The northern Swedish city of Umeå
Strength-based Research
Building on identifying the strengths of a city

In order to deepen our understanding of the northern Swedish city of Umeå, we studied what signature strengths the residents have that will make Umeå a flourishing, vibrant, and growing city.

Dr. Martin Seligman, inventor of the term “positive psychology”, believes that by utilizing our character and the inherent strengths we have, we can achieve the "good life". These signature strengths differ from personality traits or talents. They are best described as reflections of the values, rather than a fallout for certain tasks.The study of signature strengths provides an image of the values that residents translate into behaviors and give a deeper insight into how they do to live in accordance with their own conviction and inherent strengths.  

We invited a diverse group of 175 residents of Umeå to participate in the VIA character's signature strengths test as well as group discussions reflecting on how they used the strengths in everyday life they found important.Honesty, justice, love, kindness and judgement are the character strengths most commonly found in our group of Umeå residents.


Umeå has a rich history that highlights many of the signature strengths the city has. From the 19th century fire and the historical growth that followed, to the cooperation structure, which led to Umeå becoming the Capital of Culture 2014, and the completely changed city center that has grown in the last 15 years.

Honesty is the top strength found in our test group. The strength of honesty is not just about being a straightforward kind of person with both feet on ground telling the truth, but also about living an authentic and genuine life. Residents of Umeå want what she already has. She knows herself and knows how to translate her values into behaviors in all situations.

Secondly, residents of Umeå leverages the strength of  justice. The concept of justice is closely connected to responsibility and loyalty towards the shared space that is their city. It is about feeling ownership of one's role in society and finding ways to contribute to everyone's best, guided by solidarity with fellow residents as well as empathy for those less well- off.

In third place on the list of character strengths comes love, and on fourth place kindness. For Umeåborna, it is about the ability to build strong relationships with other people, and to invest together in the future of the city.

Jugement, which is Umeåborna's fifth strength, belongs to the wisdom category. This relates to all the ways we can use and understand knowledge. The Umeå residents listen to each other's views and is willing to actively seek knowledge to make good decisions.


For Umeå it is relevant and important to understand its context through the residents' strengths. Through this understanding, the city can support, develop and prepare space for the signature strengths that make Umeå unique and attractive.

Leveraging the signature strengths of its inhabitants creates space for them to be their best selves, translate its own values ​​into behaviors and use its signature strengths make long-term investments in the city and its development.

A thriving city is a place where people experience their own empowerment and the strengths of others at every moment.