Risto Sarvas – Abstract and Bio

Cultural institutions should answer the businesses’ hunger for social impact and meaningfulness!

In his talk Risto takes his experience as a organisation transformation expert and combines it with his views on the growing demand for organisations to define their role in society in general. Especially in the role for cultural institutions such as archives and museums. The background is that businesses are defining their own role in society thanks to big societal issues turning into business challenges to be addressed (e.g., climate change, polarisation of politics, shifting power structures). In this change cultural institutions have an opportunity to polish their own role in the “ecosystem” because they are often already value-based and value-driven. For these institutions, this means looking from the outside and seeing own role as part of a changing society. What does this mean for individual projects and ways of working? Does this help with funding? How to “operationalise” your current values, assets, and history to create a clear role in all this? Risto doesn’t have the answers but he hopes to provoke this line of thinking and seeing this change as a positive drive for the role of culture in society.



Risto Sarvas is a professor of practice at Aalto University, Finland. He is in charge of of a bachelor’s and master’s programs that create societally and ethically conscious engineers who shape the information societies we live in. Before heading these programs Risto spent almost a decade at the European software consultancy Futurice where he was the head of design and also created the Lean Service Creation open source design toolkit. Before this expedition to the commercial world Risto did his doctorate on consumer photography and during his post-doc years he was the leader of a multi-disciplinary research group on social digital media. Risto has co-authored the book “From Snapshots to Social Media” (Springer 2010) and also co-curated the #Snapshot exhibition with the Finnish Museum of Photography in 2014. In 2020 Risto is one of the professors in Aalto University’s Executive Education’s “Business of Culture” leadership program for Nordic cultural institutions.