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Social innovation in Greece

Social innovation in Greece

We often hear that Greek people are the bad pupils of the european union. However, according to Eurostats, they are those who work the most in Europe (40.6 hours/week on average).
Following the different austerity policies, the unemployment rate went from 9% in 2009 to 25% in 2012, with almost 50% of unemployed youth. And about a third of the population (3.1. million) don’t have any health insurance.

In this article, we will introduce you to those who decided to take action in order to give the power back to the citizens, create new forms of democracy and break down clichés.

1. Reinvent democracy
2. Citizen empowerment
3. Grassroots initiatives

Between the seventh and fifth centuries BC were established in Greece the foundations of democracy, a political regime that remains today a model of reference.

Democracies around the globe are currently going through a major crisis of confidence, which Greece is not exempt of.

According to the Eurobarometer published by the European Commission in 2015, 81% of the Greek do not trust the European Union (EU), while only 10% expressed their confidence towards the EU. The remaining 9% did not share their opinion on this question.

The first lesson we can learn from the Greek population is that democracy is not a consensus around a set of fixed rules that we have to comply with in order to participate in the conversation. Rather, democracy means the ability for each and every one of us to think and judge what is good for ourselves, or for our country.

Politeia 2.0 is a platform for political innovation that develops digital and physical applications for the reinvention of democracy in order to combat the institutional obstacles that inhibit civic engagement in Greece and acknowledge the value of democracy as a key element in Greece’s identity. By proposing the creation of an interdisciplinary cluster around best practices and innovative solutions for democratic and participatory decision-making processes, the platform POLITEIA 2.0 envisions branding and developing Athens as a global centre for Democracy and Active Citizenship throughout the world.

Vouliwatch is a digital collaborative platform that engages Greek citizens with legislative politics, providing them with the opportunity to publicly question their representatives (MPs and MEPs) on the topic of their choice, and hold them accountable for their parliamentary activity. Through the Vouliwatch platform, citizens can share their ideas and experiences to make proposals for political actions and influence the political debate.

The term “empowerment” has been increasingly used over the past five years. This popularity can possibly be explained by its polysemic character, allowing this term to be applicable to various contexts, but making its translation problematic and justifying the use of the English term.

According to Marie-Hélène Bacqué and Caroline Biewener, “empowerment” encompasses three dimensions: (1) the ability to change our life as an individual, and to ensure our personal development (what is also referred as capacity building) ; (2) the power of a community to transform their living conditions as part of an approach for collective action, solidarity, and proximity ; and finally (3) the power we have on the society, in a more political aspect.

Diazoma is a non-governmental organization that aims to protect, enhance and bring old theaters back to life. Ancient Greek theatres are unique examples of exceptional architecture that also concentrate the expression of democracy and of citizens’ participation. The organization was founded in 2008 by Stavros Benos, former Culture Minister in two Greek governments, who worked in collaboration with a dynamic group of intellectuals, artists, archeologists, and pro-active citizens.

Unmonastery is a place-based social innovation aiming at addressing the interlinked needs of empty space, unemployment and depleting social services by embedding committed, skilled individuals within communities that could benefit from their presence. Described as “a social clinic for the future”, the UnMonastery concept enhances participation and fosters interaction among people and groups who normally have no common interface to address both local and global issues.

The first UnMonastery prototype opened its doors in Matera, italy, in February 2014, as one pilot-program brought in to support the city’s application for European Capital of Culture 2019.

The unMonastery model is executed through a collaging of existing resources; unused buildings; idealistic, highly skilled people who are reluctant or unable to join the job market; open source culture; design patterns for sustainable living; with a view to addressing diverse contemporary issues such as depletion of a skilled workforce in remote areas, youth unemployment, the attrition caused by automation, the retreat of the state, sustainable development and social cohesion.

The Omikron project was started by a group of Greek citizens who want to show the untold side of the Greek crisis to change their country’s negative public image.

Through creative productions and animated videos, the Omikron project aims to give people outside of Greece a more realistic and comprehensive picture of what is going on in Greece, and let them decide what to believe.

Grassroots movements organize at the local level, using collective action to foster change at all levels: local, regional, national, and international. Grassroot movements are also known for their bottom-up decision-making processes, and are sometimes considered as being more “natural” or spontaneous than traditional and hierarchical structures.

In Greece, citizen-run health clinics, food centres, community kitchens and free legal services have sprung up to fill the gaps left by austerity. These grassroots initiatives and bottom-up solutions now have a greater role to play in re-building the country’s social landscape.

Each day, thousands of people are trying to escape extreme poverty by crossing the Greek borders. This escape involves struggles against rough sea conditions and confrontations with institutional and military operations aiming to control migrants and refugees flows. In this suffocating context, the organization Notara26 has been squatting an empty public building located on 26, Notara Street in Athens, to territorialize their solidarity towards refugees-immigrants and cover their immediate needs (shelter, food, medical assistance). However, Notara26 was not thought as a philanthropic project but more as a self-organized solidarity project wherein locals and refugees-immigrants decide together through a squat’s open assembly. Though this process includes various difficulties, Notara26 calls every collective and individual not only to participate and support, but also to expand and create new projects for this same cause. “Let’s make the refugee’s Odyssey of survival, a journey of humanity towards freedom!” is their motto.

The Metropolitan community clinic Helliniko was created in 2011 on the initiative of Giorgos Vichas, a Greek cardiologist, along with 90 other doctors and 140 volunteers. Located in a middle-class neighborhood of Athens, the clinic provides free primary medical care and medication to all uninsured, unemployed and needy patients – regardless of who they are and where they come from.

O Allos Anthropos or “The Other Human” Social Kitchen began when the organizers noticed people of various ages, nationalities and social levels rummaging through rubbish to find food they otherwise couldn’t afford in the public food markets of Athens. Their response was a “social kitchen” which consisted in cooking together at the public markets and then share and eat the cooked food together. The Social Kitchen simply provides an opportunity to bring people together, and break through any shame or embarrassment which might be an issue for anyone.

Florian Guillaume - Europe Tomorrow


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