After Thessaloniki - tips, information and ideas

Hello everyone

as the workshops in other cities are happening very soon, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts about the event we just held in Greece. I’ll try to be brief.

1. Super late organization on our side - I and Pavlos prepared the methodology a bit late, especially given that some of the potential participants were curious about the details program. As a result, we were not able to explain what exactly will be done, and it might have been one of the reasons why not many people showed up. Hopefully low participation won’t be the case in Berlin and Brussels, where events will be delivered by community members. One of the mistakes was merely renting a space and calling for catering. I think community behind is super important to make it a success, even if it the community itself might attract only some of potential partners.

  1. We had only 12 participants (not even at the same time, they came and went) during the whole day, which is extremely poor for a city as big as Thessaloniki. Not sure why is that - the minimum we set was 20. And all that despite having employed people on the ground.

  2. The outline of the workshop I have drafted:

  • Introduction of Opencare, Openandchange and Edgeryders  (done by me)

  • Introduction to stories of care we collected - they were presented on the wall in form of short texts, and I was there to discuss them in more details whenever someone was interested

  • Introduction of participants

  • Mapping the status quo (world cafe with collection of ideas on the walls)

Imagine the care system in Greece in 10 years

  • World Cafe - an exercise in which participants could express their ideas for improvements and changes in the system

  • Transition framing and how to do the personal  projects represented at the workshop fit the transition

  • Interviews and discussion (I have made one interview right after the workshop which will be published soon.

It was more than enough to fill 8 hours.

  1. Summary - very broad and generic, which is a warning to all of us. If we keep the workshop on a very theoretical level, we will end up with a summary that could basically fit any of the workshops about care. We need to prepare texts that have a lot of substance and lead a discussion that is deeply grounded. Still, from my discussions with some of the participants and observations I had a feeling they were very engaged and passionate about the meeting, and OPENandchange.

  2. I couldn’t engage a lot, only one person was a foreigner who didn’t speak Greek besides me. I am truly sorry for that, but I felt that shifting the dynamic (the groups kept on using Greek and a friend of the Spanish boy was translating for him most of the time) and imposing a language in which part of the group wasn’t very comfortable would slow down the process. Also as most of the publicity for the event was done in Greek, I think it was fair to stick to Greek.

if anything else needs to be explained, clarified or added - just leave a comment, as usual;)


Ok… what I suggest we drop

For future workshops, imagining systems and improvements to me is not so interesting as organising sessions around people’s projects and what challenges they face. Not sure if all world cafe’s are like this, but there is a speed to them that doesn’t allow people to dwelve into personal issues.

Also as a participant, venturing my own ideas is hardly as interesting as helping someone move their practical idea forward.


Projects, projects, projects

I could not agree more with @Noemi here. We should always put grassroots projects and initiatives front and center, and discourage system-level “what is to be done” type-discussions. If we have anything to contribute at all, it is going to be in the area of how we can help each other, here and now, with whatever it is we are doing. System-level reform is unattainable for now, so we do not touch it to avoid generating (even more) frustration.

Scheduling the workshop so early after the holidays was very likely to result in problems. We knew this. I recall @Nadia mentioning it to @Pavlos . And yet, when you hire a person on the ground then you need to trust them, and occasionally they will make mistakes. As long as we learn our lesson (and did not spend a lot of money!) it’s no big deal.

I also agree with @Matthias and commend @Natalia_Skoczylas for intellectual honesty. This is how we work. This is Edgeryders.

In the case of Thessaloniki, the Edgeryders did not “hire a person”.

“Back to Commons” IS a grassroots community of actors and young researchers that is slowly growing in different parts of Greece. Our target is mainly empowering the agents of change that exist in each city or village. We are talking to the real creators, who -unfortunately- in Greece are often overlooked by local authorities and the system in general.

In a country that has lost almost 30% of its GDP in 7 years, due to corrupt and inefficient political handling, system-level reform is NECESSARY and people feel it with their every breath. This is what energizes some of us that chose to stay back and help work it out. Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of reflection of this process, as we see friends and community members having to quit interesting and promising projects because they must move to Germany, Holland or Belgium in seek of a job. For the people on the egde, here in Greece, system-level reform is not “something unattainable for now” but something that citizens self-organise and drive.

@Natalia might have observed the people walking out in the streets of Thessaloniki, or the restaurants and cafes of the city full. This doesn’t mean that there is no crisis, or the people have money to spend. It is just because Greeks care. And they go out to socialise, instead of sitting inside their home counting their money.

However, things need to move forward, because there are thousands of people and families in need over here, that think that we need to change stuff. At this point, imagination is chief, and possibly also the only hope for a society that is full on into the “depression phase”. What we did over the last couple of months, is to share stories of care and give the message that “we are mapping the Communities of Care of Greece”. This is something that, I believe, is a very strong narrative for the society. And our workshop in Thessaloniki has managed to create this space, not telling peolpe “what needs to be done”, but asking them (for the first time in their lives) HOW they imagine their life in this country.

In terms of the timing of the workshop, I think the overall timeframe of introducing the openandchange process in a country with known problems in terms of engagement and low trust, is slim. Also, we are mapping communities who are far away from Thessaloniki. Despite one participant that travelled 300km to join the workshop, most of these community champions could not join the workshop physically (most such people are unemployed). Talking with initiatives in Athens, I am more and more keen in organising another such workshop in Athens. I think I have time to do this in December.

Surely, for this first workshop in Thessaloniki, it looked like we didn’t know exactly what we want. But I get the impression, that we are slowly start understanding what we don’t want. Which is, I believe, another major lesson to the Edgeryders community.

PS: I should probably post a story about what we do at Back to Commons, which is totally grassroots, no official entity, very far away from the corporate logic that has ruined Greece, but with certain needs in terms of fuelling this process. Hence I put part of my modest salary into that.

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I actually wanted to have a part of the program about the personal projects - pair initiatives, maybe pair people with no initiatives with those who work on something, and do a prototyping session, but Pavlos said it’s not a good idea. I also think to work on actual cases, as there were few of them and quite interesting, would help us to have a more meaty and interesting discussion.

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Too often here in Greece, in the last couple of years, several organisations (public and private) are inviting citizens to prototype new ideas. These events mostly have a strong entrepreneurship narrative. The truth is that we hardly saw any succesful projects emerging from this type of events. And this, arguably, has created a mistrust with communities, who way too often think that “this is another ideation-type event”. Knowing that this event was a first contact point in Greece, I thought that it would be a better idea to provide space for a dialogue, for people to imagine the future of care in the country, before engaging into the Transition Framing exerciese, which has been provided by our colleagues from Germany, a couple of days in advance. Overall, I would argue that this workshop has initiated a dialogue and the challenge is now how to keep this going. Having 20 champions from Greece discussing with the wider community is key to this. We think that the workshop HAS resulted in “meaty and interesting discussion”, and this is something that probably the community champions (now having accounts) that participated in the discussion, could verify and expand.

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@Pavlos, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was a waste of time, and I sure saw a good energy and the good discussion people have.

I do think exercising ideas and making people think of a problem together is a powerful thing. This is why I really liked to have the element of dragon dreaming in the process.

What I do think would be a good idea is to actually smoothly include people’s projects - not prototyping per se, rather connecting those who have project with those who want to do something like this/see a synergy/see a collaboration, and making them work on a story, idea, narrative, plan that both potentially enriches their work, and feeds the more general image of “care in 10 years”. This way we can all use this time for a more pragmatic work and try to build on these connections we establish, even in such a short time. People who work on social change and have some experience see certain things rather fast, I believe, so that might have been possible.

I think you did a good job leading the discussion and taking care of the workshop. I just point out what should be taken into account if we want to do something better next time.

@Natalia, there was no certainty about the methodology, and we had to suggest one, based on the profiles of the participants that we expected. I have communicated with our team here about the dragon dreaming exercise, and we were ready to move forward with it. Then the Transition Framing came into the discussion. I would have been very keen in applying dragon dreaming, but I recall you saying we should not do it.

What I think is more useful now is to evaluate ALL workshops, not just on the basis of observations (because they are inevitably biased). As I suggested to @Nadia, I believe the best way to do this is by inviteing the participants into the dialogue (they now have accounts on the blog). People know each other in Thessaloniki and there are possibilities for these mutual contributions to evolve online and, later on, physically. Above all, our work here in Greece is not of the sort “I come to deliver a workshop and then disappear”. We don’t do that. What we do is to evolve and empower these contacts, so when having to organise an(other) session, things look as easy as “just booking a venue and a catering”. Which gives time to our (otherwise time-pressed) team to focus on other issues, eg. doing interviews.

This was the whole rationale of organising the workshop in Thessaloniki instead of Athens, because the city is smaller and the community is more interwoven. Sure thing, should we have done the workshop in Athens, we would have probably attracted a larger number of participants in the workshop. However, we would have missed the opportunity of organising a meet-up at the edge (cities other than Athens have less opportunities for such dialogues), with all the learning that comes from it.

I am very keen in organising another workshop in Athens in December, and maybe there we can engage into different methodologies to build concrete synergies between projects. There are more communities in Athens with access to funds, which delivered already some major projects, so they have already more structure, and it will make more sense to have a prototyping session to investigate ways of scaling action.

However, the brief I had at the beginning of the process is that we don’t target communities of too much structure or connections with public authorities, etc. You understand these are the most “idealogically charged” projects that have very low trust for processes like openandchange. Especially since they are connected with institutions like the McArthur Foundation, and even more where people start the workshop by saying “we do this research for the European Commission” four times, which as you saw, made a couple of people leave the venue before the discussion event started.

So, big lesson to be learned is the language and how messages are translated into local contexts, and how informed we are about these contexts before we voice them.

You have also observed that although the invitation was for 9am, people turned up at 10am. One hour of valuable time wasted, that would have possibly allowed to venture into more practical connections between projects. Other people we interviewed during the week after the workshop, were mistaken that the meeting was at 9pm (evening)!  But, this is life…

What did I just read?

That’s one honest piece of text. Love it. No bullshit, no frills, best thing to do for internal organizational learning. Also not businesslike at all as a public text. But that’s alright too :smiley:


Yeah. Jam-packing days with process = not enough time for depth

Focus on the stories and individual participants' projects

Do not cater too much to the language divide: It is important that the participants internalise this is a transnational project and that the  Edgeryders core team facilitator can follow and participate in the conversation - someone from participants can interpret if needed. Do not allocate space during the workshop for imagining systems impact/ improvements. Those discussions tend to be too general/meta - deep insights will emerge as a result of our analysis of the documentation from first hand accounts of people’s experiences.  Instead dedicate much more time to introducing and discussing the stories that have been shared online - Set up structure of workshop so that the stories are featured and highlighted as the point of departure for each discussion.  People who wish to have their own stories featured/discussed need to submit them ahead of the workshop.  Ensure that there is scheduled time for people to talk about one another’s work and focus on how to help each other move the individual initiatives forward.

Break the workshop into 3 parts: 1) Discovering 2) Discussing 3) Doing

  1. Discovering: OPEN the workshop with a talk highlighting 10 inspiring projects that have shared their stories online, and  
  2. Discussing: The approaches introduced through the stories and how different participants relate to them: points of convergence and divergence with their own work.
  3. Doing: Discuss what could be done for/by individual participants work as inspired by what they have learned from peers work. Build some tangible, actionable plan for how to implement lessons learned in driving the  projects forward, both as separate projects doing their own thing and as a collective/ecosystem of care initiatives. 

Preparations for the next workshops

a) Select the 10 best stories so far covering the range of projects. For each story: Produce 1 A4 page summary of the main points + some good quotes (a lot of the preparatory work has been done here).

b) Produce design files for large format posters, each one containing a story.

c) Produce a deck of slides (and presenter notes) for introducing the selected project stories

d) Get hold of audio recording equipment: capture in audio the discussions during the day and immediately extract/convert files to Mp4 format on location

e) Get participants to write their own summaries and hand them over before leaving the room. Alternatively have someone transcribe the discussions work for word and give us the texts. Talking somehow is less effective than writing -with talking there is risk of a lot of vagueness and not enough actionable, concrete information.

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Why these instructions were not available BEFORE the workshop?

One important lesson for the team, I guess, is: why this methodology/instructions were not available before the workshop in Thessaloniki? I think points 1. 2. 3. above have been covered during the day, either during or on the sides of the World Cafés.

  1. We presented an Inspiration Wall, where 20+ projects from Greece and abroad were presented, and were mentioned several times as examples while explaining methodologies, processes, etc.

  2. Asking the HOW do I imaging care in Greece in 10 years, has gives almost 2 hours for people to discuss in groups and in plenary, different approaches followed by themselves. We could not really draw details from projects taking place outside Greece, but the idea is that people follow and cross-polinate ideas in the online forum.

  3. The workshop has been a meeting point for people having ongoing projects, but also for people that didn’t really understand what #OPENandChange is about, but just wanted to observe the process and also the type of methodologies that were used. There has been some very solid ideas about connecting different projects, for example schooling with urban gardening.

Timing, trial and error and making things visible

The MacArthur foundation announced 100&Change in June. July & August are the months of everything stops still in a lot of places. One of the consequences of picking an early date in september is not enough enough time to get everyone aligned once people are back from vacations. Also, this is a learning process. We try things, they do not work and we do things differently next time. But it does not happen unless things are out in the open. We have no reason to gloss it over. That said, a simple way to make what came out of the workshop visible is to put up the documentation of the discussions, photos, any video etc. As well as to invite people who participated to share what they got out of it/learned here. Remember, the resources that we put into any one initiative have to benefit the edgeryders community as a whole and if it is not on the platform, there is no sustainable way for it to be accessible to all members. Not just now but for the future also (fb e.g. eats things so you cannot access them later).

I fully subscrive to inviting the participants in the dialogue. In terms of understanding whether inviting the process in Greece is something of value to Edgeryder, I think it is fair for everyone to ask that this evaluation happens after the research process is over (and not during it). And that is 20 September.

Sensing a certain sentiment in the post and the comments, I think it is really a shame farming the workshop in Thessaloniki as a failure. If the date was a mistake, then I don’t think we did others. One could claim that is also a mistake pushing forward with such an ambitious idea of a collective proposal, in such a short timeframe. If we really want to, we can find thousands of mistakes. At the end, we just do stuff, even when we are not clear of what is expected, what are the commitments, what will be the outcome… I guess, this is no news to the Edgeryders community.

No stress!

@Pavlos : peace. No one used the word “failure” here except you :slight_smile: . Your result will, in time and not now, be measured in terms of stories collected; until those are in, we do not have the data to even try to assess your work. That does not mean we cannot learn from it, and this is what we are doing here. Yours was the first of the three workshop. We are interested in reusing the experience to help the organisers of the other two, @Yannick and @JanStassen Jan, and now is a time when they can still take action upon what you have learned.

We do all this out in the open. Most orgs are not comfortable with it, but operate best in a culture of courage and frankess, so we try to encourage it around Edgeryders stuff. This extends to all-out failure, and in fact we devoted our entire 2016 gathering to it (technically, we used the word “F*ckup”). 

Hi @Alberto,

I hope some of my comments above help shape a more detailed image to draw conclusions and lessons for the community. On the sides, as a person that f*cking cares about the issues we are dealing with here, I felt emotionally challenged by some of the comments above (especially those who are not so “carey” after all) and I believe that besides the sound intellectual work we put in the project, it is important as a team to also express our sentiment.

I am full on for “no bullshit”, and self-reflective processes, but they must be well informed and to the depth that they ought to be. Otherwise we venture, I’m afraid, into the lurky waters of self-referenced judgements, which -I believe- are not so inspiring for the people that are working on the ground.

But no hard feelings, as we are talking with real champions over here, which helps raise the spirit.

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Oh, absolutely

Feel free to add or correct to the reporting, @Pavlos . You have already done so in part, and so has @Natalia_Skoczylas . No one else was there, so it goes without saying that we rely on your reporting to form useful suggestions for the next workshops over.

BTW, this thread demonstrates perfectly the self-correcting nature of open conversation. If Natalia had emailed us, you would not have seen the thread and could not have added your own point of view.

Expression of sentiments also OK in ER. But not everyone resonates with it the same way, and that’s OK too. We are all different, some of us are more empathetic, others contribute more intellectually.

Thanks Alberto for opening the conversation

Hello everybody,

today i’m working on a mail that will be send to all possible participants, contacted people, involved people in the Brussels workshop and this conversation really helped me frame a bit better the mail i hope. Honestly i find it a really difficult task where the learning curve is really short. @pavlos i respect your courage to hold on the date of the first weekend of september, because i understand totally how difficult it is to bring people together on such a short notice. What you are explaining in terms of people not aible to grab everything about the edgeryders proposal, and the fact that system thinking isn’t the first thing people in need work around i completely understand. Also here in Brussels we are overwelmed by budget cuts in the social and health care field, and the ministers are continuing to cut in it, so people working in that field don’t have the energy sometimes to take the time to read and be involved in this project, as awesome as it sounds. I think THAT is a really important lesson to learn all, and to see how it is in other places: how to we reorganize collectively care when the people working in it are already submerged.

Wish you all good luck!

As for communication: Cast a wide net + focused, deep content

Reposted from comment to Yannick here.

My advice is not too spend too much time trying to convince any one person to join- just work hard to ensure your invitation is seen by a critical mass of people. And remember - you will have to repeat the communication. Fast media = you’ll miss or not really internalise it unless it is floating past you several times.   The more time you are spending trying to engage one person, the lower the probability is that the invitation will reach the right people.

So what I usually do is that the focus on social media, large and broad.

In the event pages more specifically:

a) spread interesting, deep and relevant content that links back to the online space where we are interacting (in this case the process). Ideally, the status updates in the event page on FB are in the local languages

b) Reach out to people who themselves are well connected and aligned with the initiative at hand. I make it clear why I think they might be interested in supporting the effort at hand by helping to spread the word about it.

c) Mix with calls to action I have made. Some are visual: eg.

To produce your own communication material in your own languages there are all the files you need here: