The Origin Story of Akordi

Today, December 13th, 2023, marks the official 10th anniversary of Akordi Oy. On this special occasion, join us as we delve into the story of how Akordi came to be, drawing on the experiences of co-founders Jonna Kangasoja and Lasse Peltonen.

The pivotal encounter, which many years later led to the inception of Akordi, took place in June, 2004 with professor John Forester from Cornell University. He had come to the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (YTK), on Lasse’s invitation to give a workshop on academic writing. Jonna also took part in the workshop. At the time, Professor Forester was working on his book: “Dealing with Differences: Dramas of Mediating Public Disputes”, based on interviews he had conducted with experienced public policy mediators. As Forester shared the stories of these professionals finding actionable agreements despite tensions and conflict, Jonna and Lasse became fascinated and intrigued by the novel concept of public policy mediation.

Later that very same year, at John’s recommendation, in November 2004, Lasse and Jonna invited an exceedingly experienced public policy mediator Suzanne Podziba to Finland to give a two day workshop at YTK on her work. Susan’s visit sparked an even stronger interest in the profession as well as a desire to undergo the training courses which Susan had taken and then later co-taught with Professor Larry Susskind at MIT. 

After several years of working on research projects involving the dynamics of land-use planning conflicts, and conducting pilot work on collaborative methods of solving those conflicts, Jonna and Lasse set out to the U.S. for the academic year 2012-2013. With a desk at the Consensus Building Institute, Jonna and Lasse directly observed and learned from the practitioners about the practical side of mutual gains negotiation and consensus building, while taking the formal training courses on Negotiation, Mediation and Public Dispute Resolution Public disputes program Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Program on Negotiation. Towards the end of the year-long visit, they also connected with the National Policy Consensus Center in Portland, Oregon.

After what turned out to be a fundamentally transformative year, Jonna and Lasse returned to Finland in the summer of 2013. With newfound courage and certainty about the professional direction acquired, on December 13th, 2013, Lasse and Jonna founded Akordi Oy.

Akordi’s first office was a large space in Katajanokka shared with two other companies, Mapita and MDI. The following year, Sanna Rönkkönen discovered Akordi’s webpage, and inquired after a traineeship with the company. With a growing number of projects to manage, Sanna was hired to run the office. 

In 2016 Lasse was invited by the University of Eastern Finland to become Finland’s first professor of Environmental Governance and Conflict Resolution, marking the inception of a new field of academic research and teaching. 

The Akordi team grew gradually: Juha Kotilainen and Emma Luoma joined the team in 2017. Emma first started as an intern and became the chief operating officer in 2018. December 2018 marked a transition, as we said goodbye to Sanna as she pursued her new role as a senior specialist of sustainability with the City of Espoo, and Akordi moved to its own office in the present location in Laivastokatu. In 2019 Juha-Pekka Turunen’s role as an advisor with Akordi shifted to a new role as a full time senior mediator in 2019. Anni Kettunen joined the team in 2021. 

Akordi is a social enterprise with a societal purpose of advancing public problem solving based on best practice of multi-party negotiation and dispute resolution in order to reach fair, efficient, and sustainable outcomes.

Akordi has always fostered a strong network of colleagues and associates who contribute as specialist in project work: Timo Karjalainen, Sini Lahdenperä, Camilla Strandberg-Panelius, Lauri Rantala, Thomas Banafa and Juliane Boy. Welcoming interns and visitors has been a natural way to pay forward the generosity once received from our mentors.

Ten years later, with over one hundred processes mediated and facilitated by Akordi and approximately one thousand people trained, the journey has been nothing short of exhilarating. We’re deeply grateful to all those from whom we have gained invaluable insights and collaborated with. It has been an extremely rewarding experience to learn from and work alongside these people.