Coffee Break Conversations with Petri Kahila:

“Stockholmer in Joensuu – Is not an Englisman in New York” 

By Tiina Soininen

You took in the position of Research Director in SPATIA Centre for Regional Research in the beginning of September. You are Cordially Welcome!

What kind of expectations do you have in relation to this new position? 

“The operational environment of SPATIA and Karelian Institute offers many possibilities. It is a field of possibilities. That is why in the first place, I need to piece together not only the role of SPATIA in the University of Eastern Finland but also, and very importantly, in the field of regional development here.”

“Actually, I am intrigued by the way SPATIA has been operating in a network manner and by the role it has been playing in combining universitys knowledge resources to the local and regional development. In a way it has offered an instrument for both researchers and developers to contact each other and share knowledge.”

“So, I hope I can utilize these networks.” He takes a pause, sips more coffee and continues. “At the same time, I hope to bring something new to these networks. I wish, I could expand these networks to reach the national and international co-operations. I think this would benefit all stakeholders and provide new ways of action.”

You have been living and working in Stockholm for almost a decade, and now suddenly you are here in the Eastern Finland border areas, where many regional issues might be regarded as problematic. Or at least they seem more problematic than in Stockholm. How do you see this regional situation, if you look at it as the ex-Stockholmer?

“Well… I am still only getting to know the local developmental atmosphere, and how you yourselves think and analyze these issues. I wish to get to know these ideas before I make any conclusions. I want to get to know you first!”

“But on the other hand, personally and in general level, I think that even though some sectors or some issues might be problematic, at the same time, there are positive things. In any region there is not only troubles, but there are also innovative ideas, good ways of living etc. You might call those as strengths of the regions. The true acknowledgement of these strengths and drawing power from them is the key for successful development.”

“However, foundation for this lies in facing the difficulties. Acceptance of the flaws must be done.” He stresses this with intense glance. “I mean that, one must understand the structural boundaries within which one operates and runs into. Only after creating a realistic self-understanding and accepting that this region faces many mechanisms that put it in remote disposition, one may understand the true value of the strengths of the region. Only then, those valuable assets are truly recognized and it may be imagined what this region could be like in the future.”

After a pause he continues. “I think that, actually, here in Eastern Finland we have good opportunities to operate on the field of regional development. We have many financial and innovative instruments to work with in order to find new solutions. Once the network and functioning of SPATIA, university, researchers and local stakeholders has cleared to me, I believe that this multifaceted field, I have been given, creates new, innovative and forward looking initiatives and cooperation.”

Petri Kahila, Ph.D. in Human Geography, started as a Research Director in the University of Eastern Finland, SPATIA Centre for Regional Research in the beginning of September 2013. Previously he has worked for example as a Senior Research Fellow in Norderegio (Nordic Centre for Spatial Development) and as Research Director in Ruralia Institute (University of Helsinki). In his own research he has specialised in regional development, regional and local governance, urban-rural interaction and rural policy. 

 ‘Coffee break conversations’ is a series that introduces research done in the Karelian Institute.

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