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EPALE - Aikuiskoulutuksen eurooppalainen foorumi


Active citizenship upholds democracy

Kieli: EN
Document available also in: FI SV DE ET CS
The Serious Adulting article series introduces experts and operating environments from the field of adult learning in line with EPALEs themes for 2019. The experts represent the diverse and extensive field of adult education in Finland and are members of the adult education expert group of the Finnish National Agency for Education.


Meri Tennilä has worked at Educational Centre Visio for over a decade. Visio is a national adult education establishment offering open courses on organisational activities and volunteering, providing education on sustainable development for anyone interested and supporting the educational activities of its member organisations and cooperation partners. The educational centre is run by the Green Cultural Association.

Coordinator Meri Tennilä explains that Educational Centre Visio was established in 1995 to promote green values by means of educational and cultural activities. Visio educates both operators of the Green Party and the general public. In recent years, the educational focal point has shifted towards immigrants and other target groups in need of new citizenship education.

“Our operations constitute one of the many forms of liberal adult education. In terms of the concept of citizenship education, we constantly highlight it in our operations by, for example, organising literacy training for immigrants and encouraging volunteering,” says Tennilä.

“The Green Cultural Association also runs Think Tank Visio. Its purpose is to produce research data to support political decision-making. Recently, the Tink Tank drew up its own analysis of universal income for the universal income model of the Green Party.”

Citizenship education can increase people’s opportunities of addressing social issues both locally and nationally. In practice, such education means, for example, discussing the policies of the Green Party regarding various themes, practising rhetorical and negotiating skills and, above all else, giving people the space to engage in discourse.

“The work of politicians is not enough. In other words, politics alone will not change the world. We also need organisational activities and volunteering, as well as awareness of consumers’ choices, among other things. We even organise courses on natural cosmetics,” says Tennilä.

Forms of influencing shifting

The operations of Educational Centre Visio are based on green ideology and the principles of sustainable development. A tangible example of how green values can be seen and realised in today’s citizenship education is how Vision’s operations approach sustainable development from various angles, not only from environmental viewpoints. Empowering people to take action is the best form of sustainable development.

“If a person cannot manage their own affairs and be part of society, they have no means of making a difference. From this perspective, it seems less significant whether we recycle our plastics and biowaste,” says Coordinator Meri Tennilä.

Educational Centre Visio aims to offer tools for various means of influencing things we all face around us. The influencing may take place in, for example, one’s own housing cooperative.

“Interaction is also influencing. Climate change and sustainable development, for example, are not simple issues, and there also seems to be a flux of all types of counter-arguments against them. It is important to see and experience matters personally in order to be able to negotiate and discuss them. Extreme opinions never lead to anything.”

“The goal is, above all else, to retain democracy and people’s opportunities of influencing. Working together with others considerably increases peace in society,” says Tennilä.

However, over the past few years, the forms of influencing have changed, and Meri Tennilä remarks that young people are not as interested in traditional organisational activities as before. Today, social media also acts as a strong tool for active citizens, and many organisations are contemplating how to produce positive content for the Internet.

“On the other hand, those who would most benefit from such education are difficult to reach, which has been a challenge to citizenship education for a long time. Young people and immigrants, for example, are target groups that may not actively seek education and training. Organisations, however, make this possible, which is why we must support organisations both financially and pedagogically.

“I feel that many people are frustrated with political decision-making. Things get decided but the practical results are not in line with the decisions. At its best, such frustration may be channeled towards joining a civic organisation where people can personally make a difference. We are doing our best to support such civic organisations,” summarises Meri Tennilä.

“Some may feel frustrated due to the rigidity of political decision-making. However, at its best, this situation may unravel into an urge to find alternative means of making a difference. At the Educational Centre, it is also our duty to support these new means of influencing.”

Text: Juha Wakonen


See the other publications from the Serious Adulting series below!

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