Dock - Social Solidarity Economy Zone
The small village is facing the challenge of growth and development in a changing world and is continuously decreasing in terms of demographics, local economic and social structures. But, even the smaller communities can become actors of change: this project is about raising awareness, building the necessary capacity as well as social & civic infrastructures not only to avoid further desertification but also to regenerate as a community in a more viable and sustainable way.
Manganiako, Messinia, Greece
As common in smaller rural areas, Manganiako is facing the challenge of growth and development in a changing world and is disconnected from decision- and policymaking on both the local and the regional level letting the community in a feeling of isolation and abandonment. The once prosperous village is continuously decreasing in terms of demographics, local economic and social structures. The local association has been trying since 2011 to keep the relations between the community members regardless where they live, mainly through cultural events, while tackling everyday problems is on a minor and fragmentary level. Manganakonians lack the knowledge, capacity and means not only to avoid further desertification but also to regenerate as a community in a more viable and sustainable way.
1st level: community members of Manganiako, regardless where they live (approx. 910) who are divided into 2 main groups (those who are waiting for help from outside and those who want to take action on the basis of self-organizing).
2nd level: the often untapped potential of the children in the light of future community members, but also friends and visitors of the village (approx. 3.200/year)
3rd level: residents of 4 other villages in the surrounding area, to trigger similar discussions and processes
4th level: every person/ body interested in community-led regeneration of small rural areas
Our approach is based on Action Research: a continuous repeated process of identifying issues - building capacity - engaging in dialogue - reflecting on outcomes. In addition we will use a combination of methodologies and tools on participatory planning, collective action, local sustainable development & social solidarity economy. During the project we will work within the community (A1-A4), create infrastructures (A4 - A5) and develop as an ecosystem (A6 - A8).
Action 1| Study of Local Economic and Social Structures: mapping current situation, problems & unmet needs analysis
Action 2| Capacity Building of Community Members: workshops & community building (democratic procedures & decision making, sustainable local development & SSE)
Action 3| Popular Planning Processes for the Sustainable Local Development involving all Stakeholders: roundtables & public consultation events for community strategy and action plan for the future
Action 4| Transforming the old Agriculture Cooperative Building into a Community Space
Action 5| Creation of a Community Development Centre: responsible for implementing the community strategy & action plan (see Action 3)
Action 6| Advocacy: capacity building, policy brief & plan for advocating on local and regional level
Action 7| Establishing network activities with 4 surrounding villages
Action 8| Dissemination of the Project & Results
Through the project we expect the Manganakonians to be more aware, engaged and active when it comes to local development issues, while they will have stronger bonds and relationships between them. We expect the infrastructures created by this project: the Culture of Dialogue, the Participatory Strategy & Action Plan, the Community Space & the Development Centre to empower both the community & association and to enable further development in the surrounding area in the future. In addition, we expect the beginning of a transition when it comes to active citizenship in Manganiako to activate interest in public issues moving from being simply a policy receptor to become part of the solution and participate in local policy making.
Our logic is based on the quadruple: Capacity building, Awareness, Μobilization, Αctor of Change. Through action research, community members will gain a deeper understanding of the impact, the various development models have. Through capacity building, people will be empowered in expressing opinions, deciding on collective action and forming a common future. The awareness that they can shape their future together will form a collective identity which goes beyond the narrow geographical boundaries. Community members will be empowered in the way that they can affect the policies on a local level, learn how the local government works and get a methodology on how they can have a voice. It is about becoming part of the solution, to move from personal lobbying to local political mobilization.
We are community members & regular visitors of Manganiako, a group of multidisciplinary professionals with relevant background & experience for the project. We are: the local association & Nostos, a local social cooperative, both rooted within the community with deep knowledge of the issues and relations of the village. Koukouva, a social cooperative, with expertise in community development, non-formal education & networking, and Dock, a non-profit organization, with expertise in project management, local sustainable development through participatory processes, advocacy & networking. We strongly believe in the power of smaller initiatives with proximity relations, because they can bootstrap more easily, create new ideas on democracy and active citizenship and become actors of change.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel Costs | 21.360,00 €
Materials for Community-Build Events (Community Space & Development Centre) | 5.000,00 €
Equipment & Supplies | 3.000,00 €
Communication | 3.020,00 €
Advocacy & Networking Activities | 1.500,00 €
Transportation & Accommodation | 864,00 €
Own Distribution | 10.000,00 € (Personnel, Workshop Materials, Transportation & Accommodation)
We are happy to welcome any feedback and comment on our idea. If you run or are aware of a similar project in your area, please get in touch to exchange ideas, concerns, experiences & tools.
Reaching out & establishing connections
The community had first to become aware of the project and get to know and trust the project management team. The local partners informed the community during the whole procedure of drafting the project and participating in the Idea Challenge 2021 of Civic Europe but once the project started it became clear that nearly nobody understood what was going to happen. So, everybody knew vaguely that something was going to happen in Manganiako but nearly only the project leader was in the position to explain and describe the “why, what and how”. A change in the original planning occurred, putting the open project management team as the main target group, instead of the local community. A participatory planning process started combined with blended learning activities so that the people directly involved would learn by doing and therefore be in the position to explain their experiences to others. The result was that after a little while, some of the people of the community became ambassadors of the project to the whole community at first and the wider community afterwards.
Towards reaching out and engaging the community, a sample of the 3 target groups that is the locals living in the village, the Manganiakonians living elsewhere and the visitors to Manganiako were interviewed. The interviews were guided by a questionnaire that gave the opportunity to establish direct contact with the people and start a conversation on the past, present, and future of the village. The nearly 40 interviews done either face to face, or by telephone calls were an excellent opportunity to get to know and connect with the people, and to understand the community’s past and present, getting a first sight of the social context, and having a first direct point of view on what the special needs of the community might be.
Once the first contact was established, realizing that a formal interview had constraints when it comes to expressing one's opinions freely without fear of consequences, more formal and informal ways of communication were used. Staying for a few days each month in the village and spending time with members of the community gave many opportunities to gather more information both at a formal level though the dialogues held when implementing the project and the informal communications in various social contexts. Observation, dialogue, effective listening & reflecting became the guide on building relations, engaging the people, and drawing conclusions on how to proceed in the project. This procedure also allowed to realize the social context and behavioral patterns of the small village and overcoming the lack of trust and effective communication (for more info about the social context refer to Part 1 of the Project Journey).
Important to mention is that having action research as a methodology in combination with involving the local partners (Cultural Association of all Manganiakonians & Nostos) during all phases of the project proved to be essential, since most of the people of the community held high regard for both partners. Especially when it came to reach out and establish connections with the community, the local partners became the communication hub between the locals and the project since they were part of both.
Having a break in the village with the local project partners
Interviewing people to establish connections
Motivating to think and discuss about the future of Manganiako
Through the interviews, the participatory planning processes, and the early interaction with community members became clear that the community wasn’t in the position to describe in concrete terms what to wish, expect or claim for its future. The existing atmosphere of neglect and abandonment was almost tangible, and the community members were used to either ignore their everyday problems or tangle them autonomously or within their families and friends. Furthermore, people didn’t believe in the power of dialogue, a characteristic phrase that came up when trying to engage people in dialogue was that “actions speak louder than words”.
Instead of starting the deliberation process for an action plan for the future of Manganiako, an easier way to proceed was needed. The interviews and the early discussions led to the conclusion that the locals living in the village wanted to see more people in the empty streets, especially kids, while the people visiting Manganiako (origins or visitors) needed an interesting event to trigger them to come. A common ground was found in implementing a 2-day festival, an idea that the local association was already thinking about. Due to the program the festival would be community-led and would act as the focal point of the dialogues about the future of Manganiako.
Indeed, the 7-month participatory planning & implementing of the festival incorporated all procedures to get to a common ground as how the future of Manganiako would look like if the people of Manganiako would decide and act. That way people were keener on engaging in something that will happen in some months instead of the vague future. Thus, the festival became the example and common experience of what the community of Manganiako could achieve through participatory planning, deliberation, democratic decision processes and collective action (for more info about the festival refer to Part 4 of the Project Journey).
"Make a wish for Manganiako" was a hybrid action. People send their wishes through the internet and a team on site created the tree of wishes.
Planning and implementing a community-led festival become the trojan horse to keep everyone motivated to delibarate about the future of the village.
Empowering the women of Manganiako
Life wasn’t easy especially for the older female residents of Manganiako. Many of them were the main caretaker of home, family, livestock & agriculture activities in various difficult situations throughout the years. The proud and charismatic women still respond with joy to every call for action coming from the Cultural Association of All Manganiakonians, for example by preparing meals or serving at community events together with the active members of the association. But, as mentioned in Part 1 of the project journey, the village lack in public spaces where women could gather and self-express, especially during the winter period. Also mentioned in Part 1, there were behavioral patterns that determined a general hesitation of participation and being proactive.
Although every project process was open for participation and the monthly meetings took place in the school yard, after 3 months of the project implementation the female residents of the village remained absent. Noticeable, during a visit of the mayor of the municipality of Messini for a community meeting in the old school about the access to water of the village the only 3 women that participated, where the ones that are also members of the board of the local association, even though a large part of the villagers were mobilized.
From the 4th month and on the project-team decided to focus on the women of Manganiako to highlight their role in the society and empower them. A dedicated deliberation process started putting their voice and needs in the center. The first event coincided with International Women's Day, where the women outlined their need of having a public space to meet and share their knowledge about various arts and crafts they have. They also expressed their curiosity and willingness to participate in the festival and the project in general, while when asked how they will celebrate Women's Day, most of them just laughed – self-care was never in their way of living. At the 2-day “Festival Manganiako 2022” and through active participation of the women in planning and implementing the festival, they became protagonist, since they had their own dedicated program: a circular route through the village was created that led to 15 DIY workshops held by the women. 15 female residents opened their homes and transferred their knowledge about various arts & crafts while they enjoyed the attention and credit from the 2.500 in total visitors of the festival. Moreover, they experienced together, with everyone else who participated, the small village of Manganiako becoming the center of the municipality, and at the same time they saw the streets of the village to be filled again with people and children.
Although 12 months is by far a very small period to achieve systemic change, changes in behaviors were witnessed directly after the festival which was held in the 7th month of the project implementation. Women became more proactive, they communicated their ideas about another festival freely and spontaneously (even when met on the streets), they claimed the community space created from the Dialogue and Action for the Future program to also become the public space for women, they even demanded to be interviewed in the documentary filmed about the project. Women wished in the last public event held in the village, the all-day event “Sunday in Manganiako”, not to stay at home and prepare the meals for the community alone, so a community kitchen was organized in the school yard where the meals were collectively prepared and enjoyed together with the 300 visitors of the event.
Besides placing the women of Manganiako in the center of attention another fact that contributed to the empowerment was the composition of the project management team itself. 7 out of 11 persons of the core project management team where self-determined, independent, and empowered women that held key roles in the project for example in project management, coordination, facilitation, training, advocacy & networking. Through leading by example and by the interaction of the team for 12 months with the community self-evidently led to the empowerment of the women in a nonformal way. Last important fact to notice is that there wasn’t any resistance from the males of the village, on the contrary they were keen in showing their admiration towards a more emancipated role of the females of Manganiako.
Obviously, women have always had a voice in the community of Manganiako, but now they have the experience of making their voice heard outside the walls of their home. They witnessed how to participate, decide democratically, and act collectively in larger groups and contribute that way to a better and more cheerful future for their village. At the end of the project, it was obvious that the women want and demand the community to take more actions so that the community itself will keep Manganiako alive. Not to forget, the local women plan to celebrate together with the project management team the International Women's Day of 2023 in the new community space of Manganiako 😊
First encounter with the women of Manganiako
Having a say in the documentary filmed
Participating - Creating - Enjoying: the women of Manganiako at the last public event
Fighting social abandonment in the small community of Manganiako
Manganiako is a small village in the Municipality of Messina Greece, located at an altitude of 391 meters and is 32 kilometers away from the city of Kalamata. We estimate that today approximately 65 people live in the village, while another 840 Manganiakonians are geographically dispersed in Greece and abroad. The once lively community maintains its cohesion mainly through the existing family ties and the events of the local association named “Cultural Association of all Manganiakonians” that run throughout the year. These events attract approximately 3,200 people per year and are expanding the community to friends/ visitors of the village.
Most people living in the village are retirees, supplementing their income through the cultivation of olive trees and by producing olives and olive oil. The only place with an economic activity in the village is the old café (Kafeneion), which also acts as the social space for men. Obviously, the everyday life in the village lacks in open public spaces especially for women while even the church holds its service only every 14 days. Beyond the actions of the local association some of the younger community members are trying the last years to introduce another way of economic activity that involves a small producer group that are initiating more ecological cultivation methods and the newly formed social cooperate enterprise called “Nostos” promoting local products and activities around the village in an ethical and ecological manner.
The village is heading towards complete social abandonment, a fate already experienced by several mountainous villages in Greece. Against this context and through the Dialogue and Action for the Future project a momentum for change was built focusing on empowering the community of people and making the cultural and natural space of Manganiako visible. By the end of the 12 months the local people decided that they want to keep the community alive and continue to work on a community-led regeneration of their village.
The village of Manganiako
The old café (Kafeneion)
Project management as an additional learning experience
The project partners are Dock, non-profit organization & registered social solidarity economy entity, with expertise in project management, local sustainable development through participatory processes, advocacy & networking, Koukouva, a social cooperative, with expertise in community development, non-formal education & networking, the local Cultural Association of all Manganiakonians & Nostos, the local social cooperative, both rooted within the community with deep knowledge of the issues and relations of the village.
Regarding the project management team, besides some of the key people in the community, whoever was interested in participating could do so – no relevant experience was required. It was obvious that this added a lot of complexity to the project, in terms of managing people with very different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs but in that way long-term sustainability of the project was ensured. Thus, the 12-month project’s main goal was to build the main infrastructure for the community to take its future into its own hands, ensuring at the same time, that some people will be empowered to lead the path of change in the future. Since October 2021, once per month the project management team gathered in the small village of Manganiako and stayed in place for at least 2 days implementing the project, holding meetings, workshops and engaging the community in dialogue.
As a result, the open management team transformed the co-management of the project into a learning experience for the people that took part in it. At the same time the old and closed due to lack of children school of Manganiako and its yard became for 12 months the learning place for locals and visitors in project management, participatory planning, deliberation & democratic decision processes and collective action.
Monthly project management team meeting in the village
More people are joining forces in the open team
The social context in which we worked through
Starting the Dialogue & Action for the Future project in October 2021, and due to covid regulations the first public event was held virtually, while big in person events were deliberately postponed. However, in terms of including the older generation that hadn’t access to digital means, small gatherings in the schoolyard were put in place at a monthly base. These repeated at regular intervals gatherings, were crucial since the older locals had to overcome the fear that grew with the social isolation experienced in the last 2 years due to the pandemic. So, the people of the village were given the opportunity to see, approach and participate for as long as each one of them felt comfortable with. Those smaller meetings also affected the overall quality of the project since time was spent getting to know, connecting, and working much more closely with the people participating in the open project management team.
Engaging the people of a community required deep knowledge of the relations in the community. Both local partners were in the position to give early information about the social context to start with. However, by using “Action Research” as a methodology, the initial data were treated as hypotheses and only the continuous and explicit engagement with the people lead to conclusions. Staying for some days each month in the village and interacting directly with the community members enabled the project management team to witness the already established relations in the small community. The lack of trust and effective communication between community members & groups, acted as a barrier in engaging in dialogue and collective action. Also, intergroup dynamics between different age groups (age gap) and between residents and visitors was witnessed – indicating the different needs that are located on very diverse levels.
Furthermore, behavioral patterns had to be recognized and attempts to overcome them were made. On the one hand, a tendency of people speaking on behalf of the whole community excluding smaller groups to have a seat at the table of the dialogue was observed. Especially when it came to female residents, hesitation of participation in the deliberation processes was witnessed – they preferred concrete directions instead of being proactive. In addition, the participation of the younger generations (children & youth) which was crucial for this project, was solely dependent on the participation of their parents since no child lives in the village.
Ultimately, Action Research led to early realization and understanding of the established relations and the behavioral patterns in the community of Manganiako. The early conclusions allowed the project management team to be flexible and proactive and change course of action accordingly. That way unheard voices were put in the spotlight resulting in a more inclusive community-centric implementation of the Dialogue & Action for the Future project.
Lets draw the future: How does the happy Manganiako look like?
Which of the sustainable development goals are relevant for the small community?
Follow the project on facebook: https://facebook.com/Dialogue.Action
Visit the site of Manganiako: https://magganiako.gr/
Click to connect with Dock
Click to connect with Koukouva
Click to connect with Cultural Association of all Manganiakonians
Click to connect with Nostos