The centenary of Finland’s independence inspired many organisations to start planning their own celebrations well in advance. The Finland 100 Secretariat received dozens of proposals for cooperation as far back as 2013–2014.
The actual planning of the Finland 100 programme began in early 2015. An extremely important decision was made from the perspective of the success of the programme and the entire year: for the first time in the history of Finland’s national anniversary celebrations, anyone could submit a project proposal for the official programme.
The programme would therefore be built on the public’s own ideas and reflect Finnish society in 2017. It would be a broad, colourful, and diverse cross-section of the 100-year-old nation. The project team also estimated the number of different kinds of proposals to be so high that clear principles and an efficient submission system were needed to process them.
This was an untested approach, as the festivities associated with previous national milestones had mostly been planned by groups of experts and committees. The team understood that achieving the goals set for the Finland 100 project required a new, open-minded and diverse operating model. Planning national anniversary celebrations on the basis of a public call for projects and public participation was a globally unique approach.
Paying homage to Finnish democracy with a public call for projects
The Finland 100 Board approved the programme priorities and evaluation criteria for project proposals in March 2015 on the basis of agreed strategic choices. The programme was to emphasise cooperation and inclusiveness and strengthen the sense of togetherness in Finnish society.
The goal was to compile a year-long programme of independent projects coordinated by different kinds of organisations and ranging from events and occasions to exhibitions, works of art, development initiatives, and campaigns representing all spheres of society. A public call for projects was launched, and all proposals that met the criteria were incorporated into the official programme. The project team could also add its own events and commission works specifically for the programme.
As was stated in the programme priorities, “the together theme obligates the Finland 100 team to enable different ways to contribute to the programme, ranging from small, local initiatives to nationwide projects”.
The public call for projects made individual citizens’ proposals equal and subject to the same scrutiny as, for example, ministerial initiatives. Building the Finland 100 programme in this way was in itself a celebration of Finnish democracy and civil society.
Involving the entire nation
The goal of the Finland 100 project was to reach every Finn. The majority celebrated the centenary of Finland’s independence either by organising or attending events. However, there were other ways to join in with the celebrations – the official statistics only cover a fraction of the scope and scale of the festivities. It was practically impossible to avoid the centenary celebrations in Finland in 2017.
The internet and the media were instrumental in creating experiences that united the nation and transcended geographical boundaries. The topic featured in the media daily, and the Finnish Broadcasting Company in particular played an important role both through its own extensive Finland 100 programming and through widely broadcast key moments of the year, produced in cooperation with the Finland 100 Secretariat. Finland 100 status updates and the Faces of Finland application were popular ways to celebrate the big anniversary on social media. The huge range of both official and unofficial Finland 100 products in shops provided yet another means of honouring the centenary.
The nation’s enthusiasm translated into numerous Finland 100 parties in offices, schools, and clubs, as well as in people’s homes and among groups of friends. As the momentous anniversary drew near, the whole country united in a shared Finland 100 experience of flying the Finnish flag, lighting blue-and-white candles, and participating in coffee afternoons on the eve of the big day. Even those who had somehow escaped the hype until December were finally drawn into the celebrations on the big day itself, when a text message in honour of Finland’s 100th Independence Day was sent to almost every Finnish mobile telephone number.
In order to qualify for the programme, projects had to be in some way exceptional, related to the centenary of Finland’s independence or celebrating the anniversary, in keeping with the together theme, and focused on one of three time-based perspectives: 100 years of independence, Finland today, or the future of Finland. The projects had to mostly run during the year 2017, they had to be in good taste and in compliance with the law, and their main aim could not be to sell a product or a service.
Projects for which financial assistance was sought also had to cover at least two regions and have a national or international dimension or nationwide significance. The main project coordinator had to be a legal entity, and any financial assistance granted had to be spent on activities other than subsidised business or construction. Projects also had to pass an economic evaluation focusing on impact, uniqueness, and accessibility.
The public call for projects was launched online in Finnish, Swedish, and English on 30 April 2015. The deadline for submissions was the end of October 2017. A total of 6,612 project proposals were submitted and processed during that period, of which 5% were in Swedish and 4% in English. The number of submissions came as a surprise, as it exceeded even the most ambitious expectations threefold.
The right to use the Finland 100 logo
All projects that met the criteria were incorporated into the Finland 100 programme. These projects were given the right to use the official Finland 100 logo and were featured in nationwide Finland 100 advertisements. There were no financial obligations or incentives associated with inclusion in the programme.
The project proposals submitted via the web-based system were reviewed by the Finland 100 Secretariat. The final decisions were made by the Permanent State Under-Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office based on the Secretary-General’s proposals. The average processing time was between two and four weeks, but some project proposals were processed within a few days. Cases where further information or details were needed from the project coordinator took longer to process.
Finland 100 subsidies
The Finland 100 team could grant financial assistance to projects that the team felt were especially crucial for the overall success of the centenary celebrations. Financial assistance could generally only be granted to projects that met certain special criteria, but the final decision was always made from the perspective of the goals of the celebrations as a whole. It was only possible to subsidise a small number of eligible applicants.
Most of the financial assistance to projects was given in the form of state aid. Project coordinators representing the central government were given appropriations from the government budget.
In addition to national Finland 100 assistance, funds were channelled to regional projects through a regional Finland 100 network. The Finland 100 team also supported project coordinators in other ways, such as by providing information and promoting cooperation between projects. Some works were also put out to tender.
The Finland 100 aid instrument was launched by a decision of the prime minister on 8 December 2015 and discontinued at the end of February 2018. The Prime Minister’s Office published a total of three nationwide calls for Finland 100 aid applications in 2015 and 2016, and a total of 1,066 applicants sought assistance. To publish two new targeted calls for aid applications in addition to the generic application organised in 2015.
Assistance payments were made on the basis of receipts and progress reports, and the final instalment was only paid once the project had been completed and its final report approved. The assistance only covered a portion of project costs, which meant that project coordinators also had to have other sources of funding. The number-one objective of the programme for the centenary celebrations was to be compelling, inclusive, and spread out across the entire year.
A programming model based on a public call for projects had never been used in Finland before, and no similar examples can be found elsewhere in the world either. Although public calls for projects had proven successful in connection with the Capital of Culture 2011 project in Turku, for example, the Finland 100 programme was unique due to its immense scale and the diversity of projects and project coordinators.
The final number of projects was many times the number that had been predicted in the spring of 2015. The time available for programming and the financial and human resources of the Finland 100 Secretariat were extremely limited considering the scope of the programme. With more time, money, and people, the team would have been able to focus more on promoting cooperation between project coordinators and improving the quality of projects, for example. Most of the feedback received by the Finland 100 Secretariat from project coordinators at the end of the programme was nevertheless positive.
From the perspective of the together theme, the model was a great success. Many respondents to the final survey praised the programming model for enabling small project coordinators to get involved in the Finland 100 concept.
The value and significance of the programme for the centenary celebrations would stem specifically from the fact that it was built by Finns and friends of Finland together, and that it was just as diverse as the nation itself.