The Kanuuna (Cannon) Network - Finnish network of local government youth work



Kanuuna is a Network of youth services in the 27 biggest cities in Finland. About 60% of youth in Finland below 29 years of age live in the Cannon cities. The Network was established in 2007 and is supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Its main activities are:

  • to support peer learning in youth work and youth policy,
  • to carry out research and development projects and
  • to function as an advocate and expert of youth work and young people

The chair of the network is the City of Lahti (Jouni Kivilahti) with a staff of a coordinator (Suvi Lappalainen) and a special advisor (Lasse Siurala).

  1. Peer learning

Peer learning refers to a process of accumulation of knowledge and competence through a networked form of learners (notably practitioners) learning from each other. Peer learning is based on practice, is learner oriented, presupposes a group of learners and, ideally, leads to action. Kanuuna is a network of the directors of local youth work to develop youth work and youth policy through exchange and accumulation of experiences and competences. To this end the network…

  • convenes the directors of youth services in two annual 2-day meetings to discuss current issues
  • runs thematic networks of youth workers specialized in (1) multicultural youth work, (2) youth work at the school and (3) quality assessment.
  • administers a website gathering information on meetings, seminars, reports, research, blogs and links to member youth services etc.
  • gathers statistical indicators on its performance
  • organizes training in quality assessment and facilitates regional peer auditing
  • is in charge of research and development projects on topical youth questions (see below)

  1. Research and development

Kanuuna network run between 2009-2011 a R&D project on “open youth work” and “multicultural youth work” (see the English summary on Kiilakoski&Honkasalo&Kivijärvi 2011.  Building capacity in youth work: Perspectives and practice in youth clubs in Finland and Sweden.Torbjörn Forkby & Tomi Kiilakoski  see the article, Youth &Policy. No 112, April 2014).  The study reminds us of the danger of the youth centers becoming hidebound. The contents, working methods and the image of a youth center must be constantly reflected and renewed. There is a tendency of the youth center to become self-sufficient and isolated from the surrounding society, community and the young people. The Kanuuna study on youth centers in 17 cities around the country showed that many of the centers had become capsulated within their own walls. The study suggests, first, that the centers should develop working methods to reach young people outside the youth centers; better marketing (together with young people), use of social media, the local schools, organizing events, outreaching youth work etc. Second, the centers should invest more in regional cooperation and networking; with the school staff, people working in the health, social and employment sectors, the non-profit organizations, private companies etc. Third, the youth centers should strengthen its knowledge base; constant quality assessment of its own activities, more systematic use of the silent and explicit knowledge of the youth workers, better information of those young people who do not visit the center, better overview on the living conditions and aspirations of local youth, better linkages to others producing knowledge on youth, etc. Without these efforts the youth centers run the risk of being unable to argue for their existence: why do we need youth centers?

The second 3 –year project on “youth work and school” started 2012 and looks at the promises and difficulties of collaboration between two educational organizations with different educational approaches, professional backgrounds and working methods. Despite the differences the project is set to explore the potential synergies between non-formal and formal learning. For some early reflections, see articles by Tomi Kiilakoski.

There is increased emphasis on evidence based policies and on evaluating efficiency, quality and impact of youth work. The network has run since 2009 quality assessment of youth work based on a tool applied to Finnish conditions from a model of the Kent County Council Youth Service (UK). At the moment the Finnish tool is being modernized through a project run by the City of Lappeenranta in co-operation with Kanuuna and the Allianssi, the Finnish umbrella organization for youth organizations. The aim is to develop a joint quality assessment tool for both municipal youth work and for youth organizations.

The most recent R&D project looks at work youth work with young people over 16 years of age, as the main target group of open youth work has been those under. Manu emergent youth issues like integration into secondary education and the labor markets, the refugees and the rise of extreme right, nationalism and intolerance concerns this particular age group. The R&D project (2015-2018) is to be carried out in cooperation with the Humak University of Applied Sciences (the largest youth worker training institute in Finland). The method is to establish learning processes anchored in the practice of youth work.     

  1. Indicators and quality assessment

Youth work has increasingly felt the pressure to prove its outcomes and its quality. Some have strongly opposed ‘the measurement tendency’, others have tried pragmatically to follow with a minimum effort, yet some others have made even good use of the New Public Management tools and different kinds of evaluation instruments. Kanuuna network has developed a set of indicators to make its youth work transparent, to assess and develop it:

  • Statistical indicators on key activities (number of visits, group work activites, long-term support of youth at risk, camping acitivities, on-line contacts, camps, number of youth organizations and their members, etc)
  • Statistical info  about the youth services of the member cities
  • Key indicators of the welfare of young people based on a large national School Health Survey (bi-annual municipal level data)
  • Quality assessment data of open youth work using the tool described in Nöjd & Siurala 2015 (in English) and Nöjd 2015 (in Finnish)

The material is available in a joint data base (only in Finnish).


    4. Advocacy and cooperation with the youth field

The Government and ministries have sharpened their political guidance of the municipalities and the youth field, in particular. This has taken place through the Government’s own policy programs, legislation and through the Children and Youth Policy Plans of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The relations between the state and municipalities in Finland are framed by ‘municipal autonomy’ through which the local level is relatively independent in providing a large variety of services. The budgets of the cities are covered mainly through municipal taxes. As a rule, about 95% of the budget of a city’s youth service comes from the tax-payers money. In this situation it is increasingly important that those representing local youth work establish an open and ongoing dialogue with the state.

Kanuuna has actively participated in the discussions and sometimes preparation of government programs, youth policy plans and legislation. However, there is room for improvement of the impact that the youth field can have on government activities. A recent trend has been an increasing dialogue within the youth field actors to create a collective impact. This has meant two things. First, the Kanuuna directors need to keep up and discuss on national youth policy issues. Second, the actors of the youth field must have the respective reflections to align their joint approaches and statements. For that purpose Kanuuna is actively cooperating with following actors:

It is worthwhile to note that municipal youth work has a direct access to the conditions and aspirations of young people through the face-to-face contacts of the 3 500 youth workers with young people and through its own statistics, indicators, studies and other empirical data. Kanuuna is an expert on youth matters and a voice from the young people.

   5. International activities

Kanuuna is actively engaged in international youth work and youth policy cooperation. The member cities of Kanuuna are involved with European youth field networks, run bi- and multilateral exchange programs with other European cities, actively use Youth in Action programs and are partners with other projects of the Commission. There are individual level engagements in European youth policies, like a membership in the recently established (2013) “The Think tank on European Youth Policies”.

Kanuuna organized a European Conference on “Peer Learning in Youth Work and Policy the 9-10 December 2013 at Helsinki. The Conference aims at (1) the development of peer learning as a Europe-wide practice in youth work and (2) the establishment of a European Network of Local Government Youth Work.

Kanuuna is a member of The European Network of Local Departments of Youth Work  (Inter City Youth). See Board meeting notes (InterCity Youth -Network folder).

A short ppt-presentation of ICY  (see InterCity Youth -Network folder)

Cooperation partner in Sweden KEKS.

    6. Members

MembersThe members of the Kanuuna network are those municipalicities with over 40 000 inhabitants. Within the framework of the relatively small municipalities in a country with a sparse population (Finland has 5.4 million inhabitants), these cities are titled ”big cities”. In the order of size the Kanuuna cities are: Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Kuopio, Kouvola, Pori, Joensuu, Lappeenranta, Hämeenlinna, Rovaniemi, Vaasa, Seinäjoki, Kotka, Salo, Mikkeli, Porvoo, Kokkola, Hyvinkää, Rauma, Nurmijärvi, Lohja and Järvenpää (27 municipalities).

Due to the ongoing structural reform of the Finnish municipalities, a number of merges are expected and cities over 40 000 inhabitants will increase. At the same it is possible that some of the biggest cities at and around the metropolitan area will merge and thus reduce the number of Kanuuna cities. Even if the number of Kanuuna cities will remain the same or slightly increase, there will be a definite increase of population coverage within the Kanuuna network.

   7. Contact

Jouni Kivilahti, Chair:

Lasse Siurala, Special advisor:

Suvi Lappalainen, Coordinator:


Statement by Kanuuna – Finnish network for directors of local government youth work:


City of Kuopio 12-13 November 2015

Municipal youth workers will be trained in discussing “human rights and refugees” with the young people. The task of youth work is to educate young people to see the world through the eyes of the others, say the Youth Directors of the 27 biggest cities in Finland.

This year Finland has received almost 30 000 asylum seekers. It is a lot. Many municipalities discuss today, why have so many people arrived. Many of the citizens are worried about how this changes their place of residence.

Refugees seek for shelter from war and persecution. The UN treaties guarantee a right to seek asylum in foreign countries. The right belongs to Syrians, Iraqians as well as to all Finns. People do not leave their own home and undertake a dangerous voyage, if they wouldn’t be compelled to do it. Parents do not send their children alone to the other side of the world, if they saw that their place of residence and their country provide a chance to decent life.

Even if the number of asylum seekers in Finland feels big, the majority of them do not, however, arrive here. The largest part of those running away from war crosses only one or two borders. Many of them living in refugee camps still wish to return back home. The hope that the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria could improve have started to wither away and this is the reason to move out. 

A significant share of those having arrived at Finland will stay in Finland. A more multicultural Finland is the new normal. It is a reality, which is not going anywhere.

The starting-point, the core and the condition for revival of youth work is human rights. Youth work is based on the principle that everybody who becomes a participant in our activities has equal rights to define her- or himself as a human being. The strength of youth work is to support the growth of every young person to someone who recognizes and assumes her or his responsibility as a citizen. Youth work is also committed to help young people with fewer opportunities. This is why municipal youth work is on board organizing activities all around Finland for those arriving here.

As those responsible for urban youth work we think that it is youth work in particular which is responsible for strengthening the human rights approach in the Finnish debates. About 60% of young people in Finland live in the Kanuuna cities which also employ about 80% of municipal youth workers in Finland. We will provide training for our staff to better understand refugees and human rights. We train our staff to be able to have better discussions about the refugee phenomena with the young people already participating in our activities. We think that one of the key missions of youth work is to improve the ability of young people to see the world through the eyes of the others. We further think that it is the task of youth work also in the public debate to emphasize that human rights belong to all. Strengthening human rights helps youth workers to organize activities for asylum seekers, manage local concerns, mediate possible conflicts and offer those arriving better conditions to grow up citizens of all and equal rights in our communities.   

In today’s public debates and coffee tables refugees are addressed as those. When we talk about those, we ruin the humanity of the people arriving at Finland. Asylum seekers are not those, but them. They have their families, dreams, people close to them and their professions. They want for their children and for other people close to them a life without cruelty, a life where one can talk and meet freely and where one can fulfil oneself without the fear of violence.

The people arrived at Finland are now ‘them’. There are them and us. If we don’t do anything, we will continue living in their and our worlds. If we open our world and invite them in, there would soon be only us. The fact that in the future there would be only us would mean a better society for both current them and current us.  

Signed by Youth Directors of 25 Kanuuna cities