Finnish flagship of voluntary work – Jukolan Viesti

Finnish flagship of voluntary work – Jukola relay (Jukolan viesti) showcases leadership and operational excellence that many commercial companies can only dream about.

This article looks the orienteering competition from a different perspective by considering it as an example for a professional business operations.

The voluntary work is dead, long live the voluntary work

Voluntary work has always been at the hearts of Finns. Many of us have harvested hay or built our own houses. However, nowadays there are new kinds of opportunities for voluntary work. Once a year Finnish people showcase their passion for voluntary work in a flagship spectacle called Jukola relay (Jukolan viesti), an international orienteering relay and sports competition honoring the legacy of the Finland’s most celebrated literature treasure Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi. This respected event demonstrates so many world class examples of leadership and operational excellence that many companies and their professional workers can only dream of. I hope that this blog sparks the interest of you as a professional to aim at the “Jukola class” (i.e. the best of the best) in your daily work.

History and facts

Jukola Relay orienteering competition was established 1949 and has been organised 70 times. Nowadays the event attracts almost 50.000 people, including 21.000 competitors and about 1900 volunteering organisers to enjoy a weekend together outside the urban civilisation.

Reflections for professionals

Let me enlist a couple of examples how this amateur event challenges the professionals in their everyday business life.

Voluntary work and Sisu

  • About 1900 voluntary persons host massive group of about 40000-50000 visitors almost “in the middle of the forest”. They build a temporary city for those people just for a weekend. Building the infrastructure like restaurants, retail stores, waste management, sanitation, electricity, water pipes, communications, and so on.
  • The temporary city offers wide variety of services for visitors, as well as spectators all around the world, including marketing, traffic control, restaurants for catering, security officers, IT, media and social media, accomodation, first aid and medical treatment, as well as the orienteering sports competition from start through control points in the forest to finish line and exchange to next leg runners. One interesting and very Finnish service is the biggest tent sauna in the world where thousands of runners relax after their competition.

Unique experience

  • A competition where professional athletes meet amateurs, long timers meet first timers. Everyone has their own challenge and they love it. The brand is carefully built and nurtured throughout the 70 years history.

Great leadership and operational excellence

  • Planning of the event is carefully done. Planning takes years, even if the event last only about two days. Planning and preparation usually takes about six years and the even only two days.
  • There is a lot of passion, drive for continuous improvement, lot of communications and knowledge transfer and learning from past, because the carefully elected organiser of the event changes yearly. Everything must be in tip top shape during those two days and the night in between. This is real operational excellence.

Ecosystem thinking

  • Orienteering clubs and their members, partner companies and institutes work in a joint partnership in order to make all this possible operationally and economically.

Environmental friendly culture

  • Orienteering happens in nature, mostly forest. Therefore all of these people respect nature and act accordingly. Environmental friendliness, ecological acts, circular economy, and tidiness are at the heart of these people. Reuse of infrastructure material happens every year between organisers and participants do not compromise their no littering attitude.

Modern approach and continuous renewal

  • Even if the competition has its’ 70 years of legacy, it has renewed continuously. Digital convergence reached the event already long time ago in the form of modern IT infrastructure, electrical control and online result systems, satellite based tracking of competitors and mobile wireless cameras for television broadcast, social media communications, etc.
  • Many of the modern isms have been applied at the Jukola relay already for a while, e.g. #servitisation, #digitalisation, #ecological, #experiencedriven, #circulareconomy

Finnish Sisu

  • Word sisu translates roughly to willpower, guts, or persistence. This very Finnish value is obviously visible in the event. It is almost impossible to organise such a huge event by volunteer workers without sisu. #passion, #sisu

From unique atmosphere to the highest quality in your business operations

I personally have competed 32 times at Jukola Relay and additionally participated couple of times as a spectator. However, last year was the first time I was part of the huge group of volunteers who organised the event. This year the event will be arranged by my home orienteering club in my home city. You are all welcome to Jukola Relay (Jukolan Viesti) 2019 and sense the unique atmosphere of this flagship of voluntary work.

I wish many professionals and commercial companies aim at continuous improvement in order to reach the “Jukola class” of highest quality in their business operations.

“A strong desire derives a person straight through the hardest rock.” ― Aleksis Kivi, Seven Brothers


Jukola 2019 teaser video:

Jukola 2018 after-movie:



About the author:

Jari Hämäläinen acts as the manager of competition finishing line and anti-doping operations, Kangasala Jukola 2019. He is an orienteer who has competed 32 times at Jukola Relay. His professional background is in container handling logistics and telecommunications industries and he holds doctor of technology degree.