Helsinki Challenge 2014

Kohteesta Opasnet Suomi
Loikkaa: valikkoon, hakuun



Coherent Climate Action: Case Helsinki


(max 150-200 characters)

How to derive, optimize and communicate coherent and cost-effective action plans at city and state level?


Describe its significance and scientific background. Include specific data points as appropriate. (max 1500 characters)

Decision makers’ eternal dilemma is to get better tools rendering the big strategic picture clearer. For instance, existence of raw information is often not a problem when constructing and implementing a strategy for an organization. It is Coherent Information (CI), which is not abundant. CI is information in a form, from which obvious inconsistencies have been purged and which can be queried against different hypotheses. In addition to the information being incoherent, it is usually published in formats that make its re-use awkward.

To ensure a smooth implementation of the strategic objectives, the strategy also needs to be communicated to the members of the organization. This task would benefit greatly if there was a common ‘language’ and a way for all players to understand their role in what the organization is trying to do.

In this project, we try to solve the above mentioned challenges and apply the general methods to the implementation of the City of Helsinki’s climate change strategy. Our scientific toolbox draws from Knowledge Practices (knowledge representation, aggregation, social networks and collaboration), Operations Research (normative decision making, risk-benefit analysis, strategic maps), Computer Science (ontology, semantic enrichment, inference) and Process Engineering & Applied Math (derivation of requirements, large scale resource optimization). In general, we apply the principles of Open Science to our own work flow and the documentation of the solutions.


(max 150-200 characters)

We present a crowdsourced method and collaboration tools for producing and deliberating coherent action plans whose implemantation’s cost-effectiveness can be assessed and different options compared.


(max 1500 characters)

We construct a robust method and tools for large organizations to derive and optimize consistent action plans from possibly incoherent collection of inputs, e.g. strategy plans deviced by different departments at different times. The construction process identifies internally conflicting objectives and ‘hard’ boundary conditions (budget cap, maximum CO2 footprint etc.). The outcome will be a consistent action plan that can be easily communicated to all parties implementing the plan. Moreover, the same tool can be utilized in optimizing resource allocation (money, working time, emission quota etc.) and producing strategies from scratch in deliberative manner.

First, all the inputs will be collected and transformed into machine readable form. Next, the material will be semantically enriched utilizing crowdsourcing, i.e. a group of people will go through the material and identify and link actionable text passages. For example, a reader can tell the computer that a document contains proposition N on page X which contradicts proposition M on page Y. We will demonstrate that no excessive supervision or domain specific knowledge is required in the enrichment process making it scalable as a work form. Owing to the semantic information added (by human computing) it becomes possible (by machine computing) to obtain answers to interesting questions, e.g. has a certain high level objective sufficient resources or which documents contain the most contradictory objectives.


(max 1500 characters)

Documents such as reports, strategy papers etc. are usually considered to be the end result of some process (research project, strategy construction). They are typically published in non-machine readable format, which makes their re-use, later corrections, combination etc. very difficult. In contrast, we treat these information sources as a starting point and transform them into a re-usable form allowing the formation of the big picture (in this case for strategic situation), which combines information from various sources.

As for social innovations and development of digitally enabled work forms, we demonstrate that the process by which the transformation and semantic enrichment is done, is suitable for crowd-sourcing and can be sufficiently easily done on existing virtual platforms. As the world is full of ‘old-fashioned’ documentation produced in the manner described above, there are plenty of need for human cognitive capacities which are not likely to be surpassed by artificial intelligence in the near future. In fact, both can co-exist in this work scheme.

Finally, we will demonstrate that multi-million dollar investments in the computing infrastructure or expensive training programs for production of more experts are NOT necessary, but substantial cost-savings by high-quality plans and improved understanding of the big picture can be achieved very cost-effectively using existing infrastructure and new work methods. The results are generally applicable.



Describe team strengths and uniqueness (max 1000 characters)

Several of the team members have a long history in crowd-sourced participatory projects. The team members also have good connections and working knowledge of semantic methods. Collectively the team possesses dozens of years of research experience in methods and fields such as cost-benefit analysis, collaborative virtual work spaces, statistical and optimization methods, environmental sciences and knowledge practices.

The team includes members of the City of Helsinki, who are familiar with documentation and the operations of the city. Therefore, access to relevant data and materials to be utilized in assessing the priorities of the action items is guaranteed. Moreover, the team has already practiced many of the necessary steps in two smaller projects related to the crowd-sourced production of the roadmap for future (Ministry of Traffic and Communications) as well as the semantic enrichment project of the governmental strategic documents (Prime Minister’s Office).



(max 1000 characters)


  • give the City of Helsinki a tool that enables the finding the of most cost-effective and coherent measures in climate change battle.


  • demonstrate new work forms via which various academic disciplines can come together and collaborate to make a greater impact on decision making
  • improve the visibility of existing virtual collaborative platforms and their usage in decision making
  • create new communication culture in government agencies/firms in relation to strategic planning. Using the tools to be developed in this project, the implementation of strategic actions can be planned from the coarsest down to the most fine-grained level: Individuals will know better how their work tasks are related to the higher level objectives in the organization. On the other hand, the management will get a better understanding of the big picture and can communicate with the other hierarchy level operators in building different alternatives e.g. for resource allocation.


What is the impact in the long run? (max 1000 characters)

Better policies and strategic steering becomes possible when we learn to re-use information better and free ourselves from local optimization.

As the culture changes only in longer term, the impacts will have to do with the change in the way people and organizations start seeing themselves and their actions and action plans as part of the bigger whole. Global optimization in resource planning and impact analysis is necessary in battling the climate change. In particular, cities can act as powerful units in this endeavor, being not too big or too small, to have an impact on GHG emissions. On shorter time scale, it is expected that the participatory planning concepts and methods will gain many more users than currently.

The City of Helsinki wants to carry its part of global responsibility and has ambitious targets for mitigation and adaptation. Our solution will contribute to shifting from strategies to practical climate measures, which is necessary in order to reach the targets.


(max 1000 characters)

Organizational level: Our solution promotes well-being directly and has a potential of doing so also indirectly. The direct impacts result from the improved working atmosphere in organizations that are willing to change their communication and planning cultures to more open and participatory mode. It is also expected that when individuals have a better understanding of their meaning and role in relation to the rest of the organization, they feel more empowered.

City level: Diminishing GHG emissions through a cost-effective action plan is in everybody’s physical health interests. The indirect benefits have a potential of emerging through the savings resulting from the more effective use of tax payers' money with the aid of a coherent climate action plan which does not waste money on confliting objectives.

Global level: Our solution helps to compare different mitigation and adaptation measures and to find the most favourable ones therby safeguarding the ecosystem services humans depend on.



Local and global? With whom? How? Potential partners? (max 1500 characters)

The local collaboration in Finland involves the National Institute for Health and Welfare, University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, Ministry of Transport and Communcations and companies specialized in crowd-sourcing.

The team will also have close contacts to experts in fields that are necessary for evaluating climate strategies. Even after constructing a coherent action plan, there will still be limited understanding about quantitative implications of the plan. For example, even if planned actions are coherent, they may be insufficient to meet the target, or not optimally cost-effective. Therefore we explore plausible next steps in quantifying action plans of Helsinki using life-cycle analysis and other methods in collaboration with Harvard University.

This project has connections with the practical climate policy work in Helsinki. The City of Helsinki Environment Centre is currently developing a climate change mitigation and adaptation roadmap, and this work will be used as a test-bed for the practices to be derived in the course of the work.

Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international movement lead in Finland by the Ministry of Finance. This application will produce practices that also promote the objectives of OGP, especially in the category Government as an Enabler, The project will work closely with OGP to exchange ideas and promote practices within the Government.


What kind of sparring, resources, contacts etc. you need in developing the idea and team during the Helsinki Challenge process? (max 1000 characters)

Even though our network is extensive and currently the necessary academic expertise are covered by the team members and our collaborators, the project would obviously benefit from a wider exposure to different academic disciplines and pilot organizations, which might be interested in trying out the methods and the tools to be developed. One of the best ways for further developing them is learning by doing, and there is always need for more data points in this respect. As for the wider utilization of other disciplines, we would be interested in hearing from the related projects within the university. We would also like to learn more about the experiences from different perspectives of the university’s own strategic planning methods as well as implementation and deliberation of various plans.


Sketch out your implementation plan, timeline and its key phases (max 2000-2500 characters)

Our project can be roughly divided in roughly three phases.

Phase 1 (1 month): Analysis of the key strategic and implementation documents of the city of Helsinki related to climate change, mitigation, and adaptation. We will identify primary and secondary objectives, actions planned to meet the objectives, and their relations

  • collect all the relevant climate action planning documents from different sources and organizational levels of the City of Helsinki as well as their transformation into a suitable format, which enables their further processing by human and machine computing methods.
  • recruit and train crowdsourced work force
  • documentation is semantically enriched and all necessary action items are identified linked and annotated for further analysis. Resource and constraint data is added.

Phase 2 (4 months): Comparable coherent action plan alternatives are formed.

  • the logical consistency of different hierarchical action plan chains will be verified. The action paths will be evaluated with respect to work and resource allocation constraints.
  • using the entire strategy for the whole organization different scenarios for the implementation will be produced. Applying different methods (and the working knowledge of domain experts) the cost-effectiveness of the different options is evaluated and compared.

Phase 3 (3 months): Initiating a network of stakeholders and potential users and implementers of the action plan.

  • Launching and moderating open discussion to evaluate, criticize, and develop the action plan. The discussion will be moderated according to specific discussion rules to keep focus.
  • Participating in the decision-making process of some of the actions mentioned in the action plan. We will provide information about the action plan in general and about the particular action in specific to the decision-makers and other people involved.
  • This participation will continue also to the implementation and evaluation phase of the decision, as described in the open policy practice.
  • Collecting views from the decision-making and implementation process and updating the action plan accordingly, if necessary.
  • Evaluating the process of participation and action plan usage to learn key points for the future.

The last two items may be iterative and the full cycle cannot be guaranteed to be finished within the pilots time frame. The total amount of funding we are looking for is 100 kEUR.


Summarize your idea, articulate the challenge, the solution and how your idea will create change (max 2500 characters)

The challenge is to help large organizations to derive and implement cost-effective action plans. In particular, we concentrate on the implementation of the City of Helsinki climate change strategy.

Our idea and the solution: We construct a robust method for the city to derive and optimize consistent action plans from a large body of departmental partial strategies and planning documents with conflicting objectives. The construction process identifies internally conflicting objectives and ‘hard’ boundary conditions, which the entire action plan must respect (budget cap, maximum CO2 footprint etc.) The outcome will be a consistent action plan that can be easily communicated to all parties responsible for the implementation. In addition, the same tool can be utilized in optimizing resource allocation (money, working time, emission quota etc.) and producing strategies from scratch in deliberative manner.

The impact: The City of Helsinki will be able to set an example on a global scale. Our solution will contribute to shifting from strategies to practical climate measures, which is necessary in order to reach the targets. Our solutions and methods can easily be copied and applied in other cities and organizations