November 24, 2016

Interaction across national borders

Kari Korkman

Founder and leader of Helsinki Design Week and president of World Design Weeks

I was raised and educated to appreciate international cooperation. Small, developed and politically stable countries, the likes of Finland, benefit from open markets.

However, cold winds are blowing and seemingly closing borders from free trade and cultural exchange. Design, my very own field, is an exception. We have founded a global networking organisation to boost interaction between nations.

Urban events and festivals are growingly popular all over the world. World Design Weeks (WDW) is a joint organisation founded in October 2016. It was started by nine design week events on three continents: Barcelona, Eindhoven, Helsinki, México City, Beijing, San Francisco, Seoul and Toronto.

WDW headquarters will be opened in Helsinki next year. The increasing popularity is evident in the number of design festivals: globally, over 120 cities host their own. Helsinki Design Week and its peers around the world are established design hubs. Annual events are a platform for the participants to get together and hear about current trends and products – and to get to know each other. A central task for the new WDW organisation is to help local stakeholders from different countries meet and expand their networks across borders.

Design and architecture are integral parts of Finland’s brand. They’ve been used for decades in various exhibitions and events held to build a positive image of Finland. The success of these projects has been measured in visibility, column inches and other media hits.

However, traditional exhibitions haven’t been effective in terms of internationalisation for designers and architects. In order to go international properly and long-term, networks are required. In the global market, national promotion can’t be based solely on projects between Finnish actors; rather, we need action that entails commitment from various countries and continents.

“Interactional internationalisation” means going global together. When a Helsinkian and a Tokyoite join forces for a project, both of them are internationalising. This method can be used to build relationships between experts, designers, producers and distributors from different markets.

Every participant brings along not only their expertise and experience but also their local contacts, colleagues and subcontractors. The bonds strengthen and grow roots, and new spin-offs will be born. The results can be measured in effectivity instead of column inches.

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