On 14-15t January 2020, Next2Met partners and stakeholders came together for their first Policy Learning Event in Lahti, Finland. This two-day event aimed at fostering an interregional exchange in order to increase the attractiveness of the regions through soft digitalisation measures. With an internal meeting on the first day and an open event on the second, the event brought together over 40 participants and led to active discussions on potential paths for cooperation.

#DAY 1: Internal Workshop

The first day was dedicated to an internal meeting between all project partners. This workshop enabled the partners to present their territorial analyses, by introducing their main assets and challenges. These first insights helped to point out many similarities between their regions’ needs. In an encouraging and stimulating atmosphere, Next2Met partners discovered and compared the good practices of each other and showed a lot of interest in the transferability of the projects to their own regions.

Following this exchange of experiences, Next2Met partners participated in a concrete demonstration of the use of soft digitalisation tools in Päijät-Häme to boost the attractiveness of the region. A visit of the Radio and TV Museum of Lahti, an immersive and interactive experience of the audiovisual history of Finland, demonstrated how the implementation of digitalisation measures can attract new visitors. Project partners were also invited to discover Virtual Reality projects created in collaboration with a local university. Thanks to VR technology, students and professionals recreated an immersive experience of Lahti from the last century, which can help young people to discover another aspect of their city, but also bring back memories to the elders.

#DAY2: Policy Learning Event

The second day of this meeting focused on the first Policy Learning Event of Next2Met, an open event which brought together various partners and stakeholders in order to foster interregional exchange.

Dr Laura Leppänen, Regional Mayor of Päijät-Häme and host of the event, opened the day with a keynote speech on the challenges of peripheral areas in order to remain attractive. Highlighting the main achievements of the city of Lahti, appointed as European Green Capital of 2021 by the European Commission, Dr Leppänen stressed the importance of the synergy between technology and the sense of belonging to a region, as she declared “We believe that development with soft values in our surroundings is the future. None of the measures matter if people don’t enjoy living in their region.”

After a general introduction of Next2Met to the stakeholders, all partners presented to a wider audience their territorial analyses and examples of potential good practices that are already implemented in their regions. These presentations aroused much interest among the participants. More than a chance to discover other regions, this day encouraged them to be inspired by other territories’ initiatives and to possibly transfer them to their own.

Following these regional presentations, three local stakeholders came to introduce their initiatives of good practices and presented different uses of digitalisation to promote sustainable mobility, to improve remote care solutions, and to analyse digital emotional intelligence. The stakeholders’ interventions enabled the partners to open up to new practices and meet professionals who have already implemented their projects in the hosting region Päijät-Häme.

A panel discussion chaired by Jussi Eerikainen, Managing Director of Häme Chamber of Commerce closed the day. All panellists emphasised the quality of life and quality of time as a main asset of their respective regions, and on the potential of digitalisation to reduce the gaps compared to the metropolitan areas. In teams, the participants formulated several questions to address the panellists and engaged in further discussion.

This first Policy Learning event provided an excellent starting point for the coming project collaboration. This occasion brought together various stakeholders and partners who warmly welcomed this opportunity to exchange and share interregional experiences through informal talks and panel discussions. In May 2020, the Regional Government of Lower Austria will host the project’s second Policy Learning Event, which will offer another chance for Next2Met partners and stakeholders to meet and leverage each other’s strengths through soft digitalisation measures.

For more information, have a look at the event’s photo gallery and presentations.