6. Ecosocial Transformation and Sustainable Wellbeing


The group will be organized on Thursday 26.10.2017 at 15:45-18:00 in room S203

For years, natural scientists have in ever more alarmed tones warned against environmental changes that are unbalancing Earth’s ecosystems.   Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and changes in land use give rise to intertwined chains of events, giving rise to new risks in the welfare states, too. To meet and control these risks, we need a new kind policy of wellbeing and a stronger view on sustainable limits. It is also necessary to transgress the dichotomy between society and the ecosystem, and make a shift to research on social-ecological systems. We are on the threshold of an ecosocial transformation, but can we step over it without stumbling?

The working group invites presentations on ecosocial research and research on sustainable wellbeing. The topics could cover, among others, new thought models or practices of sustainable wellbeing found in society today, or ongoing research activities in Finland or internationally. We welcome presentations on both work in progress and completed research. We also welcome presentations discussing what kind of ecosocial questions should be covered in social policy research, what kind of research would contribute to ecosocial policy and the ecosocial transformation, and what could be accomplished by studying sustainable wellbeing.

Depending on the language and amount of abstract proposals, the working group can convene in Finnish on the other day and in English on the other day, or only in Finnish or English on one or two days. If you write an abstract in Finnish, please mention if you are ready to hold your presentation in English if required.


Tuula Helne  tuula.helne@kela.fi

Tuuli Hirvilammi  tuuli.hirvilammi@chydenius.fi




15.45-15.55 Tuula Helne & Tuuli Hirvilammi: Opening words

15.55-16.15 Jutta Pulkki & Jani Pulkki

16.15-16.35 Aila-Leena Matthies, Tuuli Hirvilammi, Ingo Stamm & Kati Närhi

16.35-16.55 Ingo Stamm, Aila-Leena Matthies, Tuuli Hirvilammi & Kati Närhi

16.55-17.15 Paula Saikkonen

17.15-17.35 Ronja Kuokkanen

17.35-17.55 Satu Ranta-Tyrkkö

17.55-18.00 Final words




Ecosocial approach in health care policy and practices

Jutta Pulkki & Jani Pulkki, University of Tampere

The need for ecosocial thought comes from cultural assumption according to which human beings are separate from and superior to nature. Seeing ourselves separate from nature have the effect of making us indifferent about nature. Ecosocial thought aims to transform this thinking. The basic tenet of ecosocial thought is that humans live immersed in and interdependent with complex living systems. Our social behaviors and beliefs affect those systems as other creatures affect us. Asocial behaviour towards living beings is destructive to the life supporting systems of the planet.

In this study we are, thus, examining the current health policy and practices using ecosocial approach. We are conducting a philosophical analysis, which concentrates especially to health education, health promotion and health care policies and practices in Finland and in international health organizations (WHO, EU). Our ecosocial thought stems from an EcoHealth movement and EcoJustice framework in which we are looking at what kind of philosophical and ideological underpinnings and assumptions about human beings and nature are used in health sector. Analyzing the inconsistencies of health care policy enable us to seek improvements to health care policy. Ecosocial alternatives to health resituates human’s within the life supporting systems of this earth for acting in accordance with nature, not irrespective of it. Ecosocial thought is a considerable trend in the twenty-first century humanities and social sciences, but in health science it is barely applied.


Mapping ecosocial innovations as options for young unemployed people

Aila-Leena Matthies, Tuuli Hirvilammi, Ingo Stamm and Kati Närhi, JYU, Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius and Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy

One of the biggest challenges for achieving sustainability in our societies is the complex interconnectivity between its ecological, economic and social pillars (Brandt et al. 2013). However, most of the sustainability sciences focus on one of the pillars or on their systemic interconnectivity at the macro-level. The aim of this paper is to contribute to a hermeneutic understanding of the interconnectivity between the three sustainability areas from a micro-level perspective. Our analysis uses mapping data from five European countries of various practical sustainability transition projects, which we call ecosocial innovations (ESI). We were interested in ESIs as potential perspectives for young unemployed people. Using the analysis of this qualitative textual data we asked how the ESI’s activities incorporate a combination of environmental, economic and social issues and what kind of understanding they can provide about their interconnectivity. We regard the ESIs as niches, which can provide valuable models for bridging the gaps between the areas of sustainability also at the macro-level. Interestingly, in our data about the ESIs the capacity of interconnecting seems to be most evident especially in the search for solutions to such complex regime-level challenges of sustainability like sustainable food policies and practices, new economy and work, as well as sources for social wellbeing. Interconnectivity is also strengthened through the way of working in a thematic diversity by networking or by addressing the interconnectivity as such.


Ecosocial innovations in Europe –models for social work action?

Ingo Stamm, Aila-Leena Matthies, Tuuli Hirvilammi, and Kati Närhi, JYU, Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius and Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy

This paper is based on a 4-year-long Finnish research project that examines the contribution of social work and social policy to the sustainable development of European societies. The first phase of the project focuses on ecosocial innovations on the local level. We argue that all over Europe ecosocial innovations are emerging which can serve as small-scale models for a transition towards a more sustainable society – ecologically, socially and economically. We widen the understanding of social innovations by using the notion of ‘ecosocial’. The ecosocial innovations we are interested in are aware of the interconnectedness of all dimensions of sustainability. They can have different legal forms: registered associations, cooperatives or self-organized groups of grassroots level actors. They develop new sustainable practices, including new forms of work and employment, which not only fulfill individual needs but also change social relationships in their communities. Many of them are open to all interested people; some specialize on young people, unemployed or living in precarious situations. Furthermore, the innovations should be part of social and solidarity economy and therefore provide ideas about what policy changes are needed in times of transition.

This paper presents results of the second work package of the project, which consists of two steps: Firstly, a map of existing ecosocial innovations in European countries (Finland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and the UK) was created to illustrate predominating trends. We ask what kind of ecosocial innovations can be identified in the respective countries? Secondly, based on these findings, a selection of ecosocial innovations was made in order to conduct empirical case studies in the first four countries. Three ecosocial innovations from Finland and one from Belgium, Italy and German were chosen. For our cross-national, multi-case study we mainly used semi-structured individual interviews as well as group interviews. The interview partners were founders, coordinators, workers and participants involved in the ecosocial innovations. To back up the interview data we also included documents in our study and conducted several field visits. We will present the results of the thematic analysis which we conducted based on our interview data. The main themes are among others describing the transformation of ecosocial innovations from informal to formal organizations, their creative and sometimes chaotic mix of work, employment, and engagement and how they are balancing all dimensions of sustainability. The case studies also illuminate the role of social work practice in the activities of ecosocial innovations. Could they serve as models or partners for a (sustainable) social work action in the future?



The (im)possibility of sustainable wellbeing in the Nordic welfare state?

Paula Saikkonen, THL

The Nordic welfare states are more equal societies than many others but they consume resources too much. Understandable economic growth cannot be infinite on the finite planet. Yet, the growth is presented as it would bring wellbeing for all. Less asked question is; what kind of wellbeing the Nordic welfare system supports and could it be more sustainable?

One factor of the welfare system is the public services. The aim of the services is to increase wellbeing or bring some support for people in need at least. The research question is: how social work fulfills the needs of the social assistance recipients? The theoretical framework bases on Max-Neef’s categorization of needs. According to him, there are two categories: existential and axiological needs. The first means needs like being, having, doing and interacting, latter refers to nine universal needs. Though the needs are universal, the satisfiers that fulfill the needs are culturally dependent.

The group interview data was collected as part of the larger research project. As the interviewees were people who were on social assistance, it is not surprise that having, doing (existential) and subsistence (axiological) appeared to be the dominant needs. Those are important as they set the standards for need covered by the public welfare system. However, focusing mostly on the having and subsistence might be problematic as there are other needs to be fulfilled in order to increase wellbeing. Lack of understanding about the complexity of wellbeing in the social services might hinder more sustainable alternatives to social policy.


Participation and sustainable wellbeing in remote rural communities

Ronja Kuokkanen, University of Tampere, Unit of Pori

Local and traditional knowledge along with the local people’s views on communality and environment provide a substantial but largely unutilised resource for adapting to climate change (IPCC 2014, 19). Supporting an individual’s self-motivated activity and involvement in developing their own everyday environment is considered essential for the promotion of sustainable welfare (e.g. Lehtonen 2009; Cahill 2002; Helne et al. 2012). In my doctoral thesis I study how the villages’ active volunteers perceive local wellbeing and their participation in advancing sustainable wellbeing in their local community. My research contributes to the topical discussion on how we could achieve a social change towards a sustainable society. Small local communities, such as the ones in countryside villages, can not only produce useful structures of welfare but also influence the local people’s perceptions of wellbeing and the lifestyle choices they make. There is also more pressure for the villagers to be actively engaged in their community’s affairs and activities supporting welfare because remote rural areas tend to fall out of the realm of public services (The Rural Policy Committee 2014).

My research data will consist of thematic interviews conducted with active villagers or remote rural areas. For the interviews I will apply the Appreciative Inquiry method, in which the focus is on the strengths and available resources of the communities in question instead of concentrating on their challenges and weaknesses (Ludema, Cooperrider & Barrett 2001). Thus I will avoid examining the countryside and rural communities through the typical problem-orientated emphasis which often sees the villages as peripheries of sparse public services, aging population and welfare deficits (e.g. Ponnikas, Voutilainen, Korhonen & Kuhmonen 2014). The research interview can be seen as an intervention that encourages villagers’ to find the local strengths and inspires their positive activity, attitudes, and asserts opportunities to discover new ways of improving their respective communities. (Ludema, Cooperrider and Barrett 2001).


  • Cahill, Michael & Fitzpatric, Tony (toim.) (2002) Environmental issues and social welfare. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Helne, Tuula & Hirvilammi, Tuuli & Laatu, Markku (2012) Sosiaalipolitiikka rajallisella maapallolla. Helsinki: Kelan tutkimusosasto.
  • IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.
  • Lehtonen, Tommi (2009) Kestävän kehityksen arvot. Futura 28 (2009):3.
  • Ludema, James, D., Cooperrider, David, L. & Barrett, Frank, J. (2001) Appreciative Inquiry: the Power of the Unconditional Positive Question. Teoksessa: Peter, Reason & Hilary, Brandbury (2001) Handboook of Action Research. Participative Inquiry and Practice. London: Sage Publications. Sivut: 189-199.
  • Maaseutupolitiikan yhteistyöryhmä (2014) Mahdollisuuksien maaseutu. Maaseutupoliittinen kokonaisohjelma 2014–2020. Työ-ja elinkeinoministeriön julkaisuja, alueiden kehittäminen 9/2014.
  • Ponnikas, Jouni, Voutilainen, Olli, Korhonen, Sirpa & Kuhmonen, Hanna-Mari (2014) Maaseutukatsaus 2014. Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriön julkaisuja. Alueiden kehittäminen. Maaseutupolitiikan yhteistyöryhmä, 2/2014.



Social work and the resources question– notes about the challenges at stake

Satu Ranta-Tyrkkö, University of Jyväskylä

One of the major challenges at stake is how to solve the energy and material needs of the humankind in ecologically, economically and socially sustainable ways. So far the increased awareness of the finiteness of the non-renewable resources as well as of the problems inherent in their utilization (e.g. that the use of bio carbons has climate warming effect) has not led into radical enough changes in lifestyles and subsequent resource utilization. Rather, instead of more sparing use of the existing resources, past decades distinguish as a global rush (by states and other actors big and small) for the remaining resources. At the same time, sustainability has been sought largely, though not solely, through technological solutions (electronic cars, solar panels, windmills), making of which also consumes nonrenewable resources.

My presentation focuses on the connections between social work and the utilization of non-renewable resources in the context of metal mining and consumption. Relying on data from two mining regions, one in Northern Finland and the other in Eastern India, I discuss the direct and indirect implications of mineral extraction to social work and whether and how could social work play a role in the transition towards more sparing resource politics. On what grounds can social work in its diverse forms challenge the current (over)consumption of metals and what kind of challenges likely await such an endeavor? The presentation is based on my recent postdoctoral research project The Consequences of the Mining Industry for Disadvantaged Groups in Northern Finland and Northern Odisha (Academy of Finland 2014-2017).