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How Economic Crisis Inspired Grassroots Organizations in Greece

Citiscope examines the organizing and volunteer efforts of citizens in Athens, Greece in response to the country's economic crisis.
January 25, 2015, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"The Greek economic crisis has hit this historic capital city hard. But if there is a bright spot, it is the grassroots social initiatives mushrooming all over the city," writes Letty Reimerink.

The grassroots, informal efforts of the citizens of Athens are starting to gain traction with the city's bureaucracy. For instance, "[in] 2014, the municipality of Athens was awarded €1 million ($1.2 million U. S.) through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge for an initiative to help connect all these grassroots activities. The funds are supporting an online platform called Synathina. It’s a digital home for all these initiatives to explain what they do and post their agendas — and hopefully, recruit new members and find like-minded organizations to partner with."

Moreover, the city has elected a vice mayor for civil society, Amalia Zepou, who supports such grassroots initiatives and pushes the city's bureaucracy to take lessons from how they work. Much of Zepou's challenge, according to the article, is in convincing bureaucrats to get out of the way of grassroots efforts.

Reimerink also shares details and anecdotes from several examples of these grassroots support efforts, including a volunteer health clinic, a social kitchen, and even a system that allows people to buy cups of coffee for the less fortunate.

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