Thought For Food at Potentino – Making Refugees into Equal Citizens

Thought For Food at Potentino - Making Refugees into Equal Citizens

20 minutes presentation people are tied I mean nice yeah okay all right okay anyway hello thank you very much for doing this for inviting me here this is thanks to you Eric I don't know exactly where I am yet but doesn't matter okay I do know you okay so my name is Amalia Zeppo I'm from Athens Greece I have my background is in social anthropology and documentary making until about ten years ago at the beginning of the crisis in Greece just to give you a little bit the context the crisis that kind of started from 2008 I was fascinated with the increasing number of activities that people were doing in the in the city the system had failed and those activities were increasing even though we are known for not being good at being volunteers Greeks don't like the word volunteer at all and they don't like the word NGO either I mean they they both correlates to negative things but they were very active in the in in the city and those grassroots kind of spontaneous activities that started spreading I was fascinated by and I thought I'd stopped making documentaries about it about them and do some of those myself so I became an in myself an activist during the years 2008 2012 and after a while the I could see that this this was a fantastic bed upon which to build new types of relationship with the municipality all these people were very angry people to the state and the municipality that was not doing their job so we created a platform and I'm doing this introduction so that you can place and understand the kind of efforts were doing with refugees at the moment so we created a platform that today has collected more than four thousand five DVDs of people being active in the public sphere more than 400 of these groups all most of whom are grassroots communities anyway there's a lot to say about them but this was and it's a kind of platform upon which you can study really a new relationship that rows of people of between citizens and the public sphere at least in the context of Athens I think that the crisis was an incredible opportunity for us at least when the system had completely failed to be able to turn the municipality capacity to the citizens it is for the first time the municipality kind of opened its doors to that voice because it was in debt the municipality was in complete debt and the 12 with there were 12,000 city officials in 2010 there are only 5000 today the austerity measures done do not allow us to to employ new ones so the aging the city officials are shrinking and aging the younger one is 45 years old today so so you I mean we're heading towards another crisis at the moment if we don't plan the way means that the municipality is going to work from now on so in this context of crisis and of of people changing their relationship to the public sphere wanting to do things rather than to say things the 2015/2016 you know there's a flow of people coming from the east and the south more than 1 million people pass through Athens at that moment creating an incredible population a population that did not know where it was going to end up and they remained in this limbo Mena the word limbo refers to this displacement and this lack of knowledge there you are and what I mean it's losing it's a lost a complete loss a loss of identity which in fact has many things in common with the the Athens what will are the Greek population itself there is 30% unemployment the last 10 years in which 60% is of people between the ages of 18 to 25 and it's not only being unemployed it is being out of activity for a very long period of time and Social Welfare is based on giving to people basic needs but turning them into passive recipients of food and shelter without reactivating so the challenge with the refugees was to how can you get them out of this passive state and and re-energize in a city that is all suffering like them in a limbo state itself these are just images from the camps in which they landed the first days and these are images of Athens vacant there are more than 2,000 abandoned public buildings in the center of Athens and more than 150,000 empty flats in the center of Athens counted in 2011 now this is changing because air B&B is coming into the picture so this is changing but you had this so you have a population that that landed was stranded in the city in a city that itself is suffering from being inertia so we were trying to see how can we how can we bring those two things together these are just images so these are the things I just told you about high unemployment rates we returned to the returned to the the active population we said why don't we try and connect this inactive refugee population to to those that are active in the city those that have reacted spontaneously by trying to do things for the city and see whether through them not wait until they learn the language find a house get a job and then connect to this active population but do everything together from day one so we were able to do that because we had created this platform and I wanted just to show you how people every time there is an activity in the city people can put a pin on the on the these are the the seven districts of Athens this is the way they upload their pins this is the way we count them the four thousand more than four thousand activities and I wanted to show you okay who are these active people with whom with connect newly arrived populations what kind of things do they do how do they how have they developed and expressed their interest in the public sphere so these are just images of what people started doing cleaning facades this is a guy who who designed mobile laundrette for homeless people and refugees so and went around urban gardening classic people that sit with aged people you have to understand that there is no social welfare in in Athens at all it it has has all collapsed all the services that people might take for granted really have collapsed so this isn't just an apartment where some people invite people people of old age from the neighborhoods to keep them company this is a generation to is a community group that loves sport and the sports with migrant populations in Greece these are guys that clean up you know incredibly damaged facades from the center of Athens and this is this is a building that was squatted in 2015 but by guys that had been to to the island of lesbos where refugees had just arrived and they started creating schools language courses bottom-up this was not supported by the state the state had still has not started any integration strategy people have been here for in in Greece for four years and the integration there is no integration strategy yet applied so everything is done either by NGOs or community groups or some municipalities in terms of integration I mean the shift from the humanitarian aid to the integration strategy is only happening hesitantly by bata month initiatives and municipalities these are some guys who created the moving library in books in farsi arabic in the city of athens this is one this is a building that was abandoned a public building that was abandoned and i put it here because the kind of just to show the kind of things that one can do if you if you empower this dinah dynamism of the of the grassroot and community group population this building that we have no money and no managerial resources from the municipality to run it why don't you have a why don't you have a go at it so we asked what people wanted this building to become and we did not do a consultation our love the consultation description you did under the tree we wanted this was an area with a lot of political conflict migrants extreme right-wing Golden Dawn people I mean it was it was a community intention and this public building kind of symbolized the strike itself so instead of coming out like many municipalities do with boring questionnaires or surveys we invited community groups and artists in particular that were in the area and we said why don't you think of a way to ask everybody living in this area what they would like this building to become but not with questionnaires so they came up with with colors and they started they told people make what you want instead of droids so people came and so that kind of game and it lasted for a whole weekend for 48 hours people would pass and would draw or cut and tell what the building should become so that we we were able to collect more than 500 ideas that really became a vision for the for the building in which finally incorporated those three things that people were saying one was social entrepreneurship entrepreneurial commercial activities but with a social side this is the question I would have asked you whether there are things like that coming up you know as sustainable activities in your land the other was cultural events and free for people to come in the open-air space of this building three times a week to do theatre performances or music performances and then some of them also wanted hardcore municipal services like you know pay your ticket or change your identity card or those kind of things and this is what happened and it took more than three years of course to persuade the City Council nobody like everybody was saying you're mad no way to someone else to run it but it happened and it was a test to to navigate the legal framework but I was I was certain that we had the legal possibility to actually give a building away if the building implements the vision of the community I mean it made so much sense everybody was would tell me that you know brothers you can't do it it's illegal blah blah blah well it I had to hire a lawyer and to really dig into the possibility just an idea of what one does anyway and it was inaugurated some some months ago and it's going really well so this it is just to show the kind of this the dynamism of this community population out there that is genuinely interested in the public sphere in publics bill in plic matters if if you have a good moderator and I think municipalities have to become moderators orchestrators of that dynamism and really not tell their view because they usually know nothing about what people really want but moderate the diner these dynamics because it does bring out solutions so we did the same for the refugee so we got commune we got communities that were there and we and refugees themselves and we said ok let's let's see how we can think together of a way to get out of the limbo is the refugee population and connect them with what is actually happening in the city so we had a lot of local considerations in the camps outside the camps we came up with a model this is I won't go into the details but we we brought it is it is what I said before it is learning the language developing skills identifying skills you don't know you have all through the the connection the activities of what people are doing in the city because it is in action that those things happen really more you know more result fillet it has four levels as I said the training the housing model the housing model refers to the lack of the non affordability of housing in Athens which is a new problem due to Airbnb so those hundred and fifty thousand empty flats five years ago now cannot be found now I have too expensive because people are renting them not yea to the Airbnb think so we're trying to find incentives the proprietors lower the rents against community work around the blocks and around the areas where the houses are these are just pictures of things that have been happening in the city with the refugees and community groups we are this is a four year program we got funding from the European Commission to test this model and to explore this possibility we are at our second year but we don't know the results of what we're doing yet but the the the the reflex of the first activities that are coming out have to do with place making people finding places either buildings or empty buildings or squares here they brought those youths tents in the middle of the square and did photography exhibitions and the small documentaries of the local community together right I'm saying so all this is a model that we we we were testing those last six years in the municipality at different levels I brought to the open schools as a an example because it is parallel to the others and maybe it shows the model more clearly open square the municipality is responsible for the school buildings in Athens not the education but the buildings buildings school hours are from 9 to 1 from 1 so we decided to open the school building after 1 o'clock to the whole community and say ok here is a building every day for you every day from from 3 to 9 even weekends what do you do what do you want to do with it so a lot of community groups came in whether if you and started doing class language classes – refugees refugees themselves starting to take initiatives to do classes and learn things together in terms you know in the frame of the activity building so that's at those four during those five years I think the municipality kind of created models because a municipality was itself a failed system every time we achieved something either the use of a public building all the open the open schools and lots of other things bringing digital developers in the municipality it was because the actual municipality was able to modern its collaboration with the unusual suspects and the incredible capacity of the city the city was a has the knowledge to solve the problems it is the municipality that usually doesn't know how to coordinator that knowledge so and this is the model that came out of a lot of projects this is what we call the Nikko system let's say surrounding the municipality the good thing I mean the opportunity with Athens is that because because of the financial crisis which was also political and moral and all sorts of other crisis – and the system failed completely to address the challenges of these years we were able to articulate unlike other European cities we were able to articulate clearly that the minister that local government has failed this is something that politicians really don't like saying I mean but but by doing so it touched a vein and a lot of other cities Europeans it is even northern European cities that seem to have everything in place this this this conversation with us and it is very interesting to see that that this is a common feeling among a lot of cities around Europe we all talk about ecosystems that surround our failed municipalities but it remains to be seen if this constellation of small possibilities these are all projects that we design that way just to show the potential of this ecosystem that nevertheless remains complete fragmented I mean there is something the potential is there we arrived at the stage where we could actually articulate this possibility we brought in citizens and community groups in the decision making from idea to ownership in some cases but I don't think that we were completely honest with the notion of empowerment I think there was there's a kind of very deep resistance among the politicians we had elections last week new mayor we don't know what's going to happen I think that the the notion of the Parliament which is to actually give power to the other people to decide for the for the city I think it's a nice word we use it in the jargon or social innovation people love it but I don't think we really did it and finally I think it remained in words but it remains to be seen now if this is going to last and if this model really can go a step further and starts becoming the participative governance that we'd like to see full-stop I think and really also just kind of refreshing I have a question kind of about how it happened but also the future which is the kind of protest to change within the municipality so you mentioned a lot that it was an acknowledgment of a failure and in the context of a crisis that you know the institution of the municipality began to reform itself so it's just wondering you know it sounds in one sweep but actually imagine you know quite a difficult process especially for an organization that's firing 60% of its workforce and I was wondering also in terms of the open question is to like the next political cycle and what happens if the degree to which you feel what you've described has been institutionalized within the municipality and you know if within that there's the organization now how much it's really taken it into its fiber a sector called civil society and innovation okay that's that's huge for a municipality that really doesn't even like those words that doesn't mean that this is going to read you know how much has it gone under the skin of the culture to some extent it did I mean for example the open schools or we have a great example of civic civic technology digital Civic technology thing I don't know it what I wanted to say I don't know if it's going to last I don't know I mean the rise of populism in Europe a lot of things are against the tide for this it definitely opened a door it definitely changed small little cultures in there but but this fragmentation is still a danger you know you know all these people are struggling to do what people when people are active in the public sphere they do things out of passion and there is a fatigue moment you know you can't last forever like that if you're not somehow supported we found ways to suppose people to help them become social entrepreneurs from grassroots activists or to create an small NGO or a non-profit society learn how to do fundraising there was all of that but whether it changes something in the actual political the governance it remains to be seen I have this question I don't know it's just a comment really but my sense is that you know it's almost like in human psychology we sort of internalized that there's a crisis and then in that moment there's a great opportunity for people to behave differently and to mobilize and to sacrifice things and to be creative but it sort of it requires that shift you know where people feel there's a crisis and I think that's where you know there's a great opportunity or there was a great opportunity in Athens but perhaps it's harder for other municipalities in other countries to to sort of make their case the shape of its own society where a family you know we are we are a society of small size family entrepreneurs family is God for us so and it may be this fragmentation is due to that maybe it is just reflecting the way we understand the society we're just families that connect with suspicion towards each other never together hi sorry and I mean I work for the intercultural CDs program of the Council of Europe and what you're describing is something that it's amazing and it's really interesting but we did see I think in the moment of the crisis even in places that might look the ones that need most help we had seen this kind of of innovation like for example in a small city of Jordan that is called Sahab that is actually just outside a month they have used the opportunity given by the crisis to really open up the entire policymaking so the Mayor was holding by bi-weekly meetings with the citizens to come up with problems and similar experience where in the city of Ur Langan in in Germany where again the crisis was used as a way to innovate the way that public administration works but and and this is like I actually notice down yesterday and then I ended up talking about something completely different but I think the when I say when yesterday I said I see a big hope because in the face of like ideological discussion at the national level cities are pragmatic and they have to deliver and they see people in in the eyes and all the good experiences that we have seen it was always citizens leading so citizens activities and cities that were courage and courageous enough to accept and leave space for citizens to do things and then being the the megaphone for what was happening so cities committed and courageous enough to really open up space for what we actually have been doing for centuries before we invented all the bureaucracies but the european commission also found gives funding now more and more to urban innovative actions yeah yeah okay okay big there's the urban agenda which which is a movement coming that started from Germany at the presidency of the Commission that gives cities more of a say in national matters mayors should be around the decision-making table in other words there is that and you see it and also there are so many new challenges that the city is the infrastructure cannot address any longer that people are you know a lot of them are spontaneously changing thank you for coming and talking that's what I feel super inspired I'm interested in how you described the role of moderating the municipality being a moderator for other stakeholders and I think it's interesting that you said the municipality shouldn't assume to know what the community wants so leave enough space for for the community's voice to to come out but at the same time I guess you do want to create a space that's there's kind of intentional in the right way I mean it can't just be completely open without any shape or and it's so like how do you find that balance of creating enough structure but not too much has to change for municipality that's for sure but I think they have to remain that the center have to retain the central role because municipality is what the mission statement of municipalities and local government is the public good all right all the other players you know private NGOs whatever have different agendas and if if someone doesn't keep a compass you know for public goods then then even you know with even without wanting the others might kind of make you know come up with solutions that are not with that primary focus I think so there is a very important role for municipalities to moderate and to compass quick one and thank you so much for sharing and it's incredible with what is happening in the city tanning refugees into equal citizens opportunities instead of just handing them into our if we do come like what is happening in many other places so first this then these opportunities what does it mean for the refugees have they stayed in advance or Greece or are they still going into a lot places and have made athens home more than a million left and went mainly to germany and some other European countries we estimate to have 20,000 in Athens and 60,000 all around Greece at the moment it's an estimation but most of of which they most of them live still in either in camps or in temporary flats that were given to them of the him out of the humanitarian aids so they haven't shifted to the integration you know they haven't started you know paying the rent and finding jobs legally at least it's mad

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