Global Sustainability Summer School
Ville Taajamaa is the Sustainable Development Goals Project Manager for the city of Espoo, Finland. His interests lie in innovation and education and how these approaches can be used to promote global sustainable development. Taajamaa holds a Doctor of Science (Technology) in engineering education from the University of Turku. He attended Global Sustainability Summer School (GSSS) in 2019. Follow Taajamaa on Twitter here.
Briefly describe your primary research/academic work or other professional work.
I am passionate about education, not so much about teaching, but fostering growth. I believe that the growth of awareness in a single human being is the basis for any community and really, the whole of humanity to become prosperous — sustainably. For the past twenty years, this has led me on a journey where I have found myself in East Africa, the fast beating heart of Shanghai, central California, in sophisticatedly and often not so sophisticatedly aging Europe, and of course, Northern Europe, which I call home. Not forgetting my time at the amazing Santa Fe Institute in the unfairly beautiful surroundings of New Mexico! The common thread that has run through my time in all these places is my curiosity to understand why we do what we do and how to work towards the right goals — in a sustainable and sincere way.
Taajamaa presents at the Santa Fe Institute during 2019 GSSS
In what ways does the study of complexity science influence your thinking about your current work?
I manage UN Agenda 2030 related work in Espoo, the second largest city in Finland. Espoo is a very structured city, in a very structured country, in a very structured part of this planet. But our everyday practice is far from it — it's literally the very definition of the word complex.
In principle cities have a simple role: to take care of the young, the old, and those who are in need. In welfare societies like the Nordics this means schools, healthcare, elderly homes, etc. But the reality that cities face is very different. Globally, the battle for humanity and sustainability is fought and won in cities. Cities are responsible for many good things: less child mortality, reliable shelter and energy, food supply, education, and healthcare. These are just a few things that we take for granted, but that have been built mainly during the last 200 years — a very short time! The challenges that we face now globally are linked to or caused by cities: climate change, biodiversity loss, over-population, pandemics, political disruptions. Cities play a major role as part of the root cause of these challenges. We need to be the source for solutions as well!
How do we build sustainable cities for the future? I believe this is the very question that will decide the harmonious coexistence of homo sapiens and the rest of the planet. It is both an exciting and complex question at the same time. The time I spent at GSSS in 2019 and learning about complexity science in general provides me with a scaffold and a context to seek to understand the complexity I see in my work and in the world around me.
How did your experience at GSSS impact your professional (or personal) perspective?
My time at SFI was both a cognitive, rational growth experience and an emotional growth experience. And kinesthetic as well as we did a lot of hiking after class and during the weekend — and yoga! GSSS provided a wide range of different ways to observe and make sense of urban areas and how they function. The lectures and lecturers were extremely good — competent, co-creative, present and easy to approach. I enjoyed not only the lectures, but the cohort was superb as well. We had 35 different personalities, life experiences, backgrounds, and professions — all curious and eager to learn from each other. It was a unique experience that I highly recommend to anyone and everyone.
Attendees of 2019 GSSS after hiking to Santa Fe Baldy
Who is your personal or professional inspiration and why?
I think the incredible imagination and ideas of children are widely under-used. When we make our city’s strategy, focusing on sustainable development, we ask six-year-old kindergarten children what the city of their dreams look like. And then we actually embed those ideas into our strategy. I highly recommend you do the same.
This interview was conducted in Feburary of 2021