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A pioneer of digital collaboration: Finnish Business School Graduates renews operations through bold experiments

By Hanna Liimatainen on Aug 26, 2020 10:00:00 AM , updated on Apr 14, 2021

Finnish Business School Graduates is a leader in the digitalization of nonprofit work. This trade union of economists and students in the field, known for its active membership activities, is constantly developing its operations and shaping the services it offers to its members to be even more diverse. As part of this process, many parts of the organization’s offering have undergone a transformation from open courses and webinars to the union's internal strategy work and interorganizational collaboration.

“I'm a really big fan of Howspace. It has been great to use the tool for so many different processes. The most significant benefits we have seen are by using it to support training: That has enabled greater participation and continuity than ever before. The work itself has become easier. Howspace has also helped us to organize internally. We still keep deploying the tool for new kinds of uses, usually in small steps,” explains Anu Varpenius, Specialist in the professional development and customer experience at Finnish Business School Graduates.


According to Varpenius, Finnish Business School Graduates has been active on social media for a long time. Digital activities have felt inherent not only for the employees themselves but also for the members. As a result, it has been easy to adopt new ways of doing things.


“Our internal and external needs for Howspace have gradually increased. When people get to know the platform, they comment on how easy it is to use, how handy it is to involve people in collaboration, and how well it fits their needs.”


At the moment, Howspace is used by Finnish Business School Graduates in open training, online courses, supervisor training, service development, strategy and board work, collaboration between unions, and internal literature. In addition, the online platform supported the organization’s website redesign project, office move, and the work of the prize council for the organization’s literary award.


Extra kick for training: All information in one place


According to Varpenius, the sky is the limit in digitalizing the operations and services of Finnish Business School Graduates. Agile and bold experimentation is part of everyday life.


“When it comes to supporting training, Howspace has brought us tremendous added value. With the tool, we can centralize all communication and activities in one place. Earlier, many tools we used enabled us to handle one aspect of the training well, but with Howspace we have just one place where all the information and material for a particular group is available,” Varpenius says.


“We can even process sensitive matters easily via Howspace as the information can be only made available to a small group or can be discussed confidentially, even anonymously. The programs, lists of participants, materials and joint discussions of each day and course are easily coordinated here.”


Hackathon experiments also receive a special mention from Varpenius. According to her, Howspace also served well at hosting the hackathons, as the participants got to know each other on the platform in advance. Team outputs and pitches were easily brought to the workspace for others to see and evaluate.


“Howspace has provided us with new ways of doing things. Before, sharing materials and supporting collaboration and discussion was challenging, but now discussion really does emerge. Word clouds and other AI tools are also a great support for structuring and summarizing large discussions.


Ease of use and shared enthusiasm at the heart of versatile use


Varpenius says that Howspace has become common among members of Finnish Business School Graduates in part because of its ease of use. Separate logins and passwords are not required, “unlike in many other programs,” which lowers the participation threshold when no time is wasted searching for usernames – or trying to remember them.


“We want to continuously develop our operations and ourselves. Collaboration with Howspace has been a win-win for us. We have been able to provide feedback and ideas for development work, and our own enthusiasm has grown with it. We always choose our collaboration partners carefully to ensure the projects we do continue to inspire us.”


Varpenius, who had a career in education, has been one of the active users of the Howspace product family since its very inception. When the first versions of the web platform were built about 10 years ago, she was already deploying the tool.


“Even then, it felt like there were no other viable options if you wanted an inclusive and interactive tool. When I came to work at Finnish Business School Graduates, the choice was clear: we needed Howspace.”


“It’s also nice to notice that one stumbles upon other Howspace users more frequently these days. Often in conversations with different people we end up discussing it, ‘Oh, you also utilize Howspace…’ The members of Finnish Business School Graduates have easily adopted new working methods. The feedback usually consists mainly of praise and enthusiastic comments instead of criticism, because in our workspaces the discussion really works in both directions – Howspace fosters dialogue.”

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