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Inside a learning region

Published by Rauli Sorvari on Fri, 08/19/2011 - 13:55





Everybody knows that competitiveness is important when facilitating change and development in
economy, whether its globally, regionally or in individual companies. The problem is that
competitiveness is too often defined and discussed on a general level. That is why I try to approach
the issue through the practical experiences of developing a learning region in Central Finland.
In short, a learning region is a region with dynamic structures and stakeholder relations to support
continuous and mutual learning between organisations and effective economic development. In
this context the stakeholders possess the knowledge and skills to make the changes and affect the
operating environment. Somehow learning region is the platform to cultivate the different natural,
human and social and financial capitals. On the regional level its not only the money and the
support for enterprises its the set of strategically effective actions for taking care of the strengths
in different levels of the regional economy. In the company level we talk about learning
organisations productivity, efficiency, creative customer relationships, knowledge and wellbeing
of the personnel and dynamic business development and innovations. For individuals its the
knowledge and capability to learn more. The main question is not WHO is doing it, but HOW we
are doing actions for sustainable and lasting competitiveness in cooperation.
Central Finland has made its regional development based on this context of learning region design
for the past ten years. In a region traditionally concentrated on natural resources and heavy
industry, it has been all about the people. Strengths and advantages are connected to the global
markets and different success stories inspire entrepreneurs, businesses and the stakeholders for
continuously better performance. Finnish philosopher Pekka Himanen talks about the concept of
enriching interaction and the stakeholders in Central Finland have sort of accidentally created the
same operational culture in practice. Enriching interaction is based on the joint activities and cocreation. The stakeholders have actual strategic need to develop, they have the capability to break
organizational borders in coopetition, the agility and dynamics in the mindsets and processes and
a joint trend of development through concrete cooperation agreements. The same disciplines go
for different processes from labour market foresighting and entrepreneurship support to education
business cooperation and more specialized economic development.
How about the results? The main impacts of the learning region context have been e.g. the creation
of a unique network of education business, the EduCluster Finland network, a one-of-a-kind
cooperation framework for well-functioning labor markets and operational models for matching
the business needs for e.g. vocational education. The stakeholder organizations have created many
effective models for business development and facilitating the commercialization processes from
science to business, recently we are even looking at creating learning clusters and business

How we have managed to achieve this to mobilize the whole potential of people in Central
Finland? We would love to tell you more! Its not rocket science, but not short of a process
requiring a unique set of skills to build the dynamic structures, to facilitate the needed processes
and to make all of these work towards the same goals.