Winning Hearts And Minds: Thoughts And Experiences From Finland
The concept of “winning hearts and minds” is about creating trust in society and originally derives from a military strategy. However lately the concept can and has been applied on corporate responsibility in societal development such as wind power establishment. “Winning minds” includes convincing a population that their livelihoods are being protected and “winning hearts” means meeting the needs of a community of individuals, and doing so requires their belief that their expectations will be met.
Basically “winning hearts and minds” is about creating a mutual trust between planners and local populations. The wind power consultant company Triventus Consulting AB is working with a broad range of tools to achieve this confidence in Swedish projects and lately also in Finland. Within the company the concept of “winning hearts and minds” goes under the term “social acceptance”.
-We have extensive experience from working with communication in Swedish wind power projects. Now that we operate in Finland as well this gives us great possibilities to look ahead of the development, says Jeanette Lindeblad, one of the initiators of the business area Communications & Social acceptance.
In Finland the wind power business has just started to expand. This naturally means that many of the stakeholders are not used to discussing implications for the everyday life. As cold climate (below 20 degrees) brings even more complicated aspects than in normal temperatures – it will require even more focus on social impacts such as noise, accessibility of the park, feeling of safety etc.
-In several of these matters our experiences from northern Sweden helps us predict which aspects that risks to make people feel worried and that might give rise to unnecessary misunderstandings. Since we want to create a trustful relationship with the local inhabitants we have to handle these aspects with proper information before the questions are asked and rumours or worries begin to spread, says Triventus consultant Hanna Lind who has worked with both environmental and social impacts in these areas.
One example of a problematic issue that has been raised in northern Sweden is the widespread worries that extensive areas automatically will be fenced in due to the risk of ice throws. This misunderstanding origin from an incorrect interpretation of the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC). According to the European Commission though, there is nothing in the directive which would have these consequences. National and regional authorities in Sweden have also investigated the matter and concluded that the Machinery Directive has no relevance to the general public but only for those who work with wind power. Nor is there any other country in Europe that interprets the Machinery Directive as wind turbines should be fenced.
Regardless the reassuring words from the authorities, a large part of the local population were very upset about the fact that they would not have access to the area due to the fence. This was something that Triventus Consulting were not prepared to handle and the company were therefor forced to act in emergency instead of preventing the erroneous assumptions.
When this type of concern has begun to spread, it becomes very difficult to create the trust that is necessary for a successful project. This example highlights the need for sharing experiences between cold climate countries, such as Sweden and Finland.
-We believe that our Finnish colleagues could benefit from the experience already gained and avoid that misinformation takes hold and likewise that we can learn from their input, says Jeanette Lindeblad. We see the annual Winterwind event as an excellent opportunity for discussions on common opportunities and concerns without national borders.