Finland is known as one of the foremost countries in the world when it comes to effective public administration, being at the forefront of innovative ideas and reform. It is further known as having one of the least corrupt administrations in the world[a]. Finland, however, has worked hard and long to achieve these results. The ESF Transnational Platform conducted a site visit to Finland, to investigate what lies behind Finland’s successive administrative reforms. The study specifically explored the ways Finland uses foresight to formulate strategic objectives (available here).
After the 2015 elections, the new government adopted a Government Programme, which started as an administrative reform, evolved to a policy reform and ended up jointly run by administrators and politicians, changing fundamentally the working way of planning and governance. The reform identified 5 key characteristics of foresight to effective governance:
- Action oriented, taking action for the future and not merely analysing it
- Open to alternative futures, quick to adapt to new circumstances
- Broad participation of stakeholders, involving a multitude of actors and experiences
- Multidisciplinary, breaking down siloes and developing synergies
- Long term in nature, going beyond the just the current government mandate period
To put these findings to effective use, the Finnish government conducted several experiments. The aim was to break down administrative barriers to new approaches and to speed up the adoption of new solutions. Some of these experiments included: a digital platform for administrative experimenting, where anyone can participate[b], and a ‘Rapid Action Network’ for gathering the required people and expertise for urgent experimentation needs.
In 2017, the Finnish government conducted a survey to explore how stakeholders had viewed the reforms. The survey reported people from parties, governance partners, business representatives, etc., understood and appreciated the added value of the strategic management schemes and the policy experimentation.
Finland can lay claim to successful and appreciated administrative reforms, and there may thus be much to be learned from their example by administrators in other countries.