4 July 2024

Stavanger named the optimism capital of Norway

Optimism drives change and stirs controversy in the Stavangerregion

In late June, we woke up to the news that the Stavangerregion was named the capital of optimism in Norway. According to a set of polls, people in our region have a more positive outlook on both the near and far future and local businesses are far more willing to initiate new projects compared to other parts of the country.

“I believe it is because people in Rogaland are used to economic shifts”, says Tone Grindland, regional director of the Norwegian Confederation of Enterprises.

She refers to the region’s history as a fishing centre, where yields would vary tremendously from year to year. The years in oil and gas have also taught the people of Rogaland that the economic circumstances may change rapidly.

The region now establishes itself as a hub in the green transition, the optimism stays. Local stakeholders are investing in new technologies such as floating offshore wind and hydrogen, with a firm optimism in its future profitability and success.

Not all agree

Some worry that the optimism may be misplaced and fear rough waters ahead.

The Head of sustainability at the local bank SR-Bank expresses concern that optimism within the renewable energy sector is declining. She refers to data indicating a growing number of people who see profitability as the main obstacle for renewable energy.

Others argue that pessimism sometimes might be preferable over optimism, referring to the London School of Economics study claiming that optimistic company founders on average make 30% less than pessimistic ones.

Commercial optimism, cultural decline?

Criticism is also emerging within the cultural sector. Hanne Beate Ueland from Stavanger Museum of Art, argues that the optimism stays within the realm of business and that the people of Rogaland generally lack an appreciation and understanding of high culture.

Her primary critique is that society has become overly commercialized, and she believes the commercial optimism in the Stavangerregion is detrimental to free thinking.

“The University of Stavanger has discontinued their course in art history. Can a university do that and still call themselves a university?” she asks.

Sign of a dynamic region

Overall, the optimism you find in the Stavangerregion appears to be a regional phenomenon. This is not the first time the region has scored high on these polls, and it likely won’t be the last. While some might not like the optimism entrenched in the region, whereas others are drawn to the region because of it. One thing is certain: the local optimism in Stavanger fosters a dynamic and active region full of initiatives.



Ola Reinseth