Boost for companies’ responsibility doing - Haapavesi high school students taking responsibility awareness to companies!

Last autumn, Kirsi Järvenpää, a teacher at Haapavesi upper secondary school, contacted the Kerttu Saalasti Institute at the University of Oulu. Her wish was to find a developmental and innovative theme for the students’ three-day work placement, which would genuinely combine university and business experience. Nothing to fill the shelves of a shop. But something that can achieve a broader reach and social impact and allow young people and businesses to learn something new at the same time.
Mervi Pyrrö pitelee diplomia

The chosen topic was responsibility training, which is implemented by the ViVa – Green Responsibility in Micro-enterprises project in the southern part of North Ostrobothnia. The responsibility coaching for micro-enterprises consists of a baseline survey, online coaching on different responsibility topics (environmental, social, economic and responsibility communication), business visits to responsible enterprises and co-training, which involves peer-to-peer work to draw up a responsibility development plan (ViVa Road Map).

The process of 43 high school university-business partnerships started towards the end of 2022 when students started to familiarize themselves the different themes of responsibility in ViVa's online learning environment and studied the basics of each theme in the context of their study hours. They wrote short, concise presentations slides on the responsibility themes, explaining what responsibility consists of and what, for example, social responsibility in business means in concrete terms.

The students themselves found work placement companies, where they went in groups of 3-4 people to take the knowledge, they had learnt about responsibility. The aim was to start planning concrete responsibility communication measures and to start implementing social media communication. Their task was to familiarize themselves beforehand with the corporate responsibility baseline survey that each internship company representative had completed before the actual three-day internship in February 2023.

The concrete outputs generated in the companies during the internship included a responsibility communication development plan, a change model proposal for responsibility development, clarification of regulations for biowaste containers, clarification of the introduction of a carbon footprint calculator and English-language guidelines for the shop. A diploma for participation in the responsibility training was awarded not only to high school students but also to trainee companies.

Most of the results were related to the implementation of responsibility communication on social media, which is a daily practice for young people. Concrete communication activities carried out by young people included:

Updates on Instagram and Facebook about responsibility and internships
- Instagram updates on the company's activities
- Instagram updates as a basis for a possible website update
- Instagram updates on company values and responsibility
- Insta videos on making products from recycled materials
- for social media updates, a plan and images of the responsibility aspects
- photography and video shooting
- Guidance on the use of social media
- tips for updating the website

There is not much time to do a lot of communication in small businesses, so the internship was really helpful for many businesses.

"I got really good advice on how to use social media. Really put things on the profile; responsibility stuff and how to take it into account in everyday life. Instagram highlights were used to profile the staff and the company values were highlighted. At that age, I wouldn't have been able to think that way," says entrepreneur Mervi Pyrrö.

"This project gave us a lot of good tips on responsibility issues, and the young people also found out how Kodin Helmi's partners' responsibility issues are handled. This also helps to emphasize their own responsibility when production chains are in order and when things are opened up in a responsible way. The young women who are enthusiastic about this are a very positive experience," she continued.

As ViVa project promoters, we gained 43 new responsibility advocates. We were able to demonstrate social responsibility in promoting internships for young people and to make a social impact at its best.

Jaana Jeminen, Designer and M.Sc.Econ, Project Manager, ViVa project
MicroENTRE, University of Oulu, Kerttu Saalasti Institute