Tallinn Old Town is an intriguing, magical, historic location full of turrets, castle walls and Hanseatic architecture that used to make it the most popular tourist attraction for the many tourists who visit by land and sea in the summer months. But Old Town has been replaced by Telliskivi, Tallinn’s Creative City as the most popular destination requested by Uber users.

Telliskivi is the remarkable experiment of Jaanus Juus and his team who have turned a “perfectly good industrial wasteland” into a hub of social enterprise – based on soft values as the platform for profit that is widely shared in the community.

I joined Jaanus in his Theatre of 12 Rooms to discuss the success that he has had despite the many naysayers who predicted that soft values would never equate to entrepreneurial success.

But Jaanus and his team have attracted 250 organizations who benefit from substantial rent reductions (up to 50%) because 20 commercial organizations are willing to pay market rates to locate not just at an address but as part of a community. The community is a lively neighbourhood full of restaurants (who are happy to compete with one another because the success of each of them, attracts success for all of them).

The Creative City is enlivened by a variety of social entrepreneurs, a pop-up radio station, free galleries (like the Photo Gallery which had just curated one of Estonia’s most famous photographers Johan Kuus, who documented the untold stories of South Africa’s apartheid era).

The impact of developing a Creative City based on soft values means that Jaanus will be moving his personal residence back to the neighbourhood, which was not safe enough to raise his family, when he first started. Now the neighbourhood demonstrates the positive outcomes of bringing back to the streets, eyes, feet, heads and hearts:

  • 76% say public safety has improved
  • 89% see an improved quality of life
  • 88% of local residents are more active & involved in the community
  • 86% feel more engaged in the evolution of city space
  • 80% report a boost in social wellbeing
  • 98% sense a positive impact on the district’s reputation.

Jaanus is no doubt an unusual entrepreneur – interested in not only redeveloping Tallinn’s industrial infrastructures, but in Europe’s most (fibre optically) connected country and city, he is also the sponsor of entertainment that enlightens. He proudly showed me the potential of the Theatre of 12 Rooms – where each seating pod had an electronic coffee table. This turns out to be a mini-hub for the occupants of each room to participate in interactive plays. The plays each have a purpose driven plot. They are performed live on the stage of the theatre and the audience becomes interactively involved in deciding the outcome of the play. But this is not just a simple binary choice at a single point in the play. Instead in the play about a person’s life from childhood to mature adult there are 64 possible outcomes because of the 8 milestones that are encountered throughout the life.

Another play has the unlikely title “Life of the Tick” and splits the room into 2 sets of 6 rooms who compete with one another to help the character that is the Tick negotiate a series of challenges. A time element comes into completing this theatrical game, that reveals the effectiveness of the teamwork in each of the 2 sets of rooms.

As you might imagine, this unique creation has attracted the attention of some of Europe’s big corporations who have booked the theatre for conferences and executive development. Rumour has it that serious lessons in leadership development were learned by a group who took an hour and a half to solve the Tick’s dilemma – as compared to a group of school girls who solved it in 20 minutes.

Altogether, the visits to Creative City were inspiring and lively. I could see all 5 sets of Integral City Intelligences online and activated by the city’s 4 Voices. I viewed a group of seniors from Denmark working out in a public space. I saw families having a great time on the weekend. I was interviewed in the pop-up radio station. And I enjoyed the most delicious Salade Lyonnaise (at Frenchie’s) that I have ever tasted.

Perhaps, Tallinn’s Creative City has many lessons to share with the Ecovillage at nearby Lilleoru? It strikes me that the foundations are both based on soft values, that are upheld for the good of the whole. As Jaanus notes – soft values are not charity, they are a genuine investment in the wellbeing of the community that improve both quality of life and commercial success. Perhaps, these are glimpses of how the Master Code of Care (for Self/Others/Place/Planet) are being implemented through Integral City Voices, Values and Intelligences and are being translated into an economy full of aliveness, in northern Europe (for the good of the world)?