Travel report from the land of fire and ice: The Icelandic model and its suitability for Finland

A year ago, in February 2020, Storm Dennis battered the streets of Reykjavik. The Covid-19 crisis had not really started yet, and the world had time to focus on other things. Young people’s leisure activities were considered to be a key issue that society needed to support rather than restrict. Finland was looking for a new way of organising children's leisure time and hobbies, and one example that was selected was the Icelandic model that had gained a good reputation around the world. And so, a research team of three adjunct professors went on a mission to find out more about the recent history of the sparsely populated island and its assumptions regarding childhood, youth and upbringing. The purpose of the trip was to find answers to the following questions: what measures are involved in the much-discussed Icelandic model and what kind of impact it has had based on the findings of research data. In their travel report published a year ago, the members of the team, Tomi Kiilakoski and Mikko Salasuo, Leading Senior Researchers at the Finnish Youth Research Network, and Elina Pekkarinen, the Ombudsman for Children, shed light on the social backgrounds of the model and consider the suitability of the solutions implemented in the island state for Finnish conditions. The report has attracted the interest of an international audience, so it has now been translated into English.

A key observation regarding the Icelandic model is that it nurtures the value of childhood and has a common will to provide solutions for the situation of young people. However, the researchers noticed that the Icelandic model is very adult-driven, which means that the young people seem to remain as the targets for the measures. In the background, there seems to be a distrust of the time that young people spend together unsupervised. This finding is of interest from the Finnish perspective, as the basic starting point for Finnish youth policy is that young people’s self-motivated participation in civic activity has positive effects for both the young people as individuals and for society as a whole.

In the planning the Finnish model, it would therefore be very important to have a through discussion on what the realisation of children's rights in leisure time activities actually means in concrete terms, and how to ensure the inclusion and opportunities to influence of children and young people already at the preparation stage of the model. The Icelandic model provides a lot of food for thought for all countries seeking new ways of organising leisure activities for children and young people.

Read the travel report:

Fridge magnets in the land of fire and ice – In search of the Icelandic model 
Tomi Kiilakoski, Elina Pekkarinen & Mikko Salasuo

The original version in Finnish was published 4th of March 2020: Jääkaappimagneetteja tulen ja jään maassa - Islannin mallia etsimässä.

Mikko Salasuo and Tomi Kiilakoski standing outside in Reykjavik.

Mikko Salasuo and Tomi Kiilakoski, Leading Senior Researchers at the Finnish Youth Research Network, in Reykjavik. The photo was taken by the third member of the group, Elina Pekkarinen, Ombudsman for Children.

What is the Finnish model?

The main objective of the Finnish model is to prevent the social exclusion of children and young people and to increase their wellbeing and inclusion. The aim is to enable every child and young person to have a leisure activity in connection with the school day that they enjoy and one that is free of charge. The planning of the model was launched after Minister of Science and Culture Hanna Kosonen appointed a working group to prepare a proposal for the first stage of the model. The working group submitted its proposal in June 2020. A leading senior researcher of the Finnish Youth Research Network, one of the authors of the article to be published, was a member of the working group.

The model is currently being piloted in some municipalities. The aim is for the Finnish model to become a permanent fixture in municipalities.

Additional information on the Finnish model for leisure activities is available on the website of the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Finnish Youth Research Network

The Finnish Youth Research Network (FYRN) is a research organisation, academic publisher and social influencer. It is Finland's largest producer and publisher of data on young people. FYRN works in cooperation with multiple fields: universities and other academic and research organisations, the state and municipalities, societies and foundations, and parties in youth work and youth policy. The background organisation is the Finnish Youth Research Society, established in 1987.