Akademia Platonos – Plato’s Academy is Pioneering Once Again

A self-organised movement of citizens is currently evolving around this special place: the actual archaeological park of Plato’s Academy, the Philosophy School founded and led by Plato.

Citizens have set up a collaborative cafe called Akademia Platonos just opposite of the archeological site, which has become a lively community of change makers and young people involved in various urban projects related to transition, skill-sharing and creating a new way of life.

The first time the SIZ was invited to work in the Collaborative Cafe was in March 2012 when we hosted a gathering which brought together those who want to explore the question

“How can we co-create new ways of organising, relating to each other, working and collaborating, connecting and networking?”

Forty people joined us for a participatory dialogue process using a World Cafe approach which invites us into a series of conversations to see what is present in and emerges from the richness and diversity of voices in the room. Together we discovered the many new initiatives gaining more and more ground in Athens, projects ranging from urban vegetable gardens, to co-work spaces and alternative economy initiatives and networks.

Recently the citizens have self-organised around an issue that emerged about the identity of the neighbourhood, which was sparked out of the announce of a plan to turn the nearby property into a mall. Local citizens and people from all over Athens organised a two-day festival to raise awareness for the matter, connect people and ideas, see a citizens-owned vision for the area and empower the grassroots action, projects and initiatives that are being prototyped in this specific area.

SIZ-Hellas was invited to host and offer a participatory process in the context of the unfolding initiative around the “Plato’s Academy neighbourhood in transition” on the first day of the Festival. In partnership with the Collaborative Café, we offered an outdoor participatory session in the park. We sat on the grass under the shade of olive trees inspired by the same ancient marble that Plato and his students used to see and touch 2,500 years ago.

Working with the question: “What do we see and/or want to see happening in our neighbourhood?” we created a participatory mindmap which was then followed by Open Space Technology which gives those who.  We self-organized into conversation groups all over the park creating a buzz of creative energy resulting in very concrete and tangible ideas and actions.

The momentum of the people’s guardianship and ownership of the Akademia Platonos area is remarkable. The plethora of initiatives already happening there range from collaborative economy projects to free Greek lessons for immigrants and web-radio. We are happy to be closely connected to the social innovation and systemic change springing from this extraordinary place ~ Philo-Sophia…

Text by Maria Bakari, photo by Vanessa Reid

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