"The city belongs to the citizens and sometimes we seem to forget it, but if you give freedom to the people, they also take responsibility and gain the ownership of the city."

Meet Jaakko Blomberg; City Maker Helsinki, Finland. He joined us for the very first New Europe Joint Venture last June at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. He contributes to the development of his city with his own initiatives, among which Yhteismaa. Yhteismaa is Helsinki’s City Embassy. Learn more about our network of Embassy’s and City Makers here.

What are you involved in?

I’m the co-founder of Yhteismaa (Common Ground) NGO. Yhteismaa is a Helsinki based non-profit organization specialized in new participatory city culture, co-creation, social movements and placemaking. All our projects aim for a more fun, free, sustainable, responsible and social urban life. These include an international flea market day, setting up a table for a thousand people to eat in the middle of a street, art exhibitions and theatre in homes, making social projects together with unemployed young people and many others. We have started an international network called Social Innovators Connected to unite bottom-up initiatives, social innovators and urban activists around the world.

I’m also involved in other urban projects than Yhteismaa. For instance, I’m organizing Ravintola Hukkatila (Restaurant Wasted Space), which turns unused spaces into gourmet restaurant for one evening and I’ve started Hoffice Helsinki network, which turns homes into pop up co-working spaces.

What is your motivation?

It is of course rewarding to see a positive change in the city and have a impact on the direction that people’s lives take. We are sort of making the frames and giving the brushes for the people while they are making the actual work of art. It’s fun to do things on your own too but if you do something together with hundreds or thousands of people, you can really make a difference.

We often don’t see all the opportunities and resources that surround us. Small help or encouragement is often enough to open eyes. The city belongs to the citizens, and sometimes we seem to forget it, but if you give freedom to the people, they also take responsibility and gain ownership of the city.

What is your vision on Helsinki?

Helsinki has been changing tremendously during the last five years. People have started to make the city more like the place they want it to be. Meanwhile, the city has understood the extent of the potential that lies in the minds and hands of the people and now Helsinki is more supportive towards this kind of action.

However, this is just a start. In want Helsinki to be even more fun and free. I want it to become a social place, where citizens’ creativity and knowledge are fully used to create a greater good.

What I think about the New Europe project

I think the New Europe – Cities in Transition project comes just in the right time and answers to a need. There is a lot of different kinds of urban activism around the world and we should definitely unite our forces to learn from each other and overcome our obstacles.

On the other hand there are many cities where it’s still not so easy to operate. To promote city making at all levels, cooperation at the European level is necessary: citizens see different possibilities around them and the city officials and politicians understand more easily that these kinds of alternatives and innovations are a huge chance for the city, not a threat.

Involved city makers
Jaakko Blomberg
Yhteismaa, Helsinki
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