Decision-Makers Need to
Be Influenced Sooner
Rather than Later
Societal influence in Finland has traditionally been sought
through the possibilities offered by representative democracy.
As citizens, we have outsourced the exercise of
influence to organisations and unions. From the point of
view of universities, labour market organizations and student
unions are central external influencers. The high degree of organising
indicates that this arrangement is good for most of us. We
let our chosen representatives do their job of exercising influence and
focus on our own basic tasks.
But the world is changing. Social media and information networks
bind people ever more closely together. Every individual has the possibility
to express his or her opinion. Exerting individual influence has
come to be equal with representativeness. At the same time, the force
of a single message is reduced and it is more and more difficult to listen
to those messages that are essential.
It is difficult to measure the success of exercising influence. We hope
that exercising influence would help take matters in the right direction.
We may not believe in quick and perfect solutions to complicated
issues that represent diverse interests, but we still want to believe in
Has the exercise of influence been successful when decisions are
made according to our own wishes? Or is it enough that completely
the opposite of what we wanted does not happen? Like one influencer
on the labour market field has said: even though our goal was not met, things would be even worse without our influence.
What is essential in this activity is, however, that
some kind of positive influence has been made. That
our own activities lead in the right direction at least
in some way. Ultimately it is the end result that
counts. Even though it is difficult to assess the results,
it is worth doing. Assessment helps make the activity
As I am writing this, it is mid-March and influencing
decision-making is again clearly on display. Universities
are in great pains to carry out the saving decisions
the government made last year and the spirits are
low. Many people are venting their disappointment.
We are living in years of crisis, which will have longlasting
effects on research, teaching and the activities
of universities more widely. Still, we need to move
our focus to the future.
The government of the country will be making
new budget definitions in their spending limits discussion
in April and the time to make decisions will
soon be upon them when this magazine is published.
We have heard worrying messages about the outlook
of the Finnish economy and about the drop in the
credit rating. But now the government, too, needs to
understand that investing in research and teaching is
the key to future well-being.
The events of last year surprised everyone, but
wrong decisions should not be allowed to happen a
second time. Influencing needs to be front-heavy and
it needs to happen before decisions are made.
Dialogue with decision-makers is our only chance to
get our own views heard. University people need to
understand this and to be active. The government has
not had great understanding in their decisions about
funding for universities and research institutes but
maybe the decision-makers have not received a clear
enough message in time. An external evaluator, assessing
the exercise of influence of the Finnish Union
of University Professors, said about our arguments
several times that "This needs justification!". Things
that are obvious to us may not be obvious to the decision-
makers of our society.
Our message needs to be clear. It needs to come
coherently from many directions. And first and foremost
- the message needs to reach the decision-makers.
We do not have any time to lose.
March 15, 2016
Union of University
- Painetussa lehdessä sivu 40