In practice, Turku Future Forums are 3 - 4 hour open and interactive sessions, which focus on central themes of city development, such as mobility, livability, and urban living. Each session consists of two parts. The first part involves concise and inspiring expert introductions on a certain perspective of the topic at hand. Usually three of them per session, sometimes also panel discussions involving several experts. The aim has been to offer as diverse perspectives to the topic as possible, and thus we have used a variety of experts in each sessions: city officials, architects, business people, politicians, academics, historians, etc. The role of the experts has been not only to bring their own expertise to the table, but also to inspire and activate discussions especially in the second part of the session.
The second part of the session is organized as an interactive workshop, for which the participants have been divided into an appropriate number of groups, in which they have focused on more specific themes under the overall topic of the session. For instance, a Future Forum organized on the topic of cultural and historical attractiveness of the city center included a workshop on three themes: 1) public space as a platform for urban culture; 2) renaissance of the Old Town; and 3) the marine Turku. In the workshop, participants were asked to discuss ideas and concrete actions in these themes to strengthen the attractiveness of the city both for tourists and visitors but also for the local people. In the workshops, we have used different facilitation methods, such as future wheel and world café to support and structure the interaction. All ideas of the workshops have been collected and reported back to the participants as well as to the vision groups (as described above), which have used them as input in producing the visions. The results have also been communicated as a blog post in the official website of the city.
Turku Future Forum was initially designed to engage city residents and other stakeholder groups in strategic envisioning processes, which aim at strategic, comprehensive and long-term city development in terms of competitiveness, attraction, sustainability, and wellbeing.
Initially, the main objectives of the Future Forums were:
- To gather ideas and feed-in for the comprehensive city development visions (City Center and Science Park)
- To mix different actors and perspectives in common ”sensemaking sessions”
- To provide an open forum for direct participation
- To get buy-in for the development ideas
Depending on the topic of the Forum, different partners have participated in the design of the session contents as well as in the facilitation of the workshops. For instance, the Forum focusing on developing the city as the best place to study in Finland was designed in close cooperation with the universities and the Study in Turku consortium. In designing the workshop focusing on the attractiveness of the Science Park area from the business perspective, we worked closely with the regional development company, Turku Science Park Ltd. Further, in order to attract especially students and business people to develop solutions that would increase the liveliness and attractiveness of the Science Park area, we also organized a hackathon (Turku Future Hack). The weekend-long hackathon was designed together with Elisa Ltd (a major network operator in Finland), Turku Science Park Ltd, and Turku Technology Properties Ltd. (For more information on the hackathon, see https://www.turku.fi/en/hackathon)
Citizens as well as all other stakeholders were invited to the sessions by advertisements in the local newspaper, as well as by using various digital and social media channels and mailing lists. The methods of involving them in the workshops is described in detail above, in the previous section.
In May 2018, the City Council decided to make Turku Future Forums a permanent method for a regular and structured involvement of the city residents and other stakeholders to the strategic development of the city.