By: Lee, Fang-Yi
“We are the city. I believe in the welfare state, but it should not be expected that society takes care of everything for us. It is better to take matters into our own hands and seize the city.” quoted by Timo Santala (The founder of We Love Helsinki) 05.11.2011. We Love Helsinki came out from a simple idea of creating something fun with the city by ourselves which is organized by few media people and performed by many volunteers. It is impossible to talk about the Helsinki city movement without mentioning the We Love Helsinki collective, which has achieved remarkable success in hosting several well-known events such as “Flow Festival”, “Street of Art”, “Aero Solar Museum”, etc. The success of We Love Helsinki seems natural because people always love fun, cool stuff; however, there are several complex reasons contribute to it’s achievement.
To consider about the success of We Love Helsinki, it is interesting to scope how the group becomes one of the most popular events among citizens and what kind of value they created for the city. It is always harsh to start a new community movement; meanwhile, the core value of We Love Helsinki is to engage participants as one of member in charge of the event. However, imagine who will willing to have a hand in when the group is just at the start-up moment and no one recognizes it? Moreover, it is also inaccessible to find a public space for hosting event because government or landholder probably do not understand what they are trying to do with the city and there is no trust in this stranger.
What We Love Helsinki did was to introduce themselves to the public with the most popular activity- dance. They launched the first event “Midsummer Dance” in 2008; meanwhile, Timo Santala (the founder of We Love Helsinki) also tried to employ his strength of journalist background to make a great impact on community by media. The first event turned out to be very successful. It is very clever that they started with the public’s preference thus they can reward positive feedback immediately. As We Love Helsinki hosted various cheerful events, they accumulated an excellent reputation among inhabits little by little. The organizer carefully choose what kind of events they could have which avoid them not to go too far or even cross the line, break the public’s tolerance so as to gently intervene the environment and the stakeholders’ routine. We Love Helsinki gradually test and expand stakeholders’ acceptance till the stakeholders start to notice or expect there are something fun happening in this city. Ultimately, the more reputation/ better image the group acquired, the easier they promote their concept and events. From We Love Helsinki point of view, they can use their good image as currency to gain more opportunities of continuously hosting diverse activities in the city and conveying their idea to the community.
With regard to citizens and the city, We Helsinki City indeed create new value for them as well. It is just like a mutualism, once people are open-minded for the event and become a participant, they are already participating in the action of changing their city. Those events enable citizens to experience managing the city by their hand and also enlighten awareness of responsibility is central to being an urban citizen. We Love Helsinki educates people a simple concept of “We, inhabitants can decide what kind of city we want to live in only if we spontaneously take charge of the actions”. While more and more people take part in the interaction, they will enhance the influence of We Love Helsinki on different fields: for instance, to create new value for the city is possible. The city government may doubt what do We Love Helsinki do at first, but along with considerable success of launching several events. Government will be convinced by witnessing fruitful outcomes, or even become a supporter of We Love Helsinki and jointly make the city better. When the city gains reputation from those successful events which could be a good advertisement of the city as well. Therefore, We Love Helsinki may attract more people’s eye on the city and become a key to open the door of increasing tourism.
To sum up, We Love Helsinki offers a chance for citizens to seize the city, as well as the city and all stakeholders participate to empower the group. Basically they are bringing benefit for each other. Now we can see We Love Helsinki has already managed some annual events which are all popular among the citizens. What could be next step for We Love Helsinki? Instead of having stable staff, We Love Helsinki seems more contributed by few organizers and most staff come from volunteers. This form of community is quite flexible to managing affairs, on the other hand it is easily to collapse in a way. If there is no people want to involve in the group anymore, We Love Helsinki may face the situation of shut down suddenly. Of course we don’t want to see that happen in the future. We Love Helsinki may still dismiss once accomplish their ultimate goal; however, the value they have created should not be underestimated and we should maintain the spirit of creating the city on our hands no matter We Love Helsinki lasts forever or not.