Akademia Platonos – Plato’s Academy is Pioneering Once Again

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

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!


by Vanessa Reid

Greece in a Time of Change
 – Hosting Conversations in Crisis, December 2011

Greece in a Time of Change
 – Hosting Conversations in Crisis, December 2011

Ποια είναι η Ελλάδα που Ονειρευόμαστε;

What is the Greece that we are dreaming of?
Transformating Possibilities for the Present & the Future.

The Systemic Innovation Zone- Hellas, in partnership with the Hellenic Society for Organisational Learning (SoL Hellas) invites you to a pioneering event that is going to take place on Saturday, 17th of December 2011 at Hilton Athens Hotel in the context of Money Show Forum. The innovation of this conference is focused on the use of the World Cafe & Open Space methodologies, which allow us to trace and create conditions for the emergence of collective intelligence of the whole of the participants. For the first time in Greece, the “experts” will not be in a specific panel but in the whole group of the citizens that are taking part in the event: We are all “experts” and we contribute to the collective wisdom for catalysing solutions  through our  own knowledge!

We invite every active citizen to participate in this event by contributing his/her personal knowledge, stories and view about this crucial question, the opportunities and challenges of the Crisis that lead to Collective Action for the Transformation Possibilities of Greece.

With the use of interactive and experiential dialogue processes
we are going to work on the following questions:

~What do we dream possible for our country?
~ If we would wake up now and we would magically be in the ideal Greek society, what would we see around us? How would everyday life and institutions be?
~ What do we want to keep, which are our unique, positive traits that we want to strengthen and enhance?
~What do we want to become, what do we want to be?
~How can each of us and together contribute to the development, personal and collective and to the wide transformation of our country

The event and conversations will be hosted by Maria Scordialou, Maria Bakari, Vanessa Reid, Sarah Whiteley, Anthi Theiopoulou & Odysseas Velentzas.

10.00 – 10.15  Opening ~ Framing
10.15 – 12.45 World Cafe
12.45 – 13. 30 Break
13.30 – 16.00 Open Space
16.00 – 16.10 Completion ~ Closing

This is a free event. Due to the fact that places are limited they will be booked on a “first come, first served” basis. Please register by sending a message with your name and the indication “Conference” to the email: events@solgreece.org.
For any additional enquiries, please free to contact Maria Bakari on (+30) 6937107443.

The methodologies of World Cafe & Open Space have been developed in the framework of research through the multi~disciplinary exploration of Organisational Learning and they are used in the last 20 years by plenty of organisations so that useful conclusions are drawn in critical issues where the existing knowledge of all involved is a defining factor.

We can be wise only together.”
~ Margaret Wheatley

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

What is Moving and Awakening Around the World – Translocal Dialogue, September 2011

What is Moving and Awakening Around the World – Translocal Dialogue, September 2011

What is Moving and Awakening Around the World? In Fukushima, Tahrir, Syntagma & Sol Squares, UK, etc.?


We are living incredible times – evolving ourselves to re-member and reclaim life through ancient & new ways.

We are seeing a massive awakening taking place in our world that is releasing a deep voice against systems that no longer serve and in fact are destructive whether they are governments and political systems, economies with spiraling cost of living, education, etc.  We invite you to join us at a virtual World Café to hear the voices from different parts of the world – Japan, Egypt, Greece & UK & to inquire together as to what is really awakening in us?

27 September 2011, 11:00 EST, 5:00 CET, 6:00 EET

weDialogue and the World Café invite you
to the latest in the Conversation for the 21st Century series
in collaboration with SoL Greece & Living Wholeness Institute

Register Now

Talk to you soon!