IWF Cornerstone Conference - Thinking Differently

June 2023
IWF Cornerstone Conference
Thinking Differently
June 14-16, 2023
Helsinki, Finland

By: Janice Zarro | IWF Florida Suncoast

Opening Reception
Held at the historic Helsinki City Hall, conference attendees were greeted by an enthusiastic line of IWF Helsinki Finland members and the IWF Board of Directors.

Opening Remarks:  Carolyn Carter, IWF President, New York Forum
The IWF President stressed that in 50 years of consecutive years of growth, IWF women leaders have changed the world.  She pointed out that IWF women:  Connect, Support and Inspire other women.  IWF is a dynamic group for change.  The diversity of IWF is its strength.
Plenary 1-Acting: Differently:  The Imperative of Climate Change
Finland leaders not only think differently, they act differently-taking a lead and setting ambitious goals on what is considered by many to be the most pressing global issue:  climate change.  Finland is the first country to pass legislation committing to carbon neutrality by 2035 and to carbon negativity by 2040.  The major source of energy in Finland is nuclear power.  
Panel Highlights:
  • Climate changes can cause greater inequality and cause relocation of the poorest.  "We may be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat."
  • Finland has extensive forests so it is a country that won the "geographical lottery."  It is a country that must be willing to take care of its trees and forest lands.
  • Climate and grassroots activists were important in pressing the government of Finland into investing in climate control.
  • It is critical to solve the biodiversity issues at the same time you are solving the forest and climate issues.
  •  Litigation with the government on climate matters involving large companies is important so you can uncover who is receiving tax breaks.
  • Climate activist groups are below the radar; however, they are under ground and are nourishing and nurturing each other.
  • Battling climate change is a security issue.
  • Critical to change behavior and thinking.  Perhaps there has been too much focus on growing the economy.  Success should be defined differently.  If people have clean water, housing and their basic needs are met, providing a sense of dignity, then that may be success from an economic perspective.  The emphasis on manufacturing more electrical trucks and cars may continue the current inequality in an economic sense, but make it greener.  Are we just painting our current system greener
  • Key question asked:  What can each IWF member do in their community?
            Answer:  Climate movement needs more funding
                            Get involved in a climate group in your community
                              Put pressure on politicians
  • Need to encourage young people to see their role in the world and encourage them to take a stand on climate issues.  But everyone must be involved so do not "outsource" the climate issue to the younger generation.
  • US and UK export much of their manufacturing to China.  Thus, China manufactures goods which are then shipped back for sale to the US and UK.  So, the negative emissions rate goes down for the US and UK but China and India become a "scapegoat" because their role of toxic emissions negatively impacting the climate is high.
  • The EU can have a positive impact by setting the world on a positive course regarding climate change.
Plenary 2-Finnish Design:  Form, Function and the Culture of Thinking Differently
The bold prints of Marimekko are recognizable worldwide as are Fiskars orange-handled scissors and the sleek iconic design of the Nokia phone.  They are examples of Finland's profound impact on design and part of the reason Helsinki is a UNESCO Creative City of Design.  Finland's artists and architects have used natural materials and organic forms to create a unique aesthetic that reflects quality, minimalism and functionality. They reflect Finnish values and how they live their lives.
Panel Highlights:
  • The essence of Finnish design started in the 30's and 40's with folks gathering together understanding that Finland was a poor country.  They knew all the resources of the country and its close connection to nature had to be maximized.            The essential building block was functionality.
  • Sustainability and nature contribute to every design.
  • Products created maximize the lifestyle and cut emissions across the value chain.
  • There is more innovation in sustainable methods such as printing where new types of dyes are being developed to be more climate friendly and are being used for printing material etc.
  • There is a need for responsible growth, and the need to think stakeholders not just shareholders.  
  • Growth will be in digital design.  However, we must invest in training and educating people to implement the new digital designs.  Craft skills should not be fading or diminishing.
  • Creativity is sparked when there is a crisis.
  • Technology and design must work in cooperation with the education area.  More critical, funds should not be cut on the elementary or higher education level to stop the advancement of technological design.
  • There must be an intersection and multi-disciplinary approach to craftsmen, design and architecture.
  • Artificial Intelligence will impact design (e.g., 3D printing) and it will add automation and efficiency.  However, "nothing will change the human heart."
            Design needs to look like society so it needs diversity and a "daring to be different."

Plenary 3-A View from the Border:  The Changing Security Landscape
Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, and for decades has carefully walked a tightrope.  But the war in Ukraine has changed Finland's calculus.  Along with Sweden, Finland applied and Finland has received membership in the North American Treaty Organization, known as NATO.  How are Russia and China shifting the military and geopolitical landscape in Europe and beyond?  What may the future hold?
Moderator: Deborah McCarthy, Former US Ambassador to Lithuania (2013-2016)
Panelists: Kate Byrnes, Ambassador, US European Command (Member of the IWF Florida Suncoast Forum) Ambassador Piritta Asunmaa, Director General Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland

Panel Highlights:
  • Finland and Sweden bring shared values, strong democratic government institutions to the NATO alliance.  These are the reasons for their rapid inclusion into NATO.
  • Even though Russia did not like Finland joining NATO, Finland was part of the EU prior to joining NATO and was always a partner with NATO even if not an official member.
  • Finland has no trade with Russia but there are channels of communication.
  • A key issue is the impact of the Ukrainian War on food supply.  Also, effecting the food supply concern is the drought in Africa.  Russia has put a blockade on the Black Sea, preventing food exports, destroyed fields of grain and is stealing Ukrainian cereals and grain.
  • The United States is helping with food security.  The US helped facilitate the Black Sea Grain Initiative.  Also, the US s working with African farmers to improve their soil.
  •  Turkey is a key member of NATO and is holding up Sweden's accession into NATO.    
  • Turkey plays a critical role as it impacts the utilization of the Black Sea and was deeply involved in the US challenges with Afghanistan.
  • China has not yet played a constructive role with Russia in terms of the conflict in Ukraine.
  • A key question is how has the Ukrainian conflict changed which weapons countries are now requesting.  The US was not prepared for the attacks by Russia on critical infrastructure sites.  US is now sharing best practices and technology.
  • Finland and other countries are concerned with Russia threatening to use nuclear weapons.  However, there is no evidence Russia has taken steps to use nuclear weapons.
  • US and Germany are sharing conflict assessments.
  • The conflict in Ukraine has caused a historic strategic convergence between the United States and the world for a global partnership.  This is a critical moment for European security.
  • In the future, Ukraine must be re-built and integrated into NATO.

Plenary 4-A Brave New World:  The Transformation of the Global Diet

These days food doesn't just come from the farm.  It may come from a lab.  There is a revolution underway that's changing the very definition of food.  Transformational technologies could make food more accessible, more sustainable and more nutritious.  It might even make food medicine, tailored to prevent, manage, treat and even reverse some health conditions.  

Panel Highlights:
            Climate is in flux worldwide.  In fact, Spain one of the largest producers of vegetables and fruits is suffering from a major draught.
            Food is an imperative issue because it impacts human health.

            Culture and food go together.  It should not be a choice between culture and food.

            The climate has been stable for 10,000 years and now the climate is unstable.

            New technology and smart irrigation are occurring.  For example, farmers from their smart phones can water crops only when it is necessary.  Dams and reservoirs are not helpful to crops and the environment. Need to capture and deliver water in new ways.  

            There is a need for plant genetics where plants can be breed with less water and food.

            For the past 10,000 years there has been a reliance on plants and animals.  There is a need to transform the food system.

            The future is single cell life food production.  A type of ice cream was just launched in Singapore which was made from cell food production.

            If it is a part of a culture to eat beef, the culture has to change.

            Big cities and urban areas contribute the most negative climate and food damage.  

            Large coffee companies like Peets and Starbucks are funding technical assistance for small farmers to help them grow coffee.

            There is a need to shift the mind set from producing enough food to producing healthy food.  Only 55% of the population has access to fruits and vegetables.

            As countries get wealthier, they eat more meat.

            If the taste, texture and cost of technologically produced plant-based meat is good it will be accepted by consumers.

            The food industry will not spend money on food innovation.

            Critical need to reduce food waste.

Plenary 5-An Elegantly Modeled Future:  Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has been called the greatest technological revolution since the advent of the internet, and a global competition is underway to develop it, commercialize it and put it to work.  What is quantum computing?  How might it be used to meet challenges in medicine, energy, climate and beyond?

Panel Highlights:

            Two types of computing were described:
                        Classic Computing:  One at a time approach
                        Quantum Computing:  Simultaneous action, particles will instantaneously interact with each other.

            The issue is speed quantum computing means it will do what classic computing can do but at a much faster speed.

            Quantum computing will speed up AI.

            In order for quantum computing to function or work it needs helium and the system must be kept at a very cold temperature.

            Quantum computers can destroy the privacy of any plans for defense, an infrastructure system which are now handled by classic computers.  Also, a grid can be manipulated.

            China revealed in a published paper in 2021, that it had better quantum bits or qubits but the US is more advanced in its application of quantum computing.  The US is very protective and will not allow any quantum computers to be sold.  Only one exception was made and it was a sale to Germany but the computer had to be kept on IBM premises.  One of the most advanced companies in this field is IBM.

            Quantum computing is very expensive, but companies' who do not prepare will disappear. 

Plenary 6-The How and Why of Happiness
 For the fifth year in a row Finland has been ranked the world's happiest country.  What fosters feelings of wellbeing?  Is it the natural beauty of the landscape?  Is it the lifestyle?  Effective governance?  

Panel Highlights:

            The definition of happiness is subjective wellbeing.  The presence of positive emotion and the evaluation of your life wholistically.

            In the past, happiness in a country uses to be only evaluated by the GDP.  Now other factors are considered.

            The quality of institutions, rule of law, low corruption and freedom contributes to happiness of a country.

            Trust in institutions is important as well as free healthcare and education.  Need the freedom to make choices.

            Countries ravaged by war and who have a low trust in their institutions do not score well as having a happy population.

            All over the world people underestimate their neighbors.

            Countries must get people of different economic classes to interact.

            With the new work environment, happiness will be impacted because key elements are flexibility and the need to value relationships.  Social media cannot replace the need for relationships.

            Generosity helps build connections with other people.

            Countries who have more gender equality are happier