Building the New Networks and Leadership ~ introducing the SIZ

Building the New Networks and Leadership ~ introducing the SIZ

“Hi! My name is Odysseas. I’m a young Greek citizen. I am 27 years old.

Me and my friends – I say friends because I can cooperate from my heart with them (from the person that I am I mean) – we made and created the Systemic Innovation Zone. Systemic because we want to have real systemic change, not to create something that in 20 years will collapse; Innovation because we need social innovation technology in order to step forward and make a new beginning; and Zone I would say in a mental way, rather than a specific area.

Here in Greece we train people in Participatory Leadership and also help them create projects in social innovation. Why not transfer our experience and learning to the rest of Europe and to the world? In Greece, actually, the system hopefully will collapse. I say hopefully because I need something new – everyone I think needs something new in Greece and in Europe, and we have to take action by all the people coming together to create the new system that we want to live from, to take decisions about our lives.

The people in Systemic Innovation Zone, I think, have the experience to help people to learn how to use participation. Actually, Greece is a country where the West and the East come together, which means the collective and the individual comes together. We need to bring back the old patterns that Greeks had, which is to help each other. Greece’s economy has collapsed many times but has survived many wars as well, and what helped the Greeks to survive was to help each other – and this is something that needs participation.

 

With SIZ we have the Art of Hosting in Participatory Leadership. I think it is very important. We don’t need experts and technocrats any more. We need leaders that we don’t actually know, and their work will create the space for people to come together and share ideas; we need to collect intentions, in other words.

So, in that way, I think our training in the different roles will be a new beginning here. And also for me, as I will participate. I really want to learn to train people in participatory leadership for two reasons: Mainly because in Greece we need to share this fire, to make the fire spread, and we need people to get used to participation in a real way. And secondly in order to create a sustainable way of living, not only for me and our project, but so that we can train people in other countries and share with them our experiences from Greece and the rest of Europe.

In that way this 3-day course will be very important. We want to help other Greeks to come and participate in the Art of Hosting. For the majority of them it is very difficult, so anyone that can support is inspiring, let’s say, and we will understand that we are not doing our work alone; and even if you are not here, your soul is here anyway.

We are happy to share our experiences in Greece. In this place, really, many things happen. The television doesn’t show that: social innovation with complementary influences; citizens taking care of their city. And we want to bring these new ideas to the surface.”

*thank you to Megan Williams for transcribing, and Dylan Reid for editing*

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Citizen Participatory Leadership in the Re-invention of Democracy

Citizen Participatory Leadership in the Re-invention of Democracy

What happens when a society goes through a phase of creative destruction. This is what we can now learn from Greece. To learn what it means to live in a paradox where institutions no longer deliver and citizens need to find new creative ways to organize their life. This is the space where democracy can be re-invented through participation.

Maria Scordialos, one of the co-founders of the Systemic Innovation Zone – Greece, affectionately known as the SIZ, speaks at the Trailblaze in Ireland on the resilience and solidarity that is knit together in the social fabric of the Greek culture at this time.

At the Trailblazery Speaking of the Dis-integration and Re-Birth of Greece.

Activist. Systems Theorist. Pattern Recogniser. Maria is co-founder of The Living Wholeness Institute based in Axladitsa Avatakia, a farm and home that hosts immersion learning in Pelion, Greece. She is also co-initiator of the Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversations, a practice that invites people to create new collective intelligence through generative dialogue. Maria is passionate about citizen led democracy where people can be part of crafting their own lives by living their soul’s purpose.

 

Athens is Burning

Athens is Burning

Athens is burning. We are here, safe, but witnessing the shift hitting the fan, so to speak.

The birthplace of democracy is holding a vote in its parliament tonight on the next level of austerity measures. The schism between national and trans-national officials and their constituencies is too wide. There are massive protests. Some parliamentarians are resigning while others are refusing to vote because it is just impossible to put a country through such measures. The situation is completely unsustainable, so the cracks are widening.

“Today, many things indicate that we are going thorough a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble,” wrote poet and world leader, Vaclav Havel before his death.

He was right. I am watching a live stream of the protests in Syntagma Square. The reporter is shouting, “Come out, come out on the streets! Especially the legal people, the economists, the security offices, city halls and people who give speeches...” as he witnesses the chemical-bombings by both Greek and European police who have been called in to the centre of Athens. There is now fire all throughout the beautiful old centre of Athens. I hope a phoenix will rise from it –  this is full of paradox and potential, but right now it is just awful to watch…

“This is what outrage looks like. When people burn their own cities to be heard, then democracy is on life support,” says our friend Charlotte, with whom we worked on the Finance Innovation Lab, our work in the UK. We have to ask the audacious questions – how do we create systems that sustain and serve both people and planet? And then be brave enough to act on them.

So we are here in Greece to carve new pathways forward, in particular with young people, innovators and those holding the DNA of the fundamentally new systems.  While there is still a big focus on “fixing” a problem, and not yet civil-society led transformative alternatives, there are many citizen-led initiatives and complementary currencies popping up here in Greece.

We are starting an initiative here called the Social Innovation Zone Athens, and a SIZ-Atelier for collaborative innovators to gather, learn, connect, experiment and just get on with it. Our experience and partnership in creating the practice ground of the Finance Innovation Lab, an open lab to bring people together to create the new financial systems, is a great foundation for this initiative. But it is a very different context here in Greece. This is not a LAB. It’s life. Pretty much everything is at stake.

What is the connection between social innovation and democracy? With the cracks opening in places like Greece, where citizens are refusing to be punished for the actions of elites and abstracted global systems that are damaging both people and planet, it is time to entreprendre the new systems of governance, education, economy etc in new ways. Entreprendre, as in undertaking something with our own two hands, not outsourcing to experts but as Gandhi said, to “hand-craft our lives.”

It is time!

5Syntagma6

by Vanessa Reid

We Are Dying to Live

We Are Dying to Live

Since the beginning of 2011, we have witnessed the powerful impact of people standing up for a new way of living.

I have just been in Greece where people are standing up for the life, world, community they wish to see.  In Athens, thousands of people in the Syntagma square are practicing democracy collectively. It is self-organizing, citizen-led and it is incredible to witness.  I was there on a night where waves of people kept coming into the square. There was a deep sense of purpose, celebration, coherence, and safety.  People were taking care of each other.

It seems that Greece is reclaiming its heritage as pioneers of democracy. Young and old are leading the way with celebration and song, intelligence, savvy, social media, hospitality, generosity and courage.  The larger vision for direct democracy and healthy communities isn’t simply a slogan to be shouted, but a vision that the thousands of people gathered have started living out right then and there in the streets, together.

Here is how it’s been working: There is a core team of 200 people who then organize with hundreds of others into different sub-teams to take care of the space, the time, the themes, the fun, the people, the future (food supply, communication, political philosophy, medical care, emergency response). in this way, they are hosting and prototyping the political transformation in Greece.

“It is amazing how people started believing in each other,“ says Odysseus, a 26-year-old Athenian. He is part of the self-organizing group that is holding the People’s Assembly every night.

They are weaving the old with the new ~ weaving ancient lineage with the modern by threading together the diversity of practices and people that are present in Greece today. There are hundreds of conversations happening organically.  Each night, there is a time for speaking and listening to propositions, voting, decision-making. creating such a “minimal optimal structure” for on-going participation allows for a continuous, emerging coherence as to what they are calling in.

“This is a story of the resurgence of Hellenic Democracy – with a new collective consciousness – that everyone knows is bigger than any one of us.  Those that called this and are giving shape to this democratic architecture know that it is running ahead of them – there is no holding it back.  A new democratic governance pattern is being practiced – a new constitution is being birthed – we are becoming the democracy we want,” says Maria Scordialos.

This organic style of conversation is a way of accessing a collective’s intelligence through engagement, dialogue, learning together and hosting each other. and it is gorgeous, especially as Greek hospitality is a core part of its culture – so how can Greece host itself through this time of krisis?  How can it reclaim its autonomy and heritage and live it in a new way, cleansing itself of the corruption that has debilitated its systems, eradicating the constraints of the IMF, honouring the pain and beauty of its past and tapping the enormous potential?

“I am not sure we will change the whole system, but I know we are cultivating hope and we will be able to say that we began something that our children and their children saw through,” says Odysseus.

These are the real-time practices of life, participation and community, and it is life and death actually.  It is not a simulation. People are willing to die for a new way of living.  They are modeling what it is to be willing to live for Life. 

It is a time of witnessing the breaking down of systems that no longer serve life. A time of hospicing this dying in us and around us. our own souls call us forward to align even more with life.  We shed a skin, pass a threshold and step in …  another way is possible, we can live it another way. We can make our lives with our own hands, stitch our lineages together with the alchemy of life to create a new world order…

We are dying to live. 

Photo and text by Vanessa Reid