Turbulent modernisation of Arctic societies and cultures

Modernisation of the Arctic: Entrepreneurship as a possibility for locals and immigrants. Below are some thoughts and perspectives from a European foreigner who has been living and working for seven years in Rovaniemi as an entrepreneur.

 From a matchmaking event of the Kolarctic Project, Young Innovative Entrepreneurs (YIE), Rovaniemi November 2012 (Photo: Annett Pée)From a matchmaking event of the Kolarctic Project, Young Innovative Entrepreneurs (YIE), Rovaniemi November 2012 (Photo: Annett Pée)

For several years now, Finnish Lapland has been experiencing not only a loss of people who are moving to the south or to the bigger urban centres, but also a significant influx of foreigners who stay for a longer period in this region or even settle down in Lapland. These newly arrived immigrants do not come for personal reasons like marriages or for work to this region. A significant group of foreigners have arrived as asylum seekers and have remained in Lapland, where they have learnt Finnish, some have married and had children, and have learned new skills and professions at the vocational school or through studies. Younger immigrants can integrate more easily because they went to school in Finland and can find jobs in this region more easily. Their parents have more difficulties to integrate and to find work. Many of them are unemployed and the discontentedness of the locals is rising because this phenomenon is quite new.

Another new group of people within Finnish Lapland are students who study at the University of Lapland or at the University of Applied sciences.

In this way a huge amount of different nationalities are living in the centres of Lapland like Rovaniemi. As some of them will stay here at least for a couple of years, they need to be integrated and find their way to survive and in the best case to self actualize.

From Young Innovative Entrepreneur (YIE) meeting, November 2012 (Photo: Annett Pée)From Young Innovative Entrepreneur (YIE) meeting, November 2012 (Photo: Annett Pée)Self-employment/ Entrepreneurship
One possibility can be through self-employment. For foreigners it is difficult to find work outside the traditional fields of occupation like the service and tourism industries. Some foreigners are highly educated but they do not find work in the research or educational system (for instance as teachers). For all these foreigners who do not find work in the existing system, self-employment/entrepreneurship could be an alternative to unemployment. In this way, some of the negative social, health related problems of unemployment could also be avoided. This would also have positive effects for their families and further generations, and for the integration of these foreigners.

Self-employment is not only an option for foreigners to avoid unemployment or to worry about the future and related problems. Self-employment can also be a means of realising one's own personal goals and achieving happiness. Self-employment is also a possibility for Finnish people, both younger and older, to find their place in life and to create contentedness.

Education and Entrepreneurship
Self-employment and entrepreneurship ask for certain abilities, for instance: problem solving thinking, self motivation, stamina, economic thinking and a high frustration threshold. These are skills that need to be more and more integrated into the educational system, including within normal school education. More competitions or contests for schoolchildren, students and adults, combined with workshops, can help develop these above mentioned abilities and help to create a creative environment, engender fair competition and promote networking.

Communication and Networking
Communication and networking is one of the main points which needs to be developed in the future. Isolation, which means unwanted separation from society, creates frustration and all its problems including unhealthy desires, family problems, alcohol misuse and so on. Isolation can be the result of a missing social network and especially for foreigners the language barrier can be problematic. As I understood many foreigners who want to plan to set up their own business are looking for exchange opportunities with Finish entrepreneurs. In some cases they do not speak Finnish well enough. In this case, communication in English would be easier for them.

Support for start-ups
The same problems regarding the language barrier exist regarding start up companies. To set up a business, lots of information and preparation is necessary in order to make a the business plan etc. Furthermore, the risks for yourself and your family need to be taken in account. It is difficult enough for locals/ or Finnish inhabitants to understand everything in their own language, and it is even more difficult for a foreigner who either does not speak Finnish or has difficulty with the language. However, until now, at least as I know, there is no long term course in English language available for foreigners who plan to become entrepreneurs in Lapland (the exception being the IBS studies at the University of Applied Sciences in Rovaniemi, but this requires three and a half years of full time study).

There needs to be more possibilities to get the necessary information about starting your own company also in the English language. It is important not to have only websites. Personal communication is important in this case and it is also important to have the possibility to get information not only from teachers but also from entrepreneurs themselves, who have experience on how it is to be an entrepreneur during both the good and bad times.

Another problem at the moment is that institutions which support entrepreneur-ship like Finnvera, Ely, Tekes etc. do not have the majority of their supporting information in English. Some of the officials and persons who decide on the support to be provided to each case also do not speak English. This is a big problem for foreigners, as it takes many years in order to speak Finnish to a proficient level. In some professions, for instance in the IT sector, workers do not even have the need to speak Finish in their working environment. If the application can be done only in Finnish (or Swedish), an extra barrier is created for non Finnish(/Swedish speakers).

Support for existing companies and entrepreneurs
Problems can already be encountered once a business is established. This is especially the case for existing companies for everyday problems or in case of an emerging crisis.

If more people are to be given the opportunity to start their own business, it is very important to provide a service that supports existing companies and entrepreneurs and to avoid in this way that many entrepreneurs give up after a short time, or go bankrupt in the worst cases. In this way the possible positive effects of entrepreneurship would invert. At that point also a good network or different networks for entrepreneurs is necessary, for locals as well as for foreigners. Mentoring programs also need to be developed and implemented, reflecting the real needs of entrepreneurs.

Education in communication – cross cultural and nonviolent communication
An additional important point for the future will be to improve the communication skills of all inhabitants of the Arctic regarding cross cultural differences and the possibility to learn new skills in conflict resolution, such as non violent communication.

There are significant changes taking place in the Arctic region, at least in Lapland, regarding immigration, all of which are quite new and require from locals, immigrants and politicians new ideas to facilitate integration. One way to avoid unemployment of immigrants and foreigners could be the encouragement and support for self-employment and entrepreneurship not only for locals but also for foreigners/immigrants. This would need a special infrastructure of public support and education to be established. Networking between entrepreneurs, locals, and foreigners/immigrants needs to be supported and facilitated. The support of entrepreneurship for local, national or of foreigners/immigrants could bring the Arctic region not only more employment but also more colourful cultural experiences and a larger range of different services and products. It could also make the region more interesting for locals, many of whom eventually migrate to bigger urban centres in the south because of a wider cultural opportunity present there.

Annett Pée


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Online features on the project website are an online series of commentary articles discussing a variety of issues facing the Arctic today with the aim at engaging policy makers, stakeholders and the general public on Arctic issues in different countries. It is a venue for public interaction and communication between the public, scientific researchers, policy makers and stakeholders through online comments in order to enhance the transfer of knowledge into action.

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Each feature focuses on one of the different trends chosen for impact assessment in the methodology report from Work Package 2 of the project: Climate and environmental changes in the Arctic; Increase in maritime transport; Increase in mining and exploitation of hydrocarbons; Changing nature of Arctic fisheries; Turbulent modernization of Arctic societies and cultures; Increasing research in the Arctic


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