#OPENandChange Thessaloniki: Greeks imagine the future of care

We chose Thessaloniki as a good location for our workshop, due to the active social web that is active in the city since the financial crisis hit home in 2009. Being Greece’s second biggest city, and the largest city of the country’s North, Thessaloniki boasts with life, with a vibrant culture that is merging optimally the city’s laid back flair, with its rich history, the university community and contemporary culture. In the last years, Thessaloniki is emerging as a lively incubator of several grassroots initiatives. The first urban gardening projects of Greece happened here, when a group of citizens occupied a former army camp. Social enterprises, consumers networks, activist groups and a significant arts scene are here at home.

The workshop took place on September 3rd, 2016, inviting socially active citizens in the wider field of care. In many cases, these people are not strangers to each other. The city is neither too big, nor too small, and people that care are often meeting each other in the numerous gatherings, events and activities organised at the grassroots.

Τhe workshop offered an open space to meet and discuss, using several tools for harnessing collective intelligence. Using various participatory methodologies, such as World Café, participants mapped out the status quo, how they would imagine Care in Greece in 10 years from now, while engaging into framing this transition.

Mapping the status quo

The current care system of Greece is characterised by mainstream centralised structures defined (and accepted) by the public health system, marked by chronic problems related to inefficiency, corruption and lack of funding. The severity of the ongoing financial crisis in Greece has further incapacitated the public care system, but it has given rise to a milieu of social, citizen-led projects who leverage volunteerism to care for the most under-privileged parts of the society.

Besides public hospitals and private clinics, these structures harbour initiatives ranging from non-profit actions by international and domestic NGOs or philanthropic organisations (including the church), to volunteer initiatives and informal groups. Over the last years, such initiatives have focused on the distribution of primary need goods (ie. clothes, food, education), based on a strong narrative around the solidarity and exchange economy. In parallel with citizen-led initiatives, many city councils have launched municipal Social Grocery stores or Pharmacies. In many cases, local community action is combined with public social structures.

Citizen imagine Care in Greece in 10 years

Citizens were asked to engage into collaborative dialogue on the future of care in Greece, using the World Café method. Participants were divided in two groups and shared ideas on different and multi-level care structures. People from one group swapped with the other, in oder to cross-polinate their knowledge which was later harvested to reveal interesting connnections between different aspects of care.

The new paradigm focuses on synergies at different levels, putting emphasis on notions and ideas that bring people together, build trust, strengthen relationships in communities. From the level of housing, neighbourhoods and schools, all the way to managing structures of public health and social care. Interesting ideas were shared from participants, for example how we can train care stuff in novel and specialised approaches such as “preventive” mourning. Others talk of the need for communal spaces in blocks of flat, where residents can share tools or creative moments, enhancing social interaction in the buildings they live.

For the participants, the future of care innovation is closely connected to openess and the availability of public space. Not surprisingly, many people appreciated the power of urban gardening in offering green spaces, but also in building a sense of community in the neighbourhood.

The transition to such a system is not without obstacles, especially by virtue of the lack of political sense in the crisis-stricken country that is experiencing the deepest recession since World War II. Nevertheless, after 7 years of fighting the crisis, some cells inside the society start having a very clear idea about the pathway forward.

To visualise these change dynamics, participants were asked to engage into Transition Framing, investigating aspects of the care system that should be continued, eliminated, improved or complemented.

The care communities of Greece are the unsung heroes of this crisis. They formed quickly, evolve slowly and are present where both and the public sector fail: providing free, open care to the most sensitive target groups (ie. homeless, elderly, immigrants). Given the financial, political and administrative support they diserve, these communities could transform the game, and offer the hope of recovery to all Greeks, but also Europe as a whole.

Were you happy with the workshop?

Hi @Pavlos, thanks for reporting.

Did you think people could connect their stories with dimensions of care? For example, in the Improve and Complement sections, were there projects in the room already contributing to some of those areas? I’m thinking of the many “civic led project leveraging volunteering”.

I can imagine, for example that “Schools supporting cooperativism” is mapped well by @Tópio activities. So some areas could be better covered than others. Should we rely on the stories posted here to make those kind of connections?

Flowing between projects

My observation is that many actors in Thessaloniki are active in more than one initiative, so there is this type of “fluid” flowing from one project to the other. Most of these people are characterising themselves as people “that care”, and there is a strong sentiment of solidarity. Different groups have different approached on running their projects. For example, there are a few of them that mistrust any type of institutional suppport. This makes some people also get engaged in another project. The result is a very diverse set of attitudes towards volunteer action and the wider frame of care, something that is making it difficult to map, engage and scale. This is probably the case also in Athens, however communities in the capital have more opportunities in terms of funding, interaction spaces and publicity.

We can cooperate

Thessaloniki has the right size for mapping and get results quickly. The people who care know each other. Due to refugee wave they gained more experience and identified common problems.

@Pavlos I’ve lost your workshop but we 'll help this mapping anyway. Thank you!

Preventive Mourning

During the workshop, there were interesting ideas around the topic of “preventive mourning”. Maybe @Village-Psy would like to share some more aspects on this topic?

preventive mourning

Preventive mourning was used as a concept,  and was the theme of one of the experiental workshops during our psychotherapeutic encounters at village psy. During these workshops which took place in nature,up in the mountain of the Centaurs -where Centaur Chiron the wounded therapist is said to have llived -we were exploring various aspects of trauma.

Preventive mourning is the  symbolic or realistic expectaction of loss which  awakens practices of mourning which are in many ways different than mourning after the loss . There are various questions one can ask around this topic,  which essentially  focuses on what it means for an individual to envisage and feel  the losses that are about to come in ones life .

The notion was thoroughly explored and many questions were asked:  how do we as individuals react to this notion on a sentimental, cognitive, behavioural, relational level?which is the most difficult part of this experience for us?what experience can we draw from our own lives or our work? how does this impacts ones relationship with ones self and self awareness? how does is impact various aspect of our lives and on who we are?

The discussion concentrated around coping mechanisms that we   have drawn from our own experiences of trauma and loss.  We talked about what    helped us and  our clients  deal with what was happening at the time, and how we/they changed after the experience. Concepts such as life appreciation, meaninginfulness etc were also part   of the discussion.

is it healthy or not?

Very interesting, perhaps you can qualify that in terms of how it helps or not those experiencing it? And can it be a collective process? With OpenCare at large, and Open&Change more specifically- it would be most remarkable to understand what task is there for communities to relief some of this experiences… Have a look at Cosain - an initiative just starting in Ireland which is based on peer to peer support for mental health recovery, in very collective ways. Highly recommended partners for some of your activites I think…