Konepaja Movement

I myself live in Helsinki in the area of Konepaja, which is an area where they used to build train engines and train cars. Currently the area is a combination of new apartment buildings and historical red brick warehouses. After the previous industry left the site, a lot of cultural activity has been sparked in the area and office spaces have been created into the old industrial buildings. Konepaja area has become an area that not only attracts people into new houses, but also draws in different kinds of actors, events and visitors from different parts of the city.

To get these different parties together, to create a more communal spirit to the area, and to use the full potential of the historical machine workshop buildings, Antti Möller, myself and a few other residents started Konepaja Movement in November 2016. The movement became very topical a few days later, when the construction supply shop Bauhaus announced its plan to build a massive shop and a parking space in the area.

These plans were completely different to those that the residents, the current renters and the city had in mind. We collected information about what the situation with the building and the detailed plan was, and shared it on social media. The special exception application submitted by Bauhaus to the city, which would allow them to make changes to the detailed plan and go through with the building project, received an enormous amount of negative feedback. The city received more than 500 notes on the plan, when normally they would get one or two, and in the end the City Planning Committee ended up opposing the plan.

Konepaja Movement has from the beginning wanted to develop the area into a more positive direction, not just oppose something. We started to bring the people interested in the area together and created our own preliminary plan for the future use of the buildings to create conversation and to show that there are alternative options.

Since it became clear that buying the buildings would not be possible without the help of a wealthy investor, I also contacted Bruce Oreck, the former United States ambassador and real estate investor.  He got enthusiastic about the area to the extent that he wanted to buy the same buildings that Bauhaus sought. But this time it was made in a totally different way: we organised a meeting with the local people to discuss about the plans. More than 300 people came to the meeting, where all supported this new alternative. After many twists and turns the deal was also made, and now the Konepajan alue is finally being developed in the direction that the inhabitants wanted. Within a few years, it is expected to be one of the most interesting places in the city and the new centre of creative industries.


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Jänö – vegan grill kiosk

When the city of Helsinki announced that they were going to auction off five of the traditional kiosks from 1950s in May 2016, Joonas Pekkanen got an idea. Could there be enough people interested in vegan food that you could purchase one of the kiosks through crowdfunding?

The idea got an enthusiastic response on Facebook, and so we decided to try out this wacky idea. We founded a cooperative, started a crowdfunding campaign and in two weeks collected more than 40 000 euros – and won the auction. The kiosk, located next to the National Museum and representing a functionalist style, was named Jänö (Rabbit, in Finnish), and celebrated its opening already in August 2016. Hundreds of people showed up already on the first day. Even when the dishes were made as fast as possible, the line to the kiosk was tens of meters long all throughout the day.

Jänö operated with success all throughout the autumn of 2016, after which it was closed for a thorough renovation. Also solar panels were installed on the roof. Nowadays Jänö is open for the summer season, but closes for winter. But it is also more than just a kiosk. It organises events and pop up restaurants, and we even have our own juice, that can be bought in many stores.




A Year Without New Clothes

“The world is drowning in stuff and all the closets are full of unused clothes. Sewers are slaving away sweatshops and landfills are full of textile waste.

Let’s help the environment together: let’s not buy any new clothes for a year! Let’s use old things, buy second hand and borrow from friends. In cases of emergency we’ll allow three exceptions (the tough guys will obviously make it without any cheats). And by the way: shoes are also counted as clothes! But with socks and underwear you are allowed to make an exception.”

A year without new clothes is a social media campaign I organised in Facebook, with the aim to make people pay more attention to the problems of the consumption culture and to change the world more environmentally friendly direction. The campaign, arranged every year since 2014, has achieved great success, received a lot of media attention and got many people to change their consumption habits into something more ecological and ethical.


Stories from the Reception Centre

The voice of the asylum seekers is often left unheard in the public debate. We hear a lot about how many refugees are arriving and from which countries, but the people behind the numbers are often left outside. This can cause prejudice against the newcomers, because it is so easy to be afraid of something you don’t know. Many people forget that the refugees are just people who have had to leave their family members and their everyday lives behind.

In the summer of 2015, as the number of the refugees were growing all over Europe I wanted to do my part in affecting the situation. To demonstrate how behind all the numbers and news there are actual people with actual worries, I started the Stories from the Reception Centre project together with some volunteer reporters, photographers and interpreters. We went into the reception centres to interview the inhabitants, to take photographs of them (so that you won’t recognize them) and to post the story formed by these elements into Facebook, in Finnish and in English. By bringing the people and their stories into people’s awareness we wanted to increase the mutual understanding of the Finns and the refugees. The site received a lot of followers and the project got a lot of positive attention. In March-April 2016 there will also be an exhibition based on the project at the culture centre Stoa in eastern Helsinki.


Mole the Activist

I travel a lot, but don’t really take pictures of the traditional tourist sights, because everyone has already seen so many pictures of them. But what if you would combine them with something new and interesting?

Mole the Activist started with an idea I had while walking around in a flea market. On one of the tables, there was a little Mole key chain for sale, that was spreading his arms. I came up with an idea to combine this famous, smiling figure with somewhat different messages and activism.

I turned a grilling skewer into a stick, dug out a piece of cardboard from the trash and started crafting signs that Mole could use to protest against different social problems and fight for the rights of the less-fortunate. Mole the Activist travelled with me in Helsinki and throughout Europe to see the sights and protest for the local problems.


Knit the Asylum Seeker a Pair of Socks

Finland is famous for its cold, cold winters and often the asylum seekers arriving here might not have enough warm clothes. At the same time there are many people who want to do something to help the asylum seekers. Because many people already enjoy knitting, there was an idea to combine these two, and so the campaign “Knit the asylum seeker a pair of socks” was launched. Warm, woolen socks are not only a necessary piece of clothing, but a symbolical, warm welcome to Finland. The woolen socks have a sense of home and safety about them, and receiving them might help making an asylum seeker feel more like home in Finland.

Yhteismaa started to lead this campaign in the fall of 2015 and soon knitting spread all over Finland. Thousands of people got involved and sometimes there were tens of pairs of woolen socks from just one person. The Finnish Red Cross delivered the socks to the reception centres. The campaign lasted officially until the end of 2015, but knitting has continued after that, as well.


No Plastic Bag for Frozen Food, Please

“Would you like the frozen food to be put in a bag?” is a question often asked at  the cash register in the grocery stores that many people find annoying. Why on earth should they be put in a plastic bag? Many people do put them, since the cashier asks. The amount of plastic waste produced worldwide is too large anyway, and so in the spring of 2014, I created the Facebook page “No plastic bag for the frozen food, please.” The page was aimed at ending the unnecessary over-use of plastic bags, but also to inform people about the problems of plastic waste and raise awareness of the environmental issues related to the consumption culture in general. This turned out to be successful: the page quickly got more than 10 000 likes and the issue itself received a lot of media attention. And look! Many shops stopped asking the question – and some even started campaigning to reduce the amount of plastic waste themselves.

Aleksis Kiven katu Street Flea Market

What to do when there is no weekly, open space street market, when there is a need for one? Well, you create it yourself! The idea for a flea market at the street Aleksis Kiven katu in Helsinki was sparked when I visited a weekly, independently produced flea market in Paris in the spring of 2014. If this kind of informal activity works in other countries, then why wouldn’t it work in Finland, which is after all the “promised land” of flea markets? So I went and discussed the idea on Facebook, soon after which the Facebook page Aleksis Kiven katu flea market was created. The page informs people that every Sunday they can go to buy and sell their things at Aleksis Kiven katu. And that really happened: at the Dallapé park near the street there is now (as long as the weather is on our side) a flea market every Sunday.