Country road with trees avenue.

Why is there a strong and vibrant development in some small communities in Småland but not in others?

Åby is one such place, which, together with Påryd and Skruv, among others, is now the subject of research at the Centre for Leadership in Småland.

The thesis is that leadership is the key to commitment to one's own community, both the non-profit and the professional.

"The question is how do you lead in a context where it's ultimately about the place and where the various associations and companies can be seen more as means? Initially, it seems to be important to look beyond one's own organisation and take a kind of "local" perspective. But what are the challenges with it and how can leaders deal with them? We want to understand this better," says Magnus Forslund , leadership researcher, who, together with sports scientists Susanne Linnér and Marie Hedberg, is involved in the project "Leadership in rural areas", which will run until the autumn of 2025.

The project is based on experiences from the Centrum för ledarskap i Småland and from the Department of Sport Science at Linnaeus University, which shows that good meeting places, networking and joint learning are important.

Recently, the researchers were on site in Åby, north of Växjö, and met voluntarily engaged villagers in the first of a number of meetings about the importance of leadership and what is important for Åby's development as a community. The next step is to form a smaller group of representatives of associations, entrepreneurship and the public sector in society and drill deeper into this.

In parallel, similar processes are being initiated with local residents active in Påryd outside Kalmar and Skruv in Lessebo Municipality. The project maps additional locations in Kalmar and Kronoberg counties to find more examples that can contribute to understanding what, in leadership, is crucial for the development of a smaller town.

Linnaeus University's researchers provide support, knowledge and coaching as part of their ongoing research. The ambition is to create direct benefit from the university's knowledge and, together with active leaders, build new knowledge and contribute to a sustainable and long-term society outside the major urban areas. Where possible, students are linked to the locations for different types of project work.

The project was initiated by the Kamprad Family Foundation. The foundation supports real-life research that leads to practical action and promotes a living countryside.