How Nokia is Dialing Up the Future

In addition to chronicling his own experiences launching a social venture, Joe occasionally writes about other things related to his work, to social enterprise, and to business innovation. Here is the first such column.

Earlier this month, Nokia and the folks from The Feast social innovation conference teamed up to launch Change Connections, an online social-innovation platform. The site allows users to connect and engage around focus points like disaster planning, community empowerment, and healthcare. I caught up with one of the project’s key players, Nokia’s Ville Tikka to learn more.

GOOD: Let’s start here: You're a Senior Futures Specialist. What exactly does that mean and how did it enable you to become a driving force behind this project?

Ville Tikka: As a Senior Futures Specialist, my role in Nokia is to explore the forefront of the socio-cultural transformation and to identify, analyze and translate these changes into strategies and actions that create a better future for people, planet, and business. We’ve been studying the socio-cultural and behavioral change and emerging trends in five continents, within both developed and developing societies, and it has become apparent that mobile communications have played—and will continue to play—a significant role in changing lives for the better literally for billions of people. With Change Connections, our aim is to further explore the future potential of information and communications technologies as a platform to empower people and drive positive change, as well as to find new ways to overcome some of the world’s pressing issues through collaborative groundbreaking social innovation.

G: Since launching the project, what have you learned?

VT: It’s been a fantastic learning experience already. Initially, Change Connections has been focusing on the issues in the developing world and on people who can benefit most from the better solutions. But throughout the project it has become apparent, maybe more than ever, that these issues are highly systemic and truly global. The same basic issues are troubling people all over the world, although the severity varies in different contexts. Also, it’s often difficult to differentiate the root causes behind the problems as health issues are closely interconnected with challenges in livelihoods or the issues with learning are linked with the ones with climate change resilience. The good thing here is that we have new opportunities to identify scalable solutions exactly from these intersections between different cultural contexts and different issue areas.

The initial response has been really good and we’ve already got a ton of amazing ideas and support, but of course there’s always room for more. This has been an astonishing journey so far but I hope it’s only the beginning and we’ll see more ideas and connections coming up, spurring collaborations within the community that eventually would lead to real life solutions.

G: The days to engage and respond are limited but the site will remain open after that. What do you hope visitors get from the site after the initial window has expired?

VT: After the initial engage and respond phase we’ll launch new features that help people navigate the ideas and combine them, literally creating new connections between them. We hope that this forum will work as a springboard for connecting ideas and people and as a catalyst to make things happen. Actually, we’ve already seen interesting spin-offs taking place as people have started to collectively develop the ideas shared on the site! The idea is also to continue to support the conversation within the community after the project is concluded and share the broader findings to instigate further action and thinking.

G: Can you talk a bit about what's going to happen in Nairobi?

VT: One of the concrete next steps in Nokia’s work in this area is the Open innovation Africa Summit, taking place in Nairobi in a few months, where Nokia aims to convene together over 200 critical minds and change makers. An intensive, extraordinary and impactful gathering, the goal is to go from bird’s eye to ground level to better understand the potential ecosystem for change in the world. The greater goal is to contribute to strengthening innovation ecosystems and our understanding of the world at the base-of-the-pyramid, create a forum for sharing research and learning and to better understand what a company like Nokia can do to support creation of innovative and self-empowered societies.
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