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!

 

Promoting migrant and refugee integration in Athens through work opportunities

More than 180 representatives of organizations, institutions, private companies and beneficiaries participated in the event "We live together - We work together", organized by the Livelihoods Committee of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR). ACCMR started operation in June 2017 with founding donor the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership and today is made up of 80 member-organizations.

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The event was organized by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Solidarity Now, Caritas Hellas, Metadrasi, Praksis, Generation 2.0, Organization Earth, Home, Melissa and Entrepreneurship Academy. The event explored the creation of the right conditions for the integration of immigrants, refugees and socially vulnerable groups through employment, and the importance of these efforts for all Athens residents.

"Access to the labor market is one of the major pillars of the integration process. The challenge for Greece, a country with an official unemployment rate of over 20%, is to find ways to facilitate migrant integration. It is important in this endeavor that stakeholders promote the concept of social cohesion, in order to benefit host communities as well", said Vice Mayor for Migrants and Refugees of the Municipality of Athens, Lefteris Papayannakis.

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In the context of two open roundtable discussions, it was stressed that efforts to integrate refugees and immigrants involve the well-being of the whole city, not just those specific groups. Also, support services must embrace all vulnerable groups, whether they are new or old residents of Athens.

The discussion highlighted the importance of the initiative undertaken by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues. The ACCMR aims to offer better coordination between the municipality and organizations, helping to prepare for potential new emergency situations and to promote the smooth integration of the migration and refugee population in the city of Athens.

Video by solomon.gr -- Filmed by Reza Goldadi & Fanis Kollias Edited by Vassilia Sofroniou

Ηumans of Commercial Triangle: Τhe koulouri street vendor of downtown Athens

The Commercial Triangle program aims to regenerate the heart of downtown Athens. The area has a strong commercial character and is full of family businesses that go back almost 100 years. The real protagonists of the area however, are its people. Retailers who sell door knobs, lace and fabric, jewellery materials and ecclesiastical items, residents, but also publishers, booksellers, architects, graphic designers, painters, photographers and dance teachers scattered in ateliers and dance studios. We are currently running a series entitled “Humans of Commercial Triangle” which regularly features on the Athens Trigono facebook page. We feel that these portraits perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the neighborhood.

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Our most popular profile so far is Iosif Konstantinou a koulouri street vendor. Koulouri, a Greek breakfast street food staple is a plain, circular bread topped with sesame seeds and it’s usually sold at kiosks in Athens’ streets. The industry for street vendors is strictly regulated with special licenses for specific spots, granted by the Municipality of Athens. This is Iosif’s story.

“I'm the newest koulouri vendor in the area. I started a little more than a year ago. Me and my wife managed to get a koulouri-vendor license. I used to work in an IT company, but now I am holding down two jobs. I am at this exact spot every morning selling koulouri from 6.00 am until 14.00. From here I move on to my second job as a receptionist where I finish at 20.00 in the evening.

When I first started selling koulouri I was almost desperate. It was hard. I remember this one Saturday, where I only sold 25 pieces. As time has gone by though, things have gotten better and I am feeling optimistic. I always try to win my clients over. I get my koulouri delivered every few hours so that it’s always fresh and warm. I sell more on weekdays than the weekends. Koulouri is best eaten at a desk in an office! The tourists in Athens- Germans, Turks, Russians, Chinese- are curious they always stop and ask me about koulouri- what is is, how it is made. They like taking pictures but they don’t always try the goods! I sample my koulouri on a daily basis. I want it to be really good every single day”.

The City that Invented Democracy is Reinventing it for the 21st Century and Beyond

Today, data and technology are re-inventing how cities function. Cities across the globe are trying to crack the code on how to best leverage the new opportunities these advances present, to better respond to their residents and support local businesses. As Principal of the Digital Strategies practice at Bloomberg Associates, a global philanthropic consulting firm, I see this first-hand around the world and in our work with the City of Athens.

 The City of Athens is working with Bloomberg Associates to apply best practices from cities around the world and to develop programs that will improve the quality of life of Athenians. (Pictured: Athens Mayor Kaminis and Katherine Oliver. )

The City of Athens is working with Bloomberg Associates to apply best practices from cities around the world and to develop programs that will improve the quality of life of Athenians. (Pictured: Athens Mayor Kaminis and Katherine Oliver. )

I was proud to be in Athens this month speaking alongside Mayor Kaminis and Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Champidis, at the launch of the Athens Digital Roadmap, a strategic plan for Athens to build upon their digital offerings by expanding internet access, increasing transparency, and engaging residents through digital technologies.

Under the bold leadership of Mayor Kaminis, Athens has embraced the belief that municipal government can use digital tools and communications to be as effective as the private sector by adopting a customer-focused mind-set, constantly measuring progress, and adapting one's strategy to reflect changing market demands. Mayor Kaminis also understands that this requires a plan and partnerships to accomplish these goals.

 Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Champidis, and Todd Asher from Bloomberg Associates welcome attendees to the Roadmap launch.

Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Champidis, and Todd Asher from Bloomberg Associates welcome attendees to the Roadmap launch.

Against the backdrop of challenging economic and social challenges, Mayor Kaminis has forged ahead, steadily developing Athens’ digital foundations. In 2015, the Athens Partnership was launched to be a catalyst for innovative public programs, and to create partnerships between the city and the private sector. The following year, Mayor Kaminis appointed Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer to spearhead the municipality’s digital initiatives. Together they launched the Athens Digital Council, a strategic advisory body that brings together leaders of the largest digital and telecommunications companies in Greece, as well as distinguished professors from leading Greek universities, to advise the municipality on cost-effective ways to harness technology. These partnerships – with leaders that are household names not only in Greece but around the world – are truly unprecedented.

 As Principal of the Media and Digital Strategies practice at Bloomberg Associates, I have the privilege of working with cities around the globe in their efforts to modernize and embrace the opportunities that technology offers.

As Principal of the Media and Digital Strategies practice at Bloomberg Associates, I have the privilege of working with cities around the globe in their efforts to modernize and embrace the opportunities that technology offers.

The launch of the Athens Digital Roadmap marks another significant milestone in this journey. This strategy outlines projects centered on the digital priority areas of the municipality, which include Internet access, e-government, digital skills education and online engagement. Together, these projects will make it easier for people to access critical services, connect people to new skills, and make Athens a more livable city for its residents and a friendlier city for businesses and visitors.

 The Athens Digital Roadmap was launched at the City of Athens’ new Serafeio complex, which hosts a number of innovative Municipal initiatives including the  Athens Digital Lab ,  synAthina ,  Athens Culture Net  and the  Designed for Better Learning  Maker Space.

The Athens Digital Roadmap was launched at the City of Athens’ new Serafeio complex, which hosts a number of innovative Municipal initiatives including the Athens Digital Lab, synAthina, Athens Culture Net and the Designed for Better Learning Maker Space.

The Athens Municipality knows that tracking progress and adapting to changing dynamics is critical to success. Therefore, the Athens Digital Roadmap will be a living document, poised to be evaluated and updated on an annual basis to ensure the municipality leverages its successes and is constantly evolving to deliver results. With these efforts in place, I am confident that Athens is on-track to be a leading digital city, and am excited to help enable the Athens of the future.

Katherine Oliver, Principal, Bloomberg Associates Media & Digital Strategies team

Download the Athens Digital Roadmap.

75 organizations working together to improve conditions for migrants and refugees in Athens

Athens Mayor George Kaminis today visited the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues and met representatives of NGOs and other organisations which have joined forces under the coordination of the Municipality of Athens to improve service delivery for migrants and refugees in Athens.

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"The city of Athens is proactively coordinating the voluntary and non-governmental organizations active in the field of migrant refugee support, aiming at social integration in the city", stressed the Mayor of Athens, Mr. George Kaminis, welcoming the representatives of these organizations and thanking founding donor, Stavros Niarchos Foundation for their decisive support.

The Center, set up and operating since June 2017 with an exclusive donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership, aims to coordinate efforts between the municipality of Athens and all those active in the field of support and integration of migrants and refugees.

“The donation for the establishment of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues is part of the large donation of €10 million from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the municipality of Athens, aiming at strengthening the capital's residents faced with a period of crisis, but also of regeneration opportunities. Initiatives such as these, which highlight the possibilities for public-private partnerships for the benefit of the wider community, are now more necessary than ever", said Myrto Xanthopoulou, a representative of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation's Grant Management.

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The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues has 75 member bodies with more than 200 delegates. The Center includes representatives from international and Greek NGOs, international organizations, immigrant communities, as well as municipal agencies. The main common goal is to develop a coordinated response both for dealing with new potential emergencies, as well as for the smooth integration of the immigrant and refugee population in the city of Athens.

Building a strong partnership network

Recently, the Center led the signing of 3 Memoranda of Understanding with other municipalities in Greece, with the aim of exchanging know-how and support for similar projects at a local level. So far, Memoranda have been signed with the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Trikala and Tripoli.

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Through the work of the Center’s Technical Committees, gaps and needs have been identified and 65 proposals for pilot actions have already been produced with the aim of meeting the needs of migrants and refugees in areas such as housing, education, health, labor market integration and legal support.

At the same time, the Center has organized seminars, presentations and workshops in collaboration with important institutions. For example, the Center coordinates the participation of its members in the Athens - World Book Capital 2018 and is co-organizer of the Refugee Code Week initiative, through which more than 350 young refugees have been trained to date on the basic principles of programming.

Volunteer Athens Greeters give a warm welcome to the world!

As Athens neared a record-breaking 5 million visitors this year, our "Greeters program", coordinated by the Athens Partnership, made sure a warm welcome awaited tourists. A huge thank you goes to out to our 120 enthusiastic volunteers who were engaged in this City of Athens project that was successfully completed a few days ago with the support of The Hellenic Initiative, Aegean Airlines and Athens International Airport.

This video shows how the Athens Greeters are shared their love for their city and their intimate knowledge of Athens with the world!

The Athens Greeters program is part of the Athens Tourism Partnership, a wider effort to boost the tourist influx and local economy. The Athens Tourism Partnership aims to promote the Greek capital as a modern, attractive year-round destination.

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Athens Digital Lab: An innovative venture that changes Athens and supports youth entrepreneurship

An initiative of the Athens Partnership, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), COSMOTE and Nokia, with an exclusive grant by the SNF.

The creation of the Athens Digital Lab, an innovative venture that aims to change Athens though revolutionary digital solutions, was announced today. Funded by an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the Athens Digital Lab brings together the City of Athens with COSMOTE, Nokia and SNF, in a groundbreaking venture coordinated by the Athens Partnership. This unique smart city research and development laboratory will support innovative solutions that will improve the quality of life of Athens’ residents and visitors.

The Athens Digital Lab competition is calling for digital ideas with the potential to change the city and invites individuals, groups and new technology enthusiasts to submit proposals that can evolve into advanced Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for smart cities. Proposals are requested to cover the following themes: cleaning, parking, green spaces, public spaces, vehicle fleet, open theme.

Five teams will be selected and will have the opportunity to work for a six-month period in a specially designed, modern and fully equipped lab, which will be provided by the municipality of Athens, having at their disposal all the technical and financial resources required for the implementation of their proposal. In addition, teams will receive:
• Technical support and guidance from executives of the municipality of Athens, COSMOTE and Nokia
• Access to the Nokia IMPACT IoT platform, a secure, standards-based, IoT platform on which to build and scale new IoT services
• Advanced network infrastructure by COSMOTE.

During implementation, teams will be able to perform field trials and will have access to the relevant data of the city for testing the solutions. The solutions that will be developed can be implemented in the municipality of Athens for two years while at the same time gaining access to sales channels in Greece and abroad, with the support of COSMOTE and Nokia.

Proposals submissions begins on October 17 and will end on Sunday, November 19, 2017. Submissions are made exclusively at www.athensdigitallab.gr.

The Mayor of Athens, Mr. George Kaminis, said: "With the Athens Digital Lab, Athens gets its own research and development laboratory for advanced Smart City solutions and the digital strategy of the municipality of Athens enters the implementation phase. We aim for technological solutions that will optimize everyday life for the citizens of Athens in the best possible way. We give young people - engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs the chance to become part of this development. We thank the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for its continuous support and trust, as well as Athens Partnership, COSMOTE and Nokia, who support the present and the future of Athens".

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Athens earns EU award for innovative solutions to migrant and refugee crisis

The City of Athens received €5 million award to implement the proposal “Curing the Limbo” which was submitted to the second call of the Urban Innovative Actions initiative of the European Union. The results were announced during the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017 in Brussels.

Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is an Initiative of the European Union to provide urban areas throughout Europe with resources to pilot innovative solutions for complex urban challenges. Among the themes of the second call were (a) the integration of migrants and refugees, (b) circular economy and (c) urban mobility. Athens’ proposal in the topic “integration of migrants and refugees” was selected along with 15 out of a total of 206 proposals from 21 European member states.

The City of Athens’ proposal “Curing the Limbo” is about empowering stranded refugees who have been granted asylum to get out of a characteristic state referred as “limbo” which has struck a part of the population doomed to months and years of waiting for the next stage in their life. It involves four strategic partners: two international NGOs, CRS (Catholic Relief Services) International and IRC Hellas (International Rescue Committee), the University of Athens and the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency S.A.

From Brussels the Mayor of Athens, Georgios Kaminis stated that: "I am particularly glad that once again City of Athens’ engagement in social innovation projects and especially its’ linking to the important issue of refugee integration is being awarded and supported by European funding, proving that cities can provide solutions to the multiple challenges Europe is facing”.

The program connects refugees with active citizens of Athens offering an escape from inertia through their participation in activities for the public benefit that respond to existing needs of the city. At the same time it develops the soft skills required for the refugees’ integration and offers incentives and tools for the acquisition of affordable housing.

The idea addresses a universal phenomenon burdening the spirit in many other European cities: The inactive population, whether it consists of newly arrived refugees, under-skilled migrants, unemployed locals, or solitary pensioners, is a challenge of our times.

“Athens’ proposal was based on the experience earned by the City of Athens in the last two years by managing the refugee crisis through the Coordination Center for Migrants and Refugees-which is exclusively funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and facilitated by the Athens Partnership-and the Accommodation Program for Asylum Seekers. Through these initiatives we realized that there was an unaddressed urgent challenge in the city. The implementation of the idea will be coordinated through synAthina, which connects Athenian civil society with local government to maximize impact”, stated Amalia Zepou, Vice Mayor for Civil Society and Innovation. synAthina was a 2014 winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, an ideas competition for cities.