A very special guest paid a visit to our office. The guest, Katariina Salmela-Aro, is part of the ESP (Education and Social Progress) team, which is planning an instrument for OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to measure social and emotional skills side by side with other educational skills in schools. She is a professor at Universities of Jyväskylä and Helsinki focusing on psychology and education. Her primary research focus is on academic well-being.

We had an exciting chance to discuss this upcoming OECD pilot with Salmela-Aro. According to her, the idea to measure social and emotional skills is not new at all. She estimates that the OECD pilot has been in the works for the past ten years! There’s a good reason for the interest.

Social and emotional skills, as well as interpersonal skills, are considered among the most critical abilities to thrive in the future.

In the OECD report “Skills for Social Progress,” it is estimated that children’s capacity to strive for goals, work effectively with others, and manage emotions will be fundamental for them to beat the 21st Century challenges.

Salmela-Aro believes that the significance of social skills will arise, even beyond the cognitive skills.

With that in mind, one aim of the ESP project is to find concrete research evidence to support the importance of social skills.

The OECD pilot study will focus on young kids, and the roots of the constructed instrument are in Big Five personality traits. The questions will be for instance about regulating emotions, setting goals, self-control, teamwork skills, and self-esteem. To our grave disappointment, Salmela-Aro told us that there is a high possibility that Finland might not be taking part in the pilot study because of funding issues. 

We also asked Salmela-Aro what she thinks about Finland being the one to export social skills globally. Some people have been grinning at us because of our ambitious goal wanting to be a teacher for social skills! Well, it looks like there’s truth to that. Salmela-Aro admits that Finland is not a top country when it comes to social skills. You might have heard about Finnish sisu. Finnish sisu researcher, Emilia Lahti, defines sisu as a reserve of power, which enables extraordinary action to overcome mentally or physically challenging situations. Even though Finnish national ice hockey team is a pretty good example of sisu’s role in team success, our national strength is usually connected to working hard, alone.

Could it be that the emphasis on individuality and getting along by oneself has led to these yet underutilized social skills? 

Many social innovations are born out of real need. Certainly, it’s essential for us Finns to develop our social proficiency, but we are definitely not the only ones. High global demand for social skills makes Mightifier a great product to export, and we are very excited to share our journey with you!

Read MORE about the OECD ESP project.