Exploration Areas. We love what we know.

Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 2018, Abigail Garbett, Emily Sode, Mengxiao Li, Ming Unn Andersen, Riina Ruus-Prato, Design for Government course at Aalto University

This project was part of the Design for Government 2018 course at Aalto University, which took place from February to May 2018. The project was conducted by a group of international and multidisciplinary students: Abigail Garbett, Emily Sode, Mengxiao Li, Ming Unn Andersen and Riina Ruus-Prato. Two other student groups worked with the same brief.

Our concept, Exploration Areas provides a new identity for National Hiking Areas with a unique educational focal point. The concept addresses rising concerns regarding children’s declining knowledge and experience of nature and aims to attract new and mindful visitors seeking to reconnect with the natural environment.

Case Exploration Areas - Final presentation for the Ministry

Abigail Garbett, Riina Ruus-Prato & Ming Unn Andersen presenting our project © Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.

Case Exploration Areas - Education map

Rich picture of what Evo’s ecosystem has to offer, illustration by Abigail Garbett.

About hiking areas

There are five Hiking Areas in Finland that specialise in activity-based tourism. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for steering Metsähallitus, the state enterprise that takes care of all state-owned land and water in Finland, including National Hiking Areas. They are distinct from both National Parks and commercially owned forests, but incorporate elements of both commerce and conservation in their activities. The areas are used for a wide range of activities including nature-based events, local business services and forestry. The areas aim to provide both social and environmental sustainability.

Case Exploration Areas - Affinity map updated throughout the process

Affinity diagram from the project, photo by Emily Sode.

Case Exploration Areas - System map process

System map process from the project, photo by Emily Sode.

During 14 weeks we worked closely with our commissioners: The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Metsähallitus and local stakeholders, to find a solution which addresses the unique potential of each Hiking area, alongside wider concerns regarding our current relationship to nature and biodiversity loss.

Through 30 interviews with local stakeholders and ministry level officials, two field trips to the area and two workshops with local stakeholders, we found that Evo National Hiking Area is the centre of a huge variety of local educational activities. However, there was a clear lack of collaboration between the local stakeholders and no clear direction for the area.

Case Exploration Areas - System map

Systems map of needs and problems, illustration by Mengxiao Li.

Case Exploration Areas - Education map

Educational activities happening in Evo, illustration by Emily Sode.

To raise the profile of Evo, improve collaboration and knowledge sharing, we suggested a new identity for Finlands National Hiking Areas, The Exploration Areas, which are research, ecology and education areas aiming at increasing knowledge about nature and sustainable resource use for current and future generations.

By creating a clear educational focus, our project aimed to unify local stakeholders under one common purpose and provide people with a clear motivation for visiting the areas. By offering interactive learning opportunities, Exploration Areas aim to inform people about the inherent value of the natural environment and equip them with the skills and mindset to coexist with nature. More broadly we hope to inspire people to be actively involved in the upkeep of an environment where all forms of life can flourish. A value we see of increasing importance, and one that should be past down the generations.

Case Exploration Areas - Evo Ideas workshop 1

Evo Ideas Workshop, photo by Mengxiao Li.

Case Exploration Areas - Evo Ideas workshop 2

Evo Ideas Workshop, photo by Mengxiao Li.

The concept addresses the globally recognised need for sustainable nature experiences, a goal which is in line with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s current objective to ‘enhance well-being by promoting experiences based on renewable natural resources and pure and diverse nature’.

Our presentation for the ministry at the House of the Estates, Helsinki, Spring 2018.

My project role

Participated in the entire design process incl. conducting field research and interviews, facilitating our co-design workshop, data analysis, iterating concept design, and preparing final presentation.

Presented our work progress convincingly for our ministry commissioners half way through the project together with Mengxiao Li.

Co-led the development of our implementation & action plan (future steps) together with Mengxiao Li, while supporting the rest of the team in developing education curriculum materials.

Put together the design and layout of our final presentation slides with content and visuals (with drawings by Abigail Garbett).

Team members

Abigail Garbett

Ming Unn Andersen

Mengxiao Li

Riina Ruus-Prato

Emily Sode

Involved organisations