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“We have a year to make them stay”
“We have a year to make them stay”

How can we build up the village feeling when we build new neighbourhoods for future residents in Boden? This was an issue discussed when the North Sweden Green Deal project held a conference in Gunnarsbyn.

Social inclusion is essential if we are to solve many of the challenges facing our county. It’s a chain that has to hold all the way from the first tentative contact to a new Norrbotten being fully included in social life.

One village that has succeeded in attracting people with roots from different parts of the world is Gunnarsbyn in the municipality of Boden. On 8 November, 80 delegates from different parts of Norrbotten and Västerbotten gathered to learn about concrete examples of how Gunnarsbyn has created a village community characterised by openness and tolerance.

Retaining staff and in-migrants in municipalities is difficult. In Boden, the armed forces have struggled with this in the past and Skellefteå is now noticing it.

– Social inclusion is hugely important. H2 Green Steel does not want to change staff every two years, said Linnéa Byberg, coordinator of the municipality of Boden, during the conference.

Linnéa Byberg highlighted the importance of social inclusion, but also the role of art and culture in helping people choose to stay. Photo: Pär Bäckström/North Sweden Green Deal

Thomas Fägerman, Boden Business Park, highlighted that the window where social inclusion needs to happen is very small. You have a year, he says.

– If we don’t get that inclusion in society, we don’t have time to build stability. A person won’t be finding a partner or starting a business. We want to provide the conditions for more than just professional careers, we want to be attractive enough for people to choose to stay.

50 years of love

These are relationships that neither the municipalities nor the region can order. But it is possible to provide the conditions for them to emerge.

– What we have seen here in Gunnarsbyn is very much about life between the houses,” said Linnéa Byberg.

– How can we build on the good examples? How can we build the village spirit when we build new residential areas? How can we be enablers?

One such prerequisite is not to forget the existing people of Norrbotten. Those who will welcome the newcomers with curiosity and openness must also feel comfortable and involved.

– If we are going to bring the residents into this, we need to give love that we haven’t given in 50 years to our existing neighbourhoods, together with the residents. “We will check the area by area so that the people who actually live here feel that they are part of it,” said Mats Berg, municipality manager of Boden.

But if the future residents of Norrbotten are to find their way here, we need to find them, connect with them and help them take the plunge. In the Attraction work package, the Swedish Lapland Visitors Board and the municipalities in the county are working to create new methods and ways of working to do just that.

The first snow of the winter fell when the North Sweden Green Deal held a conference in Gunnarsbyn, four miles from Boden. Photo: Pär Bäckström/North Sweden Green Deal

Fredrik Broman, an entrepreneur active in the Gunnarsbyn area, stressed the importance of using the tourism industry to reach potential lifestyle migrants.

– The small-scale tourism industry can create buzz in the international media. There are huge opportunities to sneak in Live and Stay, the difficulty is the reception capacity.

New life for a deserted house

One element of reception capacity is of course the availability of housing. Gunnarsbyn is very much wrestling with this question.

– The future for us is housing and finance. I spend almost all my time on that now. Growing together is the name of a derelict housing project. There are 120 derelict houses in our area. Imagine if some of them could be sold, that would be fantastic, said Jenny Engström, head of operations at the economic association RÅEK in Gunnarsby-bygden.

Mia Ahlstrand stressed the importance of good cooperation in the challenges facing Norrbotten. Photo: Pär Bäckström/North Sweden Green Deal

Sustainable social transformation is a complex issue with many dimensions. The solutions must also be complex. The North Sweden Green Deal is about cooperation on a whole new level within the region.

– It is important that we work well together. Invite each other, ask for help, offer help, find new contacts, create new networks. We can meet the challenges,” said NSGD’s overall project manager Mia Ahlstrand.

She linked to what the conference participants experienced during the hike in Gunnarsbyn earlier in the day.

– There was commitment and openness at every station. It invites self-reflection, when was the last time someone sat in my kitchen who was new? Apply openness and inclusion both in your work and private life, she said.

The North Sweden Green Deal is an initiative to realise a sustainable societal transformation, in the wake of the new industrial settlements. The project is run by Region Norrbotten and Region Västerbotten together with a number of other participant. It is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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