250 opportunities to change

It all started with a blog post in 2013, and this autumn, several hundred people are expected to visit Jönköping University to participate in the conference 250 opportunities.

In December 2013, Charlotta Mellander, Professor of Economics at Jönköping International Business School, wrote a blog post about young people choosing to move away from smaller cities, and the problems this entails. The post became widely spread, and it turned out this was a topic that both touched and engaged people.

The foundation Sparbanksstiftelsen Alpha, and later the Swedish Board of Agriculture, contacted Charlotta Mellander to start a collaboration with her and her colleagues. They quickly realised the need of a platform for shrinking municipalities, and decided to organise an event to illuminate the subject. The result was the conference 250 opportunities.

The conference aims to mix current research with useful examples. The name refers to tha fact that there was, and still is, about 250 municipalities in Sweden who lose their young over time, and that they all have the opportunity to work to reverse the trend.

The first conference was conducted in late August of the year following the initial blog post, and had over 200 participants. Since then the conference is held once a year in September, but the work around the issues it addresses is ongoing. Today there are eleven partners who work in different ways with 250 opportunities. Together they run a blog, which is one of the largest in Sweden in its field.

Charlotta Mellander is one of the nation's foremost experts on cities, creativity and regional development. Her part is, in addition to contribute to research on the topic, to help with interesting and relevant content for the conference.

“I try to get a good balance between interesting speakers and interesting research. The aim is that visitors will return home with new ideas and suggestions on how they can continue their work”, says Charlotta Mellander.

After previous years the conference participants have been eager to start work on the tips and ideas they received during the conference, and Charlotta Mellander have seen many good examples where municipalities have implemented their new knowledge. Last year, hundreds of people from over 65 different locations participated in the conference, and there is still a great interest in the issues surrounding the shrinking municipalities. The conference is the only one of its kind, and this year it will be held on 7-8 September.