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What can we learn from the country that brought us lego?

It isn’t enough to simply say we want to be the next Denmark or the next Norway.

We have to understand what these Nordic countries offer their communities that we don’t and then learn from it.


Denmark frequently tops the “happiest” country polls. Fitness, health, wealth, work/life balance; the things we view as being the markers and ingredients for happiness score highly in Denmark.

With this in mind we travelled with a group of regeneration experts, academics and entrepreneurs to the happiest nation on earth, or its capital at least, Copenhagen.

The country has a small population of around 5.5 million and around 600,000 people living in and around Copenhagen. We spent three days walking miles to see incubator retail and hospitality outlets and meeting local entrepreneurs. We visited organisations like SohoRocket Labs to really understand what made their digital and creative industries work and take, as well as gaining inspiration for the Baltic Creative Scheme.

There were common themes that kept reoccurring and fed into why Denmark as a nation is so successful. 52 weeks of parental leave, free and low-cost child care with a high percentage of women returning to work after they have children ensures Danish society support families.The current Danish, Prime Minister is a 47-year-old with two children.  They bring an incredibly balanced working life in the culture is very much aim to ensuing both businesses are successful but family life does not suffer.  Health care is an efficient model built on a close relationship with a family doctor helping them navigate treatment.

Women are in strong political roles and gender balance is at the forefront of their culture. Half of Copenhagen bikes daily. Cyclists in the city cover 1.2km a day. Researchers have found that for every km on bike instead of car taxpayers save 7.8 cents in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestions as well as noise and wear and tear on buildings and roads. That means in Copenhagen the biking population saves $34 million a year. This is actually is incredibly equal with high taxes, most people paying over 50% in income tax. The Danes are also highly educated; studying to master’s level is completely free of charge and studying overseas in other Western countries China and the States is highly encouraged.  Students also received a £500 a month living allowance.

All of these factors combine to create a culture that is driven towards achieving a balance. Business is successful but family life doesn’t suffer. The climate is not so dissimilar to the UK but life is softer, less aggressive.

So much of life in Copenhagen is outside. Bikes are truly everywhere, and I mean everywhere. This is a country of modest and understated people with a huge amount of design sensitivity. It’s a nation continuing to challenge the world’s desire to grow bigger, faster and leaner.  The Danes almost to be on a slightly different trajectory; valuing relationships, delivering incredibly, innovative and creative solutions to global markets and remain committed to a co-society.  It is fantastic place.