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Industry Project 2023/2024: Reshaping funding mechanisms for equity

The IDBM Industry Project Course involves seven exciting months of multidisciplinary collaboration, exploration, and innovation, in addressing real-life challenges provided by industry partners. This year, we want to take you along with us on this journey by meeting our 12 different project teams at different points in their process – from research to prototyping and final concept development!

The student team with students at Addis Ababa University

For this interview, we met for a chat with Elsa (Biz), Elli (Biz), Erno (Biz), Paulina (Arts), Eva (Arts), who are working with Felm (Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission). Felm is an organization with a holistic mission, amongst them development, peace and reconciliation humanitarian aid, and church and NGO cooperation in 24 countries.

In their project, the student team is focusing on reshaping funding mechanisms to prioritize grassroots initiatives and equality. Currently, Western donors often dictate terms, shifting the focus away from beneficiaries, which is why the project aims to redirect funding structures for greater impact.

Project progress at the time of the interview

We have industry projects with all kinds of partners, from companies to startups and NGOs. What motivated you to work on a development project like this one?

Team Felm: That depends on the team member. Some of our team members were interested in working on one of the Aalto Global Impact projects and were put into this team as the topic is similar to those.

Also, some of our team members had prior interest and experience in the topic. For example, Elsa focused on development issues in her economics studies in her bachelor's, and Elli has worked with the ESG themes before and was interested in social sustainability.

You just returned from Ethiopia. How did you prepare for conducting research there and familiarize yourselves with the context?

Team Felm: Our journey began with thorough research to understand the development challenges and problem we are working with. Felm and our mentor Hani have provided valuable materials. Hani recommended lectures, both specific to Ethiopia and broader discussions on global funding mechanisms and localization efforts. Also, Elsa took political science courses in her bachelor studies and contributed articles on post-colonial politics and insights into the African context. Additionally, we've acquainted ourselves with the funding process requirements, including those from the MFA.

When our trip approached, we mostly focused on preparations, including arranging interviews, planning workshops, and maintaining communication with stakeholders.  

The student team visiting the Finnish embassy in Ethiopia

Can you tell us a little bit about what you were up to in Ethiopia?

Team Felm: We started off at the local Felm office, talking to the partners there. And then we met with local university students for a workshop to gain their perspective on the issue we are working with. Also, we interviewed several local NGOs and visited the Finnish embassy.

The student team holding a workshop at Addis Ababa University

You’ve now been working on this project since November. What were the significant challenges and learnings during your process?

Team Felm: We got to know each other better on the trip,learning a lot about each other's likes and dislikes, personas, and practical knowledge. Luckily, we got along well and didn't have any big issues.

The biggest learnings came through the interviews we did and definitely, the POV workshop we had during the industry project lectures. The topic we're working on – decolonizing peace – is huge, and none of us have a specific background in it. So, understanding the complexity of this whole thing in a short amount of time can be difficult. The sector itself is rooted in colonial practices, and though it's evolved, those influences linger, making the system incredibly complex. The more we learn about it, the more problems and challenges arise. Therefore, narrowing down our project scope was hard. The workshop helped us to do that.

What comes next for your team?

Team Felm: We are at the end of our research phase and will soon gather with our team to evaluate the insights from our trip. Then, it is time to get started on designing the new part of the funding model.

Also, Eva and Elsa will be going on another trip to visit NGOs in Denmark and the Netherlands. We want to learn more about the donors’ perspectives there.

Learn more about the team

Elsa (IDBM BIZ student with a background in economics) LinkedIn

Elli (IDBM BIZ student with a background in supply chain management) LinkedIn

Erno (IDBM BIZ student with a background in economics and finance) LinkedIn

Eva (IDBM ARTS student with a background in branding and graphic design) LinkedIn

Paulina (IDBM ARTS student with a background in architecture)

Curious to learn more about our Industry Projects this year? Keep an eye on our blog and social media to get to know the other teams!

Author: Nicole Hußmann


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