Lessons Learned from the 2020 Wellbeing Cities Award: Q&A with Niels Lund, Novo Nordisk

29.09.2020, Anastasia Sukhoroslova

*Should we shift from smart cities to wellbeing cities? How can a city become a wellbeing one without ballooning its budget? What are the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the future of our urban environment?* *During the recent [Wellbeing Cities Forum](https://newcities.org/2020-wellbeing-cities-forum/) by NewCities, 2020 [Wellbeing Cities Award](https://newcities.org/wellbeingcity-award/) celebrated five winning cities that have prioritized wellbeing: Curitiba, Brazil; Bordeaux, France; Curridabat: Costa Rica; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and New York, United States. To find out what it takes to put wellbeing at the heart of the cities’ development strategy, All Things Urban, as an official media partner of this second edition of NewCities’ flagship event, launches a series of interviews with leading urbanists and wellbeing experts.* *In search of the main trends and ideas behind the wellbeing principles, we spoke with **Niels Lund, Vice-President at Novo Nordisk**, who was on the Advisory Board of the Award and nominated cities that are promoting wellbeing and quality of life by implementing ambitious, inspiring, innovative and inclusive initiatives.* **Do you find wellbeing principles especially relevant for urban development today and why?** The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on existing inequalities. Putting health and wellbeing at the centre of development will be part of reducing the inequalities. **What was the starting point for the wellbeing movement to gain its importance?** For us, it has been the urbanisation trend which has initiated our focus on urban diabetes in our Cities Changing Diabetes programme. With the Sustainable Development Goals and the specific focus on ‘sustainable cities and communities’ in goal 11, mayors and cities have again and again proven that they have a role to play in securing a sustainable future, where wellbeing of their citizens is in the centre. **The 2020 Wellbeing Cities Award laureates have presented their initiatives in a few distinct categories. What emerging trends have you noticed while looking through their applications?** Change at scale takes time but is possible – and can sometime be accelerated. For example, the Buenos Aires project on expanding bicycling has taken many years to implement, yet the use has double during COVID-19. **What are the main 3 challenges cities face worldwide while trying to put wellbeing at the heart of their development despite climate and political differences?** For me, the main 3 challenges are: 1) The need to handle current issues in the short-run (COVID-19 and all it consequences), while investing for the long-run, 2) Reorganising supporting budgets and investments in order to Build Back Better and 3) Cross-sectoral collaboration. **In your opinion, what is the first and the easiest step for any city to start its wellbeing path?** It is my experience that the first step is to align secure that the policy decisions works for the short- and long-run. The easiest step in my opinion is to create excitement of what the future might look like. **What are a few professions that will be essential for any city focused on wellbeing in 5 years?** Working together – the different professional competences in the city will have to co-create the solutions needed for the city together. The task should be based on a multi-competence approach. In addition, it should be considered to add the following competencies to the co-creation: courageous, explorative, collaborative, human-centred, agile and completer/finisher. **What are the books or educational resources about wellbeing principles that you can recommend?** I would recommend the recent study related to public health: “[Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On](https://www.health.org.uk/publications/reports/the-marmot-review-10-years-on)”. This report, led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, was produced by the Institute of Health Equity and commissioned by the Health Foundation. It does not only outline the progress and decline in wellbeing but also presents recommendations for future action on national, regional and local level. *This interview was made as part of our partnership with the [Wellbeing Cities Forum 2020](https://newcities.org/2020-wellbeing-cities-forum/) by [NewCities](https://newcities.org/).*