POLAMK 10/2022. Photo: Jenna Lehtonen www.jennalehtonen.com

The Timeout-method was quickly adopted as part of the Polamk projects

The cooperation between the police and the Timeout- foundation started in 2021, when the project Public Communication of the Finnish Police started discussing the Timeout-method. The Police University College recognised the need to develop social dialogue and promote dialogue, and the Timeout-method was seen as a suitable way to achieve these goals. The role of the Timeout-foundation as a neutral facilitator outside the police administration was also seen as valuable, as it would prevent the emphasis that discussions organised by the authorities themselves might have.

So far, the Timeout-method has been used in three different Polamk projects. These are the Pilot study of the renewal of strategy for combating organized crime, Modeling of pre-trial investigation of human trafficking offenses (Ihmemalli) and Public Communication of the Finnish Police.

Within the project Public Communication of the Finnish Police, a day of workshops was organised, which were followed by five different Timeout-discussions in the afternoon. Police management, police station chiefs, national communication experts, stakeholders and the media were invited to take part in the discussions. The aim of the discussions was to identify milestones for the project by consulting a wide range of actors.

The project concerning the strategy for combating organized crime focused on two themes: administrative crime prevention and protecting young people from crime. The Timeout-discussions involved a wide range of participants from the public authorities, organisations, people who have formerly been involved in crime, business representatives and experts from a variety of backgrounds. The discussions provided material for the report, deepened the issues at stake and identified starting points for future solutions and priorities.

The project Modelling the pre-trafficking investigation of trafficking in human beings (Ihmemalli) organised five different events remotely for the police administration in five different police stations. These were complemented by two dialogues for the third sector and two dialogues with a wide participation of different authorities. The invitation process for the discussions in the different police stations started with a request to the management of the police station to nominate a person or persons to participate in the Timeout-discussions.

According to Iina, the approach to the invitation process was effective and the discussions were attended by a diverse group of participants. “The discussions allowed us to kill two birds with one stone. We supported dialogue and development between the administration and the actors, but also collected empirical research material for the research project from the recordings of the discussions,” Iina says.


What has the Timeout-method offered to the discussions organised by Polamk?

Iina says that, especially in the Ihmemalli -project, the dialogues with third sector representatives were fruitful and the approach of the Timeout-method provided a unique opportunity to discuss the topic among the project. “Often only the biggest organisations are heard, but now smaller organisations were also able to have an equal opportunity to discuss with others and feel heard,” Iina explains.

A safe space for dialogue and not judging who comes from which angle were big factors for the participants.”

Terhi says that what was particularly rewarding was going over the groundrules of the dialogue and committing to them from the start. Terhi saw this as highlighting the importance of dialogue, not seeking consensus but aiming to get different perspectives out there. “The discussion based on the groundrules was liberating and people were very engaged in the discussion.

Pirjo appreciates the sense of calm that the method provided. “Asking people to focus and process their own ideas requires orientation, but offers peace of mind. The discussions gave people permission and the opportunity to focus, stop and reflect on their own thoughts in peace,” says Pirjo. “Laura also has an excellent ability to pick up on quiet voices, as participation in a discussion should be invited, not forced,” adds Pirjo.

Focus, listen, participate – and give others the same opportunity.”

Feedback from the discussions has been positive according to all interviewees. The discussions were perceived as useful and interesting, with no negative feedback coming forth to the project implementers.

However, Pirjo adds that the success of these events has led to requests for the discussions to be continued. “In a way, the hope is that now that we have met, networked with new actors and gained a common perspective, what then? It was a pity that at this point in the process of building the background report, there was nothing to give us a further view of the future“, Pirjo points out the shadow side of the discussions’ role as a mapping of the situation without any long term step-by-step indicators.


The expertise of the Timeout-foundation team provided the foundation for successful discussions

The fact that we’ve had professional facilitators leading the discussions has contributed a lot to the work. The professionalism, routine and solid experience have allowed us to focus on the discussion and note-taking,” says Pirjo. “It takes great expertise not to rush in but instead create a calm atmosphere,” Terhi adds.

Experiences regarding facilitators that sometimes get carried away and forget their role as facilitators are familiar to the interviewees. This is another reason why facilitators outside the institution were appreciated.

The interviewees considered it particularly important to plan the topics of the dialogues carefully and to reflect on them in peace before beginning the process of inviting and organising the discussions. Careful and professional preparation for the event enabled the dialogue to run smoothly and in a relaxed atmosphere.

I found it an important addition that Laura took note of the themes that emerged during the discussion. Afterwards we discussed these with Laura and that was a really important addition. A professional facilitator might pick up on something that the rest of us miss,” Minna says.

In fact, all interviewees say that the Timeout-method will be in their toolbox when a potential need and possibility to use it is identified when planning their next project. Enabling multi-voice discussions is seen as crucial not only for internal police work, but also for cooperation with external actors. And the interviewees see the Timeout-method as an excellent way of achieving this objective.


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