At the Nordic Fireside: Working together as researchers and policymakers…

Thinking & Analysis

Throughout history people have sat by the fire and created meaning. They’ve established stories; deepened relationships; and bonded over shared experiences from the day.  So in this year’s chapter of the TIPC story, it was apt to have an informal, cozy fireside chat, albeit a digital one, at the debut Nordic Learning Event with our policymaker colleagues from Finland, Norway and Sweden headlining…


Our digital fireside session was the learning event’s evening session. It took on this form as a substitution for the more traditional (pre-Covid) conference dinner. The TIPC organising team wanted to capture an element of the after-work glass of wine and ‘how was it for you’ conversations that spring from these spaces. Realizing that our delegates would be rubbing their Zoom-weary eyes and shifting in their home office chairs, we decided the relaxed style of a radio or podcast would fit the bill. Aptly, it could be listened to in other realms of the house – the Fireside if you will – while sipping a glass of wine or hot chocolate, warmed and inspired by the connectivity of shared understandings.

Radio encompassing fireside chats is not new. Roosevelt employed fireside chat programmes as a tactic with his nation during the great depression to soothe and to counsel them through distressing times. At TIPC we were not quite claiming to do this, but we were hoping to give some light and release for the struggles that research and policy people face when aiming for the challenging job of transformation. We wanted the conversations to be open, frank, and to express the lived-experience of co-creation and working together on projects.

Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) is about realizing new knowledge, approaches and tools at the research-policy interface. It is about finding the sweet spot between these spheres. Co-creation is at the heart of this.  As with everything involving people, the process is complex, difficult, emotional, fluid and subjective. It requires an openness and ability to learn about ourselves, our relationships and our organizations.

In the fireside session (hosted by me – Geraldine Bloomfield), TIPC researchers talked with policymaker colleagues to ask questions about the co-creation dynamic, to share reflection and anecdotes. There were four chats, each highlighted below with an introduction to the topics and themes covered.


The Norwegian Fireside

We began with the Norwegian perspective, provided by Elisabeth Gulbrandsen, a special adviser at the Research Council of Norway. Elisabeth is engaged with RCN’s experiments in developing, as TIP is often referred to, a third generation science and innovation policy. This entails fostering modality, skills and capacities conducive to partnerships and collaborations. She has been with, and against, TIPC since before its inception and is a TIPC governing board member. Elisabeth was joined by Per Koch who is Editor of the Nordic research and innovation policy magazine Forskningspolitikk. He is also a researcher at the Nordic Institute for Studies of Innovation, Research and Education. He has worked with The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and Innovation Norway. Additionally, he has been actively involved in EU, OECD and UNESCO innovation activities.

TIPC Research Fellow, Carla Alvial Palavicino from Utrecht University’s Centre for Global Challenges, led the discussion around their experience of what co-creation means and why it is important. Their conversation, interestingly, started us off with the concept of “being lost” – why acknowledging being lost in co-creation is important, questioning our identities and our labels as part of this, and then being able to reach out to, listen to and to learn from others. How then do we ‘get lost’ in a productive way?


The Swedish Fireside

The second fireside was in Sweden where, Josefin Lundstrom from Sweden’s innovation agency, Vinnova and Diana Velasco from TIPC coordinating partner INGENIO, discussed the challenges of Sweden’s TIP experiment on the food and health system. Josefin works as an analyst at Vinnova, and has managed their different TIPC related activities. Since the beginning of this year, she has worked intensively on the collaborative TIPC-Vinnova project around formative evaluation of Vinnova’s mission-oriented activities. Diana is part of the TIPC research team working on the Experimental Policy Engagement (EPE). She has been developing different strategies to record and enhance learning in the experiments.

They discuss how co-creation is inherently difficult, but if we can move through the inevitable ‘crisis points’ they become crucial to being able to achieve second-order learning and a new understandings.


The Finnish Fireside

With our third fireside chat, we relocated to Finland to welcome, Heli Karjalainen, a Senior Director of Strategic Support Services from Business Finland. She is responsible for the strategy process and Business Finland’s impact analysis. She is a TIPC governing board member and has worked with TIPC since 2016 on the process of academic and policymaker co-creation for transformation.

Heli was joined at the fireside by Paula Kivimaa, a PhD Research Professor for the Climate Change Programme at the Finnish Environment Institute, and a long-time TIPC research collaborator. Paula previously worked at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, TIPC’s founding institution.

Heli and Paula discussed how co-creation feels from the perspective of the Finnish tradition of collaborative policymaking, particularly from Business Finland’s perspective of interacting with business and industry.


The Europe-wide Fireside

For the fireside finale there were insights from TIPC’s Academic Director and Founder – Johan Schot, Professor of Global History and Sustainability Studies from Utrecht University. His research with Professor Ed Steinmueller launched the Consortium and continues to inform the co-creation principle at the heart of it. He is central to the European Institute of Technology’s Climate Knowledge & Innovation Community project (Climate-KIC), MOTION. Cristian Matti is Transitions Hub Lead at EIT Climate-KIC, and works at the science, policy and practice interface for innovation & sustainability. He has been coordinating the MOTION project.

Johan and Cristian have a lot of experience of working together on the sticky topic of co-creation, and here they chew over – what does co-creation really mean in practice and how it is so necessary for transformation?