International funding group seeks solutions to Greece’s social problems

According to the old Greek adage, a person’s mission lies where his or her gifts meet the needs of the people; very true today in Greece, where the crisis has created serious challenges that demand a new approach to social problems.

Ashoka, an international network of social entrepreneurs, is among those attempting to provide a solution.

“The timing is right for us to expand our organization’s activities to Greece. We are exploring the possibility of opening an office in Athens,” Aphrodite Bouikidis, a Greek American and a part of Ashoka’s Global Diaspora Initiative, told Kathimerini.

Bouikidis, who would head the Athens office should the plan come to fruition, was in the Greek capital recently with a team of colleagues to attend an event organized by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation on philanthropy. She had traveled to the Greek capital before, to attend a Startup Live Athens event.

Ashoka’s philosophy is to support initiatives aimed at dealing with current social problems. The organization provides fellowships to individuals for three years and, should the initiative prove a success, the latter become part of the network for life. The organization has been around since 1981 and today, 89 percent of the initiatives it supports have been a success and have also managed to influence government policy in their specific areas. Ashoka’s international presence spans 70 countries and it has a network of 3,000 fellows, all social entrepreneurs.

Some of the Ashoka fellows have micro-credit or micro-finance models, while the organization partners with citizen sector organizations and businesses.

“In France, for example, we have been supporting an initiative since 2006 that was launched in 1997 and which concerns keeping the elderly physically fit,” explained Bouikidis.

The Siel Bleu program currently has 3,000 branches in France and employs a staff of 270 people, while it has also expanded to Ireland.

“We are looking for fellows in Greece, people who have an idea about solving social issues and who have a realistic business plan,” said Bouikidis.

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