Turku Future Forum - Co-creating the future of the City

Description of the practice: 

2016- ongoing


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.


Further description of the experiences: 

Since the launch of the concept in late 2016, Turku Future Forum has become very well-known and popular among different actors of the city: city residents, entrepreneurs, real estate investors, university people, cultural actors, etc. Different stakeholder groups have been very actively involved in the sessions, and some of the sessions have even been fully booked in advance, in spite of big auditoriums. We have even started to send the sessions out as livestream through the official website of the city. Turku Future Forum has become a popular concept of involving stakeholders in future-oriented processes also in different corners of the city organization. Thus, although initiated within two specific projects directed by the City Development Group, it has become a widely used practice in other sectors as well.

Initially, people in general did not have very high expectations towards the workshops, they even admitted this directly to the organizers. However, having participated in the workshops, the feedback has been very positive – the participants have been positively surprised about the quality of the contents - and the support to continue arranging such events has been both strong and wide. Turku Future Forum has provided a common for open and interactive city development, in which all participants and all ideas are of equal value.

Lessons learned 

Turku Future Forum platform has responded to the following challenges: how to reach “the less active” stakeholder groups (in terms of city development issues or in general) and to attract them to join the workshops. Usually it is the case that the most active ones are active in all arenas. This challenge has been tackled by using specific communication channels to reach such groups (students, physically challenged etc.) more efficiently, through social media, their own communication channels, or different associations for instance. In addition to the face-to-face Forums, we have also used other means of gathering ideas and feedback, for instance through digital channels, to reach broader audiences and to get a more thorough understanding on different perspectives.

Another challenge relates to the city organization. As a new way of opening up the development processes to external stakeholders it took some time in the beginning to get buy-in from the city organization to the new practice. This has been tackled by involving also internal stakeholders in the design and execution of these workshops and to actively communicating the results and the benefits of the practice internally. At present, Turku Future Forums are popular also within the city organization, and they are being organized by different sectors on various topics.