How to form a winner team

Last Friday a student team from the University of Helsinki won the international Sustainergies Cup competition in Stockholm. They all want to create a career around solving sustainability issues in business and society. However, the biggest reason they spend their free time working together is that it is so much fun.

The team was born in the spring 2014 at the Sustainable solutions project course at the University of Helsinki. Four students from different backgrounds were put together to solve a sustainability challenge for Skanska, a Sweden-based multinational construction company.

“None of us has ever studied construction engineering: we are students of environmental science, environmental economics and public policy. But university is also about learning to search for information and being convincing, right?” says one of the group members, Meeri Helminen.

Photo: Erik Mårtensson/ NCC
Photo: Erik Mårtensson/ NCC

Lari Hokkanen, Meeri Helminen, Wilhelm Ehrnrooth and Tyyra Linko think that it was the intensive work days at the Sustainable solutions course that made them such a strong team. Studies at the university include quite a lot of group works. But to get most of those group works done, students do not have to get to know each other. Real teamwork is not the same as joining individually done parts together.

“We told bad jokes, danced ballet and squatted under the table. It might sound stupid, but we had fun together. And the fact that we enjoy working together is also transmitted through the work we do.”

After the project course the team continued to work together and kept eyes open for new and creative projects. In December they attended the Sustainergies Cup, an international student competition that aims to find sustainable solutions for partner companies. By a happy coincidence one of the partners this year was the construction company NCC. The task was to “re-imagine construction sites” in a way that they could create local, social and environmental benefits to the society.

As solution Lari, Meeri, Wilhelm and Tyyra created a practical and easy-to-adapt idea concept, that highlights both urban culture and environmental sustainability around construction sites. The teams competition entry “Articipation – Constructing Future Communities” included elements of local participation and social media, new kinds of local recycling possibilities and creative use of contemporary and street art. The appealing and brave presentation paid off and in ongoing February the team travelled to Stockholm as the finalists of Sustainergies Cup 2015.

“Our idea was simple, but it took into account the whole lifecycle of the construction process. Maybe that is why NCC found it so appealing and applicable.”

In Stockholm the Sustainergies Cup finalists had the opportunity to visit NCC’s construction site of a huge office building and learn about the process. Finalists also presented their ideas to the company’s representatives and the other finalists at NCC’s headquarters. The sleep-deprived Finnish team enjoyed the day with a great amount of Swedish hospitality and new contacts. As the prize ceremony ended with the team holding a placard stating that they won, they felt genuinely amazed.

“To receive this amount of credit from the work we’ve done feels great. It is a great boost for one’s confidence: we have actual expertise and know-how to put it in action”, says Lari Hokkanen, a second-year-student of public policy.

Now it is the time to do some serious networking and make the most of the moment. Still, the great question hangs in the air – what will this team do next?

“The concept we created for Sustainergies Cup has already raised some interest and it might be opening possibilities for new projects. This team will definitely keep working together, that’s for sure.”

Photo: Erik Mårtensson/ NCC
Photo: Erik Mårtensson/ NCC

Header photo: Antti Surma-aho