Joni Karjalainen
M Soc Sc

+358 40 702 9691

Korkeavuorenkatu 25 Helsinki


Best reached through e-mail and skype. Working remotely in Accra, Ghana.

ORCID identifier:

Sähköistyminen vertaisyhteiskunnassa - uusi tarina Suomen tulevaisuudelle

Kestävät energiaratkaisut ja lähes 0-energiarakentamisen verkkokurssit


Areas of expertise
anticipation; foresight; energy transition; horizon scanning; innovation collaboration; scenario; solar; sustainable development indicators; urban governance


Joni Karjalainen is a project researcher and a doctoral candidate in the Finland Futures Research Centre. His research entails three themes: learning from crises, energy transition, and off-grid solar energy entrepreneurship.

Currently, his research learns from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a view to unexpected events, discontinuities, and how crises affect urban environments. Crises may be previously recognized, unexpected or even unimaginable. Another research theme concerns the energy transition toward a decentralized, digital, emission-free world. Karjalainen is a co-author to “Electrification in Peer-to-Peer Society. A New Narrative for Sustainable Futures”, a science-book, available in three languages: Finnish, English and Spanish.

He is also interested in the uptake of renewable energy technologies in sub-Saharan Africa and the strategies to attain Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In his doctoral research, he studies novel business models and innovation patterns in solar energy in the East Africa. Understanding such dynamics may help in exploring and shaping preferred futures.

He is an author of over 10 academic peer-reviewed articles and over 15 scientific research reports. In recent years, Karjalainen has been based in Accra, Ghana, in the Institute for Futures Research (IFR) in South Africa as a visiting researcher as well as acted as a Visiting Fellow in the University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) in the United Kingdom. He also holds previous experience in international development and innovation collaboration.

Karjalainen has worked in the centre since 2013. Karjalainen has a political science degree (M Soc Sc) from the University of Helsinki.


Currently, Karjalainen is mainly focused on two research topics, learning from crises and off-grid solar energy entrepreneurship.

First of all, the coronavirus pandemic emerged as a dramatic global shock, causing a prolonged state of uncertainty. A notable feature of responses to the COVID-19 crisis concerns the speculative debates and discussions of a “New Normal”. Multiple ideas, at many levels, sectors and different parts of society, have been provoked of what might emerge in the wake of the crisis, as an emerging future. Especially, the pandemic has provoked societies to think about crises as well as to imagine how to survive them in the future. Futures dialogues are a way to learn from crises, and to explore expectations concerning the new normal, and the built environment after the pandemic.

Secondly, solar energy is increasingly expected to power Africa’s future. Despite a hope of its growing uptake, the penetration of solar products (solar lighting, solar home systems and micro- and mini-grids) and services in African countries has been slow. In the 2010s, the global energy landscape witnessed unexpected changes, as the cost of solar photovoltaics has fallen dramatically. These trends and future trajectories of solar PV for African countries, however, have received limited attention. The uptake of solar energy coincides with a growing fascination for promoting innovation in developing countries. In pioneering markets, such as Kenya and Tanzania, innovative business models, incorporating ICT-based innovations such as mobile banking, machine-to-machine communications and artificial intelligence (AI) have emerged. There has been little analysis of what enabled these pioneering ventures to emerge, the role of global innovation networks, and expectations locally in harnessing these technologies.


Karjalainen performs master's thesis supervision, and is also interested in how futures can be learned around the world.

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Last updated on 2022-29-06 at 02:25