As part of Finland's centenary celebrations, the Embassy of Finland organized a discussion event on "Finland100 – Social Innovations". The event was organized together with UNICEF, which is Finland's long-term partner in innovation sector. The purpose of the event was to share experiences and to discuss how to develop social innovations in Tanzania. The keynote speakers were Dr. Vappu Taipale, a former Minister for Social Affairs and Health as well as the Head of the National Institute for Health and Welfare, and Dr. Ilkka Taipale, a MD/PHD, a former MP and an activist, who is also the editor of the book of 100 Social Innovations from Finland. The event gathered together representatives from the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, academics, NGO representatives and other Development Partners.
In the course of its 100 years of independence, Finland has developed from a resource-scarce post-conflict developing country to a modern welfare and high-income country. We have been able to combine the Nordic welfare system with an open, knowledge-based and innovative economy. The key elements in the country's success include a strong commitment to equality, high-quality basic education for all, a practical and problem-solving mindset and consensus based political decision making. With limited natural resources, Finland has always depended on its human resources: smart, knowledgeable, innovative people striving to do more with less. All these factors have in turn led to a multitude of social innovations. Social innovations come in many shapes and forms; they can be a "baby box" or a child day care, among others. They have been created to serve a purpose, things that make everyday life easier and benefit all. And these innovations are not necessarily expensive but require only a different way of thinking as well as cost sharing.
The keynote speakers of the event, Vappu and Ilkka Taipale, named five social innovations that have contributed to Finland's success. The first one was free and high-quality education from kindergarten to high education. The second innovation mentioned was gender equality: for example, in 1906, Finland was the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote and run for the office. The third key innovation named by the keynote speakers was active civil society with approximately 100 000 NGOs. The fourth social innovation was the municipal self-governance: in Finland, the municipalities have the right to levy the municipal tax and their functions include education, health care and extensive social welfare services. The last key innovation brought up by the keynote speakers was the consensus based political decision making, including the multiparty system.
During the event, participants discussed various social innovations, such as paternal leave, child day care, tax system and halving the number of road deaths and how these innovations could be applied to the Tanzanian context. Especially the Finnish baby box aroused the interest of the participants. One topic of discussion was how to enhance and encourage innovations in Tanzania. First and foremost, building the local capacities and skills is crucial in order to create innovations. Based on their experience, the keynote speakers highlighted the importance of giving people time and space to innovate. "To encourage innovations, it is crucial to set up equal teams in which also failing is being allowed", concluded Vappu Taipale.