12. Hunting for EUNICORNS in one of the Few Countries on Earth they Might Actually Thrive:
Engaging the Creative Tensions Between Bold Aspirations, Wicked Problems and the Zombie Assumptions that Feed on Diversity, Dialogue, Democracy and especially EUNICORNs
Convenors: Jawaria Khan, University of Helsinki; Ndomo Quivine, Department of Social Sciences; David Hoffman, Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä; Taina Saarinen, Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä
Contact: jawaria.khan (at) helsinki.fi
Session 12.1: Thursday 2.12.2021 at 13.00-15.00
Session 12.2: Thursday 2.12.2021 at 17.00-18.30
Session 12.3: Friday 3.12.2021 at 12.30-14.30
The institutions central to Finland’s Democracy do not need to “promote” the plethora of policy jargon superficially ‘profiling’ and pretending to promise social justice – for all – that actually seems to excel in reproducing hierarchies explained more convincingly by homophily and gatekeeping than merit and potential. This Workshop is for those skeptical that 21st century democracies require ‘Talent Boosts’, ‘International Forums’, attempts to ‘become Finns for 90 Days’ or any type of slick gimmick or ‘messaging’ long on promising platitudes and PR but short on delivery, however well intentioned.
We are equally skeptical of rafts of intellectually uncritical and analytically ungrounded reporting exercises funded by public money, and especially the digitalization of processes and issues that cannot convincingly be “digitalized” – especially patterned social justice outcomes.
What we argue is sorely needed – rather than uncritical thinking, unquestioned assumptions and unexamined blind spots is leadership geared to increasingly contested, divisive, dynamic social complexity that defines the post-truth era the world has entered, including Finland.
Many might believe the most toxic elements of hate directed at immigrants, structural racism and inward-looking forms of new nationalism happen ‘far away’, overseas or involve issues that threaten ‘other democracies’ around the globe: not here, in the happiest country on the planet.
Our team of Finnish-based scholars and artists from countries across five continents – including Finland – see things differently.
We believe there are “EUNICORNS”: Creative, innovative, cutting-edge leadership teams and decision-making bodies focused on all populations now living in Finland’s democracy. We have even hypothesized their existence. But we have also hypothesized these teams and decision-making bodies are exceedingly rare, in contrast to leadership teams and decision-making bodies reproducing transnational and increasingly siloed power relations that cut across the planet’s privileged populations. That tension, between “Finland’s exceptionalism” versus the actuality Finland has the same demographically-driven challenges to democracy as most countries, came starkly into view in 2020, during the global coronavirus pandemic and social justice protests.
The long-established focus of the social sciences and humanities excels at distinguishing between the exceptional and unique characteristics of a particular nation or region versus issues and challenges that are global, transnational, and generic. Post-2020, our team theorizes the single focal point with the most leverage on transnational threats to the democratic institutions vital to any society is leadership that speaks clear and convincing truths that serve ‘all populations’, not just ‘some populations’.
The institutional focus we start with, in our interdisciplinary analyses aimed at reinforcing Finland’s democracy and re-aligning an evolving vision of social justice - for all - with Finland’s unique historical 20th century contribution is: education. Within the plethora of topics that fall under the broad umbrella of education, higher education socially, economically, politically and culturally mediates anything of importance that has occurred - or is likely to occur - within Finland’s education system. Within the broad array of topics higher education specialists in Finland historically, traditionally and conventionally focus on, our team of specialists in the social sciences and humanities have articulated a broad, highly unconventional question and theorized two litmus tests missed by the current generation of leadership across higher education’s hierarchies - top to bottom. Specifically: Leadership Composition, the Language Practices of Leadership Teams and Power.
In the 21st century, many in Finland’s democracy believe we have ‘Social Justice, for All’. Structurally-speaking, when viewed from the social sciences and humanities, it is far easier to argue we have ‘Social Justice Bingo for All’. What we mean by that, and how we propose to engage, navigate and change any of it, begins in this Workshop, with a focus on the last place on the planet many leadership teams in higher education are actually looking.
Presentation order and abstracts:
Session 12.1 Thursday 2.12.2021 at 13.00-15.00
Session 10.2 Thursday 2.12.2021 at 17.00-18.30
Session 10.3 Friday 3.12.2021 at 12.30-14.30