City of Helsinki

Building jobs, education and the future – The Migrant Youth Helsinki project

How do you implement a project that has a clear goal and secure funding but undefined problems and solutions? In 2016, the city of Helsinki started a project, Migrant Youth of Helsinki, in order to find ways to support young immigrants in education and employment. Solita’s service design unit Palmu led the planning of the Migrant Youth Helsinki project, choosing pilots and setting targets in cooperation with a team from the city.

The project was planned in cooperation by hearing from the young immigrants themselves and the people who work with them daily. The Buddyschool peer-teaching model, the Job’d immigrant youth employment project and parent support model are all innovative pilots born from the main project, and they have received awards and praise from the public sector. First and foremost, the project has made a better life possible for young immigrants.

Case Helsingin kaupunki

Results

  • 2000+ of young people reached.

  • Achieved in comprehensive cooperation between the city of Helsinki, immigrants and public operators, such as teachers, child protection services and the police.

  • Buddyschool: education innovation of the year in the Integration 2018 event. Migrant Youth Helsinki: one of the top 10 finalists in the Engaged Cities competition in New York.

A more equal future for young immigrants

The life of young immigrants in Finland is overshadowed by many problems in employment, education and social life: statistically, 25 per cent of non-Finnish speakers under 30 are not in education or employment. Only four per cent of native Finns are in this situation.

Funded by Me-säätiö (We Foundation), the city of Helsinki started a project in 2016 with the goal of finding new and widely deployable means to support the education and employment of young immigrants. The project was named Migrant Youth Helsinki.

The city of Helsinki wished to use the project to test an unconventional approach. Instead of a long-term strategy being set right from the start, the city was looking for a partner with strong process expertise and the ability to manage the project with determination and agility. Service design was considered important for the whole, so Solita’s service design unit Palmu was chosen to lead the planning of the project.

Working together was the success factor for this project. At no point did anyone feel like they were involved as an outside party or that solutions were being handed down. Joint planning produced corresponding results. Irma Sippola, project manager, Migrant Youth Helsinki

Cooperation with stakeholders led to understanding

The first question in planning the project was “why”. What were the problems behind the statistics that young immigrants were having? It was clear that consultants and workgroups could not answer the question – the only way forward was to cooperate with young immigrants and the professionals working with them.

Palmu oversaw the creation of joint planning teams that accepted applications from different organisations and departments, like schools, associations, the city youth department, multicultural societies and working life preparation representatives. A good number of applications was received, 80 in total. After interviewing the applicants, three teams of ten people were formed.

The joint planning teams specialised in certain areas and interviewed young immigrants and their parents about these areas. The challenges of the youth were identified as follows: limited opportunities for discussing personal difficulties, trouble finding their first job and the parents’ lack of awareness about the opportunities in the Finnish society and the substance use of the youth.

Working together was the success factor for this project. At no point did anyone feel like they were involved as an outside party or that solutions were being handed down. Joint planning produced corresponding results.
– Irma Sippola, project manager, Migrant Youth Helsinki

Quick trials separate bad ideas from good

During the winter and spring of 2016, the joint planning teams met in varying configurations. Over the spring, workshops and continuously listening to the stakeholders produced hundreds of ideas for improving the circumstances of young immigrants. The best ideas were chosen by analysing how easy they would be to realise and how great their benefit would be to the target group. The ten most workable ideas were chosen for quick trials.

The quick trials were a new way for municipal organisations, such as the City of Helsinki, to approach project testing. Quick trials replace a lengthy and rigid planning process with small test groups and swift schedules. This allowed for quick feedback on how the ideas worked and any potential issues. The ideas that were received the best were polished further and prepared for a pilot stage.