Meet a member: Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki from the University of Helsinki

plus Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki

Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki works as a program director for Finnish Strategic Research programs for sustainable development and as a Research Coordinator at Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, HELSUS, at the University of Helsinki. She is also part of the Leadership Council of SDSN Northern Europe. We met her in Gothenburg when she visited the International Transdisciplinarity Conference and asked her some questions.

What is going on right now at the University of Helsinki?

– We have recently done an SDG mapping of the new research and education initiatives of the university. It is part of a brand new book called Sustainable Development Goals and Institutions of Higher Education, published by Springer on the 15th of September! The SDG mapping shows how the university has emphasized different SDGs in its new initiatives in research, education and other activities. The result showed that many SDGs were covered but it was very interesting to see that No poverty, Gender equality and Clean water and sanitation were almost not considered. These are all areas that works very well in Finland as a country and it seems like the university thinks that these issues are “solved” and that we don’t need to focus on them anymore. However, as a university we are in fact aiming for a global responsibility.

Did you also consider if any research activities were bad for, e.g. No poverty, that the research could make it worse?

– No, we didn’t but that is a very interesting point of view.

What about teaching activities?

– One new thing is that we are starting a Co-creation Lab, like the Challenge Lab that Chalmers has. In the lab we have four partners from society that each bring a challenge to our master students. For each challenge 2-4 students team up and try to provide solutions from different angles.

There is a Nordforsk program call about interdisciplinary research out right now, is that of interest for you?

– Yes, it is in our interest and our institute is involved in several research applications during autumn. We would be happy to connect with other Nordic universities to do research together. Just send me an email if you want to collaborate with us!

In what other ways would you like to collaborate with other members?

– I would like to learn about how other universities have organized their sustainability research and if they have done any SDG mapping. Since rankings like Times Higher Education now include sustainability, I assume that more universities are interested in doing something similar. Another thing I am interested in discussing is how it would be possible to scale up research results to a Nordic scale, to see what the societal impact would be in a Nordic context?

Why are you engaged in sustainable development? What are your drivers?

– I have always loved nature and started my studies in ecology but continued with studies in social and environmental policy. I am very trans-disciplinary in my knowledge as achieving sustainable development requires working across borders.

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