Tallinn Creative Hub (TCH) situated in an old power and heating plant in Northern Tallinn near the city centre, aims towards raising the economic performance of the area and the residents of Northern Tallinn as well as Tallinn as a whole by providing facilities for various cultural activities. Today it is a creative environment aiming to build up new interdisciplinary cooperation between cultural and creative industries and the private sector. It consists of the Development Centre which offers incubation services and the Event Centre which offers its own cultural programme and also favourable opportunities to organise cultural events. TCH is legally a foundation established by the Tallinn City Government as a follow-up activity of the European Capital of Culture “Tallinn 2011”. TCH wishes to act as an urban life and development promoter, open for visitors of various age groups and interests. There are activities for children, youngsters, students, different subculture promoters, entrepreneurs or even senior citizens starting from concerts, theatre shows and exhibitions to, for example, Food Lab and Maker Lab, the former bringing together people interested in cookery, the latter, young inventors. Furthermore, there are workshops for creating models which aim to combine cultural and creative industries with the private sector innovatively as well as creating a balance between commercial and culture events.
The idea of a creative hub was initially created in 2006 by a group of active architects, urban planning hobbyists, culture professionals and other creative persons, who established the not-for-profit organisation Creative Hub (NGO Creative Hub). Any agreement for using the former power plant owned by the city government was however not achieved and the initiative faded away. After constituting the Tallinn Creative Hub Foundation by the Tallinn City Government the idea close to the initial project was realised by other stakeholders using another organisational form—the main developer now is the municipality (the city of Tallinn) itself and the authors of the original idea are not included.
The model of a Creative Hub was initially based on the idea of an open environment or a public urban space, which could also function as an educational centre and platform for creating innovation in creative industries. TCH as it is realised today focuses on cultural diversification, renovating the building complex, promoting creative development and an educational and leisure centre, which should eventually lead to cultural export. The conception of a creative hub has changed from a bottom-up organised liberal public space to encouraged innovation through top-down incubation services and innovation developing schemes. Tallinn Creative Hub Foundation is today financed mainly by the Tallinn City Government: € 1,5M total annual budget consists of 2/3 municipal funding and 1/3 foundation’s own profit.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
Diversity is seen as an option ensuring that different activities and activity spaces exist in the city for different population groups. Liberalism is reflected in the fact that such diversity is conceptually free or informal and its outputs are unpredictable. Diversity is defined as the opportunity to create something new and intriguing in urban space. According to the developer of the initial idea of NGO Creative Hub:
“Diversity is any difference in the place. It is part of the space that makes you move diversely. What calls this difference forth is such spatial diversity (bedroom suburb, work and leisure places are across, in disorder, not together). There are definitely some formats, where it can exist at one place. Different physical barriers may limit such diversity.”
The creative hub idea initiators also recognise the importance of the spontaneity by evolving any kind of diversity. Top-down shaping of diversity is complicated because of the emerging opposition by local residents. Diversity emerges when different people coexist in public space. The spatial dimension is an important factor which also influences ethnic, social, and economic diversity. The urban space creates opportunities and enables or restricts the co-existence of people. The present foundation’s view on diversity is also open-minded. The diversity of the various services and functions will shape the urban space, create new challenges and opportunities in addition to the necessary flexibility and creative the atmosphere of the environment.
TCH does not conceptualise diversity as a direct objective of the initiative. Diversity is rather a prerequisite for an open and multifunctional venue when fostering innovation and new ideas. Nonetheless the impact on socio-economic diversity is important in Northern Tallinn: Tallinn Creative Hub is a multifunctional environment and business incubator for developing creative industries which in turn increases economic activity and social mobility.
Main factors influencing success or failure
The conception of a Creative Hub is successful. The prime success factor brought out is its non-existent competition situation, meaning there are no other public initiatives like that in Tallinn. Furthermore, keys to success emphasised were inner factors like openness, good teamwork skills and flexible/adaptable organisational structure.
“I think that creative freedom and seeing the “big picture”, which is very innovative and exciting, offers motivation and a great personal challenge – also another fact, that you´re a member of a team, not by yourself, you have sufficient co-workers, support structure around.”
One reason for failure pointed out by the early initiators of NGO is that their initial idea was so novel and the organisation too modern with indefinite structure. The city planning policy couldn’t categorise the creative hub in any of the existing entrepreneur categories. The free and open-minded undefined public space, flexible organisational structure and no-named leaders due to the collective decision-making structure were unacceptable at that time. The current public form of the initiative, as it was realised with the support of the city government, has not yet demonstrated its full capacity, and it is therefore difficult to evaluate its potential failure or success.
Tallinn Creative Hub is a good example of a local bottom-up initiative, a novel approach and organisational structure, which lived on and was later developed further by the Tallinn city government. With its aim to create opportunities for emerging creative industry undertakings and in the longer term to increase the export capacity of the cultural sector, the TCH represents a publicly supported innovative governance arrangement that is partly based on the stable support from the city. Compared to other similar but private initiatives such as TCC, their regular public support enables to cut across ethno-cultural lines of diversity as well, since market forces are of less importance for TCC.