The Social Security Committee appointed by the Finnish Government in spring 2020 is the first party to engage with the new knowledge partnership model for strategic research. The first one in a series of four information packages has recently been published as a result of this cooperation. This package describes factors affecting the Finnish social security system and the operating environment of the entire welfare society from different viewpoints. The information package on demographic structure and social security in Finland analyses the current state, impacts and consequences of such phenomena as the ageing of the population, cumulative disadvantage and regional demographic changes.
What is a knowledge partnership?
A knowledge partnership is an operating model that helps step up cooperation and dialogue between research and policymaking, the end result of which is a collection of information on a jointly agreed theme. The information packages are based on existing published findings or ongoing work. A knowledge partnership does not entail the option of commissioning new research.
Research funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) is characterised by its focus on key social issues and interactive work that promotes the use of information. In the knowledge partnership model, knowledge users and researchers jointly determine the questions to be examined, the methods to be applied and the format in which the collected information will be published, such as information package reports, podcasts or videos. Dialogue continues throughout the duration of the partnership.
Knowledge partnership between strategic research and Social Security Committee
The need for gathering information was already identified at the very beginning of the Committee's work as Olli Kangas, SRC Programme Director, submitted to the Committee a report on the potential short and long-term impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on the development of social security. The idea of a broader situational picture produced by researchers and programme directors working in SRC programmes stems from this cooperation.
Analysing the current form of and changes in the operating environment of the Finnish social security system and welfare society was identified as the objective in further planning stages of the knowledge partnership model. The analysis was to be conducted from four different viewpoints: demographic structure, the biosphere, technology, and institutions and policy. The idea is to publish a separate information package on each viewpoint. The issues addressed in the packages have been narrowed down at the meetings of the Social Security Committee and its Research and Evaluation Division, to which representatives of strategic research have been invited. Informal discussions on schedules and practices have also been held.
What will the parties gain from this cooperation?
In order for any social reform to succeed, an up-to-date understanding of its object and operating environment is needed. The knowledge partnership provides the Social Security Committee with a comprehensive and high-quality situational picture of the societal operating environment of social welfare in Finland. The knowledge partnership will also create and intensify cooperation between policymakers, public officials and the world of research.
For programme directors and researchers working in strategic research programmes, the partnership provides an opportunity to present their recent findings and conclusions to the very parties that are interested in the topic and able to make use of the results. In addition, the knowledge partnership will promote the visibility of science in societal debate and enhance the impact of research.
A unique and novel form of cooperation
The task of the Social Security Committee is to reform the social security system for working age people while reinstituting and reforming the Committee's work, turning it into an instrument for preparing major reforms and legislative projects. In addition to openness and constructive discussion, the Committee defined a research-based approach and cooperation with the world of academic research as its working methods. The knowledge partnership with strategic research provides a natural channel for research-based cooperation.
The knowledge partnership differs from conventional expert reports and statements in that the questions to be discussed are selected together. The customer sets out their wishes and information needs, and the researchers consider the perspectives from which research-based knowledge is available. The final content is formed through co-creation as a combination of information needs and the available research findings.
While the knowledge partnership culminates in the publication of the information package and presentation of its content, dialogue continues throughout the process. This ensures that the parties are truly committed to the theme and have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with each other's ways of thinking and points of departure.