For this fourth expedition, the Enacting the Commons consortium has chosen to focus more specifically on the potential links between commons and social justice. What better destination than Greece to explore these topics ?
Following the Greek economic crisis and the austerity measures that followed, Greece saw the standard of living of its population fall drastically, its public services deteriorate and the public actors lose a good part of their means of action. In this context of crisis and in line with the protest against the proposal to refinance the Greek crisis, civil society, but also certain public officials, organized themselves in an unprecedented “solidarity movement”. Many citizen initiatives, often with a social and self-directed aim, have emerged. These new commons are more than solutions to precariousness: by their size and their political vision, they re-examine the place of the public actor and its role towards citizens. Through our visits, the objective is to explore more carefully the challenges that this poses for public action, in particular around themes related to active citizenship, education and health.
1. How does the city of Athens grasp the citizens’ initiatives initiated in response to the crisis? How can these commons influence public actor’s the posture? In 2013, only 13% of the Greek population declared that they trusted public institutions*. Faced with this observation and the need to recreate a bond of trust between citizens and the administration, Amalia Zepou, then Deputy Mayor responsible for innovation and civil society in Athens, launched SynAthina, a digital public platform to enable collaboration between civil society and the City. The initial observation was that citizen initiatives, although numerous, were often spontaneous, invisible on a large scale and disconnected from each other. By networking them and offering resources for these initiatives, SynAthina seeks to support the commons in connection with the general interest and the community. Is the SynAthina project an inspiring example of what public-commons partnership could be? Is this initiative initiated by the public authority isolated, or on the contrary, is this an example among others of a profound transformation of the posture of the Greek public actors?
2. To what extent do the commons complement public services? What does this imply in terms of the public actor’s responsibility in their missions of general interest, in particular towards disadvantaged populations? Many self-managed organizations claim to be independent from any public authority, such as the Elliniko clinic. Entirely based on voluntary work and material donations, it provides the most needy populations with basic healthcare. They claim that it is not intended to replace the Greek health system, but in fact makes up for its shortcomings. To what extent do these initiatives challenge the public actor? How could it reposition itself? What autonomy do these commons wish to keep? Besides, do these spontaneous initiatives claim to be part of the “commons” movement? Finally, is the Greek solidarity movement a simple response to austerity or is it shaping a new organization of society?
3. To what extent do the commons allow the empowerment of the poorest populations and better social justice? The period 2011-2015 was synonymous with a great effervescence of citizen initiatives “in common”. Today, projects whose economic models were not viable have disappeared and those which have persisted tend to be better structured. How to successfully transition to a more sustainable activity? In this context, what can be the recognition of the skills acquired by the commoners?
* Source: Gallup World Poll
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