Iijoki River Visioning Process
Iijoki, a great river flowing through Northern Ostrobothnia in Central Finland, was harnessed for hydroelectric power production long ago. As with many similar river valleys, different groups have conflicting needs for the Iijoki basin. One issue requiring solving is the restoration of the migratory fish stocks. The Iijoki river holds great potential and its value has been recognized. However, the absence of a shared vision for the future of Iijoki has been slowing down its development.
With this in mind, a new approach was tried to build a shared vision for the future of the water system and to ensure the commitment of various parties involved. In addition to the restoration of the migratory fish stocks, the aim of the vision work was to address the water quality in the Iijoki basin, and to increase the attractiveness of the area for e.g. tourism and business. The visioning process began in March 2016, and the aim was to create a vision for the Iijoki basin that all involved groups could accept. More importantly, the aim was to strengthen the parties’ commitment to the development of the river, to ensure this work continues far into the future, and to ensure that the differing values of the different parties are considered in the development.
Akordi, together with Pöyry Finland Oy and Mapita Oy, supported the visioning work. Akordi and Pöyry began by interviewing many stakeholders connected to the Iijoki river. Many of the interviewees would later join the Iijoki River Advisory Board. Akordi’s role was also the planning of the stakeholder engagement in the project and the facilitation of the Iijoki River Advisory Board meetings. The Advisory Board included a wide range of stakeholder groups with differing interests. Akordi, together with the project participants, was faced with a difficult task of building trust between the actors to enable sincere negotiations under challenging circumstances.
The work paid off, and trust and commitment to the process was built. The Iijoki River Vision was published in 2018. The Advisory Board will continue to work on planning and prioritizing measures, and new projects, to increase the value of the river. The visioning process has created a solid base for future collaboration for the betterment of the river basin. This has already led to several projects improving the status of the river, including conservation and restoration projects.
The visioning process was a part of a larger EU funded ‘Iijoen otva’ project (2015-2018) managed by the Council of Oulu Region. Read more about the visioning work from our blog post.