Local initiatives

In South Estonia one can find thriving examples of community initiatives that have influenced the collective way of thought and behaviour, and the development of the neighbourhood or even the entire region.

Active communities of South Estonia

In dire times we suddenly realise that the old simple truths and skills immersed in the smoke sauna customs of South Estonia are urgently needed in today’s globalising world. In a new way, of course. Social innovation is a keyword, brought to our awareness by recent events. How to cope in an unexpected situation that you could not have imagined just a moment ago? This is where creativity and innovation come into play! And we are in this together.

Examples of local initiatives in South Estonia

According to Katrin Reiljan, Chief Specialist in Business Development at Tartu City Government, the most well-known community initiative in the capital of South Estonia is probably sTARTUp Day. The idea of this annual community event came about in a sauna in 2015. As Tartu is full of innovative and entrepreneurial people, the idea fell on extremely fertile soil. Today Tartu, which is also known as the City of Good Thoughts, boasts a vibrant start-up community where eight organisations from different fields all work towards a common goal – to make Tartu the best place for initiating and developing great business ideas. The fifth annual sTARTUp Day will take place in January 2021.

Tiina Hallimäe, Development Adviser at Võru Town Government, highlights the 2019 planting bee on the banks of the Koreli Stream as one local initiative. The event brought together different communities with the same goal in mind: to enhance the biodiversity of their home town. More than 400 people were involved in developing Koreli Park, and today community members of all ages and interests enjoy it as their meeting place. This local initiative was applauded as one of the best environmental deeds of the year.

According to LAG Jõgevamaa Cooperation Chamber, one of the most active communities in the region is in the village of Kääpa, in Mustvee Parish, where Annika Oras has helped breathe new life into the community. This has inspired the movement Kääpa O.T.T, a direct consumer-to-producer food network, various bees and open farm days. A joint effort has led to the opening of the Kalevipoeg Museum a unique place to discover the legend of the Estonian national epic.

According to the CEO of Valga County Partnership, Tiina Ivask, one should pay special attention to the local KOTUS network, which includes the companies and associations of Taheva, Karula and Mõniste areas. One of the great outcomes of this cooperation is the Üülaat (“Night Fair”) fair, which was first held in 2019 and has the potential of becoming the signature event of the area. The fair involved about 60 organisers and was visited by over 800 people from both sides of the border. In addition, KOTUS has established a community kitchen with the aim of organising various courses and providing catering services.

National Geographic Estonia, May 2020
Author Grethe Rõõm


Author Grethe Rõõm