6 cities in Finland have earned the award of Integral Cities of the Year 2018. They have developed a strategy for working together that they call 6AIKA.  The strategy for sustainable urban development brings together Finland’s six largest cities: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu. Together, they tackle the challenges of urbanisation and evolve towards ever smarter and inherently human-centric cities.

The 6AIKA cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu and Turku – are home to some 30% of the population. As a result, their joint development projects are of national importance. Based on solution-oriented thematic collaboration rather than geographical region, this unique initiative is boosting city co-operation to go beyond rhetoric.

Integral City 4.0 graduate, Taina Ketola (who was the city of Tampere’s lead collaboration facilitator for this project for the last four years), invited Integral City Founder Marilyn Hamilton to bring ideas about Placecaring to the 6AIKA 2018 conference (held in Oulu). Taina and Marilyn could see the potential of joining  Placecaring approaches to the significant work in the Placemaking collaborations of technology and systems that the 6AIKA cities were implementing. Placecaring methodologies were welcomed as the natural next step for the cities to implement after completing their Agile Pilots and Smart City Prototypes. Civic managers were all curious to learn more ways  to open hearts, expand mindsets and connect community.

From an Integral City perspective, what stands out about this collaboration is, how the 4 Voices of the City have been embraced to work together. The 6AIKA website notes, that in this ever-changing world, cities need to adopt new roles. In the Six City Strategy the cities put customers, companies and citizens, first, understanding their needs better and meeting those needs in new ways. Universities and other research organisations were also included in their co-creation activities.  As a result, they are doing this in a way that benefits all: cities, citizens, companies, NGOs, and R&D&I organisations.

The strategy focuses on  projects like Agile piloting, – so that by helping businesses to experiment and discover new opportunities, everyone learns new skills to enable the cities to thrive. The 6AIKA group have also recognized the value of training workers and citizens and inviting them to other learning events. They have grasped how extensive and valuable is the vast trove of data and knowledge that exists in all their city organizations as resources for development.

In making those discoveries, the teams of civic managers working with business realized the value of developing open interfaces so that they could share access.The basis of the Six City Strategy was developed in three large-scale spearhead projects: Open Data and InterfacesOpen Participation and Customership, and Open Innovation Platforms. They  pushed forward the essential elements of the Finnish smart city model: customer-centered co-creation, opening and utilising data and developing services in real urban environments.

What the Placecaring practitioners of Integral City can admire is that the Six Cities Strategy has encouraged a new innovation culture to flourish and spread within and across Six Cities. This systemic collaboration between and amongst cities and companies affects the competitiveness of Finland. As a cross-sectoral multi-city model, the Six City Strategy represents a unique set-up of sustainable and smart city development. What is more with the training and cultural aspects of this strategy expanding the capacity of individual and collective collaborations, Integral City can see the evidence of empowering the 4 + 1 Voices rippling out across each city and the nation.

It is a unique situation and one that illustrates the power of combining Smart and Resilient City technology-based Placemaking strategies with people-based Placecaring strategies. We believe this is an example other regions and nations could follow to expand the capacities to thrive.

Integral City is delighted to have seen first hand,  how and why the 6AIKA city teams easily deserve the Cities of the Year 2018 award.


For prior Integral City of the Year Awards see:

Russia’s 3 City Associations – City of the Year 2017

Fort McMurray – City of the Year 2016.

Paris – City of the Year 2015.