The fourth sector is reconstructing the society
by Maija Faehnle & Pasi Mäenpää

The future of cities is increasingly in the hands of citizens who just start doing, without waiting for formal organizations to call them to participate. YIMBY Facebook groups, alternative city plans such Pro Helsinki 2.0 and also YIMBYcon are examples of how citizens nowadays shape planning and the society in multiple roles, not limited to those of a resident or customer.


In today’s digital world, civic activism has volume and potentials crucially different from those of the past. Social media can do much of what used to be the job of hierarchical organizations. New self-organized groups and networks interact and mix with the public, private and third sectors, forming a new one, the fourth.

The fourth sector covers a wide range of civic activisms from urban planning groups to hacktivism, community events, alternative currencies, recycling networks, food buying clubs, other p2p services, and many more. Their scale of operation varies from local to global.


Our presentation in Yimbycon 2016 evoked discussion on the relation between civic activists and the public sector. In countries where city governments have a strong role in urban planning, such as Finland, urban planning activists need, or at least benefit from, active interaction with the official planning processes.


Activists drive urban changes also outside of the official planning, though. By crowdfunding, they can buy buildings and real estates and develop them into something new. In Minneapolis, a local group changed an entire service area In the Finnish context, crowdfunded place renewals such the establishment of the unique Jänö kiosk in Helsinki may be just a small sign of the potentials of crowdfunding yet to be realized.


In our action research in the Helsinki metropolitan region, our goal has been to help actors, above all city governments, find ways to seize the opportunities brought by the rise of the fourth sector. Civic activists and other urban change makers are in our scope as well. In summer 2017, the knowledge and tools produced in our project will be available in a new information bank. We look forward to continuing the discussion with many of you in Yimbycon 2017!

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