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Social Cohesion study visit to Helsinki, Finland

The Inclusive Society Institute’s (ISI), Chief Executive Officer, Mr Daryl Swanepoel and research associate Ms Nicola Bergsteedt are undertaking a study into managing diverse communities. The second visit of the four case studies was to Helsinki, Finland from 3 to 8 July 2024.


A major focus of the learnings from this trip was the social cohesion between Swedish-speaking Finns and Finnish-speaking Finns. The ISI team explored various initiatives and avenues that drive this harmony, highlighting Finland's robust commitment to inclusivity.


One of the key engagements was with the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Ms Kristina Stenman, where the ISI team gained comprehensive insights into Finland's efforts in promoting equality and combating discrimination. This meeting provided an in-depth understanding of the country's policies and initiatives.


Additionally, the team had the opportunity to engage with a Swedish MP, Hon Mr Mikko Ollikainen MP, to discuss the role and functioning of the Swedish People’s Party (SPP) of Finland in the Finnish Parliament. This was followed by a visit to the SPP’s head office where a meeting was held with the Secretary General, Mr Fredik Guseff.


The delegation also paid a visit to the Swedish Assembly, where they were hosted by a team led by its Secretary General, Ms Christina Gestrin This discussion highlighted the unique role and impact of the Swedish Assembly, offering a deeper appreciation of its contribution to Finland's social structure.


The visit also included a meeting with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, a delegation led by Ms Minna Säävälä, where discussions centered on policies aimed at fostering economic inclusion and job creation. This was folowed by a meeting with Dr Pasi Saukkonen, a social cohesion policy expert at the Foundation for Cultural Policy Research. The meetings provided valuable knowledge on Finland's strategies to ensure broad economic participation and inclusivity.


Overall, the visit to Finland was both engaging and educational, equipping the Inclusive Society Institute with a wealth of knowledge and new perspectives. The insights gained from this trip will be compiled into a comprehensive report, which will form part of ISI's ongoing research series that examines social cohesion in four different countries, that is Singapore, Finland, the United Arab Emirates and a to be identified African country. Through these international explorations, the ISI aims to draw valuable lessons and insights to enhance social cohesion in South Africa.

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