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Thirst for learning 12 September 2019

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Why don’t government-run archaeological sites in Greece have cafés?

This summer we made a tour of some of the most venerated ancient sites in Greece – Delphi, Olympia, Nestor’s Palace near Pilos and Mistras near Sparti – and noticed a paradoxical common denominator: they lack catering facilities. At Delphi the museum and ticket complex includes a café – but it is closed (and the drink vending machines don’t work). At Olympia, a building that looks exactly like a possible cafe stands derelict. Even the brand-new Acropolis Museum in Athens does indeed have an impressive restaurant – which in inaccessible because you have to make a reservation. This is no joke when temperatures are in the high 30s.

Contrast this with some of the privately-managed cultural attractions: the Benaki Museum in Athens is surmounted by a marvellous cafe with air contitioning and panoramic views from its terrace. Even the Diros caves in faraway Mani (one of the cooler experiences one could wish for in the height of summer) has a café at the entrance.

We posited a number of possible causes for this:
– a highbrow attitude from the ministry that seeks to present ancient cultural artifacts in some sort of ‘pure’ state, to be studied high-mindedly and not cluttered up by commercialism;
– the recent austerity forced on the government means that they have had to lay off ancillary staff such as caterers;
– the local chambers of commerce have objected to ‘unfair’ competition.

But these don’t stack up:
– the key sites have well-designed modern museums, into or near which it is perfectly possible to build a café without trespassing on the remains;
– reopening the cafés would provide both local jobs and boost the ministry’s coffers (by the way the entrance fees are absurdly cheap by northern European standards – especially for seniors);
– at Delphi and Olympia the eponymous villages are some way from the sites, and so cannot satisfy immediate demand for a cold drink.

The absurdity of the situation is shown by the fact that at Olympia the Red Cross of all people has erected a tent to dispense bottles of water to thirsty visitors!

So we are left with a contradiction: the mainstay of the economy (tourists bring in 21% of national income) is left frustrated, while funds that could stimulate local economies and pay for more excavations go untapped.

Euronews video on To Kastri co-operative in Siros 18 November 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in Social enterprise, Uncategorized.
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Euronews video on To Kastri co-operative in Siros

Euronews has just published a short video on social entrepreneurship in Siros, Greece. It was shown at the Social Entrepreneurs – Have Your Say! conference in Strasbourg in January 2014.

Using mafia assets for the social economy 12 November 2013

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Cultura contro CamorraThe social economy is playing an important role in providing alternatives to organised crime in southern Italy, and last Friday two of my old colleagues from the European Commission’s now abolished Social Economy Unit have set up a European association to support this. Its press release reads:

On November 8, at a conference organised in the premises of European Economic and Social Committee on the “Impact of organized crimes on the EU economy”, the association “Cultura contro camorra” has been officially created. Franco Ianniello, former EU official, was elected president of this new network of European civil society against organized crime. Michel Theys and Armand Rauch were elected respectively vice-president and secretary.

“Cultura contro camorra ” has decided to work actively with the European Economic and Social Committee for the preparation of an own-initiative opinion to tackle the roots of the mafia problem. This will be achieved also in coordination with the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions.
The association will strongly support the idea that properties confiscated from criminal organizations are allocated optimally to the social economy projects on the ground.
In view of the forthcoming European elections, it calls on European political parties to make a commitment to do so. The new European Parliament will be also invited to make permanent the special commission on organized crime, corruption and laundering money. On the other hand, the Structural Funds of the European Union should help financially structures, anywhere in Europe, fighting against organized crime.

An EESC study discussed at rhe event estimates the minimum identified direct costs of organised crime in the EU to be €168 billion a year, made up as follows:

    • Human trafficking – €30 billion
    • Fraud against EU (cigarette smuggling) – €11.3 billion
    • Fraud against EU (VAT/MTIC fraud) – €20 billion
    • Fraud against EU (agricultural and structural funds) – €3 billion
    • Fraud against EU individuals – €97 billion
    • Unrecovered motor vehicle theft – €4.25 billion
    • Payment card fraud – €1.16 billion
    • Insurance fraud – €1 billion (in UK alone).

In addition there are probably at least 500 organised crime-related homicides, very unevenly distributed across the EU. Plus there are no credible data on costs from drug-running, extortion, intellectual property crimes, fraud against private businesses and national VAT fraud.

Libera Terra – organic food from confiscated Mafia farms

Libera, a network of 1,200 associations, groups and schools fighting organised crime, was set up in 1995. The following year, law 109/96 was passed under which confiscated properties could be recycled for social benefit. Since then, 6,500 properties in Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Lazio have been turned over to nine social co-operatives producing organic food and wine, marketed under the ‘Libera Terra’ brand and sold in Italy’s Coop stores and elsewhere. The Libera Terra Mediterraneo consortium has been set up to gear up their reach and has a web shop.

Cultura contro Camorra also has a Facebook page. Its e-mail address is segreteria[at]culturacontrocamorra[dot]eu

A Brideshead moment in Bermondsey 9 March 2013

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Last weekend was crisp sunny and I was walking round Southwark with my friends Ian and Miki. In Borough Market, we admired decorative vegetables, such oxymorons as jumbo quail eggs, and the new railway viaduct that slices over it (decapitating a Young’s pub). Outside, I was surprised to find that I like the Shard that towers over it. We progressed eastwards via City Hall, Shad Thames with its overhead gangways and the Design Museum. Beyond that the designers have built a little footbridge over St Saviour’s Dock and this leads to a quarter of Bermondsey that I had been to before.

Vogan's Mill, 17 Mill St SE1

Vogan’s Mill, 17 Mill St SE1

I had one of those Brideshead Revisited moments, when the past comes flooding back as it did to Charles Ryder when his regiment is billeted in the house of that name. As we walked up Mill Street, we came to Vogan’s Mill, on our right and with its back overlooking the dock. It’s such an odd name, reminiscent of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I realised that some time around 1980 I had been sent there by Suma Wholefoods to collect sacks of something. I can’t remember exactly what, but it was quite probably red lentils as they milled them there.

At that time, Suma lived in a similar mill building, though lower and more recently built, on the Wharfe in Leeds. It still had its three hoist towers, with narrow doors out onto the river to enable unloading from barges, and the helter-skelter sack slides that Spillers had used to shift their flour around. It was a matter of stacking, roping and sheeting hundredweight sacks by hand in those days, although we bought a posh curtain-sided trailer about then.

Today, Vogan’s façade survives but it is very glitzy inside, and the silo tower has been rebuilt to contain glamorous apartment with panoramic views over the city. Vogan’s milling business has decamped to Fulbourn near Cambridge.

I find that the area is called Jacob’s Island and provides the setting for Oliver Twist. It consists of a strange mixture of private and social housing, with renovated mills and wine bars facing privatised council flats across the street. It’s good to see the area thriving, but it makes the lorry-driver’s job a good deal less interesting.

Farmers’ markets 23 October 2012

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Kambos, Ikaria, from Mt Pigi

When we were in Ikaria last summer – it’s a rather mountainous island west of Samos – we noticed that all the food seems to be imported. There are significant areas of fertile land – for instance in the Kambos valley where we stayed – that have been cultivated for millennia. But there seem to be no facilities through which local landowners or farmers can sell their produce. No doubt there is a lot of what economists call self-supply, i.e. people growing their own food for themselves, their families and friends.
In these straitened times, one hears of office workers who have lost their jobs in Athens and emigrated back to the family farm because this is the best way they can survive. So it struck me to ask whether the existing informal systems could be stepped up. It’s often difficult to exactly match what one person has available at any moment with what any of his or her acquaintances needs. That’s why we have things called ‘markets’ in the physical as well as the abstract sense. If more ‘liquidity’ could be added to the system, then customers would know what was available where and when, and this would in turn encourage producers to bring more stuff to market.
So maybe a very small piece of social innovation that would relieve poverty in Greece – and not only in Greece – would be to try to set up farmers’ markets. When I worked for ICOM we developed simple co-operative model for markets that was widely taken up. It’s not difficult to do. Look at how well allotment associations work. Belgium thrives on traditional open-air markets. Temporary open-air markets are all the rage as a way of using empty plots in cities – like the DeKalb market in Brooklyn. A glance at Wikipedia shows that the market tradition is alive and well organised in Greece – in fact if anything it looks a bit over-regulated. A site on Crete says they are omnipresent – but they aren’t, are they? Another blog links to local listings, including a comprehensive site for the Athens region. Are European programmes like LEADER+ working on this?
I’ve just discovered that in March there was a question in the European Parliament about the regulation of Greek farmers’ markets.
The federal body in the UK is Farma.

PS Markets aare fighting back: a BBC article about Pandrossou Street market on Facebook. (Thanks Graham!)

PPS Feb 13: Report of the successful Making Local Food Work project in the UK.

Hurray for Leeds Community Bakery 18 July 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, Leeds.
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I’m sensing a rebirth of the co-op scene that bloomed in Leeds in the 1980s!

Your opportunity to support: crowdfundung site

Leeds Bread Co-op

We’re a small group of bakers planning to set up Leeds’ first Community Supported Bakery.

What is a Community Supported Bakery (CSB)?

A CSB is a bakery which is set up with the support and involvement of the local community. This helps to create a more direct relationship between the bakers and customers.

The idea for Community Supported Baking comes from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which The Soil Association describes as: “A partnership between farmers and the local community, providing mutual benefits and reconnecting people to the land where their food is grown”.

There are currently only a handful of CSB in the UK: The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite; Breadshare Bakery in the Scottish Borders. There are more examples of successful CSBs across the pond: Columbia City Bakery.

How would a CSB work?

There are different CSB models around. Some are subscription based (like a veg box) and…

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