University of Turku, Turku School of Economics
Choose Your Future Campaign
Students at Turku School of Economics challenged extremism and won first prize in an international Facebook and U.S. State Department competition with Choose Your Future, a mobile app and Facebook campaign to welcome and acclimate asylum seekers in Finland.
Call to Action
In 2015, Europe faced a migration challenge: tens of thousands of people had to leave their homes in Assyria, Afghanistan, and Iraq and seek asylum in European countries. Finland, a country with a small population—only 5.5 million citizens—and unaccustomed to mass immigration, received over 30,000 asylum applicants that year. In order to respond to the migration challenge, students at Turku School of Economics developed the Choose Your Future campaign to welcome and acclimate asylum seekers in Finland, which won first prize in the International Facebook Global Digital Challenge competition.
The campaign was designed and implemented in fall 2015 as an assignment in a Strategic Brand Management course steered by professors Joni Salminen and Ulla Hakala. During the course, 49 students developed a mobile application called About Turku to ease the integration process of the arriving asylum seekers by providing relevant information about neighboring areas in their native language. The idea was to give asylum seekers a welcome feeling and show them that the Finnish people care.
In addition, Choose Your Future organized various events ranging from friendly soccer games
Besides the mobile application, the student group also founded a Facebook community where local residents and asylum seekers could communicate and learn more about each other’s cultures. (United by Football) to an international restaurant day (United by Food), where asylum seekers prepared food traditional to their home cultures. The event brought together more than 200 asylum seekers in four busloads from nearby reception centers. During the event, over 600 meals were sold in approximately three hours. Through Facebook the event reached over 28,000 people and engaged 754 people on site. Profits were donated to the Finnish Red Cross for providing leisure activities for local reception centers. The Finnish Red Cross has already expressed interest in hosting the event again in the future.
The overall aim of the online and offline actions was to challenge extremism by promoting integration as well as raise awareness of the refugee situation and affect public opinion. The campaign created a lot of media exposure both in traditional media—TV, radio, and print—and in social media, where 134,211 people were reached.
During the campaign the students conducted an online survey in which they gathered Finnish people’s thoughts about the refugee situation in general, and on the Choose Your Future campaign.
88 percent of survey participants felt that more should be done to help asylum seekers integrate into society
67 percent were relatively or very interested in organizing events and activities for asylum seekers/immigrants
58 percent (a majority of participants) said a campaign such as Choose Your Future can help change negative attitudes toward asylum seekers as well as help them and other immigrants integrate into society
The highly successful campaign is currently continuing its legacy as a company, founded by a team of six students who participated in the Strategic Brand Management course. The scope of integration has been widened to target not only asylum seekers but anyone who has moved to a new area in search of new opportunities—for example, students and people moving to a new place for work. The team is currently developing a digital service to support successful integration.