Preserving the Community Halls for Local Civil Society Activities

Community halls are an essential part of Finnish heritage. They have been built, maintained and used for nearly 150 years, parallel to the development of modern civil society. The halls are open to all and serve as the cornerstones of communities, offering premises for hobbies, meetings and festivities and are looked after with love and care by volunteers. This project is a model where state subsidies for sustainable repairs and renovations of the community halls are allocated to local associations via an NGO, the Finnish Local Heritage Federation. The model is innovative because of the strong role of citizens’ engagement at many levels in preserving this unique heritage of local communities.

Preserving the Community Halls for Local Civil Society Activities, FINLAND

Community halls are a culturally, socially, architecturally and historically invaluable group of buildings in Finland. There are around 2,500 halls in the country, almost double the amount of churches in Finland. These buildings serve as central points in their communities and are open to everyone for use at a low or no cost. Half of the halls are located in remote villages in areas where there are no other places suitable for civic activities. They are also used for public functions, including as polling stations, and leased for family events. In many municipalities, the halls are considered so vital for the community that they have been exempted from property tax.

Preserving the Community Halls for Local Civil Society Activities, FINLAND

The Finnish Local Heritage Federation has allocated government grants and provided consultancy in the sustainable repair and conservation of these buildings for decades. The federation works in close cooperation with the National Advisory Board of the Community Halls, which is the steering committee of the state subsidies in the project “Preserving the Community Halls for Local Civil Society Activities”. The committee consists of representatives of NGOs whose member associations own these buildings, such as youth associations, voluntary fire brigades, local heritage associations, and associations for farmers, women, workers and other groups.

The oldest community halls originate from the 19th century. Many of the most impressive buildings have been built by volunteers, and they are maintained today on the same basis. The grants help associations to keep and maintain their much-loved buildings. Good renovation planning and the use of sustainable methods and materials are the prerequisites for receipt of this subsidy, thus ensuring best practices in any maintenance activities.


The successful collaboration between civil society and the public sector in the project Preserving the Community Halls for Local Civil Society Activities is commendable and is noteworthy for its transferability to other places in Europe. This robust interaction and ongoing commitment, by both local communities and the authorities, as well as the scale of the project, in terms of its wide reach and long duration, is truly impressive”, the Awards’ Jury said.

The government grant scheme demonstrates the great importance of local heritage sites to local communities. Its focus on local heritage contributes to the creation of a strong sense of place and, therefore, the collective well-being of the people for whom these places are centres for community life”, the Jury commented.

Contact: Teppo Ylitalo, Finnish Local Heritage Federation | |