The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL)

Howspace transformed JHL’s member involvement and meeting management for good

JHL is Finland’s largest trade union for the public and welfare sectors, with 165 000 members across the country. JHL aims to improve the position of its members in working life and society, as well as to bring together professionals working and studying in municipalities, the state, parishes, and public and private welfare services.

In a large trade union with members and representatives from all over the country, having the right practices and solutions is a prerequisite for smooth operation. JHL uses the Howspace platform for member involvement, training, and meeting management. Moreover, the platform is where the members meet to share best practices and learnings.

Aiming to foster a sense of community and having a view of the sector

“Being able to reach members all over Finland and hear what is happening in the industry is an absolute necessity for my work.”

In the fall of 2022, Sanna Pihakivi, JHL’s expert on professional activities in the field of education and guidance, was looking for an effective way to reach out to members of the education and guidance sector all over Finland. There was also a clear need for closer cooperation between members. Howspace was utilized for creating meeting places for the eight regional educational and guidance forums.

“These forums are a place to network and seek peer support. Members also use it to discuss advocacy and well-being issues as well as share practices that make their day-to-day work more effective.” Pihakivi explains.

In addition to enabling interaction between members, Howspace is also critical to Pihakivi’s own work. 

“Being able to reach members all over Finland and hear what is happening in the industry is an absolute necessity for my work. I need an environment where I can meet and communicate with members remotely. Doing this asynchronously is also very important; we don’t have to be online simultaneously, yet the information still flows and is accessible. In other words, without Howspace, I wouldn’t have easy access to members and activists all over Finland. Howspace is a critical tool for me because I simply can’t run around Finland meeting people,” Pihakivi elaborates further.

Valuable encounters and new forms of participation 

“Howspace has enabled us to have functioning networks all over Finland.”

According to Pihakivi, members have been very pleased about not having to leave their homes to meet other members. JHL has tried similar forums in the past, but the meetings were always in-person, which Pihakivi says discouraged participation.

“Not everyone has the resources or time to go out after work in the evening for a meeting. This kind of arrangement didn’t work. We have a region like Lapland, where the distances are long – people didn’t have the opportunity to travel hundreds of kilometers to these meetings. Howspace has enabled us to have functioning networks all over Finland,” Pihakivi says. 

“Howspace’s features support the functionality of the networks perfectly. We have many Swedish speakers and people with an immigrant background, for whom the platform’s built-in translation feature offers the possibility to read information and discussions in their native language,” Pihakivi continues. 

Another important thing for Pihakivi is that she now has the opportunity to meet all the members of Howspace and receive valuable information from the field. Another clear benefit is that Pihakivi does not always have to be present at remote meetings but can afterward read what discussions have taken place on the platform.

Building on shared insights and best practices

“Without the voice of the industry, my work would have no basis.”

According to Pihakivi, it is vital that people working in the same sector across Finland meet each other and are able to share best practices and lessons learned.

“How else, for example, would a kindergarten teacher from Lapland find their colleague in the capital region and share experiences with them? Learning from each other, reflecting together, and gaining insights from that is necessary.” Pihakivi says.

Thanks to Howspace, Pihakivi has visibility into the industry and keeps up to date with the challenges each region faces and the solutions that can be found in other regions. “Often in the discussions on the platform, it becomes clear that several regions share a specific challenge. Then we can collaborate and think about different tools to solve the challenges.” she continues. “Without the voice of the industry, my work would have no basis.”

In addition to the regional forums, Pihakivi uses Howspace to organize training for JHL members.

“Howspace is a critical tool for me when I organize professional training. Even though the actual training takes place face-to-face, Howspace plays a huge role in engaging and activating the participants and distributing materials.”

Bringing Union Council’s assembly meetings to 2020

Raisa Musakka serves as a management and administration specialist at JHL, where her work mainly consists of organizing administration meetings and events. There are 120 members in the JHL’s House of Representatives, and the union also has four community member associations, each of which has one representative in the Assembly. In addition, the Executive Committee and a large number of JHL employees also attend the meetings of the Assembly. 

Before 2020, all meetings were held face-to-face, but the unexpected changes in the business environment forced JHL to transition to remote meetings at the beginning of 2020. JHL needed to find a solution that would also allow for easy distribution of materials to members of the JHL.

“The need for a platform like Howspace existed even before the pandemic; we had been thinking about ways to streamline our processes and take steps closer to a greener office. With Howspace, we can make last-minute updates to the materials if necessary, and there is no more need for printing,” Musakka says.

“Even requests to be heard in the in-person meetings are now made through the platform. Before Howspace, requests to be heard were made on paper during the meeting, and the secretary was responsible for going through them, typing them up, and putting them on the agenda. It has made our job so much easier.”

The best remote practices are here to stay

“Before switching to remote working, it was difficult for many people to imagine meetings going entirely virtual, but now there is no wish to return to the old ways. Howspace is definitely here to stay.”

Although the Union has moved back to in-person and hybrid meetings, Howspace continues to play an essential role in the smooth running of meetings. The distribution of meeting materials, the agenda, registration, requests to be heard, and voting is all handled through the platform.

“Before switching to remote working, it was difficult for many people to imagine meetings going entirely virtual, but now there is no wish to return to the old ways. Howspace is definitely here to stay,” Musakka says. In addition to streamlining the meetings, Howspace has brought several benefits to the union. According to Musakka, one of the biggest is achieving a paperless office, which is a significant step forward for JHL.

Howspace has also brought a much-needed change in involvement and inclusivity. The platform allows, for example, parents of young children and people with reduced mobility to participate and contribute from home. “The most significant benefits of the platform have definitely been the involvement of people, the ease of sharing materials, the environmental aspects (paperlessness), and the freeing up of work resources elsewhere,” Musakka sums up.

A smooth change process as a basis for the future

Adopting new technologies and ways of working on a large scale always brings its own challenges. Still, both Pihakivi and Musakka feel that the change has been smooth and the feedback positive.

“When you work with a huge number of people, it’s always a process to take the changes through, but at least I haven’t encountered any major challenges,” Pihakivi describes.

“It’s great to see that everyone has responded positively to the new ways of working and the new tools. Howspace streamlines not only the work of the meeting secretary but also improves the meeting experience for all participants,” Musakka says.

At JHL, Howspace is currently used not only for regional forums and meeting management but also for training and internal strategy work, among other things. However, Musakka foresees that Howspace will be used more and more for participatory activities in the future. 

“Whenever we do something new, I first think about how Howspace could be used in this.”

According to Pihakivi, there are a lot of ideas on how Howspace could be utilized in different areas. There are tens of thousands of members scattered all over the country, so the need for the platform is there.

“The setup will always be that I’m physically here, and the members are all over Finland. The key to the success of my work will always be how I can a) get the information out there and b) get people to network. Howspace has been the answer for us.” Pihakivi says. “Whenever we do something new, I first think about how Howspace could be used in this.”

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