SOCIETY

Athens civil society program set to receive 1-million-euro boost

Athens was announced as a top five winner in this year’s Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. The contenders proposed bold, innovative ideas for the benefit of their citizens. These ranged from civic engagement to environmental projects, care for the aging and transportation improvement.

The Greek capital was recognized by the contest as having the best innovative idea for civic engagement. As a result, it will give 1 million euros to the implementation of the newly formed public platform for engaged citizens called Synathina.

Synathina started initially as a pilot program in July last year by the Municipality of Athens. Its objective was to create a way for community groups to promote their activities and communicate with local government. On its website, www.synathina.gr, groups can register with the platform and post dates, times and locations of their events, as well as contact and other information on their activities for those interested. They are organized into eight categories, which include activities such as urban renewal projects, youth advocacy and culture. Activities registering with Synathina can be both formal and informal.

The ultimate goal is to make it easier for citizens of Athens to raise awareness about issues affecting them in their neighborhoods and to communicate with the municipality on a way to solve those problems quickly and effectively.

Synathina is open to anyone who lives in Athens no matter what their background, and has the potential to raise awareness about issues that have gotten worse in recent years, such as homelessness and the influx of migrants, and to find solutions.

“Synathina also opens up to a side of Athens that tended to be socially excluded,” says Athens Deputy Mayor for Civil Society Amalia Zepou.

“Synathina has developed from a pilot platform to a government tool for civic engagement,” says Zepou. The 1 million euros from Bloomberg Philanthropies will go toward the development of this government tool, whose three-year plan for implementation will begin on January 15, 2015.

Barcelona took the first prize, which will come in the form of a 5-million-euro award to be used for the city’s proposal to create a community “trust network” for at-risk elderly residents.

Kirklees (UK), Stockholm (Sweden) and Warsaw (Poland) are the remaining top five winners, who will also receive 1 million euros each for their initiatives. A total of 150 cities from 28 countries were contestants in the challenge.