Case Study - Siskot ja Simot MILLA INKILA - Leading BeyoND SUSTAINABILITY

This case study has been created as part of the 'Leading Beyond Sustainability Micro-credential' provided by The Mind Lab (New Zealand)
Siskot ja Simot ('Sallies and Simons') are a religiously and politically unaffiliated community, offering a platform for creative caring pop-up volunteering. They organise their pop-up events (so called “Deeds of Caring”) in over 20 places around Finland. They support and enhancee social wellbeing and solidarity in local communities in Finland. They want to spread responsible caring, especially among the elderly. (Siskot ja Simot, n.d.)
I am Milla Inkila - a lifelong learner. I teach teachers for a living at The Mind Lab, but I'm doing this case study of 'Siskot ja Simot' as a student. before I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand I got to read the final report a good friend of mine, Eero Vaisanen, wrote as his MBA project "Developing social well-being in a local community - Volunteers creating a social movement to change the story of wellbeing". I also got to be a member of the first few committee meetings when 'Siskot ja Simot' got started in 2013, before I moved to New Zealand. I have loved to follow from afar their amazing journey in Finland - and doing this case study is my way of being part of that creative community on their journey towards their collaborative change for sustainable good.

Demonstrating Authentic Sustainability

My main goal in this case study is to look at how well “Siskot ja Simot” demonstrate leadership for authentic sustainability. Merrian-Webster defines authentic as "real or genuine : not copied or false" (Merrian-Webster, n.d.). I found it interesting that "authentic sustainability" and during this micro-credential, I have learned to like John Ehrenfeld's definition of sustainability. He defines it as "the possibility that human and other forms of life on earth will flourish forever" (Hopkins, 2009). This goes beyond what is generally perceived as “sustainability”, and it paints a world where we all can thrive.

I would say Siskot ja Simot reminds us that 'all' means all of us regardless of our age. During the 8 years of their existence, they have become a thriving community of creative caring - a pioneer in gig volunteering in Finland, just like Eero was dreaming of 8 years ago.

I interviewed Eero via Zoom (personal communication, 30th of October), and it seems like he has managed to be, not just to be an authentic leader in his community, but he has managed to create opportunities for authentic leadership for anyone who wants to be part of the community. These can be both the volunteers or the elderly who are not the only ones receiving. The whole idea of the community is to lower the threshold to connect across different generations, and this works always both ways.

There are many times gaps between people’s values and the perceived action in relation to sustainability like for example a Finnish researcher Panu Pihkala (2017) has shown in his studies. Eeo has written "Our community does not organise seminars on how to create communities, but we create inclusion and equality by acting. We make our values true ​​by working in everyday life of our community" (Väisänen, 2019).

Values, Vision and Mission

I looked through the values, vision, and mission that Siskot ja Simot has and it was clear that they are walking the talk. Literally walking by getting the elderly and volunteers up and about. I can see the good that they create linking with the social wellbeing that is for example the WHO recognised Hauora wellbeing model (TKI, n.d.) defines as one of the cornerstones for our wellbeing.

In their vision "Finland is a society of caring and solidarity in which citizens take responsibility over their own and their neighbor’s wellbeing." What makes the vision perhaps even greater in the Finnish version is that it does not talk about just their own and neighbors' wellbeing, but it has the word "eliympäristö" in it, which means "environment".

Community, Responsibility, Courage and Joy

When it comes to the detailed definitions of their core values, I can see that there would be some room for acknowledging the wellbeing of our environment at large. Sustainability has been mentioned as the goal for social wellbeing, they mention socially sustainable development. By looking at that their event calendar one can see that nature already plays part in almost everything they do.

During these 8 years, their little office has now become paperless, and that office has stayed small even if more and more cities have joined the movement. When Covid hit and new innovations were needed to make sure cross-generational connections were possible - nature was one of the themes people could order or call poems to each other (ePressi, 2021). and nature is where many of the connections are again made, and the goal is always to leave no trace. Their website also offers nowadays an opportunity to donate by buying non-material gifts.

Siskot ja Simot seems to 'embrace connection instead of consumption', an aspect worth celebrating, developing, and spreading even further! Since one goal for the near future is to trial collaborating with companies (personal communication, 30th of October) it is good to keep in mind the same, and perhaps even more holistic goals relating to wellbeing. Authentic sustainability is often used as the opposite of what is called ‘greenwashing’, i.e. claiming to be ‘sustainable’ but this is just the glossy cover, whilst underneath no changes have been made to provide for a thriving future. To stay authentic, one has to be careful not to step towards greenwashing.

A quite holistic view on sustainability is clearly part of the vision and everyday actions, so it should perhaps be written into the mission and to the website too? Eero wrote (Väisänen, 2019) how sharing economy could mean sharing also immaterial things. Perhaps Siskot ja Simot can offer caring and empathy in a more holistic sense, so that our actions create hope for the future of this planet?

Creating Hope With Connection and Holistic Wellbeing

We, humans and other beings on this planet, have been living through a pandemic and we are trying to come up with ways to solve the climate crisis, there is a strong need for hope so that we keep acting and changing our ways for the better.

Researcher Jari Kylmä (2021) defines hope as 'a connection to something'. That can be for example a connection to nature, another human being, or a pet. He also claims that you can't manage hope with your mind alone. Kylmä also says (2020) that we can create hope by actively participating and taking action. Siskot ja Simot has made it easier - to both offer and receive connection. Both sides of the connection are ten perhaps also receiving hope. Perpahs it would be worth while to include that to the mission statements and the ways that the values are put in action, since it seems like that is happening already in practice. On top of connecting with each other, people are also provided opportunities to connect with everything else around them, their environment at large, just like the vision statement already states.

Linking different generations with each other might also help us to remember the ways in which we used to live more sustainably with nature even just a few decades ago. One could see your actions also quite easily linking with Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2018) "ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" and with their 'The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Older Persons' (2017) that sets out a universal plan of action to achieve sustainable development in a balanced manner and seeks to realise the human rights of all people.

So that we can go beyond sustainability, together, stronger connections are needed at every level, between humans but also between us and other forms of life. Best of luck with your authentic journey in leading this change. Keep on embracing Community, Responsibility, Courage, and Joy!

Reference List

ePressi. (2021, March 24). Runoluuri ilahduttaa ikäihmisiä huhti-toukokuussa. https://www.epressi.com/tiedotteet/avustukset-ja-vapaaehtoistyo/runoluuri-ilahduttaa-ikaihmisia-huhti-toukokuussa.html

Hopkins, M. S. (2009). Flourishing Forever. MIT Sloan Management Review, 51(1), 1.

Kylmä, J. (2021). Toivo ei ole järjen asia. Havaintoja ihmisestä. https://areena.yle.fi/audio/1-50760597

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Authentic. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/authentic

TKI. (n.d.).Well-being, hauora. Ministry of Education. https://health.tki.org.nz/Teaching-in-Heath-and-Physical-Education-HPE/HPE-in-the-New-Zealand-curriculum/Health-and-PE-in-the-NZC-1999/Underlying-concepts/Well-being-hauora

Pihkala, T. (2017). Environmental education after sustainability: hope in the midst of tragedy. https://doi.org/10.1080/23269995.2017.1300412

Siskot ja Simot. (n.d.). Siskot ja Simot in English. https://www.siskotjasimot.fi/siskot-ja-simot-in-english/

United Nations. (2018).The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 - Overview. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2018/overview/

United Nations. (2017). The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Older Persons. https://www.un.org/development/desa/ageing/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2017/07/UNDP_AARP_HelpAge_International_AgeingOlderpersons-and-2030-Agenda-2.pdf

Väisänen, E. (2019). Siskot ja Simot luo välittämisen jakamistaloutta. https://www.uusimaaviikko.fi/uusimaa-viikko/uusimaa-viikko/uutiset_ja_artikkelit/eero_vaisanen_siskot_ja_simot_luo_valittamisen_jakamistaloutta.34350.news

Created By
Milla Inkilä