Making Histories Playtime Feb08 2016, Amsterdam

Not a Greek Tragedy, nor a Comedy. This is Reality.

Part 1. Presentation of the parties.

Co-producing, co-deciding, co-designing, co-budgetting. Did I forget anything?

10 am. Friday February 5th. Grote Zaal, Pakhuis De Zwijger.

People from different European backgrounds sit around a table and share their experiences on city making, collaborations between citizens and governments, and (local) democracy. I’m watching the backside of the head of one of the speakers. A woman. I don’t know who she is, nor did I understand her name. But as I’m watching her half curly hair swinging up and down while she talks, I get intrigued by her energy. Amelie who?

Amalia Zepou. Greek. Documentary maker. She took a turn into politics after feeling that her camera was becoming more and more “in the way” of the real talk, the kind of talk that leads to action. She got elected along with 9 others to become vice mayor of ‘citizen civil society’ of Athens, whose office is focused on methods to get citizens involved in community business and vice versa. As one of her biggest goals is to share knowledge to get people activated to really do something for their own city, I’ll share my notes with you.

Part 2. Development of activities


1. KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON. Mapping is knowledge. To know what your citizens find important, or what they are busy with, you make a space (online) where you can map all activities and make a calendar of all events. (everybody can be a city maker)

1 bis. SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. The activities are solution-oriented, because they come bottom-up from the citizens. Amalia puts it quite clearly: “Municipalities collect complaints, not solutions. They have phone numbers that you can call for your complaint. But citymakers start from solutions.

2. MAKE HORIZONTAL CONNECTIONS. The municipality works as a facilitator of the activities. They connect people that already work an a theme/problem/action, to the private sphere and to organisations with money (sponsoring)

3. EVALUATE IN REALITY. (Although during the lectures there was a little warning on testing-tiredness (we’re “testing” the whole time, everything is “process”, where are the conclusions?)  But some say we’re not tired of testing, we’re just tired of the words “test” and “process”.)

4. CHANGE REGULATIONS (incorporation).  Administrative change is the hardest. “It’s like concrete”, Amalia says. And also: “Greece is already overregulated. It would be good to have less regulations.”

5. KEEP ON CHECKING LIKE A BOSS. What is the project, who is in the meetings, who remains absent, how many people do we reach, what buzz does/did it create in the media, how many and what new links and lines did we create, how did it change the administration?

Part 3. Catharsis

Last but not least, I wrote a new date in my calendar: 13th of October. International Failure Day. On this day, municipalities are invited to admit their failures. Maybe this is what I feel is missing from Europe the most at this moment in time. That governments fail to say sorry. To admit that they make wrong decisions. Let’s have more International Failure Days, and expect from our governments to participate.

I’m into the Greeks these days. Looking forward to Yanis Varoufakis’ debate on Monday!