Curing the Limbo launches co-Athens initiative

Athens social circus initiative
Co-Athens initiative brings refugees closer to the neighborhoods of Athens and create opportunities for meaningful interaction with the local population.

Refugees and locals meet online to cook popular vegan dishes from Syria, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Others run a platform that collect local stories and urban myths from Athens and create songs and theater plays based on them. A place-making initiative in a derelict public neighbourhood park brings closer the local community around the common need for a football field. A green energy cooperative emerges out of community meet-ups, collaborative educational workshops and pilot activities that helps people get lower cost electricity. These are just a few of the co-Athens funded initiatives being developed by refugees and locals in the neighbourhoods of Athens.

Co-Athens empowers collaborations among refugees registered in Curing the Limbo integration program led by the City of Athens and local citizens’ groups who co-develop actions with positive impact for the city’s neighbourhoods. Co-Athens is testing a new model for social inclusion based on equal participation opportunities for refugees and locals and the active role of local communities and citizens in the process of social integration.

So far, 20 public activities have taken place online involving more than 500 participants, 100 of which have been refugees living in Athens. Through those actions, co-Athens community groups have created synergies with a range of stakeholders from the civil society (grassroots, individual citizens, small and medium NGO’s), the private sector (donors, local businesses), government and public institutions (municipality services, organizations and political leadership, local public schools, National University) and knowledge centers (National Technical University Lab) which are operating in the city, thus reinforcing the engagement with the local community of actors.

The collaborative projects being nurtured by the program are already challenged to overcome the difficulties of intercultural communication among their members, set equal roles and responsibilities, work closely with the local communities and implement ideas that have been co-created by a diverse group of actors. At the same time, the second -and now the third- wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the co-Athens community groups to face an additional volume of challenges. How could co-Athens initiatives engage actively with residents of Athens living through the current conditions of social distancing? How could cohesion be sustained among the members of the groups themselves? How does the notion of intervention in public space changes under the current circumstances and what are the opportunities for action that  emerge in the current context?

Main objective of co-Athens is to bring people closer around the development of creative but pragmatic ideas that could impact the city through their public actions. The initiative and its smaller funded collaborative programs were designed to deliver in a totally different context from the one they are actually unfolding and as result we had to re-approach some of our priorities and many of the planned activities that would have initially been implemented in the public space have been transferred to the digital world through interactive online workshops, networking events, and meetups.

Co-Athens will be completed in June 2020. With the expectation that, until then, a level of normality will be brought back in everyday life, the co-Athens collectives and its members are now hoping that they will be able to implement at least a part of their remaining action plan in physical, real-life conditions. This is a commonly expressed desire for everyone involved. Until then, there is a strong feeling amongst the team members that something positive has come out of the common challenge we face. If anything, the pandemic condition has led them to explore new ways of getting and acting together, sharpening their creativity, escaping their limbo, and remaining active and hopeful.

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Meet the co-Athens collectives and their initiatives:

A neighbourhood park place-making initiative through the creation of a local football academy. Today the project is taking place partly in the digital space through online meet-ups, presentations, thematic discussions and the physical space of the park where informally people drop by and play or talk. The group still plans to regenerate the vacant court and turn it to 5X5 football field to organise the local tournament and the academy for young people.

Bala Patissia

Foodies organize online cooking meetups, dedicated to different cuisines of the world curated by refugees and locals. Residents of Kato Patissia and Agios Eleftherios tune in to the zoom platform and cook together vegetarian dishes from their country of origin. Their planning to create a YouTube channel with a series of cooking classes based on the group’s experience during the first stage of the project.

Foodies initiative

Using the area of Exarchia as a public laboratory, Sabar Bar activates the local community, capturing neighbourhood stories and urban myths that turns them into theatre plays and songs, involving many participants in creative activities. Today the group develops its action plan online, with oral history workshops, songwriting meetings while the actions in the public space have been suspended until further notice.

Sagar Bar initiative

A green energy cooperative emerges out of community meet-ups, collaborative educational workshops and pilot activities for the utilisation of renewable energy sources to get lower cost electricity. Today the group unveils its action plan digitally, with online meet-ups and workshops that involve locals, refugees and immigrants to the creation of the Athens Niroo Community.

Athens niroo community initiative

A pilot documentary based educational program that utilises local stories and experiences of the refugee children living in Athens to bridge cultural, religious and racial gaps between classmates of refugee and of Greek origin. Today the group is launching its first pilot video.

Reading DiverCity initiative

An initiative that capitalises on sports as a means of promoting social values such as the integration and acceptance of diversity through a broad range of actions and sporting events taking place in the public space. Today the groups is running a series of interactive digital activities that promote the social role of sports and social interaction.

Sport for Athens initiative

A neighbourhood DIY academy based on exercising contemporary performance techniques, street theatre and acrobatics aiming at social inclusion, the empowerment and skills’ development for children and teenage refugees and locals, as well as the strengthening of social cohesion through public events. Today the group is launching an interactive program through video exchange around acrobatics, rhythm, juggling and DIY creations.

Athens Social Circus initiative

Community space Victoria Square Project invites the local community of its area to co-design a multicultural living-room where products and objects are produced through participatory processes, while the dialogue around contemporary urban matters is strongly encouraged. Today the group is launching online a series of online workshops on  weaving, ceramics, light installation, Afro-fitness and community meetups.

The co-Living room initiative

A diverse community emerges around arts & crafts, music, dance and food and activates a public park in the Exarchia neighborhood in Athens building an interactive public space installation.

Athens Tribes initiative

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