Learning and Exchange Between the Netherlands and Finland: Eva Härter’s Internship and Thesis with Akordi

In Autumn 2023, for 4 months, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Akordi team as a research intern for my bachelor’s thesis. The Akordi Team welcomed me with open arms into their office in Helsinki and introduced me to their work in public policy mediation. Starting from scratch, knowing quite little about neutral-party mediation and alternative dispute resolution for environmental challenges, my time at Akordi was defined by learning a lot from my colleagues, about Akordi’s work in Finland, and consequently conducting my research on similar examples in the Netherlands. For the latter, I was trusted to produce meaningful insights for Akordi, which provided me the right support and creative freedom to write my thesis for my study program Global Project and Change Management at the Windesheim Honours College in the Netherlands.

The research looked at Dutch examples of multi-party mediated processes, or MPMPs for short. These processes are well established in the Netherlands, and the purpose of my research was to look at the Dutch case as an example that can inform the developing field of practice in Finland. By interviewing Dutch key actors, I wanted to discover the constituent parts of an institutional environment in which MPMPs can unfold their potential and may be upscaled to match current environmental challenges. For that reason, I used Loorbach’s (2010) Transitions Theory, taking a cultural, structural, and operational lens to the development and use of MPMP’s.

I examined various collaborative efforts, specifically MPMPs, in the context of the green energy transition. My approach was qualitative exploratory research with 11 semi-structured expert interviews. The research concludes that the reason why MPMPs have been widely used in the Netherlands is the surrounding cultural environment combined with a readiness for open communication and discussions. In fact, many cultural factors, such as norms, values and a social emphasis on sustainability and cooperation, are crucial for the development and implementation of MPMPs in the Netherlands.

In order to tackle current complex problems generated by the green transition, we can learn from past examples of MPMPs, and from the change agents, such as the experts interviewed for my study. On the question of upscaling multiparty mediated processes for collaborative problem solving in the current situation, the study concluded that formal rules and regulations is not the recommended way forward. Rather, the focus should be on building and developing well-functioning networks, channels of information and education, and a strong emphasis on highlighting examples of successful MPMPs while working on developing more.

These results also arose due to the challenging political climate in the Netherlands, which is faced with institutional fragmentation, and low confidence in government institutions.

A big thank you to Akordi for guiding me during these last steps of my degree, welcoming me so warmly to Finland, and introducing me to their unique approach to collectively solving environmental challenges.