Sweden is unique when it comes to values. We believe in a strong community and public sector but are also extremely individualistic. We’ve worked hard with gender equality and is seen as the most gender equal country in Europe. We are well-educated, healthy, and trustful. All this is combined in Umeå, the largest city in the region with the highest combined score in EU Regional Social Progress Index. Our region is moreover very innovative, as shown in the European Regional innovation scoreboard.

Umeå takes this one step further. The city is characterized by high education levels and income, with a Do It Together mentality. Creativity, networking and innovation combined with the building of a vibrant city in an otherwise primarily rural hinterland, is summarised in the city’s vision: “Umeå will continue growing with social, ecological, cultural and economic sustainability and the vision of becoming 200,000 citizens 2050”.

As European Capital of Culture 2014, Umeå introduced itself as the innovative city empowering its citizens and vice versa. We have learned that many initiatives tend to call on certain citizens and leave others out. We’ve developed methods to reach underrepresented groups and use community-based approaches to involve citizens in governance and decision-making. New methods are needed as this is not just a democratic issue – it is the foundation for both innovation and sustainability, and diversity makes us more innovative.

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