacher’s workload reasonable when supervising the students, while still giving students enough support. We moved from the individual face-to-face meetings to meetings where the whole project group participated in the G&C session. The G&C process was designed to proceed in steps and the sessions were scheduled in advance to fit the critical phases in their project (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Guidance and counseling process in the working life-oriented RDI project.

The activities of the sessions in the G&C process were:

1. Kick-off Meeting, which included briefing the students about the study process in the project.

2. Initial Personal Study Plan (PSP), which included

  • connecting the curriculum learning outcomes to the project objectives
  • identifying an initial outline of the required knowledge base and proofs of learning
  • connecting the Student’s  assessment criteria to the project objectives, knowledge base and proofs of learning.

3. Final Personal Study Plan (PSP), which included updating the information written in the previous step.4. Preparing for the self-assessment (SA), which included reviewing and updating the PSP.

5. Final assessment, which included

  • individual self-assessment
  • peer-to-peer assessment
  • assessment by the customer and other project members.

6. Wrapping up, which included

  • the teacher and students debriefing the project and sharing opinions and experiences
  • planning the students activities for next the semester (upcoming projects and courses).

Tools to help the teacher to monitor and guide the study processes

We designed tools (assessment forms), which made it possible for the student (1) to plan the actual work tasks and activities in the project in relation to the learning outcomes of the courses included in the project, (2) to plan how the proofs of learning are demonstrated in relation to the activities and deliverables in the project and (3) to assess the gained competences in relation to the assessment criteria.

When planning the G&C process we considered assessment as an inseparable part of guidance and counseling – in the G&C process the teacher needed information which was provided in the student’s PSP and assessment forms. In addition, the process and tools of assessment depended on the conception of competence: in the LbD model competence is seen as an integrated combination of knowing, understanding, doing and managing situations. Therefore, assessment focuses on student’s competence instead of the knowledge, written work or their project activities. (Raij & Niinistö-Sivuranta, 2011; see also Baartman et al. 2006, 4.) In our development process the student’s competence was assessed in relation to the learning outcomes defined in the curriculum, and personalized in the PSP. The project work in itself (e.g., the action plans, designed products and artefacts) demonstrated the gained competence.

The student was asked to prepare for the G&C sessions by filling the PSP in advance in the beginning of study process, and thereafter to update it on the basis of the teacher’s written feedback and the discussions in the G&C sessions. In that way the plans became more accurate descriptions of the student’s progress. Reading and commenting the student’s PSP often eliminated the need to meet face-to-face as illustrated in the tutor teacher’s diary:

Using the PSP templates with some other students. I like the template and it helps my work as I don’t need to keep too many face-to-face meetings with students. Reading what the student wrote in the document and directly writing my comments on it is a time effective way to provide guidance. Some students are using it very well. (Tutor teacher’s diary 21.10.2013)

When having the whole project group participating in the G&C sessions the feedback could be discussed more time-effectively compared to individual meetings.

The student’s self-assessments with the proofs of learning made it easier for the teacher to make his own assessments:

… Information written by the students in the team-self-assessment, individual self-assessment, and peer-to-peer evaluation quite well match with the subjective evaluation I have been able to make throughout the course. So, giving a grade to a student is almost about validating the evaluation from those three documents. (Tutor teacher’s diary 27.5.2014)

The tutor teacher reflections on the developed G&C process were positive. The teacher found it more interesting as well as less controlling to be able to trust in students’ abilities to manage their own learning process. However, the trust was not “blind”, because the teacher was able to follow the students’ activities and achievements throughout the semester.

Authors

Katri Aaltonen, Principal Lecturer, HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences, Vocational Teacher Education Unit, katri.aaltonen@haaga-helia.fi

Antonius De Arruda Camara, Senior Lecturer, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, antonius.camara@laurea.fi

Baartman, L.K.J., Bastiaens, T.J., Kirschner, P.A. and van der Vleuten, C.P.M. 2006. The wheel of competency assessment: presenting quality criteria for competency assessment programs. Studies in Educational Evaluation 32, 153-170. Retrieved September 2, 2014, http://lnx-hrl-075v.web.pwo.ou.nl/bitstream/1820/1771/1/Baartman%20et%20al_2006_SEE_OU.pdf

Lassila E. & Pohjalainen A. (2012). Laurean HankeHopsissa testataan uutta toimintamallia. e-Journal Quicker Steps. Retrieved September 2, 2014, from: http://verkkolehdet.jamk.fi/quickersteps/2012/06/18/laurean-hankehopsissa-testataan-uutta-toimintamallia/

Osataan! project. Osaamisen arviointi työssä työpaikkojen ja ammattikorkeakoulujen yhteistyönä. Retrieved September 2, 2014, from: http://blogit.haaga-helia.fi/osataan/

Raij, Katariina & Niinistö-Sivuranta, Susanna (eds.) 2011. Learning by Developing. LbD Guide. Retrieved September 2, 2014, http://www.laurea.fi/fi/tutkimus_ja_kehitys/julkaisut/Erilliset_julkaisut/Documents/LbD_Guide_04102011_ENG_lowres.pdf

Online co-creation – Facilitating User-engagement in “Elävä Lappi“ Living Labs

Societal challenges force all the actors in Lapland to find new solutions for development and service design. Living conditions, huge distances and decreasing number of population in rural areas, require new innovations and collaboration that are tailor-made for the specific conditions of the region. Being a sparsely populated area, Lapland is a challenging context for co-creation and innovations, furthermore, local decision-makers and entrepreneurs need assistance in finding the right development track with economical methods. The distances make participation and involvement in decision-making remarkably difficult. Additionally, networking has become an important factor for competitive entrepreneurial activities; therefore old ways of creating services and products are no longer sufficient. (Jäminki & Saranne 2013a; Jäminki & Saranne 2013b.)

These challenges require active contribution and involvement of the actors in the region. The service debate in Living Labs has been able to approach the themes of societal change, new emerging patterns in value co-creation and developing service design methods that can be used to facilitate development processes. Service design is establishing itself as a practice (Miettinen & Valtonen 2012) and innovative methods used in service design process facilitate users’ participation in service development (Thomas 2008). Experiences also show that technology enables new value-chains, becomes more network-like and gives participants new tools (Eriksson, Niitamo & Kulkki 2005). These principles were applied in the Elävä Lappi Living Labs.

Context Elävä Lappi Living Lab

“Elävä Lappi” Living Lab was established in a real-life setting in rural, sparsely populated pilot environments, Kemi-Tornio city area at the Swedish border and Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. The pilot project was financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the period of August 2010 to December 2013. The partners represent all the three universities in Lapland: Kemi-Tornio UAS and Rovaniemi UAS (Lapland UAS after the merger in 1.1.2014) as well as University of Lapland.

The project “Elävä Lappi” was established to pilot and promote Living Lab methods by developing methods for joint, open innovation co-creative processes. The Living Labs follow the principles of the so-called ´Quadruple Helix model´ (see Figure 1) underpinning exchange, shared understanding and local policy development (Arnkil, Järvensivu, Koski & Piirainen 2010). The Living Lab culture is supported by innovative test methods and models which facilitates the inclusion of higher education – i.e. the students and the staff – to the regional project contents.

Figure 1: The Elävä Lappi Living Lab concept offers a wider perspective to the development process and the Quadruple Helix involves end-users/customers, developers, utilizers and enablers simultaneously with the co-creative development process.

Physical and Virtual Labs

The physical labs of “Elävä Lappi” proved to be efficient collaboration places for the Living Lab actors. The workshops were tailored in collaboration with all the actors and it was fairly easy to activate the Lappish participants; after all, people are interested in developing their region. However, for some participant involvement was not always easy; the employees from working life and the digital generation found it difficult to attend the face-to-face workshops.

Technology, on the other hand, seemed to offer more easily accessible and affordable collaboration spaces for the above mentioned groups (Jäminki & Nijbakker 2013). Therefore, Web 2.0 tools that served the Lappish context best, were incorporated into the Elävä Lappi Living Lab (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Different technologies utilized in the Elävä Lappi project.

It has to be pointed out, however, that both the Physical and Virtual labs are important; they only serve different types of participants. The report mainly addresses pedagogical and technological factors of the Labs, since the other results of the Labs have been widely presented in papers and publications (see Merivirta 2013; Jäminki & Saranne 2013a; Jäminki & Saranne 2013b).

Involvement of Higher Education

All the universities of applied sciences have wide responsibilities for the well-being of the region; therefore research, development and innovation (RDI) activities have to be designed to promote the wellbeing of the entire region. The RDI processes in Living Labs were integrated into studies and implemented through real-life innovation tasks, theses and RDI projects. RDI was carried out cooperatively by students, lecturers and representatives of various organizations.

In Elävä Lappi, we piloted Living Lab method and user-engagement both virtually and face to face. For example, there were multiple online inquiries, idea collecting and user researches executed via our website and Facebook page. In addition to these, we organized several workshops that took place in the environment that was aimed to be developed. (See Elävä Lappi 2014.) Shopping Centre Rajalla På Gränsen in Tornio was one of the most important cooperation partners in both virtual and physical Living Labs.

Figure 3: Development workshops were primarily organized in the places that were developed. Online user-involvement enhanced possibilities to participate.

The integration of theoretical and practical issues facilitates the complex learning process. Integration in Living Labs proved to be rewarding but also challenging. The teachers and project staff needed several negotiations before shared understanding of the pedagogical solutions and the project goals were reached.

Implications for The Digital Context

The results gained in the Elävä Lappi Living Labs can be viewed from various perspectives. For the region, the regional developments achieved during the Living Lab activities are prioritized. Decision-makers not only appreciated the shared knowledge but even savings achieved by the use of open source software and the collaboration measures that could be used for targeting the right actions to serve the users.

Another perspective is to see how technology helped to achieve the goals. Web 2.0 is a global phenomenon; however, integration to the Labs requires local tailoring, despite the fact that Lapland operates with international stakeholders. By including the global perspective into the context, true benefits for the regional actors may be identified. To make the changes more visible for the users, the digital criteria set up by UNESCO (2011) and the learning goals of the so-called 21st century were followed.

The results prove that the Living Labs are not only capable of preventing social exclusion by facilitating participation by the help of ICT, actions can even help policy-makers to get reliable evidence of the directions of the actions. Through the ongoing and effective use of media the students had the opportunity to acquire important technology capabilities during the learning activities and the acquired competences can be transferred to working life.

Pedagogical Implications

Experiences prove that when regional service design objectives and technology are integrated into the learning context, educational implementation structures have to be reviewed and re-designed (Jäminki & Nijbakker 2013). Service design and online education require the use of technology and the teachers have to be in charge of the online-services; therefore training teachers has to be given a priority. Changes in pedagogical practice involve co-creation, the use of various technologies and online content but it also involves knowing where and when (as well as when not) to use the technology for various activities.

From the pedagogical point-of-view, the principles of online idea-generating-workshops and co-creation methods require a lot of in-advance planning where both the teaching staff and project employees have to bring their expertise. Reaching consensus always requires a lot of communication. Open discussions focus on functional and theoretical underlying principles but even on the use of methodological choices. The actors have to decide which methods and tools best serve the region. The challenge calls for constant collaboration among all the actors; the teachers and the project employees can’t exclude the regional decision makers and alone make the decisions. (Merivirta 2013.) For ongoing communication and decision-making, online tools bring substantial help.

Figure 4: Elävä Lappi Living Labs tested new and innovative ways of user-involvement.

Conclusion

During the Elävä Lappi project as well as in other regional projects that were implemented simultaneously, the acquired knowledge of Living Lab methods and user-involvement was increased among the staff of Lapland UAS and the participants. This new competence is therefore implemented and taken into practice in other courses of the Degree Programmes. Also, by participating the local enterprises and other organizations, the participants acquired awareness of the importance of user-involvement in working life, regardless the type of field or industry. On top of this, it is worth mentioning that user-involvement creates a core development area in the strategies of Lapland UAS founded in 2014.

The Elävä Lappi Living Labs indicated promising ways of regional collaboration and user-involvement and increased the survival of Lapland and prevented the social exclusion of the residents. Living Lab methodology offered tools for reaching shared goals and supported learning as a network phenomenon, influenced by socialisation and technology. Living Labs, supported by ICT, offered solutions that are not only efficient and co-creative but even more economical and user-friendly for all the parties. (Jäminki & Saranne 2013.) Co-creation of services, management and dissemination of knowledge to all the actors helps to develop Lapland.

Authors

Seija Jäminki, Lecturer, PH.D, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, seija.jaminki@lapinamk.fi

Marika Saranne, R&D Manager, M.Sc, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, marika.saranne@lapinamk.fi

Arnkil, R. & Järvensivu, A. & Koski, P. & Piirainen, T. 2010. Exploring the Quadruple Helix : Outlining user-oriented innovation models. Final Report on Quadruple Helix Research for the CLIQ project. Working Papers 85/2010. Tampere: University of Tampere, Work Research Centre. Available at http://www.cliqproject.eu/pubfilebank/savefile.php?folderId=175&fileId=1012&key=adb812d8e220ec363aac5e1c3a83edf3. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Elävä Lappi 2014. Project’s webpage. In address: http://some.lappia.fi/blogs/elavalappi/about/. Accessed on 10.9.2014.

Eriksson, M., Niitamo, V.-P. & Kulkki, S. 2005. State-of-the-art in utilizing Living Labs approach to user-centric ICT innovation – a European approach. Working Paper. Available at http://www.vinnova.se/upload/dokument/verksamhet/tita/stateoftheart_livinglabs_eriksson2005.pdf. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Jäminki, S. & Nijbakker, P. 2013. Efforts to implement new learning spaces in higher education. The case of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Article 06 September 2013, Open Education Europa. Available at http://openeducationeuropa.eu/fi/download/file/fid/27791. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Jäminki, S. & Saranne, M. 2013a. “Living Labland” – Co-creative Innovation Lab Integrating Cross-border Co- creation of services to research, development and innovation in Higher Education. A collection of proceedings published from the 4th ENoLL Living Lab Summer School in A collection of proceedings published from the 4th ENoLL Living Lab Summer School in Manchester (UK) August 27th – 30th, 2013,130–149. Brussels: European Network of Living Labs. Available at http://4thenollsummerschool.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/proceedings-4th-enollss13.pdf. Accessed on 25.4.2014.

Jäminki, S. & Saranne M. 2013b.  Living “Labland” : Supporting Cross-border Living Lab by means of RDI. Presentation at ENoll 2013, Manchester, UK. Brussels: European Network of Living Labs. Available at http://4thenollsummerschool.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/7_enoll-research-session-3_jc3a4minki_saranne_mm.pptx. Accessed on 25.4.2014.

Merivirta, M. (Ed.) 2013. Tee-se-itse-YHDESSÄ : Käyttäjälähtöisyydellä ja Living Lab -toiminnalla kohti Elävää Lappia. Tornio: Kemi-Tornion ammattikorkeakoulu. Available at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-58-6. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Miettinen, S. & Valtonen, A. (Eds.) 2012. Service Design with Theory : Discussions on Change, Value and Methods. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.

Thomas, E. (Ed.) 2008. Innovation by design in public services. SOLACE Foundation Imprint. London: The Guardian. Available at http://www.solace.org.uk/starter_docs/SFI%20-%20Innovation%20by%20design%20in%20public%20services.pdf. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

UNESCO 2011. UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers. Version 2.0. Paris: UNESCO. Available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002134/213475e.pdf. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Meeting point for businesses and emerging creative talents – Creative Steps as a networking platform

The Creative field is one that is ever growing and developing, and emerging creative talents have to constantly find new ways to work together and build functioning networks. One kind of channel for international networking was provided by Creative Edge project. (Merivirta & Arkko-Saukkonen 2013, 12.)

Creative Edge project took place between 2011 and 2013, and it was funded by the Northern Periphery Programme. The main aim of the project was to introduce local organisations and businesses in the creative field on the international market while simultaneously striving to increase the skills, competitiveness and future opportunities in working life of both young people as well as other actors in the creative field. (Creative Edge 2013.)

Five different partners from four different countries have participated in the Creative Edge project. From Ireland these were the Whitaker Institute of Galway University and the Western Development Commission (WDC), and from Northern Ireland the organisation called South Eastern Economic Development (SEED). From Northern Sweden and Northern Finland, the partners were Film i Västerbotten and Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences (since 1.1.2014 Lapland UAS) respectively. (Creative Edge 2013; The Creative Edge Project Partners 2013.)

During the project, Lapland UAS was responsible of organizing an international Creative Steps workshop.

Towards Creative Steps

Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences has, since 2005, arranged a competition-like event called InnoMaraton, and this concept is further carried in Lapland UAS. It’s central objective is to create interaction between the business world and students. Through assignments, groups of students help the local businesses in the area to develop new business opportunities, enhance the growth process and promote internationalisation. (Arkko-Saukkonen & Merivirta 2013b, 18–19.) InnoMaraton concept increases understanding of know-how, innovation and entrepreneurship through practical work (see Valli 2007).

As a part of the Creative Edge project, Creative Steps pilot was realised in 2013. Creative Steps is an international implementation of the InnoMaraton concept. The implementation took four weeks, two of which were conventional working and the other two were online communication.

Picture 1. Creative Steps workshop offered an innovative platform for emerging creative talentes to network.

For Creative Steps, we wanted to get a group of participants with a large variety of skills in order to be able to create teams with heterogenous skill sets. Newly graduated students, or future graduates, were selected for the project. In total, 15 participants were chosen for the workshop: five from Finland, three from Sweden, three from Ireland and four from Northern Ireland. The participants were divided into four international multi-talented teams.

One client from each of the partner countries involved in the Creative Edge project was chosen and the clients represented different sectors of the business world or working life.

The students practiced business skills and helped businesses develop new ideas for products and services, as well as existing policies or respond to challenges in which the perspective of a creative expert is called for. The Creative Steps pilot project strove to support networking and point out the opportunities to match creative know-how to a number of different needs through experiences (benchmarking, matchmaking). Furthermore, one of the most important objectives was to create opportunities for employment. (Arkko-Saukkonen & Merivirta 2013a.)

The Creative Steps Model

By enhancing entrepreneurial skills, UASs strive to meet the demands of working life. Entrepreneurship is applied to a number of processes such as innovation work and company cooperation. Through planning and implementing the Creative Steps model, the aim was to find out how to build a work life oriented learning process and how this process would further cooperation and interaction between students and working life.

Creative Steps model is a creative and innovative learning process with an emphasis on internationality. The aim is to serve both the economy and the students, while taking into consideration the way it reflects the educational institution.

The Creative Steps process became, through ideation, planning and development, a model that is illustrated by the Figure 1. The comprehensive description of the model is documented in the publication Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea (Arkko-Saukkonen & Merivirta 2013a).

Figure 1. The progress of the Creative Steps workshop step by step (Arkko-Saukkonen & Merivirta 2013c, 22–23)

The first working environment of the workshop was face-to-face working that took place in two different countries; the first week in Finland and the second in Northern Ireland. During this part of the process, team building lead to working with the assignments as the groups met their employers and specified the contents of their assignments.

In the second phase of the process, work continued online. The first phase of the online communication was the creation and development of ideas and creating demo material. The second phase was assembling the material and practising the presentations with the coach and the support person present. The actual presentations were done in iLinc and, apart from the employers, a number of other people were invited to listen.

During the workshop, the role of the teacher was to be a coach and encourage, motivate and guide groups of students during the implementation of the model. In the Creative Steps concept, the teacher’s role expanded into that of a process planner and all the way up to that of a manager.

Participant reception

“Amazing, superawesomefantastic, lifechanging, memorable, super.“ These are only few words that students used while asked to describe their experiences of Creative Steps with one word. (Merivirta 2013b, 116–119.) Based on the feedback from the participants, Creative Steps was first and foremost a once in a lifetime experience that enabled them to learn, develop themselves, network and make friends across borders. (Merivirta 2013a, 113–114.)

The students were given various methods and were allowed to choose which ones they wanted to use (see Arkko-Saukkonen 2013). They were encouraged to plan a schedule themselves and assign duties within their team. The team was responsible for the actual cooperation with the client. The coaches were there to support the process when necessary and provided guidance, encouragement and necessary tools. The freedom of the students culminated in the online communication section of the workshop.

Picture 2. Various ideation methods were introduced to the participants to choose from by one of the coaches, Anitra Arkko-Saukkonen.

The participants in Creative Steps were extremely motivated, which was also one of the criteria when selecting participants. The largest factor why people applied was the chance to get to work internationally and go abroad. Another big issue brought up during the discussions was the development of one’s own knowledge and showcasing one’s skills. Meeting new people and working together with the assignments were ways of increasing the internal motivation as this creates contacts that can lead to future activity and cooperation.

Team working has its benefits as it generates interaction, the exchange of ideas and collective work. One of the participants stated that: “I think teamwork can really help you in the creative process. The team can help you to find new sides to things and expand your point of view. Different cultural and educational backgrounds enrich the ideas.” (Arkko-Saukkonen 2013, 48).

Picture 3. In Creative Steps, practicality and creativity had to be combined in order to get applicable solutions for the clients.

Another participant summarizes her personal benefits of the Creative Steps participation quite comprehensively: “I feel now that I have a better grasp of the whole industry of business, enterprises and working with real cases and people. I also realized how much creativity can give and make happen. It can be used professionally as a tool to improve or create almost anything.” (Arkko-Saukkonen & Merivirta 2013d, 28).

Through the ideation taking place at the workshop, the clients gained new perspectives to their challenges which can lead to new things, despite the process often being slow.

Networking as a valuable skill in working life

The basic structure of the Creative Steps concept is well-functioning. The workshop was first and foremost an experience and the feedback showed that the participants are certain to recommend it to others. Online communication provided an opportunity to work across borders with Facebook as the most efficient tool as it makes the process visible due to its real-time structure.

Through its work, Lapland University of Applied Sciences vitalises the area, as well as its international networks through long term project work. International work has indeed provided wide cooperation networks that open doors for Lapland UAS to be seen by a wider audience while, at the same time, enabling the application of existing methods. The foundation of this work is the cooperation between businesses and learning through networks.

In the future, the requirements on employees‘ networking skills will be ever higher. The activity of institutions and fields across borders will increase and this will open up a new field of interactivity through online communication. On my experiences, different operational cultures and educational institutions are able to develop a diverse and rich interaction connected to work life oriented activity. At the same time, these kind of activities provide an arena where you can showcase your skill and network with others.

Even though the members of the network often represent a certain interest or organisation, it is important to remember to be aware of the fact that you are still people meeting other people when working in a network, whether we are working face to face or through online communication. People meet each other, not various organisations or interests. This is the basis of everything – trust and joint motivation towards a joint objective. In my opinion, this succeeded very well in Creative Steps.

Author

Anitra Arkko-Saukkonen, Lecturer, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, anitra.arkko-saukkonen@lapinamk.fi

Arkko-Saukkonen, A. 2013. A Toolbox for Innovation Methods. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 58–73. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Arkko-Saukkonen, A. & Merivirta, M. 2013a. Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Arkko-Saukkonen, A. & Merivirta, M. 2013b. Starting Points and Realisation of the Creative Steps Workshop. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 18–21. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Arkko-Saukkonen, A. & Merivirta, M. 2013c. The Progress of the Creative Steps Workshop Step by Step. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 22–23. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Arkko-Saukkonen, A. & Merivirta, M. 2013d. Searching for Assignments. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 26–29. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Creative Edge 2013. Project’s webpage. Retrieved 7.11.2013. In address: http://www.creative-edge.eu.

Merivirta, M. 2013a. The Reception of the Creative Steps Workshop – The Experiences of Clients and Participants. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 112–115. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Merivirta, M. 2013b. Workshop Participants’ Experiences. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 116–119. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

Merivirta, M. & Arkko-Saukkonen, A. 2013. Foreword. In: Creative Steps – On the Way to an Idea. A Model for the Realisation of an International Workshop, 12–14. Publications of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Serie B. Reports 18/2013. Tornio. In address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-86-9.

The Creative Edge Project Partners 2013. Retrieved 7.11.2013. In address: http://www.creative-edge.eu/partners-2/.

Valli, S. 2007. Kemi-Tornion Innomaraton 2007. In Pia-Maria Lausas (ed.): InnoMaraton – Startti tulevaisuuteen. Kemi-Tornion ammattikorkeakoulun julkaisuja Sarja A: Raportteja ja tutkimuksia 9/2007.

Benchmarking Learning and Teaching – International case study from the Oulu University of Applied Sciences and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences

Benchmarking project was carried out between the Oulu University of Applied Sciences in Finland and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Netherlands. The aim of the project was to benchmark learning and teaching, quality assurance and curricula development in the degree programmes. There were teachers, students and members of the support staff participating to the project. The benchmarking project was successful; the results are useful for the degree programmes and further cooperation is planned.

Background of the Benchmarking Project

Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oulu UAS) has signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Fontys University of Applied Sciences from the Netherlands. Both universities seek close co-operation in the fields of student and staff exchange, curriculum planning and quality assurance. Oulu University of Applied Sciences educates competent professionals for the needs of working life. There are 8 000 students and 750 staff members. Fontys University of Applied Sciences is a learning community with 40 000 students and 4000 staff members.

With its focus on quality and its similar organizational structure, Fontys was a natural partner to Oulu UAS in the benchmarking project. The benchmarking project was carried out between the Degree Programme in Mechanical and Production Engineering and the Degree Programme in Business Economics from the Oulu UAS and the Degree Programme of Mechanical Engineering and the Degree Programme in International Business and Management Studies from the Fontys. The benchmarking project was funded by the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council.

The primary aims of the benchmarking project were to benchmark and share the best practices in defining learning outcomes in the degree programmes and to compare the processes ensuring that expertise, skills and knowledge are achieved by the students. In addition the benchmarking project promoted and strengthened the strategic partnership and cooperation, helped both universities to develop their feedback systems and prepared for the internal and external audits and accreditations.

Implementation of the Benchmarking Visit

The project was carried out by two visits to Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven and Venlo. The first visit took place in November 2013. There were four participants from Oulu UAS: one teacher and three students from the Degree Programme in Mechanical and Production Engineering.

The purpose of the visit was to start a project between the Dutch and the Finnish students in the course called International Cooperation Innovation. Meeting face to face in the beginning was a good starting point. The students got to know each other, the campuses and were able to compare the learning and teaching methods in both countries. They also created product ideas together and agreed on contents, responsibilities and timetables of the project. International Cooperation Innovation was later successfully finished online.

The second visit took place in March 2014. There were nine participants from Oulu UAS: five teachers, two students and two members of the support staff. Two teachers were from the Degree Programme in Mechanical and Production Engineering, and three teachers and two students were from the Degree Programme in Business Economics.

When comparing the learning and teaching activities between the degree programmes, the participants used a benchmarking worksheet, which was prepared in advance. It was easy to write down the best practises, while there were tables and titles already in place in the worksheet. It is also easier to share the gained knowledge with the colleagues.

Main Results in Comparing Learning and Teaching

The teachers from the Degree Programme in Business Economics from the Oulu UAS praised the structure of the curriculum in Fontys. The whole degree programme in Fontys could be visualized very clearly on only one A4 paper copy. Every course is located to certain semester, and the semesters 5, 6 and 8 are dedicated to minor studies, work placement and graduation assignment. In Fontys there are so called semester coordinators, who have the responsibility for coordinating studies in one semester. In Oulu UAS the rough structure of the programme is described on yearly basis, but there is no scheduled forecast for the courses.

In Fontys the students have to acquire internships themselves. However, only companies with more than 15 employees will be accepted. During their work placement the students must complete a project, which the supervisor approves. Project should be useful to the employer and challenging to the student. The length and the time of the training are approximately the same in both degree programmes. In Oulu UAS the students have to acquire work placement independently and there is no limit for the number of company employees. During the training period the student does professional assignments offered by the employer.

There are clear differences between two degree programmes concerning the thesis process. In Fontys the thesis is 28 credits (max 40 pages) and in Oulu UAS it is 15 credits (no page limit). In Fontys the students work in the companies while doing their thesis. The theme of the thesis is defined by the company and it can also be confidential. There is no open access to the final thesis. In the evaluation the thesis will be presented to the company and to the assessment committee. In the Oulu UAS the thesis process involves a three-step, public seminar structure where the student shows the progress of his/her own work to the supervisor teacher and to the other students. Accepted thesis is public and it should be stored in the open national database.

The teachers from the Degree Programme in Mechanical and Production Engineering compared the structure of curriculum. In Fontys there are more project-oriented studies. Work placement is done during one semester, while the students in Oulu UAS do their work placement during two or three summers. One semester is dedicated to minor studies. For a student it is a convenient time for an international exchange. In Oulu UAS the exchange periods can vary, and there is not a clear time slot for it in the curriculum.

When comparing the education resourcing and methods there were differences and similarities. In Fontys the number of teacher’s working hour resource is at average 1 hour per 1 student and 1 credit. It is almost the same as at Oulu UAS, calculated of the teacher’s 1600 hour annual resource. The ratio of students and teachers is 20 students per one teacher at Fontys, at Oulu UAS the ratio is about 25. The normal student group size at Fontys is 30 students, it’s at the same level in Oulu UAS. At Fontys the number of contact classroom hours is smaller than at Oulu UAS, but the teachers use more resources to guide the project based learning.

In both universities there are several courses of innovation and product development. Future cooperation could be realized on those courses as the international student groups innovate, design and build prototypes together. This kind of co-operation has already been started; a mechatronic device designed in co-operation of students of Fontys and students of Oulu UAS was built and tested in the end of May 2014.

The students thought that the most potential practice to be learned from was a course called “Mini Company”. It is a mandatory part of several degree programmes in the business field. It is an excellent way to combine theory from the classes into real life and get involved in the business life where people from the different branches collaborate and are accountable for each other. Groups of students (10-15 persons) establish companies and run them independently for a year. The teachers meet the groups regularly, but they do not conduct any negotiations on behalf of the companies. Instead the students must take care of everything. At the end of the year the company has to be closed down.

The students also commented on the premises. In Fontys there were several colourful and well-equipped working spaces which are intended for both teachers and students. Teachers need also privacy but some of the work could be done in the shared space where the students could ask for consultancy. This makes teachers easier to approach and strengthens the conversation between teachers and students.

Conclusions

The aim of the benchmarking project was to benchmark learning and teaching, quality assurance and curricula development between the Oulu University of Applied Sciences and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. The benchmarking visits proved to be successful, and the degree programmes can develop their actions according to the results.

Benchmarking worksheet was a useful tool for comparing activities, and it could be used also later on. The project created fruitful and multi-diciplinary interaction, mainly because there were teachers, students and the members of the support staff from different degree programmes participating to the visit. Student involvement was crucial to the success of the project, as they were actively socializing with the local students in addition to participating the official visit programme.

The results of the benchmarking project will be directly exploitable in the design process of the new curricula to be prepared in 2015. The objective in Oulu UAS is to design curricula that provide for effective completion of studies for different types of learners. It is also crucial to involve working life organizations more efficiently to the design process in order to ensure the working life correspondence of the learning outcomes.

Another aspect involves strengthening and further developing the strategic partnership between Oulu UAS and Fontys. The aim is to increase productive cooperation both in student and staff exchanges. This will boost the development of individuals’ international skills increasingly required in the globalizing societies.

Author

Marianne Isola, Quality Coordinator, MBA, BA, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, marianne.isola@oamk.fi

Exploring interactive gameplay for well-being enhancement – How an international cooperation involving a multi-disciplinary team are developing state-of-the-art 3D computer games for special-needs users

1. Introduction

The project, begun in September 2013, is run in Finland by SAMK’s Well-being Enhancing Technology Research Group (WET-RG) and in Ireland by DKIT’s Department of Computing & Maths. It brings together WET-RG’s research expertise with DkIT’s experience in developing state-of-the-art 3D computer games. It builds on existing research cooperation e.g. WET-RG, who developed GaMeRGames to support Memory Rehabilitation for older adults, already evaluated in Finland (Koivisto et al. 2013), are conducting comparative trials of this serious game app for people affected by dementia, in a day care centre in Dundalk, Ireland (The Birches 2014). This work also builds on experience gained in previous comparative trials in Finland and Ireland into serious games for primary school maths education (Kiili at al. 2014).

2. Approach taken and key objectives

The approach taken was innovative and explorative. The project combined the strengths and expertise of staff in both colleges and provided the opportunity for on-line and on-site collaboration, discussion, and evaluation of work in progress. This included site visits (involving SAMK physiotherapy and DkIT games students) to the client residential care community (Kuanummen Koti 2014).

The theme of well-being enhancement, especially relating to special needs end users, presented a significant need and an opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration. Expert input was sought from SAMK’s Research, Development & Innovation lab (automation), Social and Healthcare faculty and DkIT’s School of Health and Science. The entrepreneurial potential of each game was also given importance from the initial stage to the final game prototype.

The project had three key objectives:

1. “Well-being enhancement”. Teams were given creative freedom to interpret the theme. However, each team needed to show how their game concept could address some specific well-being attribute (e.g. physical dexterity, cognitive capability or mood improvement). In keeping with recognised international best practice, the games needed to employ the principles of Universal Design. Universal Design promotes the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” (Universal Design 2014).

2. “State-of-the-art”. Game prototypes utilised state-of-the-art development tools for 3D visualisation, animation, sound and user interaction. A high degree of sophistication and functional capability was demanded. Each game needed to demonstrate technical excellence in all aspects of its design and implementation. A further challenge was to adapt features of the game play and user interaction to be more playable by people with a specific special need or impairment, requiring novel approaches to design and development of user interaction.

3. “Design for Somebody”. User-centric techniques were employed putting the end user at the centre of the process. Teams used an agile software development process and toolset (Scrumwise 2014) allowing careful evaluation of requirements. Iterative prototyping was employed to facilitate further feedback. Expert driven user profiling provided better understanding of special end user needs. The approach of “design for somebody” went one step further encouraging individualised design customisation, including incorporating personal, sentimental content and game artefacts.

3. Game prototypes developed and notable achievements to date

Team “Evoke Studios”: Keith Byrne, Tadhg Deeney, Sean Mc Cooey, Michael Murphy, Nicholas Murray.Their game, “Evoke” (Figure 1) is a third-person sandbox adventure aimed at people affected by mood related conditions such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This game was presented at the Irish National Disability Authority Universal Design Grand Challenge, in May 2014, being shortlisted in the top 7 from over 70 final-year student projects.

Figure 1: Evoke aimed at users with SAD.

Team “Team Symbiote”: Peter Duffy, Colm Grogan, Criona Shine, Hugh Thornton, Ze Hou Zhang. Their game, “Nyx” (Figure 2) is an open world puzzle adventure for people suffering from a physical impairment like MS (Multiple Sclerosis) or MD (Muscular Dystrophy). Internationally, this game won the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013: Global Citizen Competition and nationally it won the 2014 Honeycomb Creative Awards Best Project. The team have been invited to participate in the European Finals of the Intel Business Challenge Europe (IBCE) in September 2014.

Figure 2: Nyx aimed at users with MS or MD.

Team “Whooful Games”: Lee Byrne, Stephen Fleming, Senyee Lee, Cian Mc Cormack, Patrick O’Halloran. Their game, “Babel” (Figure 3) is an on-line co-operative exploration platformer game, which explores the use of NVC (non-verbal communication) and gestures to support gameplay particularly for people who suffer from social anxiety. To date the game has attracted a large on-line community of players who signed up as part of user testing.

Figure 3: Babel aimed at users with Social Anxiety.

In June 2014 three students, one from each team, travelled to Finland to conduct user demos at the Kuanummen Koti care community open day (Figure 4). The initial reaction to all three games from care staff, clients, family and visitors was very positive. This trip also afforded the chance to promote the project through local and regional press interviews.

Figure 4: DkIT students showcased their games in Finland.

4. Outcomes and lessons learned

Well-being enhancement was an inspiring and doable theme. The “design for somebody” approach provided real motivation. Two of the student teams were inspired by the needs of a specific individual (e.g. family member). It also enhanced the entrepreneurial potential of the games as evidenced by judges’ comments in the competitions entered. The project demonstrates it is possible to operate a cross-disciplinary, international cooperative endeavour of benefit to all stakeholders.

The involvement of the Kaunummen Koti care community gave a real world context, design inspiration and personalisation. The opportunity for students to travel to Finland and experience firsthand user reaction was a huge motivator. To quote Hugh Thornton (Team Symbiote), “This project gave us the chance to work with real people on a personal level. It was a reminder to us of the people we are working so hard for. It is reassuring to have a Finnish partner to facilitate testing and validate the work we have done”.

The game prototypes employ innovative interaction techniques at the cutting edge of adapted game design. They will be deployed in a longitudinal trial in the care setting, incorporating game analytics, user observation and structured interviews to further investigate their effect and potential. This will be of interest to researchers from across different disciplines. The quality of the work produced is evidenced by the success achieved both nationally and internationally. Team Symbiote is in a business start-up based on this project. The new company, “Mega Future Games” could be the beginning of a real gaming revolution!

Authors

Enda Finn, Lecturer, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Department of Computing & Maths, enda.finn@dkit.ie

Andrew Sirkka, Principal Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Well-being Enhancing Technology Research Group, andrew.sirkka@samk.fi

Sari Merilampi, Project Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Well-being Enhancing Technology Research Group, sari.merilampi@samk.fi

Mirka Leino, Project Manager, Coordinator, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Well-being Enhancing Technology Research Group, mirka.leino@samk.fi

Antti Koivisto, Researcher, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Well-being Enhancing Technology Research Group, antti.koivisto@samk.fi

Koivisto A., Merilampi S., Kiili K., Sirkka A., Salli J. (2013) “Mobile activation games for rehabilitation and recreational activities – exergames for the intellectually disabled and the older adults”  Journal of Public Health Frontier, Vol. 2, No 3, pp. 122-132.

(The Birches 2014) The Birches Alzheimer Day Centre, Dundalk, Ireland. http://www.thebirches.ie (accessed September 2014).

Kiili K., Ketamo H., Koivisto A., Finn E., (2014) “Studying the User Experience of a Tablet Based Math Game” International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 4(1), 60-77, January-March 2014.

(Kaunummen Koti 2014) Kaunummen Koti Community Care, Eurajoki, Finland http://www.kaunummenkoti.fi/etusivu (accessed September 2014).

(Universal Design 2014) What is Universal Design? http://www.universaldesign.ie/exploreampdiscover (accessed September 2014).

(Scrumwise 2014) Scrumwise, Better Scrum. https://www.scrumwise.com/features.html (accessed September 2014).

Higher Education Institutions Excellence for Society – case Lahti University of Applied Sciences

Introduction

The diversity and deepening of co-operation between higher education and region is in the focus of development of higher education in Europe. Higher education institutions (HEIs) play an essential role in society: creating new knowledge, transferring it to students, re-training employees in the firms, and fostering innovations. “The third mission” of HEIs, in addition teaching and research, centres specifically on the contribution to regional development (OECD 2007; Jongbloed et al. 2008). In order to fulfil this regional role, HEIs must engage with others in their regions. Stronger ties and connections between institutions and the world of work is also necessary and needed in order to implement competence-based education (Biemans et al 2004; Wesselink et al 2010).

This article will focus on the Lahti region’s smart specialisation platform, which combined with the Lahti Living Lab concept, has been identified as a European model area. In addition, it outlines LUAS`s future operations in diversity campus, which include the Lahti University Consortium and various development companies and businesses. The approach of the issue is done by the case study (Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Finland).

The goal of Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS) is to be a multidisciplinary, internationally renowned and networked actor that educates responsible professionals and generates innovation, promotes regional competitiveness, and renews the local employment sector. LUAS is involved in the regional development of the wider Helsinki metropolitan area. The strategy of LUAS has been reviewed taking into account the strategic frameworks of European and national research and innovation policies, and regional strategies. LUAS operates in the global innovation system as part of the regional innovation ecosystems of the wider Helsinki metropolitan area and Päijät-Häme. We are involved in the effort to make the EU a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy and to achieve high employment, productivity and social cohesion.

The Lahti region is renowned for the practice-based innovation model. The innovation model is manifested in the following principles:

  • A broad concept of innovation has been adopted in the Lahti region, emphasising the role of services and processes: the development of innovation capability in the public sector is also integral in this model.
  • Breaking down the traditional, linear innovation model and searching for innovation through cross-boundary ”intellectual cross-pollination”; key sources of innovation are difference and specifically – related variety – which will facilitate the creation of development platforms instead of supporting narrow clusters.
  • In innovation, the core capability is a general ability to perceive possible worlds, and the core competence is innovation brokerage, which means the ability to create worlds for intellectual cross-pollination.
  • Organisations’ personnel hold vast potential for innovation, and each member of staff should have a dual role: to produce a product or service, and to continually consider how it could be made better; organisations should not be left as black boxes of innovation policy – the innovation capabilities of the employment sector should be developed with a concrete set of tools.
  • Innovations are primarily created in practical contexts, using a variety of different sources of information and leading to solution-oriented processes; development activity is characteristically market and customer driven.
  • Not everything has to be done in-house; innovation is largely about searching for luck in technologies, an activity that is supported with innovation policy that serves networks – at its core, it is about scanning for technological and market signals and absorbing them in businesses.
  • One key aspect is the creation of piloting and development environments which are based on heterogeneity in knowledge production; in these environments, the customer is a subject of innovation, not an object.
  • Institutions of higher education have integrated practice-based innovation as part of their operations and committed to its principles through their networked operating model
  • The innovation model is developed based on the ’smart specialisation’ framework of reference.

The Lahti region’s R&D profile has been significantly influenced by the lack of state-owned research organisations compared with many other major urban areas. RDI expenditure per capita is significantly lower than the national average. Despite this, the number of innovations generated in the region compared with the RDI expenditure is among the highest in Finland. The three competence focus areas of Lahti are:

  • Environment
  • Design
  • Practice-based innovation.

LUAS is committed to strengthening the region’s competitiveness and vitality in accordance with the growth agreement proposal drawn up by the region’s municipalities and the Finnish state and to the implementation of the Innovative Cities 2014–2020 programme in the Lahti region. In the future, our operations will focus on diversity campus (Niemi), which includes the Lahti University Consortium and various development companies and businesses. The Niemi Campus will provide authentic development and learning environments, which will connect regional operators e.g. HEIs and international partners to knowledge alliances. It strengthens innovation capacity and fosters innovation in higher education, business and the broader socio-economic environment. It is transnational, structured and result-driven campus, notably between HEIs and business to develop new, innovative and multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning; to stimulate entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills of students, academic and company staff; and to facilitate the exchange, flow and co-creation of knowledge.

The learning environments are physical and/or functional areas which are created with consideration of the focus areas and profiles and by applying the principles of intellectual cross-pollination and the Living Lab. They provide a collaboration environment where new kinds of concrete opportunities for cooperation can be identified and implemented, such as Interaction Design Environment – IDE!, EcoMill, the House of Design, Fellmannia, Lahti Future Lab and ISKU R&D Center.

The Lahti innovation ecosystem utilizes many innovative tools, processes and concepts. Here also the practice-based piloting ideology has been utilized and the iterative development has been ongoing while they have been in use. In order to achieve the HEIs’s third mission, and to participate into the regional development (Mora et al 2010), and to become a proactive actor of the knowledge-based learning region, HEIs need to further develop co-operation with private, public and third sector stakeholders. One possibility is to build shared learning environments, innovation ecosystems. Traditionally, universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS) have offered separate learning environments for theoretical and practical studies. Today’s challenge has been to bridge this gap and enhance the interface between universities and workplaces.

The new mode of collaboration can be started by answering the following questions: What new operations should be created and emphasised, and what old operations should be reduced and eliminated (Kim & Mauborgne 2005, 52). True collaboration is a long term process which takes place both on organizational and on individual levels. Organisations, HEIs and world of work, set up common goals. The implementation of these goals ensues in the interaction between people: teachers, students, employees and entrepreneurs. This demands interactive meetings, skill to conduct dialogical communication, creation of mutual language and understanding, joint agreements, participatory change management, and shared resource. In addition, partnership requires change in organisational culture, where interaction and diversity are enabled and where multidisciplinarity, flexibility and sensitivity occur. (e.g. Häggman-Laitila & Rekola 2011.)

The aim of this article was to examine elements that occur in collaboration between higher education and world of work. Even though, the results of this case study cannot be generalised, the article gives insight into the co-operation between HEIs and world of work from the knowledge alliances` and future campuses, perspective.

Author

Ilkka Väänänen, Research Director, PhD, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, ilkka.vaananen@lamk.fi

Biemans, H., Nieuwenhuis, L. Poell, R., Mulder, M. & Wesselink, R. (2004). Competence-based VET in the Netherlands: Background and pitfalls. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 56 (4): 523-538

Häggman-Laitila, A. & Rekola, L. (2011b). Partnership between higher education and working life – Developing an action model through action research. Refereed Academic Paper. Innovations for Competence Management Conference 19-21.5.2011 Lahti, Finland. http://pro.phkk.fi/kit/articles/Haggman-Laitila_Rekola_article.pdf. Read 24.03.2013.

Jongbloed, B., Enders, J. & Salerno, C. (2008).Higher education and its communities: Interconnections, interdependencies and a research agenda. Higher Education,56: 303–324.

Kim, W.C. & Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy: How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. (p. 52). USA: Harward Business School Press.

Mora, J.-G, Detmer, A. & Vieira, M.-J. (eds.) (2010). Good Practices in University-Enterprise Partnerships GOODUEP.

OECD. (2007). Higher education and regions: Globally competitive, locally engaged. Paris: OECD.

Wesselink, R., de Jong, C. & Biemans, H.J.A. (2010). Aspects of Competence-Based Education as Footholds to Improve the Connectivity between Learning in Schools and in the Workplace. Vocations and Learning, 3 (3): 19 – 38.

A Feedback System created with students on display on World Library and Information Congress – Presenting student co-operation on international level

Learning center Fellmannia

Learning center Fellmannia is one of the Lahti University of Applied Sciences campuses, consisting of classrooms, learning spaces, information and library services, student services and a restaurant and a café together with conference services.  Fellmannia´s functions are defined as need-based, interactive, innovative and proactive. For this to come true, service concept needs to be systematically developed, taking into account the feedback collected from the users of the premises and changes in service environment.

One way of supporting interactional functions is making students genuine partners in Fellmannia’s everyday actions and development. This has been a working principle for several years now, and the skills of students have been widely utilized in many functions, including technical visualization, interior planning, promotional photography, development of student and personnel welfare services and organizing events.

Fellmannia launched a service evaluation process in 2012, as a part of World Design Capital 2012 -project. Through this evaluation process, data was being gathered on how Fellmannia’s functions and services meet the objectives and what are the needs for further development. Project was targeted to higher education and vocational students and teachers of Päijät-Häme region and other users of Fellmannia’s services. The students were selected as the most important group in the evaluation process.

The process consisted of five workshops, two case-study afternoons and two customer surveys. Through this extensive data collection, few key points were identified, the most important of them being the need for easy to use and transparent feedback system.
It was clear from the beginning that the feedback system will be made together with students. Working with them is a perfect way to engage students to a new system and get to know what kind of feedback system would appeal to users whose feedback is the most important.

The planning of the feedback system started as a multidisciplinary project with Information and Library services, Design Foundation Finland and students from the Institute of Design and Fine Arts and the Faculty of Technology. The technology behind the new feedback system was built by the Lahti University of Applied Sciences Faculty of Technology students. Their contribution was remarkable for the user-oriented development process of the feedback pool.

Feedback pool provides a simple, game-like channel for feedback with no complicated menus or multiphase processes. It is also a practical communication channel between Fellmannia’s users and staff. Both positive and negative user input give valuable insight and tools for improving services.

Picture 1. Layout of feedback pool

Feedback pool displays the latest feedback at one glance. Fellmannia’s Feedback pool has separate sections for different services and an open section, where the administrator can ask a topical question.

Comments, opinions and other feedback can be entered into a bubble and all bubbles can be liked by other users, causing the liked bubble to grow. Feedback pool can be operated via pc and mobile devices.

Feedback pool is a registered trademark.

Picture 2. QR-link to Feedback pool

Feedback pool on spotlight

World Library and Information Congress is held annually, being the most important congress in the field of Information and library services. Congress is organized by IFLA, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the global voice of the library and information profession. This year, IFLA was held in Lyon, France and was visited by over 4000 Information -and library professionals around the world.

Picture 3. Poster session visitors. (photo: Guillaume Gast)

Feedback pool was presented in this congress as a poster. During two poster presentation sessions, both lasting for two hours, the feedback pool was attracting over 200 visitors wanting to know more about the topic of the poster. Discussions with delegates were fertile and many were even interested in acquiring the pool for their own organization.

Working with students appealed to many coming from academic libraries, for the benefits of such cooperation are clear. With strong student collaboration, the library services are viewed as a potential partner providing an opportunity to present students skills to a wider audience. Furthermore, cooperation is a good way to connect with students and get to know their information needs and their understanding of library services. Thus the collaboration benefits both the library and the students.

Picture 4. Feedback pool is bubbling. (photo: Johanna Kiviluoto)

Benefits and experiences

The creation of the feedback pool was an important process both to Fellmannia’s staff and students taking part in the project. Students got valuable experience from working with a the supplier, learning multidisciplinary cooperation and project work, and the supplier got the chance to get to know the latest views and ideas student have on the services offered. Students also gave insight to what kind of language should be used when creating services for students. When students form the most important customer group, the service model “for student, by students” will be a continuing principle at Fellmannia.

Service design is an ongoing process in which students are seen as important partners. After the development of feedback pool, students have already been involved in other projects aiming to enhance the customer experience, such as beta testing the information and library services’ new information retrieval system and making a survey on customer satisfaction with one of the information and library services newly renovated locations, Information Centre Campus. Fellmannia has also been a partner in several theses and a place for many students to perform their practical training. In the near future, student co-operation will take yet another step forward with the launching of a new media center created by students, making use of Fellmannia’s facilities.

Author

Riikka Sinisalo, Information Specialist, M. Soc. Sc, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, riikka.sinisalo@lamk.fi

Feedback pool, 2014. www.fellmannia.fi/palautepallomeri

Fellmannia – tiedon ja oppimisen kohtaamispaikka, 2014. In english. www.fellmannia.fi

Flickr,2014. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). https://www.flickr.com/photos/ifla/sets/

IFLA World Library and Information Congress, 2014. http://conference.ifla.org/ifla80

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2014. http://www.ifla.org/

The Joint Higher Education Library in Lahti – Supporting the Development of Information Literacy from Upper Secondary School to Higher Education

Introduction

The upper secondary school library services have traditionally been provided by and developed with the public libraries. In our view also the academic libraries, with their special expertise and digital resources, should take part in the teaching of pre-academic information skills. Students now entering upper secondary school are already digital natives, brought up in a digitally rich environment. However, being born into the Internet era doesn’t automatically make these generations information literate, as a recent study conducted in Finland suggests. On the contrary, these skills are something that needs to be taught (Kiili, 2012).

Collaborating for the Support of Information Literacy

A joint library is usually a library for several independent universities and polytechnics, and its operation is based on a contract between its parent institutions (Palonen et al, 2013: 224). However, we are stretching this definition by also co-operating with the region’s educational institutions of both vocational and upper secondary levels. The Information and Library services are developed and maintained in collaboration with Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS), Salpaus Further Education and Lahti University Campus, with its units of three different universities. This collaboration of different educational institutions has several advantage points, which help make the joint library an integral and natural part of the whole educational continuum.

Students entering vocational or upper secondary education will immediately become familiar with the higher education library services, as each group of new students will be welcomed to the library. Printed collections and most of the services as well as local use of the digital resources of three universities (LUAS, University of Helsinki, Aalto University) are available to all users. The Joint Library also offers information literacy teaching to both students and staff of all educational levels; as a result, our staff has gained extensive experience and expertise in information literacy teaching, making it possible to further develop teaching and guiding methods and tailor them to best meet the needs of the different student groups.

To further promote the development of pre-academic skills, we have recently teamed up with Lahti’s Kannas Upper Secondary School’s new IB-programme which, with its critical, innovative and scientific focus, is an excellent starting point for learning the information skills needed in later academic studies. This collaboration will support the study paths of students from the IB-programme to universities and make sure their knowledge and skills in information literacy are gradually developing together with other areas of their studies.

The Joint Library on Wheels: case Linkku

Although Lahti is the regional center of the Päijät-Häme province, only half of the regions’ population actually lives here: the other half are scattered around the province. So how could the upper secondary school students and other potentials users, who are living in the more remote areas of the region, benefit from the services of a joint library? Our answer is to put these services on wheels.

LINKKU is a smartbus project that tests a multipurpose, mobile service unit in the Päijät-Häme region. The project is being carried out by Lahti University of Applied Sciences, together with Salpaus Further Education, Learning Centre Fellmannia and several of the region’s social and health care service providers. LINKKU visits the region’s smaller towns and villages, providing different services on different weeks.

Amongst other things, LINKKU is also a new kind of learning environment on wheels. With advanced ICT and networks, it makes the licensed digital collections of LUAS available to students, teachers and other learners in the whole Päijät-Häme region. Expert services, such as the Information Skills Clinic, will also be made available either physically, with an information specialist on board, or virtually as an online service. The aim is to create an equal opportunity for learning information literacy, regardless of where one is located.

This new environment also calls for an upgrade in teaching, which is why we are developing new methods of teaching pre-academic information and media literacy skills to upper-secondary school students. The aim is to make learning these skills more interesting and appealing to the Google Generation by using serious gaming and participatory design.

This is also where the previously mentioned collaboration with Kannas Upper Secondary School comes into play. As one part of this collaboration, we are planning to create a futuristic and mobile Information Skills Clinic together with the IB-students. This Mobile Information Skills Clinic will also pilot several new learning games, and the students themselves will participate as developers and testers. These learning games will in time be available online, so anyone can participate, regardless of their location.

In conclusion

It is our view that academic libraries have an important role in supporting and promoting knowledge creation and the development of pre-academic information literacy skills of the so-called Google Generation. In our experience, the best results are made by collaborating widely with educational institutions of different levels, and by creating equal opportunities and new ways for access and learning. At its best, this can be done together with the most important group of our users, the students.

—————–
The article is based on the paper The Joint Higher Education Library of Lahti: Confluencing for Academic Knowledge – Supporting the Study Paths from Upper Secondary School to University presented at the IFLA WLIC 2014 conference in Lyon, France.  Original paper available at http://library.ifla.org/949/.

Author

Johanna Kiviluoto, Information Specialist, M.A., Lahti University of Applied Sciences johanna.kiviluoto@lamk.fi

Jones, C. and Shao, B., 2011. The net generation and digital natives: implications for higher education. Higher Education Academy, York. http://oro.open.ac.uk/30014/1/Jones_and_Shao-Final.pdf [cited 9.5.2014]

Kannaksen lukio, 2014. IB in English. https://kannaksenlukio.fi/web/ib-in-english/ [cited 4.2.2014]

Kiili, C. 2012. Online Reading as an Individual and Social Practice. Jyväskylä Studies in Education, Psychology and Social Research 441. http://dissertations.jyu.fi/studeduc/9789513947958.pdf

LINKKU-projekti, 2013. Päijät-Hämeen koulutuskonserni -kuntayhtymä, Lahden ammattikorkeakoulu, TKI-, KV- ja aluekehityspalvelut. http://www.lamk.fi/alybussi/Sivut/default.aspx [cited 4.2.2014]

Palonen, V., Blinnikka, S., Ohvo, U. & Parikka, S. 2013. Joint Academic Libraries in Finland: Different Models of Integration, in Woodsworth, A. & Penniman, W. (ed.) Mergers and Alliances: The Operational View and Cases (Advances in Librarianship, Volume 37), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.223-242. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/books.htm?issn=0065-2830&volume=37&chapterid=17097126

New business model for an interior architecture company

1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is to present the research and development process of the new business model for Hallaus Oy. In this context, a new business model has been given both descriptive and strategical tasks.

The process began when Hallaus Oy recognized a growing demand for highly productized, local renovation services on market. Strategic paper of Renovation Services in Finland points out, that in the field of disconnected renovation services, the supply and demand do not meet. In minor renovation projects, there is demand for one-stop renovation services (Korjausrakentamisen strategian toimeenpanosuunnitelma 2009–2017, 2009, 27).

On the other hand, Hallaus Oy is a young startup company which has a strong desire to grow. However, the company’s willingness to grow should not limit to growing without a purpose. Company must aim at an intelligent grow to stay healthy (Gorchels 2012, 35). Growing should not be too fast, because that creates a hazard for company’s profitability. The strategic growing plan of Hallaus Oy is to network with paraller companies, for example building contractors, and to develop new customer-oriented renovation service products.

Building up a business network started almost immediately after Hallaus Oy was established in 2012. In two separate cases, the customers ordered interior design plans from Hallaus Oy, and after that, hired building contractors independently. The unpleasant result was that the builders could not fulfill required quality standards. Schedules and budgets went over. Some materials were replaced to cheaper ones. Eventually, both customers were unsatisfied. Business network was rapidly aggregated to make sure that these kind of undesirable situations will not occure in the future.

Partner companies of the business network are all located in Heinola district. All partner companies are small and they operate customer-oriented way. Hallaus is a now a design company with its “own” builders. This is very unorthodox way for an interior architect to do business in Finland.

Interior architecture is a part of the creative industries sector. Creative industries is a term with many meanings and they vary in different countries. Interior architecture services is closely connected to other planning services, for example architecture, and of course house construction and renovation.

Table 1 figures the swot-analysis for creative industries in Finland.

TABLE 1. SWOT-analysis for creative industries (Metsä-Tokila 2013, 59)

STRENGHTS

  • Dynamic business field
  • Public interest
  • Possibilities to adapt skills in many way
  • Public sector’s willingness to support
  • Plenty of educated workforce
WEAKNESSES

  • Scattered business field
  • Development is fast, all the actors may not follow
  • Services and instructions of the public sector may not support the development of the business
POSSIBILITIES

  • New technology
  • Global markets
  • New business models
  • New ways of work and employ
  • New earning possibilities and logics
THREATS

  • Funding does not work or works too slowly
  • Stiff business limits
  • Strongly central controlled

Recently the employment trend for interior achitects in Finland has been alarming. According to statistics published by trade union Ornamo, there were 1 260 unemployed interior design jobseekers in March 2013. Year before that the total amount was 989. Unemployment has grown by 28 % (Tiainen 2013, 28).

Construction business and interior design are paraller business fields, which traditionally operate in chains and by project base. During the past years, the biggest construction companies in Finland have tried to figure out why the net profit of renovation has not increased fast enough, even though the volume of renovation projects has multiplied, and is still growing fast. One major reason for the problem has been identified to be the lack of abilities to co-operate (Vainio et al. 2012, 35).

Ministry of environment reports, that the house renovation demand will grow strongly between 2006–2015. The biggest need is at apartment buildings, almost 30 %. In the period 2016–2025 the renovation demand increases in one family houses and rowhouses, while the demand in apartment buildings still stays high (Korjausrakentamisen strategia 2007–2017).

As a result of a one stop shop – model research in Europe, the experiences showed that lead actors for One Stop Shop development in Belgium were not necessarily contractors. Depending on the targeted housing segment, new business development ideas also emerge from prefab-oriented companies, consultants, architect/managers or network actors (Mlecnik et al. 2012). Therefore, a new efficient way to do business can be developed in small companies.

2. Theoretical framework

2.1 Business model and its mission

Every company has its business model, in other words, its core logic that combines company’s supply, revenue logic and a value that it produces for its customers (Vainio et al. 2012, 37).

Figure 1 describes the elements of a business model and their connections to each other.

FIGURE 1. The elements of business model (Vainio ym. 2012, 38)

Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) and Pulkkinen et al. (2005) present a definition, that a business model is a simplified picture of how a company makes profit form certain business activities – in other words – what is the supply, to whom is it targeted to, and how is it done in practical basis. Business model is a structural solution that combines value creation and value capturing (Pulkkinen ym. 2005, 10). Mason and Spring (2011) point out that a business model is seen as a property of a firm (Mason & Spring 2011, 1032). Its essence and mode can and must be run from inside of a company. A business model must be constantly updated for the purpose to act as a strategic management tool. Business models are not first designed and then implemented, but are more usefully thought of as strategy-as-practice, incrementally emergent and ever-changing (Mason & Spring 2011, 1033).

Torkkeli (2012) notifies that company’s competitivity and profitability can be significantly improved by developing its business model, but developing must be done in all three areas represented in Figure 1. If any of these three key factors is limping, there can not be profitable specialist entrepreneurship (Torkkeli 2012, 18).

Torkkeli combines the main elements of a good business model as follows:

  • business model serves customer needs better, from a new point of view, or more fulfilling way
  • it is profitable and protean
  • it contains key elements, that competitors can not copy or imitate profitably.
    (Torkkeli 2012, 20).

Business model should answer the question, which customer needs the business fulfills, what customer problems does it solve (Johnson et al. 2008, 58). It means, that the business model must find confluences with the core of the customer-business- relationship: emotional level. Shaw (2012) points out that emotions account for more than 50 % of a customer’s experience (Shaw 2012, 2).

Baden-Fuller and Morgan (2010) submit that business models act as various forms of model: to provide means to describe and classify businesses; to operate as sites for scientific investigation; and to act as recipes for creative (Baden-Fuller & Morgan 2010, 156). Company’s business model includes certain ingredients, and by certain actions they form an output. The idea of the recipe suggests how the chef, within broad constrants of the principles of cooking and the kind of dish chosen, may create variations and innovations (Baden-Fuller & Morgan 2010, 166).

Entrepreneur’s job is not just to produce and deliver a best possible solution for customer’s problem, but to develop a business model that works. Maurya (2012a) even argues that company’s product is actually not it’s “product”. The whole business model should be defined as a product (Maurya 2012a, 6).

As a summary: It is a company’s job to decide what kind of mission it gives to its business model. New business model of Hallaus Oy describes the company’s mission and strategy and acts as a brand promoting tool. As Vesalainen (2007) says, companies have always searched support from external operators, but a new way to act is to base business models on co-opertation structures (Vesalainen 2007, 154). The major strategic goal of Hallaus is to grow by expanding it’s business network (outsourced growth strategy) and do it in a controlled way, so that company’s profitability stays steady.

2.2 Intellectual capital 

Intellectual capital signifies the knowledge and skills that company has. It is difficult to set out a financial definition or value for it. However, intellectual capital is a major competitive tool for a company. It is also an identifying factor that makes all the difference in business. Fields of intellectual capital are categorized in figure 2.

FIGURE 2. Fields of intellectual capital (Kujansivu et al. 2007, 29)

The value of intellectual capital is a complicated matter, especially in situations when a young startup company needs funding. In Denmark, some fast grown and successful companies were examined (Poulfelt 2007). The research study indicated that intellectual capital attributes had a remarkable role in company success. The most important issue was a strong concentration on company’s core competence (Poulfelt 2007, 145). Successful startup companies were also aware of their position in the market. Everyone of them were near customers, and most of them even saw customers as their partners. Companies realized, that a distinct profile, clear vision and business goals are crucial (Poulfelt 2007, 151).

Successful startup – entrepreneurship demands balance between three attributes: business profitability, growth and financial solidity. Laitinen (2007) explains, that the most unwanted situation is when a company grows fast but does not make profit. This combination leads to poor income financing, and it will eventually undermine liquidity and solidity, if the company can not get inexpensive external funding. (Laitinen 2007, 345).

2.3 Brand

Brand has crucial value for company’s success. Malmelin and Hakala (2008) state that production systems, effectivity or quality no longer are as important competitive advantages as before.  Immaterial assets like brand and network, that can be difficultly copied, are increasingly important economical factors (Malmelin & Hakala 2008, 29). In this study, brand is defined as a certain labelled name which is identified in some target groups, and what differs from other labelled names. Brand has visual and communicational identity and image (Koskinen 2010).

Communicational identity demands that a company has a strategic presence strategy in social media, because that is where the customers are nowdays. In successful companies, the brand has been built and purposefully managed for years. Mooney and Rollins (2008) note, that the essence of a brand is chanching: it has become open. The most advanced companies understand that controlling a brand is impossible (Mooney & Rollins 2008, 21). People are communicating widely, fast and actively in social media passing the brand image forward. People have need to be involved in branding process, and the brand must engage the consumer through transparent communication, trust the consumer to co-create the brand message and learn to be guided by impassioned amateurs (Mooney & Rollins 2008, 24).

Mooney and Rollins boil down the brand management of the present as follows:

Be O.P.E.N. – on-demand, personal, engaging and networked (Mooney & Rollins 2008, 186).

Brand will be formed even though it is not purposefully built. From company’s perspective, trying to control everything that is said about the company is useless. Hsieh (2013) asks a justified question, what a company must do if it can not buy the brand? What is the best way to create a brand in a long term? In one word: culture (Hsieh 2013, 164).

2.4 Business network

Networking is a set of co-operation models which make different operators work together. Intensity of networking can vary from voluntary work to strictly specified and followed co-operation rules (Pirnes 2002, 7). Table 2 compares the differences between traditional entrepreneurship and network entrepreneurship.

TABLE 2. Comparisation of traditional entrepreneurship and network entrepreneurship (Toivola 2006, 94)

Traditional entrepreneurship Network entrepreneurship
Market orientation domestic global
Focus wide narrow, specialized
Success factor quality customer relationships
Environment (meaning) connections, customers potential partners,
tight interaction
Attitude distrust, independence trust, openness
Growth by building organization trough partners
People boss – employee,
manager, routines
equality, capabilities,
conversation
Network subcontracting,
co-operation
partnership, sharing,
way to work
Meaning of networks in business customer oriented,
vendor oriented
crucial, strategic, win/win-relationships

Networks give many kinds of benefits for a small company. The main benefits are:

  • Network makes companies work more efficient ways.
  • Network gives resources that would otherwise be out of reach.
  • By using networks a company can concentrate on things that are most important in competition.
  • Network makes companies grow and stay flexible.
  • Companies can benefit on each others skills in netwoks.
  • Networks create learning possibilities.
  • Networks can increase competitivity, get access to new markets and speed up the learning new markets.
    (Toivola 2006, 77.)

In the field of renovation business in Finland, demand of small enterprise network has been recognized. Report of Ministery of environment specifies, that in the future, small and middle-sized companies are networked and they operate for customer’s benefit, and plenty of new supply has arisen. Renovation is profitable for both customer and service provider (Korjausrakentamisen strategian toimeenpanosuunnitelma 2009–2017, 2009, 12).

However, Toivonen (2005) thinks that a network only has value as an instrument. He presents, that network should not be an objective, but only an instrument. The aim of the company must be customer orientation and success. Network must be seen as a tool, and that way it should be treated (Toivonen 2005, 25).

Without exception, a team for a construction project is established for one certain case. Long-term development and planning between companies is difficult because of temporary structures. Teams are often build up in tendering situations. That is why long-term co-operation is therefore conflicting with boundary conditions and aims of the current project (Koivu 2005, 52).

The traditional organization structure makes competitivity improvement a challenging job (Koivu 2005, 94). It is paradoxal, that the organization structure of construction business was developed to minimize process idling (waste) but, on the contrary, the traditional way to work actually increases waste.

Varamäki and Tornikoski (2007) remind that company growth through networks is not risk-free. In the worst case

  • dependency goes up
  • uncertainty grows
  • company’s own profit gets smaller
  • cumulation of critical success factors inside a company diminishes
  • image and value do not grow in the same rythm than in internal
  • quality control requires more work.
    (Varamäki & Tornikoski 2007, 173.)

Vesalainen (2007) points out that networking is a right choice for a startup company – especially when the strong need of resources is taken into account. Networking must yet not be automatic decision, but a result of strategic analysis (Vesalainen 2007, 154). As well it is important to reflect company’s growing strategy to competitors.

Johnson, Christensen and Kagermann (2008) recommend companies with new business models be patient for growth (to allow the market opportunity to unfold) but impatient for profit (as an early validation that the model works). A profitable business is the best early indication of a viable model (Johnson et al. 2008, 10).

2.5 Understanding the customer behaviour

Customer behaviour studies have traditionally concentrated on consumers and their behaviour. Recently the service business actions between companies have been examined, and understanding about the motives of the b-to-b customers has risen. Despite of differences in business fields, Korhonen, Valjakka and Apilo (2011) have discovered that even if business client’s actions in trading are based on process management and procedures, the significance of emotions is still strong (Korhonen ym. 2011, 22). People do not transform into top rational decision-makers when they come to work.

Arantola and Simonen (2009) define six sources of information for building customer insight:

  1. customer history data, use of services and background information (personal data, address and a name of the company)
  2. customer and market research, for example net promoter score
  3. business intelligence
  4. customer participation in service development and customer feedback
  5. tacit knowledge
  6. use of devices, for example website browsing.
    (Arantola & Simonen 2009, 21.)

Net promoter score is a customer loyalty metric, that was introduced in 2003. The score measures the loyalty that exists between a provider and a customer. NPS has been criticized on its validity. However, customer behaviour can never be totally understood or forecasted because a half of the customer behaviour is based on feelings. There are always emotional motives that a customer can not or is not willing to tell in measurement situation. In any case, using NPS is much better choice than not using any system at all.

The core of net promoter score is only one direct question: ”In scale 0–10, How likely are you to recommend our company to your friends or colleagues? ” Respondents are categirized in three groups: detractors, passives (or fence sitters) and promoters. NPS is calculated by diminishing promoter’s percentage amount out of detractor’s percentage amount. The score is kind of an index of the net promoter score (Suosittelun johtaminen ja Net Promoter Score 9/2011). NPS can be as low as −100 (everybody is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everybody is a promoter). +50 is seen as en exellent rank.

FIGURE 3. Net promoter score (www.renps.com)

Meeting and even outreaching customer needs is a matter of life and death for service provider. Quality of the service reflects directly to the quality of customer experience. This is however a two-way process. The service qualities themselves do not create value for customer. The benefits, consequences and influence has impact on customer’s own goals. Value is created when service provider and customer work together. Value is not delivered or produced one-sidedly but it is a result of common process (Arantola & Simonen 2009, 2).

Customer wants to be heard and understood by the company. However, many industrial services are so poor that clients rather expect diminishing of bad service experiences than bringing up awesome new service qualities. (Korhonen et al. 2011, 21). Customer’s expectations towards renovation services are low. When you expect the worst, then an average service performance might be acceptable for a customer. In One Stop Shop-project (Mlecnik 2012) various working groups identified important customer values for business development like better communication, speed, quality, improved comfort, energy performance guarantee and having one single contact point for the renovation (Mlecnik 2012, 1). Concentrating on these values alone could give good results in customer understanding.

Gaining lead customers is a significant way for a company to increase customer insight. With lead customer’s assistance, a company can create and improve new service concepts. Features for lead customers are vision, openness for partnership, willingness to innovate and take risks, and bilateral trust (Arantola & Simonen 2009, 27). Lead customers can be both companies and consumers. Consumers of today have plenty of power in service development through social media tools. Consumers are as well more aware of different kind of alternatives is service production.

2.6 Lean 

Construction industry has been taking advantage of lean tools. The goal is to improve processes by diminishing variation. (Lean-vocabulary 28.4.2013). Another notable lean term is waste. Everything that does not add value to product from the customer’s point of view is considered as waste. It is an activity of which customer would not be willing to pay if he or she knew that it is done. During the last few years, lean methods have been adapted to service development as well.

Especially in construction business – but also in design – the most common approach to business development is searching gain and and decreasing variation, not considering customer’s state in processes (Koivu 2005, 97). If the goal is to create a repeatable standard service, lean methods are suitable for use. Lean streamlines processes by eliminating waste. But it is also waste to outsource a customer from her own project and to see her only as a target of actions. That way a valuale opportunity to learn from a customer is wasted. Besides, waste is produced in temporary project organization structures. People have to use a lot of energy to getting to know each other.

Eric Ries (2011) recommends a three-step build-measure-learn-loop for entrepreneurs. According to Ries, for startups, the information is much more important than dollars, awards, or mentions in the press, because it can influence and reshape the next set of ideas (Ries 2011, 75). Startup company should create and launch a simple product to market (and not waste time to perfection) so the developing process is exposed to customer feedback. This way the operations become customer-oriented by itself (figure 3).

FIGURE 4. Build – measure – learn feedback loop (Ries 2011, 75)

According to Ries, it is important to minimize total time through the loop.

Lean canvas is business planning tool created by Ash Maurya (2012a). It is based on business model canvas tool by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010). By using business model canvas tool, a company must consider its actions in holistic way: from company’s own, the customer’s and from its partner’s point of view. Maurya (2012b) has refined canvas tool for more suitable for needs of startup entrepreneurs. Maurya says that a lean canvas is created for entrepreneurs, not consultants, advisors or investors. Differences between business model canvas and lean canvas are presented in table 3.

TABLE 3.  Business model canvas and lean canvas differences (Maurya 2012b)

Business model canvas Lean canvas
Key partners Problem
Key activities Solution
Key resources Key metrics
Customer relationships Unfair advantage

Hallaus Oy ended up to use lean canvas, because it gives a customer oriented insight to business. Lean canvas forces to think customer’s problems first, and after that try to figure out the solutions. Another issue is key metrics which enables learning from business actions.

FIGURE 5. Lean canvas (Maurya 2012a, 5)

Benefit of lean canvas is, that it does not only describe things but also helps company to target its actions to desirable direction.

Making a business plan is one of the most important things for an entrepreneur when starting a business. Without a business plan it is not possible to get public starting money or financing, and that way it is compulsory. Instead of a business plan Maurya encourages entrepreneur to use one A4 page lean canvas during the actual business development. It makes it possible to test and develop processes with customers Lean canvas tells more about current situation than business plan, which by its name is based on assumptions about the future (Maurya 2012a, 5).

At lean canvas, business model is developed by three phase process. First phase is to document the status quo and plans of company by using lean canvas. First box to fill is customer problems, because customer is firstly interested in her problems, not company’s solutions to them (Maurya 2012a, 7).

After filling out lean canvas, the next phase is to recognize issues that are most risky for the company. Maurya thinks that the biggest risk for a startup company is to create something that nobody actually wants. Entrepreneur’s first job is to figure out

  • is there a problem that customer wants to be solved
  • does she want to pay for solution and
  • can that problem be solved in general. (Maurya 2012a, 8.)

After these question are answered, it is time to consider the substance of the service product: Do customers want to have it, and are willing to buy it. In this phase the key metrics that evaluate service market suitability must be created.

The third phase in business model development is to test it systematically. After business plan has been documented and risks are evaluated it is time to test it with real customers by using build–measure–learn- loop by Ries.

2.7 Service design tools

Service design is a context, that automatically leads company to more customer oriented way to operate. The main idea of a service design is to make hard values (business transactions) and soft values (things based on customer’s point of view) equally important in business development (Tuulaniemi 2011, 95).

When you place people in the middle

  1. you design to people who actually are going to use services
  2. you minimize the risk to fail because a service is designed based on the actual needs of the customers (Tuulaniemi 2011, 72).

One of the main terms of service design is a service journey. It is a description of the service points located on timeline. Service path consists of service moments. Service path experienced by customer is described in stages, so it can be analyzed and designed (Tuulaniemi 2011, 78 ).

Other pivotal term in service design is touch points. Through these points service is experienced and seen. Touch points are categorized into four different categories: spaces, objects, processes and people. Touch points are places or situations where company and customers meet. They can be interactive moments like meetings or phone calls, or passive moments when customer for example sees an advertisement or visits company website (Futurelab 2013, 2).

Term iterative development is widely used in service design. It means that the solution is built rapidly and repeated until the goal is achieved. Apparently unlike methods, lean and service design, seems to have at least one thing in common: speed.

Valerie Carr works at a service design company in Scotland. She has summarized differences between lean methods and service design (table 4).

TABLE 4. Lean and service design, differences (Carr 2012)

Lean / Six sigma Service design
process driven experience driven
focused on reducing variation gaining insights from the outliers
problem focused possibility focused
eliminating waste sometimes it’s the generous gesture that wins and keeps customers
intimidating, confrontational language (black belt) focus on the positive – asset based, what works
management driven – things done to staff co-design approach – things done with people
deductive ontology abductive ontology
focused on learning from past, proven methods focused on prototyping new possibilities
analytical thinking intuition
reductionist approach holistic approach
top down bottom up

Analytical process based thinking can not be totally ignored in business development. Roger Martin (2009) points out, that neither analysis nor intuition alone is enough. Martin argues that aspects of both analytical and intuitive thinking are necessary but not sufficient for optimal business performance (Martin 2009, 6). Martin calls this kind of combination as design thinking. Design thinking is the form of thought that enables movement along the knowledge funnel, and the firms that master it will gain a nearly inexhaustible, long-term business advantage (Martin 2009, 7).

In lean, the purpose of process development is not to add value for a single customer. However, to achieve this goal, service design has lot to offer. Thereby an interior architecture company like Hallaus Oy should choose tools that endorse process development (lean) in co-operation of business partners, and accentuate the shared added value for customer (service design).

3. Research context and methods

Hallaus Oy is a small interior architecture company which provides services for both consumers and corporative clients. Hallaus was established in 2009. First three years it operated as a trade name, and since 2012, as a public limited company. Hallaus Oy is a young company which wants to grow fast. In 2012, net sales was 23 000 euros and the company made profit. In second year, the net sales was almost doubled. The aim is to double the net sales in first three years, and the target sales in 2016 is 120 000 euros.

Startup companies in Finland are

  • Younger. Over the half of the companies are less than 10 years old. Less than 10 % are over 25 years old.
  • Smaller. 60 % startup companies have less than 20 employers.
  • In services. Approximately 70 % of the startup companies operate on service sector.
  • All around the country. 46 % of the startup companies and almost 1/3 of the business is located at Uusimaa area in Southern Finland.
  • Less international. 14 %  of the startup companies operate on export business.
  • Knowledge intensive. The stuff is highly educated. Untechnical innovations are highlighted; formal research and development action is less frequent.
    (Kasvuyrityskatsaus 2012, 9.)

Separate small companies form a network that concentrates on solving renovation problems of the customer. Hallaus Oy rounds up a team for every single project. Renovation sites are various and that is why teams are not the same in every case. The partner network however stays the same. The network includes contractors (builders, electricians, plumbers) and other specialiced designers (architects, engineers, garden planners). In addition, there are supporting services like financing, real estate services and personal organizing services for customers who have far too many things. The aim is to increase the amount of network partners from 20 companies to 40 in 2014.

Table 5 categorizes the customers of Hallaus Oy.

TABLE 5.  Customer segments of Hallaus Oy

Customer segment Problem % of all customers
Households at Päijät-Häme region

 

Homes and leasure homes

  • Not enough time or skills to renovate by themselves
  • No idea of the total costs of the renovation project
  • No knowledge of the building permits and warrants
  • No idea where to find qualified executors for project
60 %. 

Consumer segments revenue is not at satisfactory level. The aim is to downsize percentage to 20 %.

Local companies, that otherwise would not use design services at all

 

Offices, shops, training centres etc.

  • Renovation project engages time recourses
  • No vision about the space possibilities
  • Incomplete understanding of the limitations in public renovation compared to domestic
  • Limited funds. Small investment should make a huge impact
30 %.

The amount is average. This customer segment has significant hidden demand for services

Insurance companies, real estate managers, other real estate actors

 

Condominium and detached house renovation projects

  • Need for local presence (project management) in accidental renovation projects
  • Consumer’s individual needs is not core competence in large renovation projects
  • Variation of skills of the local contractors, it is hard to find the good ones
  • Customer service and project management takes too much time
10 %.

The aim is to grow this segment into half of the total amount of customers. Doing business with professionals makes processes more fluent.

Bigger entireties would also make working more predictable in a long run.

Local business network is a significant competitive edge for Hallaus Oy. However, working culture among renovation teams must be made visible. Customers should see how liaison and learning from others makes people motivated and devoted. When this positive working climate reflects to customers and potential investors, it will transact as an attraction factor that can not be easily produced or bought.

Significant amount of the customers of Hallaus Oy have never used interior architecture services before. Services have not been available, or the need for services have not occurred. From this reason, Hallaus Oy has a major role in branding the whole industry in its area of business operation. Area extends about 100 kilometers to north, south-east and east from Heinola. At this area of Southern Savonia, Kymenlaakso and Päijät-Häme regions, there is approximately inhabitants, thousands of companies and several large leasure home communities.

3.1 Objectives of the study

The objective of this study was to develop an innovative and customer focused business model, that

  • combines paraller business sectors as a business network,
  • ensures that the critical success factors are going on,
  • is constantly in progress
  • is measurable.

The research question of this study was: What are the critical success factors in interior architecture business? A sequel question is: By what kind of metrics can the critical success factors be measured?

Critical success factors are a limited group of things that make the business successful. Those things must go on smoothly so that the goals can be reached (Lecklin 2006, 23). The company chooses factors that it believes are the most important ones, and focuses on making on those things stronger. When company grows up, the factors change. According to Keso, Lehtimäki and Pietiläinen, this kind of strategic decision making demands three kind of business ability:

  • ability to impose company to business field and create a revenue logic that works
  • knowledge of the different ways of using service or product, and definition of the use value and evolution needs
  • ability to build up network that supports business, in other words, to find partners that fit to revenue logic, and to rule network  business processes.
    (Keso et al. 2006, 243.)

Critical success factors of new business model of Hallaus Oy are defined to be

  • A fair revenue logic. How must a revenue inside network be arranged so that marketing and customer after-care costs are split fairly?
  • Increasing customer understanding. Customer understanding management might become a new capability in service business. It could even be a competitive advantage, because it takes a lot of time to build and is awkwardly copied (Arantola & Simonen 2009, 32). How network can share and capitalize its customer understanding?
  • Ongoing development of new service concepts. Faster and smoother processes make profit for companies and for customers. Companies are required to be more and more agile towards customer needs, and that demands interaction. Tools for ongoing conversation and tacit information must be created. This information can be used for creating new service concepts. How can a constant climate of development be delivered and kept alive?

3.2 Research strategy

This study is an action research. Action research is situational, collaborative, participatory and self-evaluative (Metsämuuronen 2005, 217). Research is based on mixed methology which combines qualitative and quantitative research methods (Kananen 2012, 19).

This research consists two separate materials. First material is a structured survey for Finnish Association of Interior Architects SIO. The survey was executed web-based (Kyselynetti.com) in May 16th 2013. From all the members (637 persons) of SIO, 300 persons were selected randomly. 40 responses were received so the response rate was 13,3 %. The aim of the survey was to gather information of how business development is executed in Finnish interior architecture companies, how important is it to cowork with paraller business branches now and in the future, and what kind of threats and possibilities there might be for interior architects in Finland today. Respondents that are currently working as an entrepreneur were selected to closer analysis.

Data is presented in numeric and graphics. Answers to last open question were grouped and explained verbally.

Other research material is semi-stuctured interviews to business partners of Hallaus Oy. Interviews were executed in October and November 2013 at Hallaus premises. The interviewees (7 persons) were selected among companies that constantly and regularly do projects with Hallaus Oy. Topic for interviews was the critical success factors defined for the new business model. Selected companies represent civil engineering, design and retail sales (furnishings and building materials). Entrepreneurial experience ranged from 2 to 25 years. In three companies there are employees and other four entrepreneurs work alone. Annual sales ranged from 40 000 euros to 1.5 million euros. All companies are located in Heinola. Interviews are pivotal source of data because all the interviewees are obtaining of this research, and were therefore motivated to give information for Hallaus Oy.

Research questions were handled in a free order. Interviewees were oriented to used terminology beforehand. Answers were exactly noted, and after that, grouped as strategic trails. A future board was used as a grouping tool. Future board analyzes relevant factors, acting environment and alternative situations as well as the future. Problem is defined and variables are listed. Every factor gets several options (Vainio 2009, 125). Critical success factore were defined as a problem.

4. Empirical findings

4.1 Business improvement needs at interior architecture

Table 6 presents SIO survey results.

TABLE 6. SIO survey results

QUESTION

n

%

1. Do you work (or have you worked) as an entrepreneur or freelancer?

40

100

yes

30

75

no

10

25

2. Entrepreneur experience in years

40

100

0-2 years

10

25

3-5 years

6

15

6-10 years

3

7

over 10 years

21

53

 

n

%

3. Business branch of the company is…

37

100

interior architecture

25

67

furniture design

4

11

design

2

7

architecture

4

11

marine engineering

1

2

renovation engineering

1

2

4. Do you have hired employees in your company?
No, I work independently

16

43

Yes, I have employees

14

38

I do not work as an entrepreneur *

7

19

*) those who answered that they are not working as an entrepreneur
were not allowed to answer previous questions 5-12.
5. How important are these matters from your company’s perspective?Scale: 1= meaningless, 2= some meaning, 3=quite important, 4= very important

n=27

100

average

Company must get external support (funding, educational services etc.)

1,78

Company premises must be reformed

1,85

Company must become international

2,04

Company must employ people

2,15

Company sales must grow

2,63

Company must seek and find new customer segments actively

2,7

Conspicuousness of the business field must grow

2,7

Company must become more well-known

2,89

Company’s profitability must grow

2,96

n

%

6. Have you had any help concerning your business development?

27

100

No, and I don’t think business development is relevant

1

3

No, I execute business development by myself

15

42

Yes, from puclic sector (ELY-keskus, Tekes, Sitra etc.)

5

14

Yes, from Ornamo or other association

4

11

Yes, peer support from other entrepreneurs

9

25

Yes, from elsewhere *

2

5

* Entrepreneur study programme, entrepreneutical degree programme

n

              %

7. Do you co-operate with other companies?

24

100

Yes, with companies operating on a same business sector

10

33

Yes, with consruction companies

9

30

Yes, with other companies *

3

10

No, I don’t co-operate with other companies, or I do it rarely

8

27

* Other partners: architects, graphic designers, 3D-modelling companies, engineers, other designers and professionals
8. Amount of co-operation

24

100

We co-operate regularly

12

50

We co-operate randomly if the project requires it

7

29

We rarely or never co-operate

5

21

9. Depth of co-operation

23

100

I work as a sub-consultant

2

9

I buy services from sub-consultants

3

13

We work together and everyone has her own area of responsibility

10

43

We work together as equal partners

6

26

Other*

2

9

* Other answers: The depth of co-operation varys: sub-consulting two-way, various projects with shared responsibilities. No peer-to-peer customerships but deep co-operation anyway.
10. How do you find a need for co-operation in the future?

24

100

Prevalent situation is good

10

42

I am searching for opportunities to increase or deepen co-operation with other companies

13

54

I am not interestend in increasing or making deeper co-operation with other companies

1

4

11. Most wanted business partners for me are:

24

100

Same business branch companies abroad

0

0

Same business branch companies in  Finland

4

17

Paraller business branch companies abroad

1

4

Other partners *

3

12

Paraller business branch companies in Finland

16

67

* Other partners: Furniture manufacturers, contractors and constructors, structural engineers and other professionals

30 respondents (75 %) works or have worked as an entrepreneur or freelancer. Over a half, 21 respondents (53 %) had worked that way over ten years already. Experienced interior achitects seems to be interested in business development, and they naturally have a lot of practical knowledge about business. 10 respondents (25 %) were beginners, their entrepreneutical experience was 0-2 years. Their interest towards business matters differs from veterans. It might be fruitful to put these people to same table to talk as mentor-actor principle.

Business improvement needs were examined by scale 1-4. 1 presented value “meaningless”, 2 “some meaning”, 3=”quite important”, and 4=“very important”.

Two main improvement factors were (average):

  • Company’s profitability must grow 2,96
  • Company must become more well-known 2,89.

Two least important improvement factors were

  • Company premises must be reformed 1,85
  • Company must get external support (funding, educational services etc.) 1,78.

At the moment, construction industry is suffering in Finland. Interior architects have faced the fact, that building costs are decreased with any possible means. Usually this is done by cutting design. Challenge of company’s profitability is that way connected to the big picture of economy.

Getting to be more well-known turned to be second important factor. Interior architects that operate as entrepreneurs should take more intensive grip to marketing and branding challenges of whole business branch.

Question 6 discoursed help in business development. 15 respondents (42 %) told that they are exeduting business development independently. 9 respondents (25 %) told that they had received peer support from other entrepreneurs. Puclic sector actors like ELY-keskus, Sitra or Tekes had helped in 5 cases, and 4 had received help form Ornamo or some other association. Other sources mentioned were entrepreneur study programme and entrepreneutical degree programme. Only one of the respondents notified that help has not been available, and business development is not relevant.

4.2 Co-operation

Half of the respondents told that they co-operate with other companies regularly. Random co-operations was mentioned by 8 respondents, and 5 respondents told that they co-operate rarely or never with other companies.

Results to question about the depth of co-operation scattered quite much. Almost half of the respondents told that they work together the way that everyone has her own area of responsibility. This is expectable according to regulations in building and design in Finland. 2 respondents work as sub-consultant, 3 orders sub-consultant work from others and 6 respondents work with others as equal partners. At open answers it was mentioned that the depth of co-operation varies. It is not necessarily a peer-to-peer customership, but the nature of co-operation is tight. One respondant highlighted that all co-operators have a customership with constructor, and only this external customer relationship is significant.

Increasing or deepen co-operation would be a desiderable trend for over half of the respondets.  (13 persons, 54 %). Prevalent situation is good for 10 respondents (42 %). Only one person notified that increasing or making deeper co-operation with other companies is not desirable.

It was remarkable to find out that not one of the respondents found foreign collegue companies the most wanted partners. Even paraller business companies abroad did not get endorsement; only one person finds them as wanted partners.

Last question of the survey was an open question about business possibilities and threats for Finnish interior architects. Some respondants criticized the way interior architecture is presented in media – expecially tv-programmes. This raises uncovered expectations and confucion among consumers. On the other hand, some good aspects are seen in publicity as well. Appreciation towards interior architecture is growing, and “for suitably networked professionals there is plenty of work to do”.

4.3 Revenue logic of business network 

Revenue logic of Hallaus Oy consists actice and passive revenue streams. Design fees from customers are rated per hour. In addition, percentage comission is charged from business network partners. It covers the costs caused by supervision, marketing and customer care. Moreover some revenue is gained through retail. A customer might want her purchase billed all at once even if products come from different suppliers.

Business partners were unanimous about clarity of percentage comission system. Rules are similar for all. At the same time, few interviewees reminded of the fact that financial benefit is not only, or even primary, goal: network strengthening, shared customerships and learning from partner companies were seen much more significant than mutual money movements. Renovation contractors pointed out that seasonal fluctuation can be reduced as a result of networking. Renovation sites can be shared and scheduled better, personal workload is leveled. Even holidays can be kept together with family at the first time.

4.4 Increasing customer understanding 

Lack of customer data gathering and utilization of feedback is a soft spot of many small companies. The entrepreneurs interviewed paraphrased that they all ask for customer feedback. “Even if reclaims are the most booming feedback. If there is silence, then everything is ok, I suppose.”

For customer understanding, it is important that

  • ”Vendor has a face; things are done interpersonally.”
  • ”Initial data of a renovation project is examined properly. If customer has bad experiences from previous renovations, then we automatically are behind in customer satisfaction because we fix errors made by others.”
  • ”Processes of a customer are identified well.”
  • ”Customer data is documented, and files are available for all.”
  • ”Increasing customer understanding must cause increasing service demand.”

From customer’s point of view, it is important that she is aware of things that are happening on her property, she stays informed during the project, and is not outsourced from her own case. All interviewees were able to see this from customer’s angle.

Every interviewee requests customer feedback. Things are discussed, no structured form or electrical technology is used. System exercise was seen very important as long as system use is as simple as face-to-face conversations.

4.5 Service concept development

Customer often has trouble understanding the total costs of renovation project. The most significant reason to reclamations is budget crossing. To avoid this, network co-operation is supreme. Partners know each other’s cost structure, and are thereby capable to estimate total costs of the project in advance. This, together with finished and elegant renovation output, increases trust towards network companies. This trust and happiness must be turned into customer’s willingness to recommend services of Hallaus Oy. Happy customers are the most important marketing channel in interior architecture business.

Selling consultant services is a hard business. Interior architects are often evaluated by cultural expectations. Media has created stereotypes about occupational tasks. Prejudices are strong between professionals as well. Designers do not understand building, and builders have no idea what aestethics is. These, partly gender-related preoccupations should be demolished. Every labour input is significant.

Interviews indicated service consept development as the most significant critical success factor, because through that Hallaus Oy can specialize on its core competence: renovation planning and producing, and by doing that, strenghtening its brand on disjointed market. This can be done rapidly. Transition from consumer-centred service provider to b-to-b- actor is the most significant chance in business model of Hallaus Oy. New service product targeted to real estate actors, SAMU – saneerauskohteiden muutospalvelu (SAMU renovation services), was lauched in April 2014.

Producing new service products leaded network partners to discussion about formal incorporation. In this topic, the opinions were cautious so far.

4.6 Metrics for critical success factors 

What comes to revenue logic, analysis of cash flow statement has been started montly, not casually like before. Financial balance must be attended so that liquidity stays high and profitability will grow. Investments to business development activity must be controlled. Hallaus Oy must survey passive revenue streams more closely, so that the amount of work does not grow at the costs of entrepreneur’s personal life. New customer accent and service products also aim at better business profitability.

For increasing of customer understanding, Hallaus Oy now verifies net promoter score rate during renovation project and instantly after it. The situations have proven to be emotionally different to customers. Customers might be critical and anxious during the project, but inevitably happy when the work is done. That is why score must be measured twice, not only at the end.

Build–measure–learn- loop will be a main tool for service concept development in the future. Some previous customers have engeged to service development as well. Via these customers the network culture is presented outward. This supports brand knowledge.

5. Discussion and conclusions

As an outcome of this research, the lean canvas is presented in figure 5.

FIGURE 6. Hallaus Oy lean canvas

On creative industries, it is important to search for innovative and even experimental solutions for business development, if you have urge for success. What kind of strenghts could a small professional service business company have, when it comes a time to grow? One good thing is a capability to look things from a different perspective.

In a beginning of a project, in 2012, ten Heinola based entrepreneurs started to practice different kind of business to execute renovation projects. Facilitated by Hallaus Oy, more intence and communicative way to work was imported to renovation sites. This kind of co-operation has naturally existed before: contructor knows a plumber, and so on. What was new is, that actions are administrated by a designer, network has an aspiration towards standardized processes and learning from each other, and the network wants its co-working culture to become visible. Customer was positioned in the middle, and her opinions about the fluency was asked during the process and as well as at the end.

Network assiciation demands commitment and sacrifices from its members. You must open your ideas to other entrepreneurs, be honest and reliable partner in all situations, and respect other people’s labor input. Every member must get a fair and satisfying income. Money is a central part in business, and transparency of a revenue logic is a way to contribute fair network climate. How tight memberships will be composed in the future, and how the group dynamics chances when new companies join in, the time will tell. However, the new business model has already caused positive results: seasonal fluctuation has decreased, learning from each other has enhanced processes, and customers revere the quality of service. In addition the network has overtaken new target customers, and systematic exploiting of customer data has been started. Just convestions about the significance of customer understanding made network companies think and act more customer-oriented way.

Renovation business in Finland is multi-colored and regionally shattered. At Päijät-Häme district, there is plenty of labour, but at Helsinki metropolitan area it is already hard to find skilled and reliable constructors. Costruction business needs renovation education programmes. Otherwise the business is in trouble. Expertise on renovation will disappear through retirement. Learning by doing, interaction skills and entrepreneutical way to work should be well represented in renovation studies.

Throgh the times, building new houses and designing public spaces has given steady income for interior architects. Economical resession in early 2000 has radically diminished building business in Finland. Sadly, interior design is easily cutted out of building projects. That is paradoxal, because the expertice of interior architects consists issues that customers value most: functionality, safety and atmosphere. There should be enough design recources available throughout the project. This is an effective way to improve customer experience.

Designers should make themselves familiar with practical building execution and visit building sites more often. Only way to become a designer who understands customer needs, is interaction with builders and other project members as well as customers. Contractors, from their part, should understand that a designer does not do things similarly every time, because the clients are not identical either. A good designer recognizes customer needs in a holistic way and is capable to justify design decisions in a technical and cost-effective way as well.

Third critical success factor of the business model, ongoing development of new service concepts, turned out to be more important than anticipated. Well-designed, highly productized renovation services can be the key factor that helps Hallaus Oy to achieve its aims sooner than expected.

Topic for further study is to create a web-based data management system for renovation network and customer communication. This idea came up in several partner interviews. Preparation work started right after the interviews. If the project gets financing, the system development starts at spring 2014. Data management system and quality manual are products that can be licenced.

In the future, the aim of Hallaus Oy is to develop its business model towards more intence and diverse co-operation with its network. New business model was launched and it is continuously renovated. One interesting future possibility is to productize and establish a franchise-business chain that provides renovation and design services nationwide.

Author

Susanna Halla, Interior Architect, Entrepreneur (CEO), Hallaus Oy Ltd, susanna.halla@phnet.fi

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Networking as a way for innovation in SME organizations: The case of the Chech Republic

Introduction

Innovations are crucially linked with the business sphere. Without the competitive market environment and appropriate innovation policy, the enterprises are not able to discover and make the best of new business opportunities through innovation (Schumpeter, 1939, Drucker, 2008). Entrepreneurship under non-stable and risky environment, brings to entrepreneurs new dimension of skill development – not only high level of professional skills, but multipart model of basic managerial skills required for decision-making and risk taking in innovative entrepreneurship as whole. Traditional models of innovative behavior cover only few variables like structure of organization, climate, processes and leadership without dynamic points such as behavior of elements (Lehman, 2002, Burke and Litwin, 1992).

The purpose of the paper is to examine how important role play strategy preferences as quality improvement, human resource care and others in the area of openness for cooperation in innovation and find the answer to the following questions theoretically defined (Kimberley, Cook, 2008): (1) Which factors support innovative environment in the organization? (2) Which kind of organizational values must be used to adopt innovations, under risk and support future cooperation? According to the review of literature that was carried out in advance of any primary research being undertaken, nobody has yet tried to combine this area of values to compare. A detailed analysis of the data is still in process but early indications suggest the following results: (1) According this to suggest recommendations which could be used in the future as a metrics for innovative spirit evaluation. (2) Finally, we believe, that SMEs should be more innovative and competitive when they cooperate, so the entrepreneurs, who support external cooperation, reach more longevity in their products. Small businesses offer their new services and products on the local market, inspired by original global product, so they mostly offer cheaper, home-made imitation of some innovation activity (Pichlak, 2008). In many case studies, firms between 10 to 49 employees are proactive in the process of on-going learning and innovative process. They are still under the pressure from the market to offer unique product or service to survive and to be competitive. They exist qualitative and quantitative barriers to support innovative climate within organization based on owner’s personality, financial sources and others competencies which could cause low innovative activity (Ćwik, 2007).

According to Pichlak (2008) and Ćwik (2007), there are in the paper, specific tasks to solve: (1) What behaviour will support innovative and cooperative behavior of small business? (2) Pichlak (2008) specified types of innovation – which of these should we find in the strategic behavior of small businesses? According to this part of questionnaire we set up two main quantitative-based hypotheses to be evaluated in the case of the innovative spirit in the whole sector.

H1: Enterprise, which was in the period 2009–2011 in decline business phase (without any innovation potential or cooperation vision), will mainly evaluate their priorities of business in grades of 5-7 (average and higher rating) as a priority to survive in the market in most areas.

H2: As a final connection to the innovative approach for businesses, if a company invests more than 5%–10% of their turnover toward innovative activities, they will have high priorities in external cooperation for innovation.

Theoretical framework

Entrepreneurs as individual entities in the market, require resources such as labor, information, skills and capital for their businesses. They often use friends or informal contacts to acquire these and to contribute to knowledge generation. During a period of economic crisis, the role of the entrepreneur has changed. Entrepreneurship is based on decision making in an environment full of uncertainty whilst pushing businesses into an innovative but risky strategy application and finally acquiring new knowledge (Nijkamp, 2003). Most of previous studies simply describe the effect of new business formation activity on a performance measure with some control variables; however, some studies have applied an explicit production function framework. That also contains indicators for the contribution of other inputs to growth (Wong et al., 2005, Audretsch et al., 2004, 2006). Monitoring the degree of flexibility can encourage greater creativity and focus on strategic planning and management in small and medium enterprises, which is so often underestimated. Subsequent delay introducing changes could cause major changes in behavior and may influence the ultimate effectiveness of the strategy.

Nowadays we deal with changes, which could be managed, mainly with innovations, which assume creative and untraditional thinking. New ideas and vision formation, acceptation of all ideas, formation of model situations – that all form the basis of change command. Most frequently we are finding the conception – systematic innovation – because innovations play basic role in actual economics and social transformation. Above mentioned ways produce a very flexible and opened organization, where people will accept and adapt to new ideas and change through shared vision. Building a learning organization is a means to become an innovative company. As new outputs, innovations may come from new knowledge as well as from the combination of existing knowledge to create innovations (Henderson and Clark, 1990), using combinative capabilities. The strategy is very important because if the innovation is not in a line with the strategy and internal environment, the innovation may fail and thus the learning-innovation link will not be related to performance. The key determinants of innovation are strategic behavior and market-oriented strategy. The organizational and strategic processes, which are have a social character, now replace the technological process. The agents of innovation are executives and professional managers rather than technocrats. Those innovations need to be guided by corporate strategy that the management tries to control. We can say that strategy must be a well-known and long developed concept. However, strategic behavior requires understanding of corporate needs today to create future value rather than control costs. It requires not only manager’s knowledge of their enterprise but also the entire economic chain, markets, and present and future competitors (Vlček, 2002).

Research context and methods

General business environment of the 21st century is mainly characterized by rapidly changing factors which are needed to address. Among the main factors that pushed the growing needs of innovative activities are according Rylková (2011), in particular: (1) Shortening life cycles of products and the need to develop constantly new and better ones. (2)Technological progress (nanotechnologies) is new opportunities for businesses (3) turbulent market globalization and the presence of new competitive threats, which means that missed opportunity becomes threat to businesses. (3) Demands of customers (cheap, quickly, high quality).To be able to withstand in competitive environment, the company must never interrupt development of new products/services. Therefore, when a product or service is successful on the market, innovation, which will replace it, must be worked on. Innovative activities are closely related to the firm’s survival on a globalized market and with competitiveness, which specifically reflects in the continuous process of renewal and improvement of goods and services production, production process and economic potential of enterprises.

In this survey we aim to identify the effect of investment on innovation, strategy preparation and the relationship between financial ratios and the performance of the company. To test the propositions, a field survey using questionnaires was conducted. The questionnaire survey was conducted with owners and managers of small and medium size businesses in the Czech Republic (under 250 employees) operating between the years 2009–2011. The companies fulfilled the criteria of (1) being designated as small and medium sized companies by their number of employees – fewer than 250, and (2) agreeing to a personal visit. Out of the total number of companies (722) entire 89% fall in SMEs according to the categorization (2003/361/EC). Survey finally participated 670 companies.

The questionnaire had six sections to describe dynamic factors, which influence company behaviour; these were strategy performance, crisis and risk management, personnel policy, production and innovation, grants and supporting policy and environmental policy. Data obtained from questionnaires were analyzed through the SPSS statistical packet program. The questionnaire was focused on seven areas of interest (51 questions): Strategic Enterprise Management (6 questions), Economic and financial business development, risk management (11 questions), Personnel policy of the company (7 questions), Production, Service and Innovation (8 questions) Grants and subsidies (4 questions), Energy and material savings and use of renewable resources (8 questions), Priorities in business sustainability (7 questions). Results were coded using a Likert scale (1–5 for non-numerical data and extended 0 to 10 in the last section for innovation potential measurement).

The sample size (n) was calculated by using the formula recommended by Olaru, Dinu, Stoleriu, Şandru and Dincă (2010, p.15).

where:
t….confidence level, corresponding to probability with which the accuracy of the results will be guaranteed, from the statistical tables of the Student distribution
p….prevalence, probability or proportion of the sample components that will explore the problem.
ω…….acceptable margin of error.

The sample size corresponds to recommended minimum value in probability of 0.95. The minimum sample size was computed according equation (1) as follows:

  • t value in α = 0.05 is 1.96, p value = 0.5559 is counted as proportion of businesses, which will be in a “good – B group” according ČEKIA stability rating for the year 2011 (ČEKIA, 2012), ω = 0.05 is acceptable error limit of 5 %. Minimum sample size = 1.962 x 0.5559 x (1 – 0.5559)/ 0.052 = 379.36 respondents.

Empirical findings

Innovative activities are closely related to the company’s survival in a globalized market and with competitiveness, which is specifically reflected in the continuous process of the renewal and improvement of goods and services as well as production processes and the economic potential of enterprises. The last question, which united the image of the services sector for this article, concerned the priority evaluation in the field of human needs, optimization of efficiency in terms of personnel, processes and products, as well as the attitude of the company towards the environment and how it contributes to the reduction of current and future costs, including improving the quality of production.

In this study, the sample consists from 50.1% of limited liability companies, followed by 29.4% of sole traders who slightly exceeded the threshold for representation, other forms not exceeded 19.5% (joint stock companies or without answer). To describe a proper picture of the current situation, we were interested in the average annual gross turnover of the period 2009–2011, which shows us that nearly 29.7% of the companies had an annual turnover of up to 10 million CZK (Czech crowns, nearly 400 000 €; exchange rate 1€ per 25 CZK). On the other hand, 21.7% had a turnover up to 1 million CZK (40 000 €). The third main group of 22.1% of companies achieved turnover up to 100 million CZK.

In the area of company size, there is significant to mention, that in our sample more than 42% of companies stated to have up to 10 employees and 25% of them were between 11 to 50 employees (sole proprietors had a share of 9% only). Support of innovation spirit is also connected with business cycle of the company. Most were businesses that have agreed to be in a growth phase. This phase concerned 50% of respondents. On the contrary, 39.35% of companies claimed that they are in decline. This ambivalence is a very interesting phenomenon and definitely worth it for further analysis.

Although it is continuously recommended, how important in volatile market conditions it is to innovate, our companies from the sample obviously do not comply. Only 30.2% of companies stated that 1% of turnover is invested to their innovation activities. Another category, 1–5% are not much better, full 31.9% of companies investing in innovations only 5% of their turnover. Innovative activities are closely related to the firm’s survival on a globalized market and with competitiveness, which specifically reflects in the continuous process of renewal and improvement of goods and services production, production process and economic potential of enterprises, there was the reason to compare two areas – an investment and revenues from investment (see fig. 1).

Fig 1. Investments and Revenues in innovation area in years 2009–2011.

As mentioned above the revenues are balanced with costs of investment in significance level of 1%. It is comparable with official statistical data, that usual rate of return ratio in innovation area in service sector is 0.9 to 1.4% from current turnover, after that the investment isn’t profitable (CSO, 2012). It is connected with the type of innovation, which SMEs prefer to provide – their main products (compare with fig. 2) to deal effectively with customer demand.

Fig. 2 Types of innovation in relationship with the company size

Potential evaluation for network building

Finally, all factors in area of innovative and sustainable business were taken from previous official national research results (CSO, 2012) and previous studies made by Pawliczek and Piszczur (2012) or Rylkova and Antonova (2012). Seven questions were asked in order to make a judgment within the extended Likert scale of 0–10, with 0 as zero priority and 10 the highest priority. The question about priorities of companies in the field of sustainable business and supporting creativity and the innovative spirit in the company was composed of 7 parts:

  1. The fulfillment of basic human needs (working space, customer and employee satisfaction); (NEEDS)
  2. The harmonization of the environment (HARM)
  3. Optimizing performance (people, processes, products); (OPTIM)
  4. Prevention of loss and waste (reduction of current and future costs); (LOSS)
  5. Improving the quality of production; (QUAL)
  6. Optimization of resource utilization (labor, raw materials); (RES)
  7. Extended lifespan of products (extending their potential profitability); (LIFE)

In each business, we would find different priorities in relationship with business cycle and strategic change. Overall priorities could be described in followed table:

According simple analysis, the most important priorities for sustainable business are fulfillment of basic needs, performance and quality aspect. As being noticed, 75 % of companies (25th percentile) reach the mark of 6 or 7 from the scale of 10. Finally, the fourth component as prevention of loss achieves the maximum mark in 75th percentile (compare table 1 and 2).

Table 2. Sustainability and strategic changes. Independent T-tests,α level = 0.05

Relationship between two directions – strategy and sustainability confirmed the conflict in planning future of the business and could be seen that values are statistically valuable in α=0.05 only in expanded plan, so in a group of A ranked businesses, in business cycle of growth. In other groups it doesn’t make sense to conclude that those priorities aren’t important. They should be, but they are not in a harmony with other parts of analyzed units (compare table 3 and 4).

Table 3. Business cycle and Sustainability. Independent T-tests,α level = 0.05

As could be seen below (tab. 4), small companies in area believe in their own resources or they do not have any strategy for the future cooperation to support innovative spirit in their local area. A small group, especially in the group of “above” average investors could be seen “spirit of external cooperation” in the form of partnership with Universities, technology centres or in the form of open innovations.

Table 4. Internal and External Sources of Cooperation in Innovations

Hypothesis evaluation

In our paper, we set up two main areas to evaluate as follows: Enterprises in decline period and their priorities and enterprises with innovative and cooperative potential.

  • Hypothesis 1: Enterprise, which was in the period 2009–2011 in decline business phase (without any innovation potential or cooperation vision), will mainly evaluate their priorities of business in grades of 5–7 (average and higher rating) as a priority to survive in the market in most areas.

The answer is supported by previous analysis, made in the table 4. Main priorities for businesses in the decline period are (1) The fulfillment of basic human needs (working space, customer and employee satisfaction), (2) The harmonization of the environment, (3) Optimization of resource utilization (labour, raw materials); and Quality. Finally, in the statistically significant areas they achieve marks above 6, so H1 must be confirmed.

  • H2: As a final connection to the innovative approach for businesses, if a company invests more than 5%–10% of their turnover toward innovative activities, will have high priorities in external cooperation for innovation.

In this phase of survey, growing businesses belonged into the group of innovation investors, who invested mainly into 5–10 % of their turnover. The sample was divided into three main groups of those innovative investors:

  1. First group, investors up to 1% (30.7 % from the sample) of their turnover, there is consisted of the group in decline stage (41.3 %),
  2. Second group (1–5 %, 32.4 % from sample), relatively the most frequent value for companies in a growth stage (56.2 %).
  3. Last group, 18 % from the sample, mostly from businesses in a growth (53.7 %), but a second group formed her – businesses in decline – 34.3 %.

This analysis is confirmed by correlation coefficient (better relationship, and statistically significant = 0.349, sig. = 0.000, α = 0.05 and χ2 test value 63.570, df = 30, sig. = 0.000). The hypothesis 2 we can statistically confirm on α level 0.05. Also, we can add connection with the table 4, priorities in cooperation, where are external factors of cooperation dominating.

Discussion and conclusions

The survival of the business unit not depends only on the area of business, but according the previous analysis, on non-financial ratios, like cooperation, level of project management and others. Very important factor, for future analysis, is to examine an impact of green behavior on innovations and innovation types provided. The importance of these factors rapidly increased in multistage analysis.

The practical value of the non-financial information regarding the correlation between significant factors for business success within innovation implementation is very important for predicting and evaluating current and potential situations. It would be helpful when working with the causalities of failures in business sector, because each innovation process needs a good business plan and must be evaluated (Altman, et al, 2008).

It is very important to understand, that the overall approach of one aim fitting every business unit is not true. In the previous analysis we briefly identified the main drivers of innovative behaviour across the life cycle theory. Previous experience in Germany supports our study with the argument that 57% of their respondents do not have a well-defined innovation strategy, against 19.4 % of non-innovators in 2008 (Bessant, Davies, 2007, p.89).

Innovation in manufacturing is not seen as a separate activity, represented by different characters, but as a set of activities leading to the creation of new complex solutions. Decisive role in increasing the competitiveness of companies (respectively the economy) is played by productivity growth. Driving force of the Czech economy seemed to be, also according to this indicator, mainly manufacturing, however, the service sector, contributed significantly to this growth – businesses increase productivity not only by use of new ”hard” technologies, but also the use of modern information systems, modern management methods, efficient financial services and other including outsourcing these activities. In today’s strengthening trend of economy, increasing interconnection of industry and services is still apparent.

Finally, it should be emphasized there are limitations of the available data giving evidence of innovation activities in the service sector. Available data are still tied to the traditional model of innovative activities related mainly to technical innovation in the industry and R & D activities (Pawliczek, 2011). Characteristics of innovations, way they originate and where their barriers are, however cannot be read in detail of the data. However, this survey was conducted on firms of Czech Republic, especially in the Moravia-Silesian region; so findings might not be transferable to all types of organizations. Thus, it is recommended that further researches can be conducted on small-scale organizations and in different regions for the transfer of findings.

Acknowledgements

This paper was supported by the project ”Innovation of Educational Programs at Silesian University, School of Business Administration in Karviná” n. CZ.1.07/2.2.00/28.0017.

Author

Jarmila Šebestová, assistant professor at department of Management and Business, Ph.D., School of Business Administration in Karvina, Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic, sebestova@opf.slu.cz

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