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Pilot program for community engagement at Open Schools initiative

The cluster of residents, comprised at the 51st primary school of Vathi Square delivers to Ms. Maria Iliopoulou, Vice Mayor for the Child, the new program of activities

What is the program?

Open Schools is a program initiated by the Municipality of Athens, that commenced as a pilot in 2015 and still continues up to date, with success. The main goal of the specific program is for the schools to act as community and cultural centers with numerous activities, free of charge, addressed to the local population and are open to all.

UrbanDigs’ involvement with Open Schools program lasted 10 months (May 16 – February 17) and our mission was community immersion, as well as the programs diffusion and support in two neighborhoods. The design and the implementation of the specific program was a preliminary step in developing a methodology for an essential involvement of the public in the operation of the entire program, aiming at the reinforcement of its utility on a local level and its sustainability in time.

In particular, we were asked to detect and map the real needs, as well as the skills of the neighborhoods’ school community, in order to support the Open Schools programs’ activities, in order to:

  • Adapt to the local needs and conditions

  • Allow for broad local spread

Involve a more diverse population from the neighborhood in the proposal composition process towards the Municipality concerning activities and use of the local Open School

What methodologies did we follow and why?

The schools selected for this pilot program share a common feature, that of multiculturalism. There is however a significant difference. The 132nd primary school of Grava, was already operating after school activities for the last 15 years, with success. The 51st primary school on Vathi Square didn’t have any previous experience in such aspect, prior to the Open Schools program.

For that reason we found reasonable to apply two different methodologies in order to address better each separate case. More specifically for the 51st primary school of Vathi Square, we designed and implemented a series of theatrical workshops for children and adults in order to portray through a final outcome, a performance, the neighborhoods issues, needs, skills and aspirations. The specific methodology

  • Transforms the needs – skills research of the neighborhood into a plot developing process, lightening up the ambience by adding the aspect of recreation

  • Unites the school, in a way familiar to all: kids, parents, teachers

  • Includes the satisfaction of expression – presentation

  • Infuses in the plot, opinions, goals and suggestions for programming in an amusing and light way, easy to “digest” by everyone

  • Blends children from different age groups (6-16), as well as adults on the same stage, sharing the same goals

  • Develops the skill of creative expression

For the 132nd primary school of Grava we employed the social methodology of World Café, which aims in a structured cooperative dialogue around key questions that address real cases. It is a methodology that can involve large numbers of people, irregardless of age or educational background. The principles that affect it are:

  • The creation of a welcoming and warm space

  • The quest for key questions to delve into

  • Encouragement for everyone’s participation and input

  • Connecting different people with different ideas

  • Listening together different patterns and deeper questions / issues

  • Shed light into common knowledge

Deliverables for the Open Schools program

Our deliverables to the Municipality were the following:

  • A guide book with detailed descriptions of the methodologies employed and the outcomes, in order to be used for the continuation of the Open Schools program

  • A group of residents from each neighborhood who committed themselves in becoming the coordinators of the Open Schools program of their neighborhood in the future

  • A suggested plan of activities for the next phase of the program developed by the local community and presented to the Municipality

The specific program that was developed and implemented for the Open Schools program of the Municipality of Athens, constitutes since, for UrbanDig Project, a useful tool that can be applied in similar programs that involve the community and can be adjusted and applied in related cases.

Coordinators for the whole program: George Sachinis, Maria Scordialos

Coordinators for 51st Primary School of Vathi Square: Anna Magoulioti, Margarita Pitta

Coordinators for 132nd Primary School of Grava:Odysseas Velentzas, Nikos Rovakis

A special thank you to everyone that participated in and supported the program.

Open Schools program by the Municipality of Athens was realized with Stavros Niarchos Foundation as Major Donor, Athens Partnership as coordinators and John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation as activity supporter.

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