Meet the newest Ashoka Fellows in the Nordics

We are proud to announce our three new Ashoka fellows: Jimmy Westerheim (Founder of The Human Aspect Foundation in Norway); Jenny Lindström-Beijar (Founder of Our Normal Association in Sweden) and Markus Raivio (Co-founder of Kukunori and the first-ever elected fellow in Finland).
Newest Ashoka Fellows in the Nordics
Source: Newest Ashoka Fellows in the Nordics

After having passed through Ashoka’s selection process, they have now joined a global network of over 3,700 Ashoka fellows. During their selection process, Ashoka Nordic's newest Fellows demonstrated a big new idea that results in social impact, entrepreneurial qualities, and ethical fiber. They are now receiving support from Ashoka in order to help grow their initiatives and magnify their powerful impact on society.  

Read on to meet these amazing social entrepreneurs, who share their vision to promote more inclusive societies in the Nordics and beyond: 

Jimmy Westerheim: Democratizing Mental Health 

Jimmy’s initiative “The Human Aspect” (THA) aims to democratize mental health – essentially humanizing and normalizing the topic as a shared human experience. THA does this by first providing individuals with the knowledge and support needed to start addressing their mental health challenges.  

Jimmy Westerheim

By opening conversation around mental health challenges on a digital platform, stories are shared through people’s lived experiences, speaking to how they are overcoming mental health ailments and creating a shared sense of understanding as people realize how others face similar struggles. 

Blurring the borders of geographical and cultural boundaries, Jimmy’s approach uses a shared interview format that humanizes and normalizes mental health challenges from people located across 95 countries. This ‘Life Experience Library’ is central to The Human Aspect. The recorded interviews expand on three central questions: ‘What has been your life’s toughest challenge? How did you handle and move beyond it? And what have you learned?’ -- compiling a collection of stories that provide evidence and support for a diversity of mental health challenges. Anxiety, depression, trauma related to conflict, poverty, grief, and addiction are examples of some of the struggles people share in the Life Experience Library. The videos are also edited by a psychologist to help with accuracy, and people are encouraged to engage with others in the online community. 

Learn more about The Human Aspect and Jimmy’s work here and watch this video with Jimmy:  

Jenny Lindström-Beijar: Redefining the way we think of “normal” 

The common narrative surrounding disability is often one of “otherness” that assumes there is one type of “normal”. This reinforces the split and marginalization of groups with disabilities. Jenny Lindström-Beijar’s approach to disability is redefining what it means to be “normal” in order to support the goal of a more inclusive understanding of the concept.  

Jenny Lindström Beijar

Her initiative, 'Our Normal', is humanizing disability through a web platform that enables families of children with disabilities to connect – offering support and a better understanding of how to nurture their children’s individuality. 

As a digital platform, 'Our Normal' is the first of its kind within Sweden to offer support to families caring for children’s disabilities – sharing experiences and helping other families navigate spaces that can suit a diverse range of functional diversities. The organization also encourages families themselves to take on advocacy roles as changemakers within their own communities. For instance, opportunities to create meetups and utilize the power of larger groups for effecting change are aspects that reflect the changemaking quality of 'Our Normal'. 

Learn more about Our Normal here and watch this video with Jenny:  

Markus Raivio: From collaboration to transformation in mental healthcare

According to Markus Raivio, Finland’s mental health sector still embraces traditional approaches to care. This approach is based on the assumption that a trained professional is necessarily best suited to interact with people with mental health issues. Markus believes that mental health professionals’ assessment of someone’s ability to function too often focuses on what the evaluator considers important, based on their own training and preferred approach, rather than on the client’s needs and dreams. The power dynamic embedded in this leaves those dealing with serious mental health challenges with little sense of agency to recover and reintegrate into communities and workplaces.   

Markus Raivio

Markus Raivio is therefore determined to change the uneven dynamic, having worked in the field for more than a decade. His approach reshapes traditional therapist-patient dynamics into client-led collaborations and reallocates the resources for recovery.

Markus and his team have designed a co-creative framework for mental health care, which is the foundation for the Guided Peer Support model (GFP). In this open-source model, mental health clients are participating in training programs to tutor functional groups to each other. The peer tutors are trained by professionals to support clients in groups. Instead of focusing on problems, the clients do and learn new things that they are interested in together. The contents of the functional groups are usually art-based and include for example music, multimedia and visual arts, but activities with animals and sports are also common.    

Learn more about Kukunori and join us on May 18, live from Helsinki, to learn more and welcome Ashoka’s first Fellow in Finland! This conversation will last about 30 minutes. Bring your questions and register here.

Markus Raivio-Welcome Change

The Ashoka Fellowship

Do you know - or are you yourself - someone with a path-breaking new idea who is approaching problem-solving in an entrepreneurial and creative way? 

Read more about the Ashoka Fellowship and Nominate a Fellow here.