Breaking down fences for Athens' schoolchildren

“Our schoolyard used to be divided up by steel fences and barbed wire." Kindergarten Principal Popi Basdeki recounts what it was like to have five adjacent preschool yards divided by high fences and barbed wire:

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"Three and 4-year old children were prevented from mingling with each other and could only use the yard according to a strictly regulated schedule."

"It halted the children's desire to freely explore their surroundings and connect with their peers."

Through the Athens Partnership’s Designed for Better Learning (DBL) program—and expertise from the Technical University of Crete Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab—that complex has been redesigned into an open, connected play space for children at all five schools.

Since 2016, the program transformed the physical environment and educational experience in 24 public schools, from preschools to high schools. Co-designed with each school community, renovations include new outdoor classrooms, interactive learning equipment, and multi-use play spaces. Studies showed that students at these newly designed schools displayed a marked increase in educational engagement and families a more positive connection with their schools.

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Faced with the promise of change, Popi was initially hesitant:
"The overhaul planned was so ambitious that I couldn't believe it would actually happen... Yet, over the course of just one summer break, everything changed!”

“I still remember the moment when our children got to cross over the old boundaries and play with other children. I hope this unique change, a first for Greece, can be offered to more schools”, says Popi.

This Holiday season, can you offer the gift of a better learning experience for children in schools across Athens?

Athens Digital Lab presents new smart city solutions

The Athens Digital Lab (ADL), the first municipal incubator of its kind in Greece and a joint philanthropic venture between the City of Athens, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), leading technology companies Cosmote and Nokia, and the Athens Partnership, presented its first results last night. ADL’s first round was completed with four new tech apps developed, focusing on smart city solutions for the management of waste, public spaces and green spaces, as well as a marketplace for big data. Three out of four ADL teams presented their apps last night to the tech community, in the presence of Athens Mayor Georgios Kaminis.

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Recytrust designed and developed a smart recycling bin, which uses sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide real-time data about recycling performance. It is the first solution of its kind globally that can monitor individual recycling performance through personalized swipe cards, measuring it to an accuracy of 10grams. These innovative bins are being placed in 20 spots, including City Hall and 10 primary schools, and introduce a gamification element to recycling.

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Inagros developed a smart system for green spaces management, centered around a project management platform connected with sensors installed in parks, gardens and other green areas of the city.T hese sensors enable city management officers to monitor and control water and fertilizer levels, and predict plant health. Fifteen sensor nodes have already been placed and tested in the National Garden of Athens.

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Smart City Spaces presented their crowd-based platform and application that allows the Municipal Police to effectively monitor public space use. Through open WiFi networks, using data from smartphones that connect to these networks, public spaces and pedestrian foot traffic can be monitored throughout the city. This data can be used by the City for policy-making decisions, to identify popular areas and to monitor public safety.

In the discussion that followed the presentations, it emerged that the success of this innovative venture is based on the rediscovery of traditional values. Mayor Kaminis noted how Athens is perhaps not yet a smart city, but a ‘wise’ city: a city that is learning to cooperate and make the best use of its resources, including from the private sector and municipal staff. “Cooperation is the key - it’s a simple idea, but also very impactful. In Greece, we have not learned to join forces towards common goals – ventures such as ADL are showing us this approach can really work.”

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Aristi Stathakopoulou, Program Officer at the SNF, noted that the Foundation made a conscious decision to support ADL as a long-term effort that can build up the capabilities of young entrepreneurs. Asked why a tech giant such as Nokia invested its resources in a small venture such as the ADL, CEO of Nokia Greece Sakis Exarchos said technological breakthroughs are based on vibrant tech ecosystems, and this is exactly what ADL is cultivating in Greece. Grigoris Christopopoulos, OTE Group Chief Commercial Officer Business Segment, noted that he is ‘extremely proud’ of the teams’ achievements, adding that such ventures are crucial to support Greece’s effort to make it to the forefront of innovation globally. Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership, noted that this public-partnership has been approached by all involved with a truly open spirit of experimentation and particularly noted the zeal of public servants involved in agencies cooperating with ADL teams for the apps’ development.

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ADL teams all stressed how their experience in the incubator provided them with valuable support and guidance. Inagros’ solution, conceived for the agricultural sector, was transferred to green spaces management through the guidance of ADL. Recytrust, for their part, noted the importance of having access to the latest tech platforms provided by the ADL partners. Teams also noted that the Athens Digital Lab opened up new markets to them, since they had not conceived that their work could be aimed at solutions for the public sphere.

The Athens Digital Lab’s second call for submissions is currently open, and up to 10 teams will be hosted in ADL in the following months, with a chance to develop their innovative solutions in the areas of Municipal Cleaning services, Mobility Data, Education Infrastructure, Crisis Management and Tourism.

Museums join forces to tackle shared challenges

On November 29, 2018, representatives from museums and other cultural organizations from the U.S., the UK, Germany, and Greece gathered at the Benaki Museum in Athens to share ideas for synergies and coalitions between cultural partners, and the central role cultural institutions can play in tackling today’s most pressing issues. The Co-Museum Conference—organized by the U.S. Embassy in Athens, the Benaki Museum, and the British Council in partnership with the Goethe Institute in Athens—focused on better collaboration to increase success and impact for cultural organizations.

This issue is extremely topical for Athens, where it is widely recognized that in spite of (or perhaps because of) the intense economic crisis in recent years, the City’s cultural scene expanded rapidly, strengthening the City’s resilience and revitalization efforts.

co museum conference Alexandros Kambouroglou

Joining a host of distinguished speakers, including the Minister of Culture, Myrsini Zorba, the Athens Partnership’s Executive Director, Alexandros Kambouroglou, presented on how partnerships with local government can open up new opportunities for cultural institutions. He highlighted that these collaborations can help organizations connect with new audiences, arrange programming in public spaces, connect with other cultural institutions, and access new, more collaborative technologies.

The Athens Partnership (AP) has been a catalyst for connecting museums and cultural institutions, helping to arrange public programming, new kinds of collaborative events, and reaching out to more diverse or overlooked Athens neighborhoods. AP championed the creation of Athens Culture Net (ACN), which with founding support by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, connects 54 of the City’s most prominent cultural organizations.

Mr. Kambourolgou also presented on other Athens Partnership-coordinated programs, including Athens Open Schools and Designed for Better Learning, which promote synergy between the educational sector, local communities, cultural institutions, and technology providers.

“Cities Network for Integration” convenes in Athens City Hall: 12 municipalities join forces to promote the smooth integration of refugees into local communities

On Monday, November 5, the City of Athens invited representatives from 12 municipalities in Greece to Athens City Hall to set common targets for refugee integration into local communities, as well as share experiences and best practices.

Cities network delegates

The meeting was the first of many for the "Cities Network for Integration", an initiative of the Cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, which brings together 12 municipalities across Greece. Organized by Athens’ Vice Mayor for Migrants and Refugees, Lefteris Papayannakis, participating municipalities include: Athens, St Demetrius Attica, Heraklion Crete, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Karditsa, Larisa, Livadia, New Philadelphia Attica, Piraeus, Trikala and Tripoli.

Speaking to the importance of this issue, the Mayor of Athens, Georgios Kaminis, remarked: "Cities are the ones that safeguard Europe's honor when it comes to the refugee crisis; from day one, we have tried to fill gaps left by the central administration, to uphold international obligations, and ensure human rights and dignity in our city. We assumed responsibility, in cooperation with the United Nations, of coordination of non-governmental organizations active in refugee support. With the creation of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR), we aim to focus on social integration of refugees into city operation". 

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The Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yannis Boutaris, noted: "It is time for all of us, and especially local government, to realize, that tackling refugee issues requires much more than just the implementation of emergency funding programs. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive Reception Strategy and, more importantly, for one that promotes the integration of refugees into the social life of the city. If the central state is stalling, the municipalities who are experiencing this need to step up and act. This is why our approach – which has already garnered international acclaim – is so unique; it is not only about dealing with emergency, but about embracing diversity.”

Cities network meeting

37 municipality representatives, including Mayors, Vice Mayors, and Municipal Working Teams, attended the event, where they sought to definite initial political and technical actions.

While welcoming guests, Vice Mayor Lefteris Papayannakis, reflected: "We are particularly pleased that the ‘Cities Network for Integration’ creates the framework for municipalities who host refugee populations, to share valuable experiences, and to work together in order to shape social inclusion tools and policies in connection with the needs and priorities of each municipality. It is up to all of us to prove that the capabilities of local governments, in cooperation, are remarkable.”

ACCMR team

The "Cities Network for Integration" was established in January 2018 with a Memorandum of Understanding between the municipalities of Athens and Thessaloniki. It acts as a forum for consultation, ideas exchange, partnerships, and the promotion of coordinated actions to develop policies for the social integration of refugees and immigrants into the life of cities. With founding support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and coordinated by the Athens Partnership, the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR) is currently implementing the first round of agreed upon actions. ACCMR is collaborating with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for this implementation, with support from the European Union's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

Of this partnership, IRC’s Director, Jana Frey, says: “Guided by our 40 years of experience in the U.S. and more recently in Europe, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is particularly pleased to support the City of Athens’ efforts to integrate immigrants and refugees. It is very encouraging to see local governments prioritizing this in their region and IRC is here to continue to support this vital effort.”

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More than 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently live in Attica, with an additional 7,500+ in cities in the rest of Greece, as a part of the UN’s ESTIA housing program. Given the gradual allocation of housing responsibilities to local actors and the consequent need to link a national refugee integration strategy with corresponding local strategic plans, the initiative seeks to contribute positively to the planning and sustainability of relevant interventions. More specifically, since the initiative’s inception, 17 bilateral meetings have been held to map the needs of each municipality and collect data for defining a plan of action, which were firmed into draft guidelines during this workshop.

These new plans aim to encourage the employment of refugees, improve the transition of the refugee population from primary to secondary education, implement training programs for local government on the provision of services to migrants and refugees, as well as strengthen legal support and information. These guidelines will be used as the basis for future talks at the central and regional level.


Mayors Embrace Cities Network for Integration 


Vasilis Labrinos, Mayor of Heraklion

"Thanks to the Mayors of Crete, the Regional Union of the Municipalities in Crete, the UNHCR, and the Development Unit of Heraklion, we have managed to host 535 of Crete’s total 807 refugees. We are proud to see happy families of refugees walking around the city, with young children going to school, building friendships, and enjoying life. We look forward to seeing the benefits the inclusion of Heraklion in the ‘Cities Network’ will bring, as we strongly believe that with dialogue and cooperation, we can not only serve as a positive example for others to follow, but also enhance our program to become even more successful." 

Thomas Begas, Mayor of Ioannina 

“We all know that the so-called ‘refugee issue’ has caught everyone off guard. And municipalities were disproportionally called upon for resources. But we took responsibility, and we did so successfully – but only with the help of the ‘Cities Network’,, which served as a catalyst for cooperation. I believe that, through the experience that we now have, we are ready to focus more on the smooth integration of refugees into local communities.”

Fotis Alexakos, Mayor of Karditsa

"The City of Karditsa has been implementing the UN’s ‘ESTIA’ refugee housing program since August 2017, in collaboration with the Development Unit of Karditsa. Today, 240 beneficiaries reside in 40 fully equipped rental apartments; by the end of 2018, Kardista will add an additional 10 units. Since the start of the program, the Integration Strategy has been considered a necessary addition in the existing housing services that are offered by the ESTIA program. The City of Karditsa believes that the exchange of information, experiences and good practices, as well as the design of a common plan for integration, in collaboration and in dialogue with other cities is a win-win solution for all.” 

Apostolos Kalogiannis, Mayor of Larisa

"Since the very beginning, the City of Larisa has been an active participant in the refugee housing program. Today, an estimated 400 refugees are hosted in apartments in the city of Larisa, and right outside the city borders there is a refugee camp with an additional 1,500 people. Our experience from implementing this program is extremely positive, and the society of Larisa strongly supports every effort. Our Municipality, through its participation in the ‘Cities Network,’ continues with the same degree of excitement, to do what for us is self-explanatory: focusing our attention to all those in need, our compatriots and refugees."

Giota Poulou, Mayor of Livadia

"The local government, the closest institution to citizens, plays a central role in issues of strategy and management related to migrant and refugee issues. The ‘Cities Network for Integration’ is an important initiative envisioned by local governors—characterized by humanity and solidarity—who apply a different approach to refugees, proving that the municipalities can respond successfully. The successful implementation of the ESTIA program by the Municipalities defines the framework that should be used by the National Plan for the Management of the refugee crisis."

Aris Vasilopoulos, Mayor of New Philadelphia Attica

"In the evolving refugee and immigration crisis, the Municipalities owe and can make a decisive contribution to a sustainable planning for asylum seekers and refugees in our cities, both for their arrival and integration. We have embarked on a constructive dialogue, as it is an issue that concerns us all. United, we can respond to the challenges of our times.”

Yannis Moralis, Mayor of Piraeus 

“One million refugees have passed through Piraeus since 2015. In 2016, 5,000 of them lived in a refugee camp in our harbor with the support of the local community and the Municipality. The City of Piraeus undertook the management of 50 apartments for refugees in cooperation with the UNHCR while at the same time putting the Refugee Integration Center within the Community Center of the Municipality. In response, we will continue to enrich the ‘Cities Network for Integration’ and the Municipality of Piraeus’ response.”

Dimitris Papastergiou, Mayor of Trikala

"Local government is working with citizens to stand with refugees in solidary through actions and initiatives, a network of development and support, volunteer support, and cooperation with institutions and the central administration. We have always prioritized refugee accommodation and we understand that respect for humanity is paramount to those of us in Trikala. Our active participation in the ‘Cities Network for the Integration’ strengthens our journey towards a more equitable, fair, and peaceful society, with no exceptions or conclusions.”

Dimitris Pavlis, Mayor of Tripoli

"We are proud of our Municipality’s decision to participate in the UN’s ESTIA refugee housing program. As we look to implement the program, we encourage inland municipalities to coordinate and submit proposals to the government. Throughout this process, the UNHCR’s expertise, the work of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrants and Refugees, and the ‘Cities Network for Integration’ are proving local governments know how to cooperate and succeed.”

ATHENS WINS EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF INNOVATION AWARD AND €1 MILLION GRANT

The European Commission announced Athens as the 2018 European Capital of Innovation (iCapital), along with a €1 million prize. Cities considered for this prestigious award are judged on how they implement innovative solutions that address societal challenges. Led by Mayor Georgios Kaminis, the City of Athens implemented an innovation strategy that delivered more results with fewer means, by engaging citizens and the private sector in broad alliances. Many of the initiatives highlighted in consideration of this award were coordinated by the Athens Partnership, with lead support by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

"This award is a tremendous recognition of our city's resilience and work to find creative solutions that address our biggest challenges," said Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis. "We have overcome many obstacles by coming together as citizens, universities, private institutions, non-governmental organizations, municipal agencies and other partners committed to making Athens stronger. Our new digital strategy, which has increased the municipality's ability to serve residents, and programs such as Athens Open Schools, which provide beacons for community members to learn and connect, are just a couple examples of how we are innovating and strengthening through collaboration."

Athens was among 26 competing cities for the prestigious award, and in a final phase of 6 finalists, which included Aarhus, Denmark; Hamburg, Germany; Leuven, Belgium; Toulouse, France; and Umeå, Sweden. Cities that were shortlisted are those that manage to build open and dynamic innovation ecosystems, involve citizens in governance and decision-making and improve resilience and sustainability. The Athens Partnership, which works closely with the Municipality to pilot innovative public initiatives with cross-sector support, facilitated numerous programs in the City of Athens’ candidacy, including:

·       Athens Trigono project leverages existing government resources and private investment to create a more vibrant and sustainable public space. Project partners included synAthina, an online platform that engages and connects hundreds of community groups in civic activities. 8,300 sq metres of graffiti were removed, new pedestrian zones created, and 29 arts events hosted in Athens Trigono engaged 178 artists.

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The Athens Trigono project is helping revitalize public space.

·       Athens Culture Net connects Athens cultural institutions through a digital platform and maximizes the city’s potential for cultural outreach and production. Through Athens Culture Net, 52 cultural institutions joined forces, forming 16 working groups, leading to 50 joint events in collaboration with another 200 cultural groups and institutions, and Athens’ first ever Culture Night.

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Athens Culture Net organized the City’s first-ever Culture Night.

·       Athens Digital Lab promotes digital innovation in municipal government to better serve residents. Launched with an exclusive grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the support of telecommunications companies, Cosmote and Nokia, the Lab is developing city solutions with technological applications. In its first round, six startups were selected out of more than 110 applications, developing 4 prototype apps, which are currently being piloted across the City of Athens.

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The Athens Digital Lab helps young entrepreneurs develop their innovative tech solutions for the City.

·       Athens Digital Council provides strategic guidance to the City on the use of digital technology to improve government and services to Athenians. The Council is composed of leaders representing the largest digital, telecommunications, research and development and software solution companies in Greece, as well as distinguished professors from leading Greek universities, including Google, Accenture Nokia, and Microsoft among others. Since June 2017, Council members have supported a number of civic projects including the Smart Triangle project.

·       Athens Open Schools was designed to convert school buildings, after dismissal, on holidays and on weekends, into vibrant community centers. This covered the need for personal development opportunities, as well as providing safe, open public spaces in many neighborhoods. The program offers a variety of free, targeted activities and workshops for all ages. 27,000 Athenians took part in 470 different free educational and recreational activities in 25 Open Schools across Athens.

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25 new public spaces, offering free entertainment and development opportunities for all, were created by Athens Open Schools.

·       Designed for Better Learning & Maker Space, a program created with the expertise of the Technical University of Crete’s Transformable Intelligent Environments Laboratory, it transformed the environment and educational experience in 24 public schools (5% of schools stock in Athens), from preschool to high school. The City of Athens’ Maker Space, the first municipal maker space in Greece, is a laboratory that provides schools with access to the latest technology and equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers, giving students and teachers the opportunity to create their own educational tools. Already 1160 children and 168 teachers have been trained in applied digital technologies that can help transform their educational environment.

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Designed for Better Learning created the first municipal maker space in Greece, training school children and teachers in applied digital technologies.     

·       Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues was developed to bring together the major entities serving refugees. Within just a few months of launching, the new Center included the largest national and international organizations, sharing data and resources to strategically address immediate and future needs of refugees as well as inform policy and spending. 90 international and Greek agencies, with 370 delegates, and 12 Municipalities in Greece, are now coordinating to tackle challenges related to refugee and migrant integration.

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90 local and international agencies come together to coordinate on refugee response, under the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues.

·       Athens World Book Capital 2018 program, a partnership with UNESCO, to make books accessible to the city’s entire population, including migrants and refugees. The program includes meetings with writers, translators and illustrators, concerts, thematic exhibitions, poetry readings and workshops for publishing professionals. Already over 150 events have been realized, including inspirational hubs in the form of round tables, open discussions and creative dialogues and with the presence of distinguished writers.

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Acclaimed author Jeffrey Eugenides discusses with book critics and the public, at an event hosted by Athens World Book Capital 2018.

·       Athens Tourism Partnership & Athens Greeters, a new alliance between the City of Athens, Aegean Airlines and Athens International Airport, with support from The Hellenic Initiative, developed to promote Athens as a modern, welcoming, year-round destination. A multi-media campaign targeting European audiences was complemented by volunteer enthusiasm through a new Athens Greeters corps whose members personally welcomed and shared their knowledge of the city with thousands of visitors. The efforts of the Tourism Partnership were contributing factors to an impressive 10% year-on-year rise in overall Athens visitation numbers in 2017.

Athens Greeters personally welcomed 70,000 visitors in Athens.

The Athens Partnership, championed by Mayor Kaminis, was created with strategic guidance from Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono city consulting service offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies, to be a catalyst for innovative public programs. It was designed to intersect between city government and the private sector, leveraging the strengths of both. Project partners include academia, nonprofit organizations, civil society, and private supporters, including over 20 leading foundations and corporations.

"The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is proud to be a strong ally of the Municipality of Athens' innovative initiatives, which are recognized by this award," said Panos Papoulias, Deputy Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. "Our donation of €10 million to the City of Athens supported ground-breaking projects in collaboration with the Athens Partnership, such as Open Schools, the Revitalization of the Commercial Triangle program, and the city's first Digital Lab. These initiatives are improving and enhancing the quality of life of Athenians and the emergence of a city that promotes innovation and creativity. The iCapital distinction is a great validation of our partnership and it is shining a brighter international light on Athens and Greece for all the right reasons."

“Under the leadership of Mayor Kaminis, the City has worked hard to engage citizens and the private sector to help tackle its toughest challenges,” said Athens Partnership Executive Director Alexandros Kambouroglou. “The Athens Partnership is honored to collaborate with the City and help marshal cross-sector forces to benefit Athenians. We are grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and all of our partners, which are investing in innovative and meaningful initiatives that advance our city. The iCapital recognition is a great testament to the Mayor’s vision, our city’s resilience, and power of collaboration.”

OECD Highlights the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues as a best-practice example for the effective integration of migrants

A recent OECD study examined the challenges related to the integration of migrant populations in 72 cities, with a particular focus on 9 European cities, including Athens, Greece. The report highlights successful and innovative actions taken by cities that aim to address this major challenge. This is essential in order to succeed in the complex task of providing coherent and effective policies for migrant integration, since, according to the report, 80% of cities participating in the survey believe there are information gaps between local authorities and higher levels of government that hamper effective policy-making.

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A 3-day Council of Europe “train the trainers” language workshop was recently hosted at the ACCMR collaborative offices.

The OECD study presents the Athens Partnership as an effective mechanism for the strategic use of funds from the non-state sector at the local level, to exchange information on needs and implement innovative solutions. In this case, this is done through the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR), which was created with lead support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and which the report highlights as a “promising example of innovative co-ordination mechanisms”. Only a year and a half since its formation, the ACCMR has already brought together 88 organizations and agencies active in migrant and refugee services provision. The OECD report states: “The key aim of this initiative is the mapping of needs, the identification of gaps in the provision of services, and the collaboration for the development of a strategic action plan for the effective integration of refugees and migrants living in Athens. The ACCMR also acts as a hub for the formulation of collaborative proposals from its members, while also liaising with potential donors and supporters for funding in order to implement innovative projects.”

The ACCMR members have produced 65 proposals for projects and initiatives addressing migrant and refugee needs, while, through the ACCMR, the City of Athens is leading the exchange of best practices and capacity-building for 10 Greek municipalities. Synergies between organizations and agencies also produce concrete actions targeted to migrants and refugees. For example last week, a 3-day Council of Europe “train the trainers” workshop was hosted at the ACCMR collaborative offices, aimed to empower language teachers and provide them with the tools to adapt effective teaching to migrant and refugee needs. In addition, the second workshop coordinated by ACCMR members to address barriers to migrant and refugee integration in the job market was held, including representation by private companies and the opportunity for participants to engage in speed interviews.

As an indication of the ACCMR’s success, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and with the support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the ACCMR expanded its activities on capacity building work towards other Greek municipalities. Going forward, there is great interest from other major international institutions in supporting ACCMR’s work.

Read the OECD report’s references to the Athens Partnership and the ACCMR.

Athens Digital Lab: Supporting young entrepreneurs and embracing new technologies in the City

It’s been a year since the launch of the Athens Digital Lab (ADL) and our teams have been building a portfolio of stories to tell and impressive futuristic gear to display! Tales of smart recycling bins that reward you and systems that can predict the health of all the plants in the city’s parks are now a reality…

The Athens Digital Lab teams, with San Fransisco-based tech coach, Christos Kritikos.

The Athens Digital Lab teams, with San Fransisco-based tech coach, Christos Kritikos.

Let me start with a recap: ADL was created by the Athens Partnership and the Municipality of Athens, with an exclusive grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the support of two major tech companies, Cosmote and Nokia. Six startups were selected out of more than 110 applications, following ADL’s 1st open call in November 2017. The teams’ goal was to develop their ideas for city solutions into real technological applications and to do this they were provided with technical equipment, mentoring and access to real data sets from the City of Athens.

Recystrust has developed a smart recycling bin that is already being tested in City Hall and public schools.

Recystrust has developed a smart recycling bin that is already being tested in City Hall and public schools.

After 6 months of work, guidance and evaluation, four of them are now testing their products in real time in field trials across Athens. One of the teams, Recytrust, has designed and developed a smart recycling bin, which uses sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide real-time data about recycling performance. Individual users’ waste behavior is monitored through personalized swipe cards. These innovative bins have been placed in 20 spots, including City Hall, as well as 10 primary schools, and aim to educate and gamify recycling for Athenians.

Inagros is testing its green spaces management system in the National Garden.

Inagros is testing its green spaces management system in the National Garden.

Another great example is Inagros, which has developed a green management smart system, at the heart of which is a project management platform that is connected with the sensors that are installed in parks, gardens and green areas of the city. Through these sensors, city management officers will be able to monitor and control water and fertilizer levels, and predict plant health. Fifteen sensor nodes have already been placed and tested in the National Garden of Athens.

In order to exploit the transformative opportunities from collecting and analyzing a massive amount of information by IoT devices, Thing of Me designed and developed a big data marketplace. Their pilot testing started and new types of data are constantly being uploaded.

The fourth ADL team, Smart City Spaces, has developed a crowd-based platform and an application that lets the Municipal Police monitor public space use. Through open WiFi networks, by using data from smartphones that connect to these networks, public spaces and pedestrian foot traffic can be monitored throughout the city. This data can be used by the City for policy-making decisions, to identify popular areas and to monitor public safety. Also, Smart City Spaces has developed a “digital” ID for all businesses, enabling the city to monitor cafes and bars that use public space.

As the teams’ work progresses, the Athens Digital Lab is increasingly able to attract the best of the Greek startup ecosystem - entrepreneurs, business experts and researchers to share ideas and expertise. In early September, ADL welcomed Christos Kritikos, a San-Francisco-based tech entrepreneur - product-project manager and dreamer, startup coach at Emerging Humanity who has run numerous tech projects for several multinational companies, for a two-hour workshop on product management, exclusively for ADL teams. Christos also acted as a mentor, advising them on how to further develop their products.

Athens Partnership Executive Director, Alexandros Kambouroglou and ADL project manager, Antonis Papadopoulos present a workshop on how public-private partnerships can be the key to unleashing smart city potential, at the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair.

Athens Partnership Executive Director, Alexandros Kambouroglou and ADL project manager, Antonis Papadopoulos present a workshop on how public-private partnerships can be the key to unleashing smart city potential, at the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair.

What is more, in mid-September, ADL joined the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair as part of the “Digital Greece” pavilion in mid-September, along with other Greek startups and leading innovation hubs of the ecosystem. It was a great opportunity to present ADL’s vision on what really makes a city ‘’smart’’. Alexandros Kambouroglou - Executive Director of the Athens Partnership and Antonis Papadopoulos - Project Manager of ADL, ran a workshop on how Athens is moving towards a Smart City and the pivotal role of the Athens Partnership in the digital transformation of Athens.

So, what happens next at ADL? Next month we will announce our 2nd Open Call and an event will be held at Serafio to present the results of the 4 current product/service pilots. We will march into our second year with new teams working on smart city solutions in 5 different areas, new partnerships (to be announced soon!) and a roll out of exciting events on entrepreneurship, tech and more by Greek/US/European leaders of the field.

Don’t miss a thing... Stay tuned and follow Athens Digital Lab and Athens Partnership on social media!

Enduring change in Athens Public schools

How Athens took ‘experiential learning’ and ‘participatory design’ from theory to practice

Two and a half years after the start of the Designed for Better Learning program at the City of Athens, how enduring is the change in culture and attitudes for the 4,000 children in the 24 pubic schools that were transformed through this Athens Partnership program? Are new students faced with a changed experience or is the impact of the DBL program gradually fading away?

5 City of Athens nursery homes that share a common courtyard were renovated through the Designed for Better Learning program.

5 City of Athens nursery homes that share a common courtyard were renovated through the Designed for Better Learning program.

Starting in the Spring of 2016, the Designed for Better Learning (DBL) program, supported through an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), transformed 24 schools, equal to 5% of all public schools overseen by the City of Athens, using a groundbreaking approach that combines education with architecture and actively involves teachers, students and parents in the process and maintenance. The result was not just much better looking schools, but also a cultural shift which came from a significant increase in the sense of a personal connection and engagement with the school. The Athens Partnership coordinated the program for the City of Athens, while the Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab (TUC TIE Lab) of the Technical University of Crete was responsible for the scientific planning and implementation.

Stelios Vassilakis, Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives, Lenia Vlavianou, Group Director of Communications, Alexia Vasilikou, Communications Officer and Aristi Stathakopoulou, Program Officer at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, met with the principals of all the kindergartens, who shared their first-hand experience of the changes brought about by Designed for Better Learning.

Stelios Vassilakis, Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives, Lenia Vlavianou, Group Director of Communications, Alexia Vasilikou, Communications Officer and Aristi Stathakopoulou, Program Officer at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, met with the principals of all the kindergartens, who shared their first-hand experience of the changes brought about by Designed for Better Learning.

Popi Baskeki, the Principal of one of the preschools, speaks enthusiastically about the change that happened through the Designed for Better Learning program.

Popi Baskeki, the Principal of one of the preschools, speaks enthusiastically about the change that happened through the Designed for Better Learning program.

Last July, we welcomed the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for a visit to the pre-schools that were revamped using this innovative method. The changes included a redesigned common courtyard for all, upgraded internal spaces, as well as new educational games and constructions for the 500 children and 60 educators at the 5 Nursery Schools of the Municipality of Athens, at Christodoulakio, on Kifissias Avenue. After a tour, we sat down with the same team of educators who took part in planning the changes at the very start of the program.

The nursery school principals recalled the planning stage of the program, when DBL architects and researchers sat together with educators to discuss how they envisioned a more functional, education friendly school environment. The greatest challenge to overcome for the 5 nursery schools was that they were housed in adjacent buildings that shared a common school yard that was separated by gates, fences and walls. These boundaries divided up the space and also created visual barriers between the educators and the children.

Vaso Leneti, principal of one of the nursery schools (left) with Marianthi Liapi, DBL project manager from the TUC TIE Lab of the Technical University of Crete.

Vaso Leneti, principal of one of the nursery schools (left) with Marianthi Liapi, DBL project manager from the TUC TIE Lab of the Technical University of Crete.

“When we first heard about the program, we were very enthusiastic and hardly believed all these changes were possible! The project team, architects and researchers, were asking us ‘what are your wishes and dreams for this school?’” says Popi Basdeki, the Principal at one of the five nursery schools.

The first stage of Designed for Better Learning focused on large-scale architectural interventions: unifying the separated playground, creating more efficient interior layouts, upgrading facilities such as the bathrooms. And change did not stop here: through the “Educational Pla(y)ces” structures, the DBL team worked with students and teachers in each of the schools to enrich learning spaces and incorporate educational equipment.

One of the new educational tools designed by the DBL team together with educators, created at the City of Athens Maker Space, also a part of the DBL program.

One of the new educational tools designed by the DBL team together with educators, created at the City of Athens Maker Space, also a part of the DBL program.

“Through this program, we came to put to use concepts that we previously talked about theoretically, like ‘experiential learning’ and ‘participatory design’, but could never really enforce in our environment”, says Maria Vlachou, Principal of the Christodoulakio complex. The testimonials make it clear that the transformation had a deep impact on school culture.

“The combination of top-down and bottom-up changes is the unique element of this approach”, said Marianthi Liapi, Project manager of the DBL program. “We found the common ground between the needs and visions of educators and the school community, bringing innovation together with tailor-made solutions that served that specific community at a world-class standard.”

Children now play in a stimulating environment that supports development and allows them to take more risks while exploring their environment.

Children now play in a stimulating environment that supports development and allows them to take more risks while exploring their environment.

The tour showed first-hand what data already indicated to us – which is that 2.5 years later the transformation has been maintained and supported by these schools. Although construction crews transformed the architectural environment, it was the DBL methodology which went below the surface and engaged teachers, parents and the children in a way that made them stakeholders and guardians.

Art At All Hours -- Bringing Athens’ Cultural Institutions Together

Athens, a city long known for its history of philosophy, art, and literature, is now gearing up to host its first Culture Night.  The free, after-dark series of cultural events and activities produced by Athens Culture Net, will take place throughout the City this Friday, October 5. 

This celebration highlights the relationship between art and narration in partnership with the 2018 Athens World Book Capital. Events are planned at dozens of cultural institutions and more than 26 galleries across Athens with exhibitions, live music, theatrical performances, poetry readings, mystery games, cultural treasure hunts and movie screenings. For a full listing of all of the events, activities, and participating cultural institutions, visit this link.

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Over the past two years, the Athens Partnership has been proud to support Athens Culture Net (ACN) and promote Athens’ multitude of cultural assets - ancient and contemporary alike.  ACN, whose founding donor is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is a network of cultural organizations operating in partnership with the Municipality of Athens. ACN promotes collaboration, idea exchange, use of public space, and shares best practices to elevate Athens as a destination for creativity. With 52 of the most prominent cultural institutions in Athens as members and growing, ACN has supported over 35 events since its creation including:

·        Documenta 14: ACN supported the coordination of the documenta14 art fair, which hosted art exhibitions and installations in 40 sites across Athens including major squares like Syntagma, Kontzia and Victoria. This was the first time that Kassel, Germany co-hosted the fair with another city.

Documenta14 art fair attracted international attention

Documenta14 art fair attracted international attention

·        Athens World Book Capital: A year-long celebration of literature with events happening across the city aimed at fostering a culture of reading in Athens.

Author Jeffrey Eugenidis at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Author Jeffrey Eugenidis at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

·        Cultural programming at the Theotokopoulou Building: ACN undertook the planning and coordination for programming at this historic building, transforming it into an education, innovation, and cultural facility for Athens.  Theotokopoulou has already hosted a number of creative groups and workshops in its first few months of operation.

·        Open Schools Programming:  Through ACN, the National Theatre, Museum of Cycladic Art, and the Music Library of Greece provided free workshops for students of all ages as part of the Athens Partnership Open Schools program.  Open Schools is a municipal program offering free recreational and educational activities at 25 public schools during evenings and weekends.

Open Schools programming: theater for children

Open Schools programming: theater for children

·        ACN Social: More than 100 attendees from 50 different cultural groups participated in an event to enhance social media skills and communication strategies at cultural organizations. This is the first in a series of workshops that ACN is producing.

For more information on the Athens Culture Net, visit www.athensculturenet.com

Event hashtag: #culturenightathens

What do refugees in Greece need today?

We have all seen the heart-wrenching pictures: families struggling to safely reach the shore; small children left alone in a foreign country. And according to survey results, more than half the Greek population provided assistance to refugees in some way.

A few years after the refugee crisis’ peak—the question today is what do newcomers to Greece need from the state, NGOs, and ordinary citizens?

© Hara Tasoglou

© Hara Tasoglou

Chloe Tsernovitch, a Greek-American who came to Greece to help at the height of the refugee emergency, worked on the front line in Lesvos for a year and half, where she offered psychological support. Now she works in Hestia Hellas supporting the smooth integration of refugees and immigrants into Greek society. In reflecting on both roles, Chloe remarks, "Support today, long after the arrival of refugees, is equally important. We often see severe anxiety disorders manifesting themselves long after refugees have settled in a new country." Chloe also mentions the daily risks to child refugees in Greece, living as unaccompanied minors.  

Who has the plan?

In reality, no central government plan has yet to address even the basic needs of refugees and to promote their smooth integration into Greek society. Municipalities and organizations, both international and Greek, have been called upon to fill this gap—in part because refugees in the Mediterranean are so diverse, meaning each require unique interventions:

"The ‘refugee crisis’ in the Mediterranean has some specificities which make it different, namely the large diversity of persons arriving at the Greek coasts, mainly in terms of nationality, language, and legal status”, according to the Red Cross, which has been active in Greece since the beginning of the refugee crisis. Great progress has been made against major difficulties, but "further steps need to be taken to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers and ensure people have access to public health services."

Chloe Tsernovitch, Psychosocial Support (PSS) Officer at Hestia Hellas    © Marina Tomara

Chloe Tsernovitch, Psychosocial Support (PSS) Officer at Hestia Hellas 

© Marina Tomara

The flow of information

One major key to overcoming obstacles in refugee services is to have access to accurate and up-to-date information, as the situation changes rapidly as new population groups arrive.

In response to this need came the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues of the Municipality of Athens (ACCMR), which brings together 85 international and Greek refugee and immigrant-focused organizations, together with relevant authorities of the Municipality. With the founding support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Center operates under the coordination of the Athens Partnership, an independent organization set up in 2015 to build public-private partnerships in Greece.

Sotiria Kyriakopoulou, Refugee and Migration Program Manager at ActionAid Hellas   © Marina Tomara

Sotiria Kyriakopoulou, Refugee and Migration Program Manager at ActionAid Hellas

© Marina Tomara

New coordination tools

Marina Tomara, Coordinator of the ACCMR’s digital platform, explains how the platform can make a decisive contribution to better co-ordination of efforts: "Through accmr.gr, any organization can register, upload their services, and access information about the services of other organizations, as well as connect with potential donors and supporters.”

Sotiria Kyriakopoulou, Refugee and Migration Program Manager at ActionAid Hellas, believes these new tools are very useful: "The Coordination Center has created a stable, open channel of communication between organizations and municipal services. The Municipality informs us of the services available and organizations respectively transfer the information to refugees and migrants, to help them access services. We in turn transfer our detailed information on refugee needs to the Municipality, so that it can shape its services accordingly." This effective coordination is all the more important given that resources for refugee and migrant support are becoming more scarce, as many international agencies are withdrawing from Greece to address emergencies in other parts of the globe.

What do refugees ask of us?

It is important to remember that despite the scale of the problem, the massive efforts that took place at the peak of the refugee crisis provided a unique lifeline for many people. However, while many newcomers are past immediate danger, they still need support.

Chloe, speaking from personal experience, tells us: "In the face of such great suffering, we often feel that whatever we do will never be enough. However, it is important to remember the difference we have been able to make... Today I see people who continue in their struggle to help refugees, not losing their courage, and that makes me optimistic about the future!"

 

© Red Cross

© Red Cross

Together with Marina Tomara, Coordinator of the ACCMR’s digital platform, we spoke with Sotiria Kyriakopoulou, Refugee and Migration Program Manager at ActionAid Hellas and ACCMR Health Committee Coordinator, the Red Cross, who also holds a coordinating role on the same committee, and Chloe Tsernovitch, Psychosocial Support (PSS) Officer / Counselor at Hestia Hellas. All three organizations are members of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR) which brings together international and Greek bodies supporting refugees and immigrants as well as the relevant authorities of the Municipality. ACCMR was created in June 2017, starting with 35 members, reaching 85 members today. The Center has five different working committees covering health, education, access to the labor market, housing and access to rights - legal support. Operating with Stavros Niarchos Foundation as its founding donor, the Center is coordinated by the Athens Partnership.

A Maker Space for Athens schoolchildren to explore 21 century technology

How do you program a robot battle? How can you use a 3D printer to design and produce a chess piece or a key ring? What is it like to visit a space station through the use of virtual reality? These and many more digital applications are now available in the new City of Athens’ Maker Space - free for students of all ages in Athens to explore. The Maker Space is the first municipal fabrication lab in Greece, equipped with machinery and digital tools for designing, printing, and manufacturing (it includes laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC router, vinyl cutter, etc.).

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Through new educational programs, this year more than 1150 children in Athens have already explored the Maker Space, learning about applied digital technologies through hands-on experiments. More than 220 teachers have also taken part in workshops – designed to help them create new tools to enhance school learning and introduce creative play in the classroom.

“In spite of all its technological wonder, the Maker Space is not a just a showroom where you can admire technological applications. Children and adults are invited here to become creators, taking digital technology into their own hands,” says Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership, who coordinate the Maker Space program.

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The Maker Space is an integral part of the City of Athens’ “Designed for Better Learning” program, which has already upgraded 24 public schools in Athens through an innovative educational approach. “Designed for Better Learning” - funded by an exclusive grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation - is being implemented in collaboration with the Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab of the Technical University of Crete and coordinated by the Athens Partnership.

Mr. Kambouroglou continues, “In Maker Space, children can see, for example, how simple objects are designed and produced. Their curiosity is naturally sparked as children begin to wonder ‘what can I dream up and construct next?’ Through the Maker Space, children are getting a first-hand experience of what it is to be an inventor in the 21st century.”

The Maker Space is part of the third implementation phase of the “Designed for Better Learning” educational program. In its first two phases, architectural interventions were made in 24 schools in the municipality of Athens, and 87 "Educational Pla(y)ces" - educational projects enriching the learning tools and the school environment - were added with the active participation of pupils and teachers. 

Young entrepreneurs present ideas to change Athens

The Athens Digital Lab (ADL) recently unveiled its work, including pilot tech apps designed to tackle urban challenges. ADL was created by the Athens Partnership with the Municipality of Athens and a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Tech companies Cosmote and Nokia also play an internal support role. This year four teams of entrepreneurs were selected (from more than 110 proposals received), following an open call for “digital ideas to change the city”. The teams have been provided financial support, technical resources and access to data to develop their products.

Young entrepreneurs present their innovative Internet of Things solutions to the tech community.     
  
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

Young entrepreneurs present their innovative Internet of Things solutions to the tech community.

“The unique strength of the Athens Digital Lab lies in the pooling of resources between the public and private sector,” said Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership. “This unique initiative is allowing the City of Athens to embrace experimentation and innovation, and opening up more opportunities for the tech industry. And the invaluable support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation provided the ability to create an ecosystem of experimentation”.

The Athens Digital Lab is coordinated for the City of Athens by the Athens Partnership, based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, with the partnership of Cosmote and Nokia.

The Athens Digital Lab is coordinated for the City of Athens by the Athens Partnership, based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, with the partnership of Cosmote and Nokia.

The Athens Digital Lab is part of Mayor Georgios Kaminis’ 2018 Digital Roadmap, a strategic plan to enhance public services through digital technologies, improve technological infrastructure, and promote digital access for Athens residents. ADL also supports youth entrepreneurship in Greece and encourages Greek technology to be exported internationally.

The teams and tech pilots presented were:

RecyTrust - Smart recycling bins and behavioral change platform.

Less than 19 percent of waste in Greece is recycled. RecyTrust is determined to change this by designing smart recycling bins and changing wasteful trash management behaviors. The RecyTrust recycling bins use IoT technology to provide real time data about the capacity of the bins and their recycling performance. These bins “gamify” waste management, by rewarding people points each time they use the bins and recycle correctly.

Recytrust present their app at the Athens Digital Lab open house.

Recytrust present their app at the Athens Digital Lab open house.

Inagros - A smart green management system.

The City of Athens manages a large number of parks and green public spaces that are enjoyed by its residents. However, with limited resources, it is difficult for the City to know which green spaces are in need of care and maintenance. Inagros developed a node of sensors, "Inagros Urban" that the City will use to monitor and control water and fertilizer levels, and predict plant health across the city's parks.

The National Garden in central Athens is one of the public parks that can benefit from improved management through the “Inagros Urban” platform.

The National Garden in central Athens is one of the public parks that can benefit from improved management through the “Inagros Urban” platform.

Smart City Spaces - A public space management tool.

Athens is known for its café culture, which often spills out onto its streets. But the use of public space by restaurants and bars is a challenge for the city to monitor. Smart City Spaces therefore designed a web dashboard that monitors public spaces and pedestrian foot traffic throughout the city. Smart City Spaces creates digital "beacons”, which act as digital ID’s for stores and contain their licensing information.

Thing of Me - A marketplace for data.

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and technology provides new and transformative opportunities to collect and analyze data. The Thing of Me platform establishes a marketplace to exchange this data.

Young tech teams present their pilot to executives from Bloomberg Associates, an international philanthropic consultancy who advise the City of Athens.

Young tech teams present their pilot to executives from Bloomberg Associates, an international philanthropic consultancy who advise the City of Athens.

European distinction for AP-coordinated Open Schools program

The Council of Europe’s latest handbook on “Promoting Human Rights at the Local and Regional Level” includes the City of Athens’ Open Schools, a program coordinated by the Athens Partnership based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, as a best-practice example for promoting the smooth integration of refugee children. The Handbook presents 65 good practices implemented in over 25 countries all over Europe, aiming at showing how Local and Regional Authorities can implement initiatives that make human rights a tangible reality at the grassroots level.

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The Council of Europe’s handbook states:

"By transforming 25 public schools into centres for scientific, creative and sports activities, as well as for language courses for Athenians and refugees, the city of Athens managed to bring together refugee and Greek children, increase the involvement and interaction of neighbourhoods and local schools in the refugee integration process and offer refugee children a safe environment where they can learn and spend time outside of their accommodation centres.

In 2015, the city of Athens launched the initiative “Open schools”, a programme aiming to transform the local public schools in the municipality of Athens into centres for sports, creative learning, language courses and other activities for all Athenians and refugees. With this initiative, the school buildings remain open from the end of school hours until 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Not only do the workshops enhance language skills and cultural understanding of refugee children, but they also contribute to a direct exchange among newcomers and resident population at all age levels. Using the school buildings to host creative workshops for all ages, revitalises the spaces and brings the local community together in an effort to increase the involvement and interaction between neighbourhoods and local schools. The programme is led by the city of Athens and financed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

During the summer of 2016, 450 out of the 1,250 participants in activities of the open schools were refugees. Today the initiative comprises 25 public schools in the municipality of Athens and numbers 170 courses with a total of 10,184 participants.”

A new digital coordination platform for refugee and migrant services

A new digital platform, accmr.gr, was launched today, bringing together all the services and actions of institutions that contribute to social integration and the protection of migrant and refugee rights. The platform is operated by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues has been operating since June 2017 with Stavros Niarchos Foundation as founding donor and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership.

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"The platform allows non-governmental organizations, international organizations, migrant communities, and civil society organizations more widely, as well as municipal agencies, to be easily and properly up-to-date with crucial information and to refer beneficiaries appropriately," said Athens Mayor George Kaminis, adding: "We all need to work together to improve existing services and to draw up appropriate policies, both for dealing with new extraordinary circumstances, as well to promote smooth integration of the Athens migrant and refugee population in the city of Athens"

The new ACCMR digital platform seeks to fill the gap of valid and up-to-date information on services available for the benefit of immigrants and refugees in the neighborhoods of Athens in areas such as housing, health, education, culture, legal support and integration into the labor market. All stakeholders are invited to participate actively, by registering and listing updated information about their services and initiatives.

In addition, accmr.gr encourages residents, as well as private companies and other stakeholders to support initiatives and actively participate in the development of an inclusive and socially cohesive Athens. Interested parties can register, declare how they can help with donations, voluntary contributions, know-how or in-kind contributions, and the ACCMR will bring them together with organizations in need of corresponding support.

"The Coordination Center's work is an excellent example of a public-private partnership for the benefit of the city. Through the new accmr.gr platform, we are also reinforcing with a web-based tool the work of organizations supporting vulnerable groups of refugees and immigrants as well as all residents of Athens more broadly. This is an added-value initiative, as it can be implemented in other municipalities across Greece, "said Deputy Mayor for Immigrants and Refugees, Mr. Lefteris Papayannakis."

Athens Partnership - two years of impact

The Athens Partnership, a nonprofit organization established in 2015 to address pressing needs exacerbated by the economic crisis through public-private collaboration, released its first Biennial Report detailing outcomes to date. Twenty-four public schools remodeled; 25 schools opened with free community activities; 6,000 sq meters of graffiti removed in the city center; and the development of an online case management system serving 40,000 beneficiaries – these are just a few of the results a new wave of public-private initiatives has achieved for the City of Athens. The Athens Partnership estimate over 70,000 Athenians have been directly impacted as a result of its programs to date.

In partnership with the Municipality of Athens and theTechnical University of Crete, and with a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Athens Partnership launched “Designed for Better Learning”, transforming 24 schools, inside and out.

In partnership with the Municipality of Athens and theTechnical University of Crete, and with a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Athens Partnership launched “Designed for Better Learning”, transforming 24 schools, inside and out.

“The Athens Partnership is helping to drive change and advance city priorities at an unprecedented pace,” said Mayor Georgios Kaminis. “This new model is not only facilitating impactful new programs, it is also helping the City of Athens to reimagine its public spaces and deliver services more effectively.”

Τhe Chanion multi-service clinic was the first public clinic to offer health and social services under one roof, free for all.

Τhe Chanion multi-service clinic was the first public clinic to offer health and social services under one roof, free for all.

“The Athens Partnership’s scope has gone far beyond channeling aid rapidly and transparently to address pressing needs. AP projects are now offering model solutions to chronic problems in Athens, as well as helping create new opportunities for the city’s rebirth. Thanks to lead support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, our partner and donor base has now grown to encompass individuals, foundations and companies who want to offer funds and expertise to achieve effective public-private partnerships with lasting impact”, says Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership.

2015-2017 results include:

  • Collaborated with school community to remodel 24 public schools (impacting 4,215 students and teachers), providing not only upgraded physical spaces but helping build a personal bond between students and their schools and creatively reimagining learning activities.

  • Transformed the city’s Commercial Triangle from an overcrowded central neighborhood into a model city center by cleaning 6.000 sq metres of graffiti, pedestrianizing streets, and incorporating public art, while engaging participation from the local community to ensure sustainability.

The Commercial Triange project is removing tags, cleaning and pedestrianizing streets and engaging the local community to create a model city center in Athens.

The Commercial Triange project is removing tags, cleaning and pedestrianizing streets and engaging the local community to create a model city center in Athens.

  • Organized the pilot operation of a municipal health clinic in Kypseli, central Athens, which for the first time provides health and social services under one roof, free of charge (15,000 residents served to date).

  • Enhanced the City’s refugee response through the creation of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee Issues (ACCMR) by bringing together 75 organizations to strategically address needs. The ACCMR is the first of its kind in the country.

  • Strengthened economic development through a new Athens Tourism Partnership (ATP), bringing together Aegean Airlines, Athens International Airport and the Hellenic Initiative, that supported a multi-media campaign reaching over 34 million potential travelers. Through the ATP's Greeters program, 124 volunteers personally welcomed over 70,000 visitors at key city hubs.

Read our Biennial Report here.

Strengthening Athens through Partnership

In addition to its antiquities, Greece is renowned for its severe economic crisis and the accompanying frightening statistics that demonstrate its harsh impact on residents: 50% unemployment rate among young residents; 15% living in extreme poverty. In addition, beginning in 2015 Greece was faced with an international humanitarian crisis as fleeing refugees flocked to the country, further draining the country’s limited resources.

The creation of the Athens Partnership strengthened Municipal services, by forging alliances with private sector partners.

The creation of the Athens Partnership strengthened Municipal services, by forging alliances with private sector partners.

With the public sector under huge strain, cutting down even on the most basic services, many Greeks in and outside of the country stepped up and asked, “How can I help?” Unfortunately, good intentions and a desire to help do not always translate to impactful and lasting results. When it comes to philanthropy, many challenges stand in the way, such as how to coordinate and direct private investments in an efficient and effective way, and how to make meaningful and sustainable change. Enter: The Athens Partnership (AP), which was formed in 2015 to tackle these challenges and to leverage the existing services and resources of local government.

An early advocate for the AP model, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation committed 10 million euro to support the Municipality of Athens and entrusted AP to administer its generous grant for the benefit of Athenians. After two years, AP launched over a dozen impactful programs garnering the support of many donors and project partners. Our Biennial Report features a robust description of the cross-sector programs launched in coordination with the City of Athens and the outcomes to date. What is more difficult to convey is how AP has helped to rethink and reawaken some of the City’s essential services, developing a new framework for collaboration, transparency, and accountability.

Transformational programs: in Designed for Better Learning schools, 77% of students report leaving school happy.

Transformational programs: in Designed for Better Learning schools, 77% of students report leaving school happy.

For instance, Designed for Better Learning could have been a simple renovation of public school buildings in dire need of attention, however, working with the Technical University of Crete, we reimagined a new way of teaching, learning and community engagement. Twenty-four schools (5% of City schools) were transformed and new activities, co-created with students, were embedded such as IT training and DIY construction. AP has received over 40 requests to replicate this program.

Transformational results were also achieved in our Commercial Triangle initiative, which helped turn around a crowded city center filled with tags into a new vibrant area, boosting business conditions and attracting tourism. It took cleaning 6.000 square meters of walls and storefronts, removing illegally parked cars, creating new pedestrian streets, and most importantly, working closely with local business owners and residents on every step to ensure success and sustainability.

Reshaping the heart of Athens: the Commercial Triangle program is removing tags and cleaning walls and storefronts, creating new pedestrian streets, in cooperation with local business owners.

Reshaping the heart of Athens: the Commercial Triangle program is removing tags and cleaning walls and storefronts, creating new pedestrian streets, in cooperation with local business owners.

Addressing one the most pressing emergencies in Athens, the Athens Partnership became a catalyst to public and private efforts assisting refugees and migrants. The creation of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee Issues enabled the City of Athens to assume a proactive role in the coordination of 75 NGOs and government agencies—helping to identify gaps, avoid duplication of efforts, promoting the integration of migrants and refugees as well as preparing for a possible future emergency. This program has fundamentally begun to change the way resources are channeled to address the refugee crisis, building synergies between private and public sector partners.

Above all, the success of the Athens Partnership is good news for the City Athens and its residents—new and old. As noted in our Biennial Report, over 70,000 Athenians have been directly served by the work of the Athens Partnership since its launch. We are confident this is only the beginning.

We are deeply thankful to our growing list of partners and donors committed to the health and well-being of Athenians and our country. In spite of the challenges we face, we can only be optimistic about the future: by harnessing this powerful mix, there are no limits to what our City can achieve ahead!