Innovation partnership created a new way of learning

If you want innovative final results, you should realise some procurement projects in unconventional ways. A procurement project realised through an innovation partnership of the Finnish National Agency for Education created high-quality new learning materials on the circular economy and sustainable consumption.

The goal of the project, realised in cooperation by the Finnish National Agency for Education and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, was to create learning materials on the circular economy and the opportunities it provides to pupils in years 3–6 of primary school.

“We did not have any specific idea of how the learning materials were to be realised. The goal was a solution of high pedagogical quality, and the digital format, for instance, was not a value in itself for us. We wanted a solution suited for varied teaching that would enable active learning in class and in other environments,” says Juho Helminen, a specialist from the Finnish National Agency for Education.

When the goals for the learning materials were being specified, there were some concerns that a traditional planning competition would not lead to the optimal final result.

“We were aware of the innovation partnership procurement method, but we did not dare to set out to realise an innovation partnership alone. We received a strong recommendation from within our own organisation to use Hansel’s expertise in the tendering process, and Hansel assisted us in verifying that innovation partnership was the right approach for us.”

While conventional public procurement is a procedure aiming at awarding a contract for specific products or services, innovative procurement is about responding to a specific need. The procurement procedure challenges the participants to create something new: there must not be even a prototype of the offered solution on the market. Innovation partnership encourages close cooperation between the customer and the tenderers.

Complete teaching path

Procurement of the teaching materials started with a negotiation phase in which the tenderers pitched their concepts to representatives of the Finnish National Agency for Education and Sitra and received feedback from them. Two tenderers were selected for the next phase on the basis of these negotiations. They prepared pilots consisting of two lessons based on their concepts. The pilots were tested in a real-life school environment to determine the actual performance of the teaching materials and the extent to which they support the teacher’s work. The winner was selected on the basis of the pilot results, and they continued the development of their learning materials into a ready-made product.

“The pitching and sample lessons were extremely interesting. The process introduced by Hansel and a clear-cut deadline assisted the tenderers to understand our wishes and the operating method in an innovation partnership,” Helminen says.

The winner was not easy to choose, and the decision was made with great care. The winner uses a video-based method that focuses on a global approach and the pupils’ activation. The learning materials, called Kierroksia (“Rounds”), convinced the Finnish National Agency for Education and Sitra with their scope and the fact that they included readymade teaching paths for teachers of different types.

The learning materials will not be launched to a wider audience until the Swedish version is complete, but feedback on the Finnish version has been enthusiastic. As of late 2019, all primary schools have access to the materials free of charge.

“There is no doubt that innovation partnership was the best approach for the procurement of the learning materials. If you want a completely new type of solution and you don’t have any specific requirements, innovation partnership is the ultimate approach,” Juho Helminen concludes.

Click here to study the selected learning materials.