Our Regional Operations Manager Inger Aaltonen visited our Regional Managers at their offices around Finland in September–October. Over the course of nine weeks, she travelled c. 3 700 kilometers. The purpose of the tour was not only to meet many people in person for the first time, but also to become better acquainted with the regional operators and environments, future plans and goals, as well as to get a chance to speak face-to-face with each regional operator and hear what they have to say.
Our regional network operations really took off in 2020. When our first regional office was opened in Vaasa in August 2019, Inger managed it on her own. Now we already have nine regional offices and even more regional operators. But who are the people behind our regional operations – that is one of the things that Inger set out to discover.
Aiming to get started and continue to develop
In September–October, Inger was introduced to premises, partners, schools, and local environments. She also sat down with each regional operator to discuss the strategy, operating plan, and goals and to go over what each region had achieved and what plans had been made for the school year. The visits were full of discussions and sharing ideas and good practices.
The regional operators had several plans, many of which were related to launching regional activities and networking. Among other plans, the operators wanted to meet with directors of education and culture and principals in their region, look for cooperation opportunities and take advantage of them with other operators in the region, identify the key needs of their regions in terms of entrepreneurship education, and schedule and organize meetings, training, and events. In addition, an important, if not the most important plan was to train teachers to use the programs, their regional networking, and adopting JA programs in all municipalities. The plans also included the continuous development of operations and further clarifying the goals.
Regions and operators were surprisingly similar
Although all the regional operators and regions are different, they also have a lot in common. During her tour, Inger learned that all our regional operators are positive, well informed and determined professionals who put their heart into their work. The regions in Finland also have many similarities. Everyone is good at networking. The JA lingo also seems to unite people, because the same JA language is spoken everywhere, even when people do not share the same mother tongue.
It is also important to keep in mind that diversity is a strength. Inger emphasizes that having regional operators with a variety of backgrounds is nothing but an asset, because it allows everyone to learn something new from each other. One operator may have experience from the world of upper secondary schools, while another may know comprehensive schools and the Little Entrepreneurs program, a third may be familiar with startups and companies in general, while a fourth operator may know a bit about everything. This means that the range of competencies is wide and it is easy to get help from one another.
Gaining fun memories and learning useful lessons
The journeys also had their share of funny incidents. In Jyväskylä, Inger was no more than one block away from her destination, the regional office of Jyväskylä, but she drove a bit too far and ended up back on the motorway. The navigator kept on telling her to make a U turn until Inger was so frustrated that she called our regional operator Sanna Carp for help. Sanna told her how to get to a local service station, drove there to find Inger and guided her to the office.
All in all, Inger found the tour extremely eye-opening and instructive. Visiting the actual offices provided a great opportunity to get to know regional operators as well as the regions better. Plenty of good practices were discovered along the way, and they will be shared throughout the network. Inger also saw the regions of Finland with new eyes. “Finland is truly a beautiful country. I must return to many of the places I visited in my free time also”, says Inger excitedly.
Inger’s tour in full
- 9.2020 Pori, Satakunta, Kati Levola
- 9.2020 Hämeenlinna, Kanta-Häme, Virve Turunen
- 9.2020 Kajaani, Kainuu, Anne Määttä, Heli Mylly and Sanna Pakkala-Juntunen
- 9.2020 Joensuu, North Karelia, Sanna Räty
- 9.2020 Kuopio, North Savo, Jari Ukkonen
- 9.2020 Jyväskylä, Central Finland, Sanna Carp
- 9.2020 Kotka, Kymenlaakso, Maarit Koverola and Minna Tuukkanen
- 10.2020 Vaasa, Ostrobothnia, Nina Ingves and Karolina Wägar
- 10.2020 Tampere, Pirkanmaa, Noora Bergroth