Peer mentoring engages citizens in Turku

Citizens are key actors in building sustainable and resilient cities. Therefore, in the Lighthouse City Turku, one of the innovative elements applied in RESPONSE project is peer mentoring method. It comprises of a training of a group of voluntary mentors, who are all also residents of the PED area. The aim is to better reach residents, increase their awareness and bring forth their insight from their own perspective. As residents of the PED area, the peer mentors have first-hand experience of the life in the Student Village.

The concept of energy positive district (PED) may be new to many residents, and citizen engagement by mentoring makes it more comprehensible and accessible. When information travels from resident to resident, it is often easier to understand and accept. As the mentors themselves have noted, energy issues, such as how the energy is produced and how much energy they consume, are not always as visible to citizens.

In the spring 2021, 10 mentors were recruited representing different fields of study and interests from geography to energy and environmental technology and from law to innovation management. What is in common with them is the motivation to influence and work towards climate change mitigation and sustainability. Throughout the first year, mentors were introduced to the RESPONSE project, some of its technical solutions and energy issues in general. As one of their first tasks they explored how energy issues are discussed in social media and elsewhere in the web.

RESPONSE mentors have been recognized quite well in Turku and they have been interviewed to several local publications. In addition, mentors were invited in August to the Climate forum Turku, which was satellite event of the 2021 European Covenant of Mayors Ceremony. Mentor Damla Lehtinen took part in a discussion “Climate friendly Student Village” with other RESPONSE partners, TURKU PED owner TYS’ CEO Risto Siilos and Head of the heat department at Turku Energia, Jari Kuivanen.

The peer mentoring, as well as other project activities related to citizen engagement in Turku are led by Turku University of Applied Sciences (Turku UAS). More information: Ritva Salminiitty, citizen engagement manager,  and Heidi Heikkilä, project coordinator,

Mentor Damla Lehtinen gave residents´ insight to the panel discussion of climate friendly Student Village.

Treasure hunt by mentors

After a few months of background work the mentor group held its first own activity at the end of May 2021. The mentors decided to take advantage of the sunny days and organised a safe, open-air event that could be held during the pandemic. This was the perfect occasion to not only actively engage students but also present them the “energy positive” actions that have already been taken or that will take place in the student village area. The event was structured in the form of a treasure hunt, in which participants were following clues given on Instagram which led to the locations related to this project where the treasures were hidden”

The “treasures”, which included vegan, organic and fair-trade products, were hidden in 10 different locations around the Student Village. These places comprised the newest and more energy-friendly TYS buildings, spots for shared bikes and electric/hybrid cars and also areas that contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle, like the urban gardens that are for rent just next to the residential buildings.

If the participants wanted to take part in the competition, they were asked to share photos of the treasures found from each spot on Instagram. The purpose of this was to motivate the participants to find as many locations as possible and thus to learn more about the project. The idea of the event was to create something fun but also informative that would engage the residents.

The response to the event was indeed very good, many people were participating and having fun looking around for the treasures, which had all been found within only a few hours. Several people also shared their pictures in the TYS Instagram channel and gave positive feedback to the mentors. Now the challenge for the mentors is to keep up with the high expectations and organise new events. Their plans for the future include both formal and more casual events with hope to reach the young and “more distracted” tenants and also to share valuable information with everyone interested in more energy-positive living.

Mentors Martina Angeleri and Damla Lehtinen

RESPONSE mentors are voluntary residents living in Turku Student Village. Photo: Heidi Heikkilä

Webinar: RESPONSE – first actions and future plans towards Positive Energy Districts

On October 1st, 2021, the RESPONSE project hosted its first webinar, RESPONSE – first actions and future plans towards Positive Energy Districts. The webinar aimed to provide and discuss the initial experiences of the RESPONSE Partner Cities and their first steps towards achieving Positive Energy Districts.

The webinar had a wide range of speakers, including project coordinators, who presented the project, and representatives from the RESPONSE project Lighthouse and Fellow Cities, who presented their main goals, key activities during the first year of the project, expected results and upcoming actions.

The webinar, attended by 51 individuals, also had two Q&A sessions, for the Lighthouse Cities and the Fellow Cities, respectively, where participants could clarify their doubts.

For those who were not available to participate in the webinar, it is available on RESPONSE’s Youtube channel.

Here you can find the presentation used during the webinar.

During the project period, more webinars will be held, both presenting projects’ results and debating on topics relevant to the project.

Release of the First RESPONSE project newsletter

We are pleased to share with you that our First Newsletter is out now!

This newsletter reviews the first steps of the project, a brief introduction about the Lighthouse Cities and Fellow Cities which RESPONSE supports and a quick overview about our latest events, updates and results.

Find the Newsletter here:  

Air quality partners met for a site visit in Turku

In June, partner representatives from the city of Turku, the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and the University of Turku gathered for a site visit in the Student Village, Turku’s Positive Energy District (PED). The purpose of the site visit was for the partners involved in air quality activities, to get familiar with the PED air quality characteristics and the overall air quality measures and monitoring in Turku. In RESPONSE, FMI is responsible for meteorological and dispersion modelling activities. FMI will for example develop SILAM Air Quality Modelling for the PED and demonstrate the use of a high-resolution operative air quality forecasting system. The University of Turku, more specifically the department of Geography and Geology, is providing high-resolution local climate information with a focus on urban planning.

View from the Aitiopaikka rooftop, the buildings in the front of the picture are subject to retrofitting activities, including nano-coating 4-glazing panel windows, high performance ventilation and IoT thermostats funded by RESPONSE. The blue building in the back is the Tyyssiija building, also part of Turku’s Positive Energy Block (PEB), in which most of the infrastructural implementations will take place. Photo: Sini Lamoureux

During the visit, air quality expert Petra Sainisto from the city of Turku introduced the subject of air quality in Turku, stating that there are quite few days per year with poor air quality in the city. When the air quality level drops, it usually happens in spring when the streets dry and the level of dust particles in the air increases.

The tour around the Student Village started on the Aitiopaikka building rooftop which provided a good overview of the PED area. Aitiopaikka, built in 2018 is a four-story apartment building equipped with 516 solar panels. After seeing the PED from above, the site visit led by environmental expert Hans-Peter Huhtala from the city of Turku, continued on the ground. The University of Turku has several air quality measuring sensors in the PED area which are part of the TURCLIM urban weather observation network. The site visit was completed with a stop at the Turku market square air quality measuring station, which monitors the traffic’s impact on the city centre air quality.

Sini Lamoureux, City of Turku

Kick-off Meeting

The official Kick-off Meeting (KoM) was held on November 3rd and 4th, 2020. EIFER, the project coordinator organised it virtually via Zoom Meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to extensive participation of the involved 53 partners, the event gathered distinguished individuals such as Jens Bartholmes, Policy Officer at the European Commission. City representatives of Turku and Dijon were represented by welcome message videos, previously collected from them as part of the preparation process.

The first day of the KoM mainly focused on the cities and their integrated solutions, followed by WP leaders’ presentations which were held on the second day. The content of presentations included description of tasks, deliverables, and upcoming actions of the respective WPs. In order to facilitate discussions, a Q&A session was organised after each presentation and the questions were facilitated only via the chat box. This helped to spark useful discussions leading to significant conclusions.

It is relevant to also note that as a side activity, 30 second video clips were collected from all partners prior to the kick-off, to be played during the meeting as due to the size of the consortium and the virtual meeting set up, it would be complicated to have a classic round table for a consortium of 53 partners. The clips were then grouped by ecosystem and played after the presentations, in order to enable the participants to get acquainted with the representatives involved in different parts of the project. A snapshot of such a video is presented below.