Kone Foundation awards EUR 38 million to academic and artistic freedom

Kuvitukset / Illustrations: Marika Maijala

Kone Foundation values and supports academic and artistic freedom with a funding of EUR 38.2 million to researchers and artists. The funding, awarded in the autumn 2021 call, will be addressed to 342 projects involving a total of about 1,240 people. The total sum of the grants, awards and donations for the year amount to EUR 49 million.

In the application round organised in September, Kone Foundation received a total of 6,319 applications. In addition to the general application round, the Foundation made the first call for applications to its new funding programme “Is Democracy Eroding?” under the theme of “Language, Power and Democracy”. There was also a call for applications for residencies at the Lauttasaari Manor, intended for international cooperation. Many of the new projects funded by the Foundation are tackling major social issues such as the climate and environmental emergency, immigration and equality, and, thanks to the new funding programme, democracy, language and power. All are actively contributing to increase the understanding of the phenomena and problems involved.

“Grant decisions always involve both joy and tears. We are all thrilled with the abundance of ideas, multidisciplinary approaches and the fresh perspectives of the applications we receive at the Foundation. We take great pleasure in reading about the wonderful ideas, which make us feel like we know a little bit more about what is going on in the world right now. At the end of the process, however, we have to make some painful choices and we feel sad not to be able to fund all the excellent projects we read about. There are various trends discernible in the applications as a whole, but the projects we have chosen to fund also include a great deal of basic research or artistic work. The project plans that were awarded funding are brilliant, and we can’t wait to see the results of the work!” says Kone Foundation’s Executive Director Ulla Tuomarla.

“Many researchers in various disciplines are examining how and when the values held by people and communities change. This reflection is particularly linked to the environmental emergency, but also to other current issues such as democracy and equity. In addition, many of the research applications received involve participatory research or inclusive research, meaning that the community being studied is involved in the study. Today, it’s difficult to think of research focusing on modern societies that in no way involves the community under study or that doesn’t at least share information with the community being studied,” says Kalle Korhonen, Director of Research Funding at Kone Foundation.

Kone Foundation makes the world a better place by creating the conditions for academic and artistic freedom. It supports research in humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences, as well as artistic research and artistic work in all fields of art. The Foundation maintains the Saari Residence for artists and researchers in Mynämäki, Southwest Finland and the Lauttasaari Manor residence in Helsinki. Kone Foundation’s next grant call will take place from 1 September to 15 September 2022.

Illustration: Marika Maijala

The Democracy Programme starts with the themes of language and power

Launched this year, the funding programme “Is Democracy Eroding?” aims to increase understanding of democracy and social justice and to bring new perspectives to discussion about democracy. The programme’s first thematic call for applications, called “Language, Power and Democracy”, awarded approximately EUR 4.6 million to a total of 16 projects. Some of the projects focus on the entanglements of language and power by looking at the language of the administration as a means of exercising power. 

Kanerva Kuokkanen and their research team (€362,700) look, from the perspective of citizenship and democracy, at the new language of Finnish administration, in which consultants, officials and researchers introduce new terminology and expressions at a breathtaking pace. Examples include “co-creation”, “knowledge management”, and “hybrid organizations”. Although the focus of the new administrative language has shifted to the citizens, the citizens are often presented mainly as targets of the administrative actions. Tarja Ketola and Henri Satokangas (€31,500) write a popularizing book on the strategy work of non-profit organizations, taking into account that strategy work is a linguistic activity. The transfer of concepts and mindsets originally developed for the use of the military and the business worlds to the public and third sectors is not without problems.

Simo Määttä’s research project (€376,800) investigates the practices of translating information and disseminating translated information to immigrant employees in the Greater Helsinki area and Tallinn. Multilingualism creates challenges for democracy, as the language barrier prevents many immigrants from participating in social, cultural and political life and from being part of their new community. The pandemic has shown that although translated information is available, migrants either do not use it or do not have access to it. By analyzing the informative texts and the online environments in which translations are published, the team seeks not only to find out why the information does not reach users, but also to suggest solutions to improve translation practices.

The research project (€569,700) led by Irina Piippo examines education, democracy and immigration in Finland and Lebanon through research in sociolinguistics, anthropology and world politics. The researchers want to know how education policy, usually based on the nation-state, can provide pathways to social inclusion and employment for those moving across borders. The research is carried out as a collaboration between the Finnish Institute in the Middle East and the University of Helsinki. Niina Meriläinen’s project (€248,100) also focuses on education policy. Meriläinen and Susi Nousiainen, the other researcher in the project, highlight and bring to public debate the mechanisms by which inequality is produced when talking about young people who go to vocational college. 

Noora Kotilainen’s research group (€359,900) examines militarised language and its relationship to democracy in Finland. Militarisation refers to the strengthening of military values in a society where the armed forces and soldiers have a special status, and armed defence is seen as the unchallenged solution to security threats. Militarism is also reflected in the way language and practices based on military values permeate society as a whole. Other projects from the thematic application round will study, for example, the impact of language on attitudes towards non-human animals, humour and populism, and the democracy of algorithms in cities.

Illustration: Marika Maijala

Bird decline as an indicator of the environmental emergency

The loss of bird species is one of the results of the environmental emergency that several new grantees intend to address in their work. In their dissertation, Inari Nousiainen (€126,800) responds to the need to produce information on the changes in bird populations as indicators of biodiversity and environmental change. Nousiainen examines Finnish and European ringing and net catching data to determine the survival of birds in Northern Europe in terms of climate change, endangered species, causes of death and hunting for population control. In their research and art project, Laura Bosco and their working group (€127,000) study the effects of the loss and fragmentation of bird habitats on climate-induced bird distribution shifts. The analysis draws on uniquely extensive bird nesting data that has been collected over a long period across Europe.

In a project combining research with artistic work, called Afganistanin linnut (The Birds of Afghanistan), scenographer Anttoni Halonen (€83,000) and their working group examine the birds of Afghanistan and Finland, the relationship of Afghan refugees living in Finland with nature and birds, and their experiences of being a refugee and of the changes in their living conditions due to war and environmental destruction. The project will result in a series of photographs, video and audio work, and installations. The material will be published online. Puppetry artist and composer Roosa Halme and their team (€44,800) will create a theatrical dissertation on birds and changes in the ecosystem. A combination of visual theatre and puppetry, the play is scheduled to premiere at the Turku City Theatre in 2022. 

Studying young people’s activities in the climate emergency together with young people

Many recent research projects have opted for participatory research, which means that research subjects, citizens and communities participate interactively in the implementation of the research. Participatory research is applied, for example, in projects studying young people, minorities and elderly people suffering from memory loss.

Tuukka Tomperi and their working group (€218,600) will implement, research and develop communities for children and young people where dialogic discourse and philosophical approaches are encouraged. The overarching research problem is the issue of children and young people’s right to a good future. This multidisciplinary project focusing on environmental and democracy education will develop children and young people’s approaches to pedagogical philosophising and examine how they themselves understand their right to a future. Jarmo Rinne and their working group (€325,600) will plan and implement advocacy campaigns on the climate emergency together with young people and on young people’s terms. As a result of the joint effort of the researchers, artists and young people involved, pilot locations will have site-specific works of art and lobbying campaigns for social media platforms that will process young people’s concerns, aspirations and dreams in tackling the climate emergency and finding solutions for mitigating it. The involvement of young people in the participatory research in this project will strengthen their inclusion and active citizenship.

For the most part, young people are excluded from decision-making in matters concerning the mitigation of climate change despite the fact that it is their future on the line and the fact that they are very much aware of the urgency of climate action. Technology and adult-centred perspectives dominate the debate on low-carbon energy transition and involve the tendency to call into question young people’s ability to commit to social change. In their dissertation, Goeun Park (€107,900) aims to develop design tools that will engage young people and to change students’ perceptions of renewable energy.

Participatory research is also a part of legal scholar Kaijus Ervasti and their working group’s (€438,700) project which aims to highlight the problems of people with memory loss by engaging them, their organisations and relatives in the research. People with memory loss and their close relatives are asked for free-form stories about legal problems, seeking help and solving problems. The project also uses art-based methods, and author Minna Lindgren will write a novel based on the material arising from the project.

In their postdoctoral research, Sonja Klingberg (€80,000) will develop best practices and a multidimensional understanding of community participation in ongoing public health research in Soweto, South Africa, with the aim of finding meaningful and feasible ways to involve the community in participatory research in this environment. The Finnish Meteorological Institute’s (€60,000) research and art project will create teaching material on sand dust from the Sahara that landed in Finland with a snowfall in February 2021. This exceptional natural event led to a successful citizen science campaign, with more than 500 people sending samples to the Finnish Meteorological Institute for analysis. The material being developed with the funding the Foundation provides will also create a basis for future citizen science campaigns.

Illustration: Marika Maijala

Finland as a new homeland: research and support

Several projects focus on the status of immigrants and asylum seekers, as well as the multidimensional challenges of integration into society. In their dissertation, Ninni Lankinen (€153,000) examines the underlying motivations for the choices multilingual girls with an immigrant background make after finishing comprehensive school. Applying ethnographic fieldwork, Lankinen examines what leads young people to choose vocational education instead of upper secondary school and what impact structural barriers and external motivators have on these choices. In their dissertation, Zain Ul Abdin (€30,150) studies the immigration of students from Pakistan and India to Finland and Sweden. Abdin utilises follow-up material of three students that covers almost ten years. Two of the students manage to complete their studies at a Finnish university and find work that corresponds to their education and training, while the third one, who supports their family living in their home country, is unable to dedicate themselves to their studies and ends up working in the restaurant industry instead. 

The Catalysti Association of Transcultural Artists (€101,400), which supports the employment opportunities of artists from different cultures living in Finland, intends to create new partnerships to promote its core goals: equal employment opportunities, transparency and payment for artistic work. The cooperative Icebreaker Productions (€32,000) will produce a hopeful documentary about a Nigerian immigrant called Oge Eneh, who has a burning desire to influence Finnish society and the integration of immigrants. Dismissed from their job, this Afro-Finn discovers a new opportunity as a planter of trees and starts planning to export the arboretum project to Africa as well. Film director Abdulrazzaq Al-Jewari and their working group (€18,750) will make a short film about an Iraqi immigrant living in Finland who is happily preparing for Christmas until they hear their father has died of COVID-19.

With their dissertation, Riikka Era (€136,400) will produce information on the daily lives of children under 7 years of age who are seeking asylum and living at a reception centre. Her aim is to find out what kinds of meanings the liminal space produced by the unfinished asylum process creates in children’s everyday experiences and what kinds of childhoods are possible at reception centres. The research will provide an opportunity for the Finnish society to hear about children’s experiences of spending their childhood at a reception centre. In their non-fiction book called Paon arki (The Daily Experiences of Escape), Professor Sari Pöyhönen (€27,800) brings together the stories of asylum seekers living in rural and urban areas in Finland. These stories are about belonging and non-belonging, as well as everyday struggles at different stages of the asylum process. 

Jukka Könönen investigates the detention of foreigners and what happens in detention units, who are the people detained there and on what grounds. So far, there is little official information on the subject. The study will provide information and tools to challenge the structural violence related to immigration management and to question how detention is talked about in such a way that it neutralises the exercise of power, criminalises foreigners and presents detention as a necessary security measure. Virpi Lummaa and their working group (€223,200) study the way social and ecological factors guide human migration and its evolutionary consequences. Bringing together evolutionary biologists, demographers, linguists and historians, the project examines how historical migration has affected individuals’ later life and reproduction and the transmission routes of infectious diseases. 

Anu Partanen (€43,200) is writing a journalistic non-fiction book involving Finnish and international research on the relationship between the welfare state, immigration and population diversity. Their aim is to find out how the welfare state’s idea of the universality of public services as benefits that everyone is entitled to holds good in an increasingly diverse society and whether it is supported. Will support for the Nordic welfare model deteriorate in the Nordic countries as the population becomes more diverse?

New information on the fight against everyday racism

In their multidisciplinary and multi-method project, Minna Lyons and their working group (€221,900) examine racism in higher education from the perspective of bystanders and seek to find ways for the silent majority to stand up for those facing racist harassment and discrimination in their daily lives. The starting point for the study is the hypothesis that bystanders witnessing racism could have the potential to combat racism and promote positive group relations in society. However, first we have to understand bystanders’ behaviour: why they choose to intervene or not to intervene when they see racism.

Alice Jäske, Janina Ojala and Priska Niemi-Sampan (Mixed Finns association, €60,000) aim to bring up to date the image of what it means to be Finnish by writing a non-fiction book that will make the concepts of anti-racism easier to understand and raise awareness of the lives of people in Finland who identify as mixed-race. Such identities create an experience that has not previously been put into words in Finland. Many of these experiences relate to feelings of being different and an outsider, as well as to struggles with cultural identity and racism. The book consists of stories based on interviews and a section on the phenomena and concepts of anti-racism. Man Yau (€30,000) receives a grant for artistic work, which is based on the artist’s personal experiences but is also situated within the broader context of the history and conventions of exoticising ‘the other’. Through carving and materials, Yau deals with the feelings of being on display and under pressure, caused by being subjected to the exoticising gaze.

Peaceful working conditions for the disabled and users of sign language

Why is the society unable to guarantee equal treatment and employment opportunities for people with disabilities? Yhdenvertaisen kulttuurin puolesta (The Association for Culture on Equal Terms”) (€350,000) is an association for equal culture that will use the grant provided to offer peaceful working conditions for artists who are disabled or use sign language and to reduce discriminatory practices in the cultural sector. The project includes residency work and preparing an exhibition for the Aine Art Museum in Tornio. It also aims to find experimental solutions for residency work for artists who are disabled or use sign language. Textile and concept artist Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen (€50,000) will prepare a multi-arts collection of works on hate speech against people with disabilities and how fear changes a person’s perceptions of themselves and their rights. The funded performances, short film and installation are based on a study of the hate speech minorities experience. The study found that 50% of the hate speech encountered by people with disabilities came from social and health care staff and 25% from other public authorities.

Illustration: Marika Maijala

Interpretations of Karelian lamenting traditions and the experience of trans bodies

In their project Karjalasta kolttien maille (From Karelia to the Lands of the Skolt Sámi), musician Anna Lumikivi and their team (€54,700) are looking for similarities and special characteristics in the Karelian and Skolt Sámi cultures through folk music and folklore. The Skolts and Karelians have a great deal in common: their history as evacuees, the Orthodox Church and the influence of the Finnicisation policy on their languages. Both cultures involve singing laments, long narrative songs and dancing the quadrille. The aim of the project is to increase awareness and understanding of minority cultures and to produce new music originating in them, as well as to create a dialogue between the Skolts and Karelians.

Larin Paraske (1833–1904) was a rune singer from Ingria who became a symbol of Finnish National Romanticism. The Orthodox Church is preparing to declare them the first Finnish female saint. Annina Holmberg and Maria Roiha (€66,200) study issues of power and identity in the Finnish Orthodox Church with the help of various Paraske narratives. Who are today’s Paraskes, and who defines them? The project will create an event concept that unites different fields of art: two events and a collective of orthodox women with an ethnic identity. In addition, the project involves producing a collection of essays and a podcast to discuss the narratives of femininity, ethnicity and the concept of holiness. 

In their collection of short stories called Kirotussa ihossa (Inside Cursed Skin), dramaturge Even Minn (€45,000) writes stories that focus on the experiences of transgender and nonbinary people. Using short prose, they describe the nonlinearity of trans experiences, such as what it feels like to relive the teenage years as an adult. Through their writing, Minn also ponders what a multi-species queer family might look like. In their documentary, August Joensalo (€16,000) follows the lives of three transgender people who dream of their potential future bodies outside the binary. His aim is to generate public debate on the state of the Finnish and Swedish transgender legislation and its consequences for trans people. 

Dreaming about and creating various futures for LGBTQI+ people is also one of the goals of Shia Conlon’s (€35,000) Transsexual Time project, which combines photography, writing, community activities and sculpture. In the coming years, works examining queer time and history, as well as the presentation of the transgender identity will be on display at Gallery Hippolyte and Taidekoti Kirpilä in Helsinki and at the Titanik Gallery in Turku. Photographer and dancer Jussi Ulkuniemi (€55,300) believes that the experience of being different is something everyone shares. With his portraiture project, Ulkuniemi intends to expand Finnish queer representation one individual at a time: he photographs nudity, queer bodies, non-normative bodies and romantic relationships. At the same time, Ulkuniemi is developing photography practices that allow him to explore the possibilities of somatics, body awareness and authentic self-expression in directing an empowering photography session.

Is a dead Tibetan Buddhist meditator actually dead?

The eternal mystery of death continues to fascinate researchers and artists. Anu Harju (€138,600), who has been awarded funding as an experienced researcher, will study the intertwining of death, data and digital media in their project that represents media research and the sociology of death. By examining data, Harju intends to find out how and whom we mourn and remember, how digital artefacts related to remembrance are preserved, broken or lost, and how this affects remembering.

In their dissertation in the field of medical anthropology, Donagh Coleman (€64,000) examines tukdam, the Tibetan Buddhist practice where meditators die in a consciously controlled manner in meditation, while their bodies remain lifelike without any signs of decay for days, sometimes weeks after clinical death. According to tradition, the meditators are not yet dead; instead, their consciousness is still present and this prevents their bodies from decaying. According to biomedicine, however, the meditators are dead. Tukdam blurs the line between life and death and challenges the western dichotomy of life and death and mind and body. Raisa Jäntti’s forthcoming poetical work (€60,000) deals with near-death experiences and the themes of reincarnation. Their goal is to find new perspectives on the moment of death. Is it possible to adopt a trusting and hopeful attitude towards death?

Grantees 2021 – a list of all grants awarded in the 2021 grant call

Statistics and listings of grants, prizes and donations awarded in 2021