When the crack began to open around the Greek economy in 2011, there were many and varied responses from individual despair, collective protest to imposed austerity measures and more. The focus of many of these responses was on what was wrong, what went wrong and who was wrong.
Our response at SIZ-Hellas was to bring people together to be in conversation. The very simple act of creating an invitation to come together at a difficult time is deeply meaningful, particularly when citizens feel isolated and fearful.
In December 2011, and in partnership with SOL-Greece (Society of Organizational Learning), we invited citizens to a World Cafe conversation which is a methodology that gathers people around a central question to have several rounds of conversations with others at cafe tables. It allows us to then collect the wisdom from all the smaller conversations into collective insights and actions that we can move forward. We worked with the central question:
“What are we proud of at this time about our land and ourselves?”
With this question, we shifted the focus from complain and blame to discovering each other again as citizens who care about their collective futures. We were able to cultivate a sense of potential – even in the despair and chaos of the situation. By offering a space for citizens to participate in their lives and in what matters to them most, we began to see the bigger picture together of what might be possible if we were to respond to the situation from a place of actively participating in creating our future.
*See the original invitation here which is also the blog post “A World Cafe in Athens – participating in the making of our lives.”
Photos and text by Vanessa Reid