The Athens Partnership (AP) released its 2018 Annual Report, detailing the outcomes of its public-private initiatives in Athens, Greece. Since its inception in 2015, AP has directly served more than 150,000 Athenians through its innovative programs in areas including education, community and economic development, social inclusion, technology and culture. AP has engaged over 300 partners in both the public and private sectors to advance projects in coordination with municipal government.
“The Athens Partnership’s programmatic success is thanks to an incredible – and increasing – network of collaborators and supporters,” said Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership. “These programs are sparking change in municipal government, bringing together cross-sector partners in meaningful ways, and garnering international acclaim.
With lead support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and a growing network of partners, AP has lead more than 14 major initiatives in coordination with the . In 2018, Athens was recognized as the European Capital of Innovation by the European Commission, stemming from a range of innovative efforts that included 13 AP initiatives, more than half of the Athens dossier in consideration for the award.
AP’s 2018 accomplishments include:
The Athens Open Schools program exceeded 30,000 participants since its launch, both adults and children. Free classes offered ranged from theater for teenagers by the National Theater to Cisco Networking Academy course and accreditation on CCNA Routing & Switching.
The Designed for Better Learning program launched the City’s first Municipal Maker Space, in collaboration with the Technical University of Crete and with a founding grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. More than 1300 students and teachers were trained in the pilot phase. Over 1.5 million euro in City funding has now been secured for Designed for Better Learning and the Maker Space, ensuring future funding and sustainability under the City’s oversight.
AP and its partners launched the first Municipal Maker Space in Greece, located in central Athens.
The Commercial Triangle project supported the revitalization of the city’s historic center, where a cumulative 30 million euro of private investments has been realized since the start of the program. Ground floor occupancy increased by 25% and new “smart” apps were piloted in collaboration with the local business community, for smart LED lighting and smart waste disposal.
The Commercial Triangle project is creating new pedestrian streets in the center of Athens, upgrading networks, removing graffiti tags from historic buildings and inviting artists to create works of public art.
Digital and technology initiatives supported by the Digital Council were launched as part of the City of Athens’ 15 million euro investment plan. Projects launched included initiatives run through the Athens Digital Lab, the Municipal Maker Space, Commercial Triangle project, and Athens Open Schools.
The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR) enhanced the City’s refugee response, with 92 of the leading government and nonprofit organizations active in the field. ACCMR also supported the creation and operation of the first “Cities Network for Integration”, joining 13 Greek Municipalities that host a large number of refugees to exchange know-how and work towards common solutions.
Building on the success of AP’s Athens Tourism Partnership, a new coalition, known as This & Athens & Partners, was formed between the City of Athens and major tourism enterprises to develop projects that boost economic growth and job creation by attracting investment, businesses, events and visitors. The success of these sustained efforts led to a 10% year-on-year rise in tourist visitation numbers in 2018.
Read the 2018 Annual Report.
A cleaner future awaits the City of Athens under a new AP initiative which will see 20,000 square metres of graffiti tags and illegal posters disappear from the Historic Centre.
The latest anti-tagging initiative is designed and being implemented by the Athens Partnership and aims to boost the City of Athens’ efforts to promote and restore the charm of the capital’s Historic Centre. The program is made possible by the generosity of the A. C. Laskaridis Foundation, Beat, Constantine M. Logothetis, COSMOTE, Ionian Hotel Enterprises S.A. and Lampsa Hellenic Hotels SA. The scheme is an expansion of the city’s campaign to clean up the appearance of the Historic Centre through the “This is Athens & Partners” coalition - a unique public-private partnership that brings together the City and major tourism stakeholders with the mandate of developing, managing and promoting Athens as an attractive year-round destination.
The historic building of Stadiou 15, before and after the first cleanup.
"Combating visual vandalism has always been a priority for our administration,” stated the Mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis. “In this context, 8,300 square meters of facades, some of which are architectural treasures of the city, have already been cleaned from tags and illegal posters in the context of the Commercial Triangle project, and covered with anti-tagging special protection material to ensure that with a little maintenance they will remain clean.”
The Historic Triangle of Athens, surrounded by the emblematic squares of Syntagma, Monastiraki and Omonia, is home to some of the city’s greatest architectural treasures. Buildings designed by Ernst Ziller and Panagiotis Kalkos and many more distinguished architects "unfold" over traditional shops and businesses, visited daily by thousands of Athenians and tourists.
A special crew will remove new tags within 48 hours.
Works will be carried out by a special crew contracted to apply anti-graffiti and hydrophobic paint materials to prevent poster replacement and facilitate the cleaning of new tags. New occurrences will be dealt with within 48 hours, while a team of Municipal officials will be trained to support the project's sustainability.
The programme also aims to revive the city centre through actions and events to be carried out in cooperation with the area’s entrepreneurs, in order to best respond to the specific characteristics and needs of the neighbourhood.
As part of the programme, more than 100 of the the city’s outdoor telephone line distribution boxes will be transformed into works of art by local artists, with the support of COSMOTE, under the popular "Art on KAFAO" project.
These new initiatives were inspired by the success of the "Revitalization of the Commercial Triangle” programme run by the Municipality of Athens which has organised events attended by more than 20,000 visitors, transformed 37 telephone boxes and cleaned 30 cty blocks from graffiti tags and posters. That programme was made possible thanks to an exclusive donation by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Something big is happening in the Athens Commercial Triangle (Trigono): An area of 110 acres is reversing years of urban decline in an effort to change the everyday mindset of citizens towards their city, testing a new way of living in the city center. The Trigono project is delivering more public space to citizens, developing a “smart” lighting system, piloting a “smart” mobile notification system for garbage collection, and adding new benches, bins, and greenery.
Last month, Trigono’s “smart” garbage collection system was publicly launched by Mayor Kaminis, Haris Broumidis, CEO of Vodafone Greece, Konstantinos Champidis, Athens’ Chief Digital Officer, and Elina Dallas, Project Manager for the Athens Commercial Triangle Revitalization Program. With this new service, business owners will be notified when the City’s garbage truck is about to pass by the neighborhood—removing the need for fixed bins and avoiding garbage concentration in this historic part of the city.
Marios Danilopoulos, a journalist from www.kathimerini.gr sat down with Athens Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Hambidis, and the “smart” Trigono launch to talk about “smart” cities.
Marios Danilopoulos: What makes a city “smart”?
Konstantinos Champidis: It is not just about investment in smart lamps, smart parking, digital technology or free WiFi access—the key question is whether smart city services are truly beneficial to residents. What is most needed is that city ‘users’, from municipal employees to shopkeepers and residents, are involved and are offered tools that can improve everyday life.
MD: Why have you chosen Athens Trigono to pilot these smart city applications?
KC: The implementation of this plan is a part of the City of Athens’ Digital Roadmap. I don’t think we could’ve started this pilot elsewhere because of the level of interaction with the community it requires. Because the Athens Trigono project team interacts with residents and shopkeepers daily, they understand their problems, expectations, and needs. This provides the necessary reality check for our ‘smart’ plans. The Trigono team will tell us whether an idea will work on the ground or not, and whether it truly addresses neighborhood concerns.
MD: Can you tell me more about the new “smart” garbage collection?
KC: The City of Athens is not the first city to use telematics in garbage collection; but what is innovative about this initiative is that for the first time, it turns garbage collection into a service for shopkeepers. Users get a message on their mobile phones about the exact time the garbage trucks pass by their shops.
MD: How does “smart lighting” work and how will it benefit the area?
KC: Smart lighting is in effect remote-controlled LED lighting. While most the old lamps are controlled by one central switch, with this new system, we can dim, light, and extinguish each of the new lamps individually. This means we can adjust lighting according to the needs and of each part of the neighborhood. Furthermore, this new network of lamps can be used as a basis to install sensors for data collection or to expand Wi-fi networks in the future.
MD: What’s the private sector’s role in all of this?
KC: Unfortunately, the public procurement system does not allow us to test new technologies. But in this case, thanks to our private sector partners in “smart” Trigono (namely Vodafone) we were able to pilot their system on four garbage trucks in Trigono. With Vodafone’s support, we tested and refined the program according to our needs, and then expanded to another eight vehicles. It is these impactful collaborations that the Municipality seeks with the private sector.
MD: How would you evaluate the City of Athens’ Trigono interventions?
KC: In Trigono, we see a best-practice model of local government, which is based on the fact that, thanks to the Trigono project team, we are in constant contact with the neighborhood. Trigono is an emblematic project, the first one to be realized in cooperation with stakeholders. Now, we have a model that we know works and can be replicated elsewhere.
The City of Athens’ Commercial Triangle Revitalization Program is a public-private partnership, coordinated by the Athens Partnership, based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)..
Nancy Klampatsa is a Project Associate for the Commercial Triangle project. As a part of her work, she interviews business community members for “Humans of Trigono,” a historic and cultural preservation effort.
Athens Partnership: What makes the Commercial Triangle special?
Nancy Klampatsa: It’s a place with a strong sense of identity and history, a neighborhood with its own distinctive character, even though it’s part of the very center of Athens. In the course of interviews for “Humans of Trigono,” I am amazed to hear many fascinating stories that go back generations, and encapsulate the history of the center of Athens.
AP: Can this history be preserved while the area is being “revitalized”?
NK: This is one of the aims of the Commercial Triangle project: to revitalize the area, while maintaining, restoring, and showcasing its historical roots. We are recording the neighborhood’s history and highlighting it through cultural and community events, and making this history an integral part of the Commercial Triangle ‘brand.’ There is no other place in Athens where you can find traditional stores selling ribbons, cloth, and doorknobs, next to modern hotels and cafes. This is a treasure not only for tourists but for us Athenians too.
AP: What’s your favorite part about working at the Commercial Triangle program?
NK: It’s great to be able to immediately see the impact of our work in the neighborhood! As I leave our office, located in the heart of Trigono, I immediately see the results of our efforts – a wall that was vandalized and has now been restored, a new work of public art on display, new benches and LED lighting freshly installed. It is very rewarding!
AP: What does it take to change a neighborhood?
NK: I think building trust is key. Once you have a basis of trust, then all stakeholders can work towards a common goal. Residents and shopkeepers have gradually come to realize and value our project’s special role, as an intermediary between the municipal government, private sector donors and the neighborhood. They appreciate having a personal point of contact with whom they can voice their concerns. I think this project is really connecting all the necessary dots: the neighborhood, the Municipality, our donors and other partners. This idea, that the sum can be greater than its parts, is the underlying philosophy of all public-private projects coordinated by the Athens Partnership.
Interview with Trigono Shop Owner, Dimitris Hadjidimitrakis
For two years now, Trigono has undergone a lot of changes, and recently tested smart technologies. We talked with Dimitris Hadjidimitrakis, one of the oldest merchants on Vissis Street, about how he sees his everyday life during the interventions of the City of Athens.
Marios Danilopoulos: Has your daily contact with the Trigono team helped you?
Dimitris Hadjidimitrakis: Undoubtedly! When a project is run by the Municipality, there are often many stakeholders and therefore communication can be more distant and difficult. Whereas now, we feel that there is someone listening.
MD: What has been the most important change in your area?
DH: The cleaning of tags and graffiti from walls has been was a great relief! The Athens Trigono program has taken care of this pervasive problem, cleaning and shielding of Trigono surfaces with anti-tagging material. The same goes for illegally parked cars—especially on our own narrow street, the problem was unbearable—the situation was chaotic with cars parked uncontrollably; now the street is clear for pedestrians.
MD: What is your view on the new smart garbage collection initiative?
DH: Unfortunately, the smart garbage collection has not yet reached our street due to ongoing capital work. But, from what I hear from colleagues in other parts of Trigono, garbage collection has now become very easy. We look forward to getting it in our area.
The Athens Trigono project is implemented with the exclusive donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), with the exception of the capital works, which are financed by EU funds, according to the Partnership Agreement (PA) 2014-2020 (Regional Operational Programme “Attica”, Integrated Territorial Investment - ΙΤΙ).
In anticipation of International Women’s Day, three of AP’s Project Managers share their vision and love for Athens, in their own words:
Elina Dallas, Architect, Athens Trigono Project Manager
“My vision for Athens is of a vibrant, caring city, where public space is respected; a sustainable city with fewer cars, an inclusive city with happy citizens.
Elina in her beloved--and now even more beautiful--city center.
“Through our work on the Athens Commercial Triangle Revitalization program, we have managed to creatively transform the historical part of the city center, from the bottom up by building relationships and investing in its people.
“I truly believe that a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new, as Albert Einstein put it. In Trigono, this is exactly what we have been doing during these last two and a half years: experimenting and celebrating both our successes and failures. I think this is the way Athens can really change for the better.”
Lida Aslanidou, This is Athens - Polis Project Manager
“I think the beauty of Athens is unrivaled! I want Athenians to regain a sense of pride for their city, and visitors to feel safe and to experience the unadulterated pleasure of strolling in the unique environment that the historical center of Athens has to offer; a harmonic blend of history and modern day life, a complete package of colours, aromas and simultaneous sounds of merchants trying to grab your attention, and buskers, luring you away from your routine-thoughts.“
Lida is all smiles when she’s out in the city she loves.
“This is Athens - Polis” has set a very clear mission: to bring out the beauty of the Historical Center of Athens, which is home to some of the city's architectural treasures, but also to a vast number of new, as well as traditional businesses.
“At the same time, we are setting out to find and invite like-minded individuals who draw inspiration from these surroundings, to create and engage with them. We aim to collaborate with visual artists, graffiti artists and musicians, in order to create and perform in the public space, with the ultimate aim being to revive the area and give it new life!”
Irene Chazapis, Athens Open Schools Project Manager
“Athens is amazing as it is. I admire Athenians who dare to think outside the box and share their knowledge and skills with others.”
Irene excitedly introducing a free Open Schools event.
“Through the Athens Open Schools program, we create new public spaces in neighborhoods, new meeting and creative venues, by opening schools on weekday afternoons and all day on weekends. School buildings are being used as lifelong learning centers with a wide variety of activities geared to all ages and interests, including our most vulnerable community members.
“We are working to bring out the best in Athens by bringing people together and offering opportunities for everyone - without discrimination - to learn and grow.
“Our city is a puzzle of colorful neighborhoods and vivid stories, all of which have their place in the Open Schools.”
To support these program efforts of the Athens Partnership, click here.
Mothers of children with special needs talk about Athens Open Schools
A significant portion of the 500 free Athens Partnership Open Schools activities, offered in 20 neighborhoods, are targeted to disconnected residents. Creative activities for children with autism and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) include sports, painting, music and storytelling, aimed at children ages 7 to 14. At the 9th Special Primary School in Goudi, these activities are facilitated by special instructors from the Epilogi social enterprise.
We spoke with a newly formed group of 7 mothers from different neighborhoods in Athens, who bring their children each week to Goudi. Here are some words they shared over coffee in a neighboring café about their experiences.
AP: What brought you to Athens Open Schools?
Katerina: Before my experience at Athens Open Schools, I had not come in contact with other parents of children with autism, despite the fact that my child attends a special school. As a result, I usually felt lonely and marginalized associating with other parents. Through my son's involvement in this activity, I have now met parents who face the same daily challenges as I do and, most importantly, my child is happier, calmer, and more involved in everyday life.
Anna: There are not many organizations that offer free activities for children with special needs, and it is difficult for parents to always pay for something that should be provided free of charge, such as Athens Open Schools. It is not easy for me to travel here from home, which is in another part of Athens, but honestly, this is of no importance, when I see my child enjoying himself, socializing and making new friends.
AP: What has your child gained from this activity?
Maralenda: My son is more tranquil, his obsessions and stereotypical behaviours have receded. He functions better within a team and has more appetite for play. As for myself, I also came out of my shell, because I had closed up a lot; I have met other moms and started socializing again.
Violetta: It is the third year that my child has taken part in this program and during that time he has opened up socially- he is trying new activities, such as exercise. I have also met other people and made new friends.
Christina: Through this activity, my son now expresses himself more with me as well as other people. In addition, I have gained some free time for myself.
AP: What else has the Athens Open Schools program brought to the neighborhood?
Aspasia: Because the school remains open late, there is a guard and the courtyard is filled with people, it’s safer for all of us walk around the neighborhood.
To support these families through Open Schools and other AP public programs, please donate now.
Metadrasi is a Greek nonprofit organization that specializes in the fields of interpretation and intercultural mediation, as well as protecting of the rights of unaccompanied refugee and migrant minors. It is one of 150 organizations that offer more than 500 different activities to the neighborhoods of Athens, through the Athens Partnership’s Open Schools program. Metadrasi hosts language classes in Greek, English and German, as well as mathematics, for children aged 6-18 . The program targets refugees, migrants, and Greek children, supplementing learning gaps with the aim of enabling children to succeed in public school.
To learn more, we spoke with Nikoleta Dimitrouka, Head of Training for Athens and Thessaloniki:
What was the motivation to design and implement this activity?
The main motivation came from Metadrasis’ ambition to help prepare children (refugees, migrants, and Greek natives)for better integration into formal education and into the school community as a whole.
Partnering with Open Schools, we have been given the opportunity to implement an educational program that fulfills the dream of many children: their integration into formal school education.
How is the integration of children into school and society promoted?
Conducting our lessons in an actual school environment best prepares children for the transition to to morning school. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for many to leave refugee and migrant camps and visit other parts of Athens.
The large participation of both Greeks and refugees in the program shows that there is a willingness for interaction between the two groups. It is very encouraging that we see a strong desire for all children, regardless of their origin, to play together in the courtyard before, during and after the lessons.
The issue of refugees is a sensitive one. How do the neighborhoods of Athens react to your efforts?
The neighborhoods generally embrace the program, but the degree differs depending on the familiarity of these issues with each neighborhood.
What are your future plans for the program?
Despite the financial difficulties we face, the great success of this activity makes us want to continue in our efforts. With the invaluable help of volunteers, we hope to continue supporting all of our students,who are making tremendous effort to better develop their knowledge and skills.
To support these children through Open Schools and other AP public programs, please donate now.
The digital leaders of nine European cities created miniature encryption machines during an afternoon workshop this month at the Athens Municipal Maker Space, at a meeting convened by the Athens Chief Digital Officer.
The workshop was a central part of the European chapter of the Global City Chief Information Officers (CGCC) quarterly meeting and hosted by Athens CDO Konstantinos Champidis. It included representatives from Barcelona, the Hague, Helsinki, London, Milan, Tallinn, Vienna and Zurich. The challenge was aimed at building collaboration and problem-solving skills, while showcasing the value of the fab lab’s state-of-the-art technology.
European city digital leaders teamed up with the Athens Maker Space team to design, program and assemble the Eureka Box, drawing inspiration from the Enigma Machine which led to the development of the first electronic computer during World War II.
“We are trying to get digitalization, creation, innovation into the public school system and we are looking at different ways to do this,” said Marijn Franje, CIO of the Hague and founder of the European chapter of the CGCC. “I think this is a very interesting model to bring back home and try to copy it.”
Athens CDO and meeting host, Konstantinos Champidis (right) discusses with TUC-TIE Lab Director Konstantinos Oungrinis (center), Athens Partnership Executive Director Alexandros Kambouroglou (left) how a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach can enhance problem solving abilities.
The Maker Space, the first municipal space of its kind in Greece, is part of the Designed for Better Learning program, which has transformed the environment and educational experience in five percent of Athens public schools. The program employs participatory design, involving architects working hand-in-hand with students, teachers and parents.
Testing the gears of the Eureka Box.
“Meeting here has been an opportunity for Athens to showcase its amazing journey of digital transformation over the last 3 years, and I was really impressed coming to the Maker Space to see what a world-class facility has been created and how open it is to the public,” said Theo Blackwell, London Chief Digital Officer.
Clockwise from right: TUC-TIE Lab Director Konstantinos Oungrinis, Theo Blackwell, London CDO, and Marijn Franje, CIOr of the Hague
Launched by the Athens Partnership and run in partnership with the Technical University of Crete’s Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab, the Maker Space brings applied technology and design thinking to public school education. To date it has impacted the lives of 7,400 children and introduced innovative, interdisciplinary techniques to 167 teachers. The Maker Space was first launched in 2016 with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and is now funded through the City’s budget. It is also included in the City’s 2018 Digital Roadmap, a blueprint guiding Athens’ digital strategy and aim to become a premiere digital city.
Michael Hagler, representing the City of Vienna, works with Dionysia Daskalaki from the Maker Space team to assemble the box's circuits.
“Cities offer services and now technology is part of the public services delivered in Athens,” said Akis Georgakopoulos, a production and management engineer and member of the research team at the Maker Space. “Maker culture debunked the idea that technology is this exclusive thing some people use. Through this program we have opened tech up and made its use and application accessible to everyone.”
The City of Athens recently took a major step in enhancing its support for refugees and migrants, by ratifying the Strategic Action Plan for the integration of migrants and refugees, as well as the Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the management of potential refugee crises. Both plans were developed by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrants and Refugee issues (ACCMR), which brings together 92 member organizations. The ACCMR’s operation was designed and coordinated by the Athens Partnership, with a founding grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The Strategic Action Plan and Preparedness Mechanism, mean the City of Athens has two tools at its disposal that will enable it to assume a more active role in the monitoring and management of migrant and refugee-related issues within its geographical boundaries. At the same time, the City is consulting with other European cities on integration issues, exchanging information and best-practices.
The Mayor of Athens, Mr. Georgios Kaminis, stressed that, "since 2015, when the refugee crisis broke out, the City of Athens assumed a proactive role, taking on the responsibility of implementing a comprehensive refugee management plan to safeguard human rights and protect social cohesion and the smooth operation of the city. Today, we are again assuming a leadership role. In cooperation with the Hellenic Statistical Authority and EUROSTAT, we will use all available tools to promote social integration, while at the same time we will build on the Cities Network for Integration, which is currently joined by 13 municipalities from all over the country. "
The Deputy Mayor for Migrant and Refugee issues, Mr. Lefteris Papayannakis, stated that, “through concerted efforts and synergies with many private and public bodies, the City of Athens can assume a key role in supporting and strengthening activities that promote integration. The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues can play a central coordinating role in this effort."
The Strategic Action Plan sets out a clear framework with specific objectives that will strengthen the role of the Municipality and link its services to civil society. The plan will serve as a guide to strengthening services within the city as well as provide better information on services offered through existing online platforms. The creation of the plan was based on extensive mapping of services within the Municipality and extensive consultation with representatives from civil society and international organizations, to identify challenges and develop policies based on identified needs. Contributions from ACCMR have been key to this effort.
In addition to integration planning, the guide to a Preparedness Mechanism for effective response to future refugee crises in the Municipality, codifies a preparatory actions and systems so that the Municipality’s administrative and operational arms can respond successfully to future events. The guide was developed with the financial support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and technical support from the International Rescue Committee. UNHCR also provided important advisory support.
The Athens Partnership will be joining the Delphi Economic Forum, February 28 - March 3, 2019. The Forum brings together political, business, academic, and other leaders in an effort to address current challenges, influence national agendas and promote sustainable and socially responsible growth in Europe, Greece and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.
AP Executive Director Alexandros Kambouroglou will join the Saturday March 2, 10.45AM panel on “The New Role of Cities in Global Issues”, chaired by Bloomberg Associates CEO George Fertitta, at Leto Hall, along with distinguished speakers, including Athens Mayor Georgios Kaminis, Open Society Foundations Senior Program Officer Manos Moschopoulos, and Microsoft Greece, Cyprus and Malta CEO Peggy Antonakou.
The panel will highlight public-private initiatives of the Athens Partnership, presenting some of our innovative programs tackling urban challenges in collaboration with local government. Elina Dallas, Athens Trigono program manager and Konstantinos Champidis, Athens’ Chief Digital Officer, will share insights on some of our cross-sector projects on urban regeneration and the digital transformation of the city, which are now serving as models for other municipalities.
Watch the live stream of the discussion at Leto Hall, on Saturday 10.45 am.
Mayor Georgios Kaminis convened international experts in Athens for a two-day regional conference focused on the prevention of trafficking in human beings in supply chains through government procurement practices and measures, especially in the Balkan region. During the conference, the Mayor announced plans for a new pilot program to develop policies and implement practices aimed at ensuring that the City of Athens does not, to the fullest extent possible, purchase goods manufactured or contract services provided by victims of human trafficking.
The regional conference is part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) project on Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings in Supply Chains through Government Practices and Measures. The Athens conference is organized by the OSCE in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ONR), the Athens Partnership and Bloomberg Associates.
The Mayor of Athens, George Kaminis, greeting the opening of the conference, said: "The City of Athens, at the forefront of Europe, seeks to be the first municipality in the country to take a stand and shield its procurement system against companies and products that do not respect anti-trafficking principles."
The City of Athens targets a pioneering role in implementing slavery-free policies at the city level, providing an example for other national, regional and local authorities to follow. The conference marks the announcement of a pilot program through which the City seeks to develop a detailed action plan that involves input from stakeholders such as procurement experts, suppliers and law enforcement and includes concrete steps such as grievance mechanisms, capacity building, mapping of suppliers, and risk assessment and management. Expert support for the program will be provided by the ONR.
“Governments have a crucial part to play in working towards a supply chain that is free of human trafficking and forced labour – and not just at the national level. We see with the City of Athens’ pilot program a tremendous leadership role by a municipal government in this fight, and it is an example that we want to replicate throughout other cities in Greece,” said Heracles Moskoff, National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings.
The conference gathered attendees and speakers from 15 countries, including representatives of city, regional, and national governments; and professionals from international and non-governmental organizations focused on combating forced labour and trafficking.
Valiant Richey, OSCE Acting Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, noted the importance of the Conference’s cross-sectoral group of stakeholders, including attorneys who have worked with trafficking victims, procurement and anti-trafficking officials, multi-national companies, and NGOs. “By bringing together all of the stakeholders who can play a role in developing important government anti-trafficking measures, we can ensure that our efforts can have a significant – and sustainable – impact, in Athens, Greece, the Balkans region, and beyond” Mr. Richey said.
Rose Gill Hearn, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation during the Bloomberg Administration and Principal of the Municipal Integrity Practice at Bloomberg Associates, an international philanthropic consultancy and a co-organizer of the conference, said, “The City of Athens, through its anti-trafficking public procurement pilot program, is demonstrating its commitment to working against the scourge of labour exploitation in supply chains. We applaud Mayor Kaminis for supporting this conference and initiative to analyse how cities can use their buying power – collectively billions of euro – to safeguard against tainted procurement.”
Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership, a non-profit specializing in philanthropic public-private partnerships, coordinating the City of Athens’ new pilot program, said:
“The complex issue of human trafficking in public supply chains can only be addressed when political initiatives are supported and strengthened by private sector collaboration and know-how”.
The second day of the conference featured in-depth sessions on the recommendations of the OSCE’s Model Guidelines on Government Measures to Prevent Trafficking for Labour Exploitation in Supply Chains. Speakers discussed action that governments can undertake to prevent trafficking in supply chains, such as identifying industry-specific trafficking risks, training public procurement officials and vendors, implementing anti-trafficking due diligence in the procurement process, and developing monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
For materials related to the Conference, including the presentations from speakers on both days of the event, please see here.
Twice a week, 15 teenage refugees make their way to Athens’ historic neighborhood of Plaka to attend the Open Schools course “English Through Comic Books” offered at the 1st Experimental High School.
“We consciously targeted this age group [13-18] because teenagers are the most neglected group – the lost generation,” said Mara Vandorou, one of the four teachers of the course. “We had specific goals: to create an inviting, safe environment and develop a framework where, on specific days and times they had a commitment to honor and, of course, enhance language skills.” The course was also co-created and taught by Dimitra Adamopoulou, Sofia Berlis, Georgia Oikonomidou and Lida Tsene.
“English Through Comic Books” is the result of a cooperation between the Accommodation and Social Services Scheme for Asylum Seekers, part of ESTIA, which is realized through the City of Athens’ Development and Destination Management Agency and Comicdom press, with the aim of cocreating a program addressed to young refugees from vastly different backgrounds, to help bridge their learning gaps as they learn to live in a new city.
The aim is to not only boost reading and comprehension skills, but also to improve emotional intelligence, offering a safe, welcoming environment outside of their homes in local Greek society.
“Getting out and walking through Plaka’s streets to the school gives me such a warm feeling because the area is like being home for a bit,” says 17-year old Emad, as he describes the similarities between his former home in the the Souq Al-Hamidiya area of Damascus and the Athens neighborhood. Since arriving in Greece his only activities have been through the Open Schools program and meeting with his friends from the class once a week to play football.
More than 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently live in the Attica region, with an additional 7,500 living in cities in the rest of Greece, as a part of the UN’s ESTIA housing program. The Open Schools program helps to remove barriers and offer opportunities for teenagers to interact with one another, share in new experiences and discover connections. In April 2018, Open Schools was recognized by the Council of Europe as a best practice for integration, while, along with other Athens Partnership initiatives such as the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee Issues, it was also acknowledged in the City’s recognition as the “2018 European Capital of Innovation”.
Rami, a 16-year old participant in the course says, “Language is a tool and I have seen how it makes me richer. I now use it to interact with Greeks with more confidence.” He added that the lesson is as much about learning as it is about a chance to meet up with new friends and hang out in different parts of the city. When asked if there was anything he disliked about the class, he said: “The idea that it may not continue to be offered once this round of activities ends.”
Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.
The Athens Open Schools program of the City of Athens operates with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation as founding donor, with the coordination of the Athens Partnership and the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation as Activities Donor, under the Vice Mayor for the Child.
The action is an initiative of the Accommodation and Social Services Scheme for Asylum Seekers, with the collaboration of Comicdom Press, and was implemented within the framework of Athens Open Schools.
The course was co-organized and taught by Dimitra Adamopoulou (Comicdom Press), Sophia Berli (EATA), Georgia Economou (EATA), Mara Vandorou (EATA) and Leda Tsene (Comicdom Press). The action was supported by the Interpreters of the Accommodation and Services Program for Asylum Seekers, Nabil Papadopoulos, Reem Jayusi, Elena Chatilari and Amgad Faik.
Three years ago a small group of supporters took a chance on the Athens Partnership—and the idea that this new vehicle could be a catalyst to spark innovation, collaboration, and investment in Athens. In this short period of time, we’ve launched 14 major cross-sector initiatives with the Municipality of Athens, invested over €12 million in grants and contributions, and impacted the lives of over 100,000 Athenians.
Today we are not just an idea but a team of people, both seasoned and committed to strengthening Athens and the country—From reimagining public learning spaces to digitizing social services citywide. We have created a network of more than 30 government agencies, 400 NGOs and citizen groups, and private partners working together on programs such as Open Schools and the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues. By bringing together these collective forces, we are targeting needs, leveraging and sharing valuable public resources and directing investments where they are needed most.
The world is taking notice. This fall Athens was awarded the 2018 European Capital of Innovation distinction by the European Commission. This prestigious honor was received after consideration of the city’s bid that highlighted many Athens Partnership projects.
Your role in all this is everything.
This is a crucial time in the growth of the Athens Partnership and the reach of our public programs. Can we count on your support?
On behalf of the Athens Partnership, I cannot thank you enough for your belief and commitment—your support is strengthening a city, a country and the citizens of Greece. As we reflect on the amazing outcomes over the last three years, we have much to be thankful for and are encouraged by the possibilities ahead with your partnership.
Happy holidays to you and yours,
We have all seen images of the refugee plight in recent years: families struggling to reach the shores of Greece; small children left alone in a foreign country.
While international agencies and organizations have dedicated vital resources to address emergency needs, no city could have been prepared enough to respond to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Recognizing the need for more strategic and coordinated deployment of services and funds, the Athens Partnership collaborated with the Municipality to launch the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR). ACCMR brings together 93 of the largest national and international refugee organizations to better manage resources, share data, inform policy, and anticipate future needs.
Asef Farjam, Open Society Fellow and member of the European Migrant Advisory Board remarks: "The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues plays a key role in helping refugee communities make their voices heard. Through the ACCMR, they can influence decision making and help shape policy to address real needs effectively."
This holiday season please consider a gift to help us continue in this work and improve the lives of residents—new and old—in Athens, Greece.
“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:
"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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”