Ebbepark in Linköping is undergoing a transformation from today’s business park to tomorrow’s sustainable urban district, an area that according to their website “is vibrant and buzzing with activity 24 hours a day. A dynamic growth environment for business ideas and innovations, with apartments, services and everything else essential to the living of lives.”
Apartments and shops. Innovation and sustainability. 24 hours a day. One of those charged with making sure this grand vision comes to fruition is Linn Lichtermann, the area’s community manager. “I’ve never done it before. So when you ask me how I’m going to do it, I say I have no idea. It’d be best if you could finish the book first, so I can read it and then answer your questions.”
When we meet it’s her second day on the job. And she’s right. She’s never built a community. But she has worked as communications officer for various divisions of Saab and as head of the company’s external relations in Östergötland. Roles in which she’s served as an advisor and hub for other people. Linn Lichtermann knows how networks and communities are created.
“I envision myself as a watering can, watering what people are trying to build and what wants to spontaneously emerge. But I also have a box of matches to light campfires with. Fires in the form of concrete activities that people can gather around.”
She looks through the window. Everywhere new buildings are rising, but it’s not these she sees; it’s what will come after-wards.
The district has been home to enterprises for years. Yet it’s something of a forgotten part of the city. So Lichter-mann has been wondering a lot about whether there’s already a community in place and how it will be affected now that she’s been tasked with building a new one.
There are small groups, but nothing to naturally bond them. And this is precisely what’s going to be formed.
“What we want to build is the larger context. When you hear the name Ebbepark I don’t want you to think about a certain company or café here but the place itself. If you live, work or socialize here, you should feel a sense of belonging. Maybe even of love for the place.”
Many people at the same place attract talent
Lichtermann thinks her job is very much about creating and building relationships. About not only listening to what the people in the local companies want but also about being true to the vision that lies at the heart of Ebbepark. They then need to be open to the activities and events it gives rise to.
“People are always the context. It’s their feeling and the way they relate to each other that make up the collective. When that goes, there’s nothing left. You can never there-fore have complete ownership of a community. But you can be clear about the conditions and values that apply to your creations. As a consequence you’ll either attract people who believe in it or repel those who don’t.”
She says that they talk a great deal about attracting talent. About the advantages that companies can enjoy in being part of a community and a context that is greater than themselves. It can make it easier to attract not only employees but also customers, drawn there by the fact that everyone is talking about one and the same place.
“Simply by saying that they’re in Mjärdevi, for instance, which is one of the sites of Linköping Science Park, a company acquires a special aura. For us Linköping residents it says something about the business and adds a certain sheen to its brand. We hope this will be the case for Ebbepark too. Since we aim to have a fairly wide spread of companies here, maybe the name can become a hallmark of quality.”