The High-skilled internationals: bottom-up insights into policy innovation for work and entrepreneurship in Finland (HIWE) project aims to contribute to making Finland a more attractive country for highly skilled internationals to work and live in. Funding for the two-year project was granted by Business Finland through the Innovation and Growth research call. The project is implemented by the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Turku between October 2022 and September 2024.
The value of international talent is increasingly recognised in a variety of areas ranging from production of scientific knowledge to societal wellbeing. There is currently a lot of talk in the media and academic research about migration and the need to both attract international talent to Finland and retain the internationals we have here.
However, policies that support the attraction and retention of highly skilled internationals are mostly based on top-down approaches. Instead, less attention has been paid to the bottom-up perspective that would account for the experiences of internationals themselves. What is missing from the conversation then is a more engaging insight into how internationals experience living and working in Finland and what kind of policy changes they deem important.
In HIWE, we have conducted 61 interviews among highly skilled internationals from diverse backgrounds to find out about what kinds of aspects in Finnish society, labour market and entrepreneurial opportunities attract them to Finland, what (might) inspire them to stay, and what kinds of aspects they have found challenging for their lives in the country. Internationals from four industries will be interviewed: international business and retail; tourism and hospitality; ICT and engineering; and health and pharmacy.
Stories of international talents’ experiences
We have analysed the 62 interviews international talents and based on them built five stories about what their life in Finland has been like. Everyone has their own story to tell, but many of the experiences are also shared among the talents. You can immerse yourself in their lives in Finland by reading the stories here.
Important analyses and practical steps have recently been taken to develop favourable conditions to attract, retain and make it possible for highly skilled internationals to thrive in Finland. Several organisations and networks are active in the field. Each of them has their specific agendas in the complex puzzle of attracting and retaining international talent.
However, there is a need to get a clearer picture of what the ecosystem – the key actors and activities – of supporting internationals’ life, work and entrepreneurship in Finland is like, and what kinds of services and activities might be missing from it.
In response to this need, we will carry out a mapping of the ecosystem in collaboration with both local and national actors to make sense of the supporting system as a whole. The mapping will be carried out in line with a co-research approach, which means that we will closely engage relevant stakeholders in the drafting process.
The ecosystem map will be published in autumn 2023.
Policy profiling report
We will also perform a policy profiling of the recent years’ measures at national and regional level to enhance the labour market and social integration of international talent. The profiling identifies the goals, means, and stakeholders involved in this, as well as the policy measures already taken.
The policy profiling report will be published in autumn 2023.
Do experiences and policies meet each other?
Even though recently many activities and policies to support highly skilled internationals have been drawn in Finland, it does not automatically mean that internationals’ needs are being met.
In HIWE, we compare the experiences and needs brought forth by the internationals in the interviews with the results of the ecosystem mapping and policy profiling. The purpose of the resulting gap analysis is to highlight what needs to be done policy-wise to support the possibilities of internationals in Finland and further their integration into Finnish labour market and society in general.
Based on the gap analysis, we will develop a research-based understanding of what are the most crucial issues and problems that should be addressed in the later, collaborative and co-creative phases of the project.
The gap report will be published in the end of 2023.
HIWE aims to find ways to make internationals’ voice heard better in decision- and policy making that regards their lives and opportunities in Finland. To do this, we face head-on the gaps found between the actual experiences of internationals and the existing policies. Our intention is to invite a wide variety of participants, including internationals themselves, to a workshop process, the purpose of which is to start co-creating solutions to identified problems.
Policy innovation: collaborative governance model
At HIWE, we think that the creation of effective policy innovations requires the encounter of experiential, bottom-up knowledge and the “top-down” institutional decision-making.
To challenge mere top-down approaches, the project engages key policy actors in a co-creative process together with international talent. A key takeaway of the project will be developing and testing a novel way of formulating ‘innovation policy’ and ‘policy innovation’ in a collaborative process with multiple stakeholders. It brings the various actors together for purposeful co-operation to improve the opportunities of international talent in Finland. As a result of the project, a new Collaborative Governance Model will be co-created and tested.
The model will be published in spring 2024.
The Collaborative Governance Model will be tested in early 2024, again following the ideas of co-research and co-creation. This entails organising three or more thematic ‘testing sprints’ where the model is put to use to co-create solutions to problems identified and thematised in earlier phases of the project. Following the iterative process of the sprints, the model is discussed and evaluated in round table discussions among the key stakeholders before the final release. The model can serve as a basis for future policy-making processes.
Policy briefs and Roadmap for action
To disseminate our research findings, at least two policy briefs will be prepared. The briefs will be designed together with stakeholders and policy makers to strengthen their commitment to implement the suggested recommendations.
HIWE will also produce a Roadmap for Action, again involving the key stakeholders, to implement the collaborative governance model in practice. The roadmap will provide a strategic plan and outline the necessary steps for the model’s implementation. It will be launched in an open forum where the stakeholders present how the suggested actions will be taken forward.
The policy briefs and the roadmap will be published in September 2024.