KARPOS - CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION
Avlonas Secondary School
Avlonas Secondary & Highschool Parent Association
Environmental & Cultural Department of the Municipality of Oropos
Together with the Highschool of Avlona, KARPOS has already built a network of convinced private and public partners. Other partners: “Once upon a time” - Nature and Sports Park of Avlona.
How can you foster social cohesion in a declining rural town undergoing an identity crisis? Working with students at the local Secondary school and their families, coming from 4 ethnic groups living close but separately, the project will engage the larger community to co-create a pathway through socio-cultural landmarks, connecting the town to the adjacent mountain. Using media and civic education tools, the project offers opportunities for collaboration towards a new narrative of belonging.
Rural town of Avlonas, Municipality of Oropos, East Attica Region, Greece (coord.: 38°15′N 23°42′E)
Despite its glorious past and fertile soil, Avlonas, situated at 40 km from Athens, at the northern edge of the Parnitha mountain range, is currently struggling with weak social bonds and the lack of a shared cultural identity. A combination of rivalry, localism and low self-esteem, as well as external socio-economic adversities have led to progressive isolation and introversion, undermining everyday communication. They also discourage bonding among the 4 individual ethnic groups constituting the local community (native Arvanites and Sarakatsani families, second-generation migrants, and recently arrived refugees) and socio-cultural exchange with external, regional and national stakeholders. Collective initiatives are inexistent, as inhabitants tend to follow their individual paths.
"We make our path!" is a community-based project aiming to foster social cohesion and incentivise a new generation of active citizens in the rural town of Avlonas. Making use of open participatory practices, the project will invite locals to collectively create a pathway traversing the town’s main socio-cultural and environmental landmarks ending up at the mountain overlooking their town. Highly inclusive and well-rooted in local reality, the local Secondary school will help disseminate the project’s values and goals to cultivate community awareness among the inhabitants. Teenage students will take the lead and shape a draft proposal of the selected path to share with their entire community, which will further feed into their sense of ownership towards their town and its future.
The local Secondary school, an everyday meeting space for representatives of all 4 ethnic groups, will primarily invite teenage students to participate in media workshops and open discussions on the path planning, supported by teachers, facilitators and local experts. Then it will address key community stakeholders, such as parent associations, local craftsmen and producers, and municipal representatives to actively enrich their proposal before sharing and finalising it with the entire community. All of the aforementioned groups are expected to benefit from the participatory process and social progress that this project will induce.
40 students (age 13-15)
40 members of the Parent Association and local professionals
2 Municipality representatives
The project will use participatory and interdisciplinary tools.
Nov-Jan||Preparation: inviting students and members of the community to form the participants group, finalising the activities and communication plans.
Feb-May||School activities: 3 media workshops, 1 guided walk through key landmarks, 1 workshop on open discussions, student video clips, school event (finalise the pathway’s draft, Open Space session on next steps and community event).
Jun-Sep||Reaching out to the community: to finalise the trajectory, create signage & mark the path, organise the community event (music, pop-up portrait photography, projections, traditional dance and a highlight on local products).
Oct-Dec||Sustainability: submit the proposal for official approval, forming local “caring groups”.
“We make our path!” will give prominence to Avlonas’ attractions by visibly marking a pathway through key local landmarks to attract visitors and promote regional cultural exchange. Community members of all ages and cultures will have a chance to contribute to the area's inclusive narrative and promote social and financial development. Communication barriers will be negotiated. The path planning and signage will entail local partnerships between the public and private sectors, and once they have purposefully worked together they could do it again. A local caring group, “The Path Keepers”, will look after the maintenance of the path and organise future events. The youth community will develop media making and social skills to cover community and school needs.
Responding to the low rate of collective effort towards goals of common interest in the community of Avlonas, “We make our path!” aims at triggering active citizenship reflexes among the locals. Inspired by the Council of Europe Youth Sector priorities for 2020-21, it invests in “engaging young people in peace-building and social cohesion, to combat discrimination and exclusion” and contributes in raising awareness among the next generation of European citizens. By participating in a highly creative endeavour teenage inhabitants will have the opportunity to help incentivize their entire community and actively engage in democratic life. As active citizens, they will capitalize on knowledge, skills, values and motivation to engage in activities that promote common good and sustain democracy.
Having already been involved in a medium-length project in Avlonas, we had the opportunity to connect with the town’s landscape and people, and witness significant potential being wasted due to inherent challenges. Having already connected media to diversity we want to further promote the use of media expression in civic engagement and the creation of an open functioning space. The project intends to help locals formulate an inclusive narrative of their own, by introducing a commoning approach which builds on collective experience, through activities planned in collaboration with determined local stakeholders. Teenage participants, our usual focus group, are invited to play a key role, as we are convinced that we need to invest more in youth for a new generation of engaged citizens.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
-Staff costs (Project manager, Manager assistant, Communication officer, Trainers/Facilitators): 23460 E
-Workshops (equipment, cameras, microphones, rooms, consumables): 5500 E
-Local travels: 2300 E
-Final event (equipment location, food, music, printing materials, promotion): 5000 E
-Signage and promotion of the path (visual identity, mapping, etc): 4500 E
-External expert facilitator: 2100 E
-Final editing of the videos: 2400 E
We envision the creation of a network of committed organisations to continue exchanging on good practices regarding civic engagement in rural communities. We are interested to learn how geography affects such initiatives, and what are the affordances of media expression in other communities.