View of the Stortoget central main square of Helsingborg

 How one city used leadership, culture and collaboration to drive change

In the second episode of The City Citizen, Meghan Mills shares the secrets of Helsingborg’s sustainable transformation with its former Mayor, Peter Danielsson, and Gerald Babel-Sutter, co-founder and CEO of Urban Future. 

In this fascinating discussion, Meghan Mills, EY Strategy and Operations Leader, Government and Public Sector, talks to two people brought together by the transformation of one city.

The first is Peter Danielsson, former Mayor of Helsingborg, Sweden. He describes how the city has invested in innovation and collaboration to find solutions to its challenges. 

The second, Gerald Babel-Sutter, is the co-founder and CEO of Urban Future. In 2022, Helsingborg played host to 3,000 attendees for Urban Future’s annual global event. And as a city that walks the walk on sustainability, Gerald sees it as a shining model for others to learn from.

During the conversation, Peter and Gerald identify the factors helping Helsingborg achieve its goal of being one of Europe’s most innovative cities. Peter outlines the importance of testing ideas on a smaller scale and learning from mistakes. Gerald comments on the strong collaborative spirit in the city, which has a Vision Fund to enable citizens and businesses create the transformation they want.

The pair also discuss the need for city leaders to build a firm foundation through an inspiring vision and clear, ambitious goals. On top of that, they need to promote a brave culture, build diverse teams and collaborate internally and across sectors to drive change. 

Key takeaways:

  • To solve their many challenges, cities need to shift away from a fear-of-failure mindset to a culture of “dare, test and do more”. They can then transform from an administrator to an enabler of services, co-created by all their stakeholders.
  • This culture, along with inspiring leadership, trust-based governance, investment in innovation and a clear “why”, will help attract the right people to the organization.
  • The most innovative cities bring people with diverse backgrounds into the teams tasked with finding solutions to challenges.

This podcast was recorded when Peter Danielsson was serving as Mayor of Helsingborg. He ended his term in office in October 2022. He is now the President of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.  

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon MusicApple Podcast and Spotify.

A full text transcript of this podcast is available­­­­­­ too.


Episode 2


17m 56s