For this fourth expedition, the consortium of Enacting the Commons has chosen to focus more specifically on the potential links between commons and social justice. And what better way to do this than by going to Greece?
After the Greek economic crisis and the austerity measures that have followed, the living standards of the population have drastically declined and public actors were left with limited resources. This situation has hampered the capacity of cities to deliver public services. In this context of crisis, an unprecedented solidarity movement have emerged, in line with the protest against the proposal on the refinancing of the Greek debt. These new commons, products of the crisis and the campaign “We will not let anyone alone in the crisis”, are more than solutions to poverty. By their scale and their political vision, they re-examine the place of the public actor and his role towards the citizens. Through our visits, the goal is to explore more closely what is at stake for public action, focusing on topics related to active citizenship, education, and health.
These are some questions we want to look deeper into:
1- How does the city of Athens respond to citizen initiatives that have emerged in the context of the Greek public debt crisis? How can these commons change the posture of the public actor? In the wake of the Greek economic crisis and the austerity measures that strongly impacted local public services, the trust between citizens and government has eroded. To recreate the link between the city and the citizens, Amalia Zepou, then vice mayor for Civil Society and Innovation Office in Athens, launched SynAthina, a digital public platform to enable collaboration between civil society and the city. Citizen initiatives, although numerous, were often spontaneous, invisible to the municipality and disconnected from each other. Through an inventory of grassroot initiatives, some networking and the resources provided, SynAthina seeks to support commons that are linked to general interest and community. Is the SynAthina project an inspiring example of what public-communal partnerships could be? Is this initiative isolated or is it a sign of a more radical transformation of the posture of Greek public actors?
2- To what extent do commons fulfill the lack of public services? What does this situation imply in terms of the responsibility of public actors in their missions of general interest? Many self-governing organizations claim to be independent of any public authority such as Elliniko’s clinic. Entirely based on volunteer work and material donations, the Elliniko’s clinic offers people in difficulty essential care. The volunteers do not have the vocation to replace the Greek health system but, in fact, they overcome its lack. To what extent do these initiatives challenge the public actor? How could public actor reposition himself? What autonomy do these commons want to keep? For that matter, do these spontaneous initiatives recognize themselves in the movement of “commons”? Finally, is the Greek solidarity movement simply a response to austerity or does it shape a new organization of society?
3. To what extent commons can improve social justice and empower people in difficulty? The 2011-2015 period has been synonymous with a great effervescence of citizen initiatives ‘in common’. Today, projects whose economic models were not viable have disappeared and those that have survived try to be more mature. How to successfully transition to a more sustainable activity? In this context, what can be the recognition of the skills acquired by the commoners?