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Thirst for learning 12 September 2019

Posted by cooperatoby in Uncategorized.
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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.

€60m ESF plan for Greek social economy 28 May 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in social economy, Social enterprise.
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The independent Expert Steering Committee appointed by the EC Employment DG and the Greek Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Welfare has published its “Outline Strategy and Priorities for Action to develop the Social Economy and Social Entrepreneurship in Greece”.

The strategy, which has a €60m ESF budget earmarked for it, has 4 axes:
• Create an enabling ecosystem for the social economy
• Direct financial support to start a social enterprise
• Access to finance to consolidate and scale social enterprises
• Good governance and public sector capacity building

It is an ambitious goal. As the committee admits: “Smart public support will be needed to develop an ecosystem for the social economy and social entrepreneurship in Greece, capable of nurturing social enterprises that generate a social impact, and to overcome the barriers to social economy development in Greece resulting from a fragmentation of efforts and lack of critical mass, low levels of skills and capacity, the absence of role models and champions, and the difficult access to finance.”

The committee included Ariane Rodert (EESC), Gerhard Bräunling (ex- EMPL), Bruno Dunkel (SOFICATRA), Paul Cheng (Social Investment Taskforce) and Jean Paul Borello (Ashoka).

The actions proposed include:
• Axis 1: An enabling ecosystem for the social economy: fora, pacts, a national competence centre, regional support centres, an observatory, and a framework for access to public markets

• Axis 2: Direct financial support for starting and developing a social enterprise: pre-start grants/microloans with mentoring, grants/loans to invest in capital of co-operatives (on the JEREMIE ESF Lombardy model)

• Axis 3: Access to finance to consolidate and scale social enterprises – set up a social investment taskforce to investigate setting up a wholesale fund

• Axis 4: Good governance and public sector capacity building – upgrading administrative systems to permit an integrated strategic approach; a matching system for the cross-border supply and demand of know-how for solidarity actions

The plan is published in Greek at http://www.keko.gr/en/Pages/NewsFS.aspx?item=76 although as of July 2013 the English version seems to have gone offline.

An inkling of progress in Greece 17 January 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in EU, social economy.
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Two EU initiatives are applying social enterprise tools to the problems in Greece:

(1) From the quarterly report to December 2012 of the EU’s Task Force for Greece:

On Social Economy, the objective is to support the Greek authorities in establishing conditions favouring the flourishing of a social economy ecosystem. Swedish and German experts now sit on a Technical Steering Committee that provides advice on the introduction and development of the social economy, and have helped to devise plans for creating support networks for fledgling social enterprises at national and local level. Experts from France, Belgium and the UK are also engaged in groups set up to develop criteria for the award of grants to new social co-operatives, and to devise means of providing micro credits. A successful workshop was held at the end of October for the exchange of experience and views between a UK social entrepreneur in the care sector and all the Greek social enterprises newly formed in that sector and some who were planning to do so. Networking, mutual support, determination and demonstrating a competitive edge through quality of service were key points raised. Further sectoral workshops are also planned in addition to awareness raising sessions in Thessaloniki and Crete, at which UK social entrepreneurs would participate.

(2) Greece is also a member of the Social Entrepreneurship Network that is shortly to be launched among ESF Managing Authorities as a follow-up to BSFE. Greece is slated to host a peer review on support for the start-up of social enterprises. It can’t some soon enough.

Farmers’ markets 23 October 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative.
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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.

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