We sleep at home and work at work. Meetings are often arranged in a confe-rence room. The lunch room is where we have lunch. We work at our desk in the office or at the machine in a factory. When we want inspiration and new know-ledge we go to networking events, attend lectures or read a book.
“There are ways we do things,” says Lichtermann, “and then there are ways we could do things. The point of Ebbepark is to give people a chance to be and to meet not just inside buildings but also between them, since the physical walls are often themselves barriers.”
It’s a matter of creating a balance between removing the familiar and adding the new.
“Without the risk of things becoming too hippyish, we have to make people do new things. They need to feel con-fident enough to open up on a more personal plane. If one starts, another will often follow. And off it goes.”
These sentiments resonate with what Söör talks about. Cross-fertilising ideas and knowledge by offering people more relaxing ways to meet. There’s also an echo of Axelsson’s notions of meaningfulness and following the grand vision together.
Workations and the gig economy
To grasp the significance of place, you just have to stop and think about where you yourself feel good and energised. If it’s in a hammock on a Mediterranean beach maybe that’s where you should go more often to work? If your employer won’t allow it – and your workplace is the biggest energy thief in your life – maybe it’s time to change job.
There are two expressions that indicate how we’re star-ting to look at places differently.
Workations is a portmanteau of work and vacation. Maybe you relocate for a few weeks of the year to work and live somewhere else. A summer cottage a short train ride away or an apartment abroad. Perhaps the office space you rent in Sweden is part of a larger network that leaves you free to work from Norway, Italy or Japan.
The new place is then not just a workplace, it’s also somewhere that impacts your lifestyle. You meet other people, do new things and explore other sides of your nature and your life.
The gig economy is the trend towards replacing permanent positions with more limited term engagements for consultants, freelancers and temps. For example, a survey (conducted by Sifo on behalf of Bluestep bank) shows that almost half of all Swedes at some time in the future would like to work under other forms of employment than the traditional permanent contract. People in the age-bracket 18–29 are particularly interested in this.
Instead of settling down where the jobs are, we turn things around. First we find a place where we want to live. Then we find or create work out of whatever opportunity or potential presents itself. Increasingly so, therefore, jobs follow the people, not vice versa.
The community binds the place
Here is where I can relax and be myself. This is a feeling you can get anywhere. At home, at work, in your associa-tion or visiting a friend or relative. A sense of belonging. That the people around you think like you despite your differences. That you have something in common.
The community is the tool for attracting – and then retaining – people to a place, be it physical or digital. The place and the community become the hub and the node at which you feel comfortable.
“People like us do things like this,” says marketing guru and author Seth Godin.
By this he means that a community comprises people who share the same values. They know what’s OK and what isn’t in their context without anyone having to produce a bible of commandments.
When it comes to communities and places, you visit them for this very reason: people like us do things like this. You and other people believe in and like a certain thing and in this are united – whether it’s sewing table cloths or creating world peace.
There are also places within places. Like the little department in the big company. You become a place (the department) within the place (the company).
A place-within-a-place can also be the block you live on. Or a certain kind of event.
Let’s say that you’re not that interested in Gothenburg. But at the same time, more concerts of the music you like are arranged there than in any other Swedish city. If the other life conditions are right, you might therefore consider moving there or at least visiting the place much more often.
The music community can be so strong, it makes you go and settle there. Then when the firebrands themselves move away maybe you do too, since your feelings for the city have changed. In this case, the community was what attracted you and the absence of community is what repelled you. But maybe your own passion has been ignited and instead of leaving you step up to become the firebrand that keeps the community’s flame burning.
The characteristics of places that grow
People are naturally drawn to different things. If, however, we talk about what attracts people from a perspective that has an economic bearing there are some attributes common to places that grow. So says Charlotta Mellander. She’s pro-fessor of economics at Jönköping International Business School and a researcher of regional development.
According to Mellander, all attractive places share four characteristics:
- Infrastructure: In addition to producing something, people should also consume and use whatever exists locally. So it’s good if there are restaurants, cafés and shops around and that events are arranged.
- Charm: The place should ideally have an aesthetically attractive environment. Why? Because we like to live in and go to beautiful milieus.
- Connections: If a small place is to attract people, it needs to offer good communications. It has to be easy to nip over to other places with a greater range of offerings.
- Soul: People draw people. The strongest growth occurs where lots of people live. We gravitate towards each other and create environments and places together where we want to live, simultaneously bolstering the local labour market.