Save the Date!  The Next Art of Participatory Leadership, Athens is April 17-20, 2015.

Save the Date! The Next Art of Participatory Leadership, Athens is April 17-20, 2015.

As citizens, leaders and professionals, what are the ways of working we need to develop that will allow us to collaboratively address the challenges in our cities, communities, organizations and society?


Since 2010 Greece has been the center of attention worldwide for several reasons: economic crisis, austerity, citizen movements, social innovators, corruption, the future of Eurozone and more. With the results of the recent elections, Greece once again draws attention to whether the new government will bring hope and change or if the economic situation will get worse. It is a question that reflects not only the future of Greece but also the future of Europe.

Underneath this is a question about what we mean by demokratia – the power of citizens to collectively define and create their lives and steward the commons with the interest of future generations in mind. We believe that the main differentiator that will make this new “era” successful is how citizens are engaged in new forms of governance, forms that are based on participation, dialogue, self-organizing, diversity and true consultation.

We invite you to this 4-day training to explore together:

As citizens, leaders, and professionals what are the ways of working we need to develop that will allow us to collaboratively address the challenges in our cities, organizations, communities and society?

WHEN: We start at 9.00 am on Friday April 17 and will to 5 pm April 20, 2015.


This training takes place at the IMPACT HUB-ATHENS, a multi-use space and place for social innovation in the center of Athens. It is located in the Psiri a neighborhood known for its unique atmosphere that still has a sense of the old Athens. Accommodation will be at nearby hotels or local Air B and B. Details and options of accommodation and how to get to our venue will be provided upon registration.

PARTICIPATION FEE: A sliding scale participation fee for 350 to 900 Euros

In Greece, there is a growing network of complementary currencies and alternative economies flourishing. This is due to the massive disruption to the “mainstream” economic system. We want to honor that there are many people in Greece and elsewhere who are working and living with these multiple forms of currency, and that in fact, cash and money is not always available, but other forms of currency are.

We offer a sliding scale participation fee for 350 to 900 Euros which includes the training and a light lunch each day. This fee does not include accommodation. We wish to make this training available to as many people as possible and do not want economy to be a barrier. Therefore we work on the value “offer what you can and little more.”

Should you have ideas about offering OTHER FORMS OF CURRENCY to this AoPL, please contact us with your ideas! Also if you wish to join us and can’t afford to pay the lower price please contact Odysseas Velentzas:

LANGUAGE: The training is in English and informal Greek translation will be available, if required.

REGISTRATION: Please contact Odysseas Velentzas to receive a registration form or to ask any questions:

*For more on “What is the Art of Participatory Leadership”, click here.

When Nature Calls – the Art of Participatory Leadership at Axladitsa August 2014

When Nature Calls – the Art of Participatory Leadership at Axladitsa August 2014

Come and join us from 28- 31st of August for our next Art of Participatory Leadership training. Living systems exist everywhere in nature. From the smallest living organisms to the largest mammals, life is organized in interrelated-interdependent colonies, nests, packs, herds etc. In nature, change is constant and occurs through self-organization and emergence. We believe that nowadays our societies, organizations and institutions are at the point of fundamental change. However we humans tend to seek for change in a mechanistic and controlling approach rather than work through emergence and self-organization. As a result we tend to struggle in the same loop while only dynamic changes occur. This 4-day training invites you to come to Axladitsa, a 24-acre organic olive farm in the Pelion Peninsula in Greece to explore together, with people and with our natural environment the question:

How can nature teach us to create communities, work and initiatives that are based on self-organisation by enhancing our understanding of how living systems behave?

On this 4-day training we will learn participatory leadership techniques and mental models as a way to work in self-organising patterns and we will explore and be inspired by nature’s patterns. In addition we will focus on how we can bring these patterns to our everyday lives, our institutions, our work, social movements and our organizational structures. We will be informed by Axladitsa’s nature itself. We will live with the rhythms of the land, the weather, the creatures here, as well as with our rhythms of the day which will include homemade meals, fresh from the garden. The land of Axladitsa holds many stories, ancient wisdom and practices -these will also be our teachers. This training is held by Stewards and Practitioners of the Art of Hosting Network, and is offered by Living Wholeness Institute and Process Makers who together are working on social change initiatives in Greece, Europe and the World. Come and join us in creating a powerful “parea” from 28th August to 31st of August at Axladitsa. *Parea: (Gr.) A Parea in Greek culture is a group of friends who regularly gather together to share their experiences about life, their philosophies, values and ideas. The Parea is really a venue for the growth of the human spirit, the development of friendships and the exploration of ideas to enrich our quality of life that is all too brief in time. In Greece, the Parea is a long-lasting circle and cycle of life nourished by the people who participate. photo by Vanessa Reid

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

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